Angela Cao MS’17, Optimizing Operations

A native of China’s Jiangsu Province, Cao says she was attracted by the School’s flexible curriculum and its location in one of the world’s great financial centers.
—Photo courtesy of Xi Cao

For Angela (Xi) Cao MS’17, data is power: the power to invest more fruitfully, to run businesses more strategically, and to figure out what customers want even before they do.

As for how to best utilize it, that takes creativity.

“Professor Cliff Stein likes to say that operations research is about applying technics and methodologies of science and engineering to non-traditional engineering problems,” she said. “It’s why Columbia’s MSOR program has six different tracks and the choice of various theoretical and practical courses to accommodate different interests and career paths.”

Cao—who has studied stochastics, probability, and optimization—expects to receive her degree in operations research later this month. A native of China’s Jiangsu Province, she says she was attracted by the School’s flexible curriculum as well as its location in New York City, one of the world’s great financial centers. She’s found numerous ways to take advantage of both. Combining theory with a range of real-world applications, her work has spanned projects ranging from portfolio diversification to predicting IMDB ratings for new movies prior to release. Working closely with professors like Ton Dieker and Yair Avgar, she has collaborated on student team projects that include an investment tool based on an analysis of 11 U.S. industrial indexes and an online app, Your Personal Hotel Buddy!, that recommends hotels based on users’ routes and accumulated preferences.

Cao also developed a tool to better match clients and contractors for AKA Link, a Columbia-based startup that connects companies to student consultants for project management. In her spare time, she served as a vice president of the Columbia University Chinese Students and Scholars Association.

After graduation, she plans to stay in New York, putting her analytical skills to work helping businesses run more efficiently. Tackling ever more complex challenges in her rapidly evolving field is an adventure for which she feels well prepared, thanks to Columbia’s interdisciplinary atmosphere and global network.

“Besides all the classes that were hybrids of finance and engineering, there were numerous career workshops from the very first day of orientation,” she said. “It helped fully prepare us to find jobs.”

by Jesse Adams

500 W. 120th St., Mudd 510, New York, NY 10027    212-854-2993