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“MIT can give you ‘superpowers’”

MITx MicroMasters credential leads learner to accelerated graduate program in data science.
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Diogo da Silva Branco Magalhães poses with plants in the background
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Diogo da Silva Branco Magalhães

Speaking at the virtual MITx MicroMasters Program Joint Completion Celebration last summer, Diogo da Silva Branco Magalhães described watching a Spider-Man movie with his 8-year-old son and realizing that his son thought MIT was a fictional entity that existed only in the Marvel universe.

“I had to tell him that MIT also exists in the real world, and that some of the programs are available online for everyone,” says da Silva Branco Magalhães, who earned his credential in the MicroMasters in Statistics and Data Science program. “You don’t need to be a superhero to participate in an MIT program, but MIT can give you ‘superpowers.’ In my case, the superpower that I was looking to acquire was a better understanding of the key technologies that are shaping the future of transportation.

Part of MIT Open Learning, the MicroMasters programs have drawn in almost 1.4 million learners, spanning nearly every country in the world. More than 7,500 people have earned their credentials across the MicroMasters programs, including: Statistics and Data Science; Supply Chain Management; Data, Economics, and Design of Policy; Principles of Manufacturing; and Finance. 

Earning his MicroMasters credential not only gave da Silva Branco Magalhães a strong foundation to tackle more complex transportation problems, but it also opened the door to pursuing an accelerated graduate degree via a Northwestern University online program.

Learners who earn their MicroMasters credentials gain the opportunity to apply to and continue their studies at a pathway school. The MicroMasters in Statistics and Data Science credential can be applied as credit for a master’s program at more than 30 universities, as well as MIT’s PhD Program in Social and Engineering Systems. Da Silva Branco Magalhães, originally from Portugal and now based in Australia, seized this opportunity and enrolled in Northwestern University’s Master’s in Data Science for MIT MicroMasters Credential Holders

The pathway to an enhanced career

The pathway model launched in 2016 with the MicroMasters in Supply Chain Management. Now, there are over 50 pathway institutions that offer more than 100 different programs for master’s degrees. With pathway institutions located around the world, MicroMasters credential holders can obtain master’s degrees from local residential or virtual programs, at a location convenient to them. They can receive credit for their MicroMasters courses upon acceptance, providing flexibility for online programs and also shortening the time needed on site for residential programs.

“The pathways expand opportunities for learners, and also help universities attract a broader range of potential students, which can enrich their programs,” says Dana Doyle, senior director for the MicroMasters Program at MIT Open Learning. “This is a tangible way we can achieve our mission of expanding education access.”

Da Silva Branco Magalhães began the MicroMasters in Statistics and Data Science program in 2020, ultimately completing the program in 2022.

“After having worked for 20 years in the transportation sector in various roles, I realized I was no longer equipped as a professional to deal with the new technologies that were set to disrupt the mobility sector,” says da Silva Branco Magalhães. “It became clear to me that data and AI were the driving forces behind new products and services such as autonomous vehicles, on-demand transport, or mobility as a service, but I didn’t really understand how data was being used to achieve these outcomes, so I needed to improve my knowledge.”

July 2023 MicroMasters Program Joint Completion Celebration for SCM, DEDP, PoM, SDS, and Fin
Video: MIT Open Learning

The MicroMasters in Statistics and Data Science was developed by the MIT Institute for Data, Systems, and Society and MITx. Credential holders are required to complete four courses equivalent to graduate-level courses in statistics and data science at MIT and a capstone exam comprising four two-hour proctored exams.

“The content is world-class,” da Silva Branco Magalhães says of the program. “Even the most complex concepts were explained in a very intuitive way. The exercises and the capstone exam are challenging and stimulating — and MIT-level — which makes this credential highly valuable in the market.”

Da Silva Branco Magalhães also found the discussion forum very useful, and valued conversations with his colleagues, noting that many of these discussions later continued after completion of the program.

Gaining analysis and leadership skills

Now in the Northwestern pathway program, da Silva Branco Magalhães finds that the MicroMasters in Statistics and Data Science program prepared him well for this next step in his studies. The nine-course, accelerated, online master’s program is designed to offer the same depth and rigor of Northwestern's 12-course MS in Data Science program, aiming to help students build essential analysis and leadership skills that can be directly implemented into the professional realm. Students learn how to make reliable predictions using traditional statistics and machine learning methods.

Da Silva Branco Magalhães says he has appreciated the remote nature of the Northwestern program, as he started it in France and then completed the first three courses in Australia. He also values the high number of elective courses, allowing students to design the master’s program according to personal preferences and interests.

“I want to be prepared to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities that AI and data science technologies will bring to the professional realm,” he says. “With this credential, there are no limits to what you can achieve in the field of data science.”

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