Cagil Kocyigit winner of the first Kilian Schindler Excellence Award

Cagil Kocyigit

Cagil Kocyigit

Interview with Dr. Cagil Kocyigit, who won the first Kilian Schindler Excellence Award for her PhD thesis entitled "Distributional Robustness in Mechanism Design".

Can you describe yourself in a few words?

I am a fresh PhD graduate from the team of Risk Analytics and Optimization (RAO) at CDM. I was born in Turkey, and before joining EPFL I studied industrial engineering at Bilkent University.

You have successfully completed your PhD under the guidance of Prof. Daniel Kuhn in August. How did the process go?

I enjoyed every bit of my PhD experience, mostly thanks to my supervisor and the members of our team. They created a happy work environment. I was lucky because my supervisor has always been interested in and supportive of the subjects I was interested to work on. We have been working on many different projects for the past years, and through these projects, I also had the opportunity to collaborate with wonderful people. Thanks to these diverse projects, I had quite a lot of material for my thesis at the end. 

You are the first laureate of the Kilian Schindler Excellence Award, which has been created in 2020, to honor the memory of a fellow student of yours. What are your impressions?

I am extremely honored to receive the Kilian Schindler Excellence Award, named after my dear friend and colleague Kilian. I would like to thank those who played a role in creating this award and the committee for selecting me. Kilian and I have not only shared our PhD experience but also our passion for research and teaching as well as a beautiful friendship. Kilian was an outstanding researcher and has greatly inspired me and everyone else around him both scientifically and personally. It is therefore very special and also emotional for me to be the first recipient of this award. I think that, with this award, his exceptional PhD thesis as well as the reflection of his ideas and vision in us, Kilian will continue to inspire the next generations.

Tell us a bit about your research and how you think it will develop in the future?

My research focuses on optimization under uncertainty with a particular interest in problems arising in economics and mechanism design. Specifically, I examine the design of allocation mechanisms or incentive systems involving multiple rational but self-interested agents. By their nature, such problems are affected by uncertain parameters due to private information held by different agents. I address this information asymmetry by using powerful modern methods from distributionally robust optimization, which opens the door to solving practical decision problems with complicating features. Following the world’s trends, my research has been developing in a data-driven direction. I expect this to be more apparent in the future. In addition, I would like to collaborate with the industry on real-life problems and have been taking steps in this direction.

How was the atmosphere within the lab of Prof. Daniel Kuhn and with your fellow researchers?

Field trip with members of the RAO lab

Everyone in our lab is passionate about research and very supportive in every aspect. Daniel has an open-door policy that we all appreciate very much. Unless he has an important meeting, his office door is always open, and we can just go and discuss our research at any time. In our group, we like to share knowledge and ideas and appreciate spending time together. Almost every day, we have lunch together and also hang out together outside of office hours. Once every year, we organize a research retreat where we enjoy the Swiss mountains and a hike for a weekend. RAO is an amazing group to be a part of, and I will miss it very much.

You have just graduated, do you already know where and in which field you would like to pursue your career?

In October I will join Luxembourg Centre for Logistics and Supply Chain Management at the University of Luxembourg as an assistant professor. Pursuing a career in academia has been my dream for a long time, and I am very happy and excited about my new position.

Outside of research, do you have another passion/interest ?

Of course! I particularly enjoy traveling and food. My next target destination is Japan. I also like swimming and hiking, a very nice habit I got in Switzerland. Most importantly, I love spending time with my family and friends.

Author: Alexandra von Schack