home > News & Events > Alumni > Connecting across differences: Francisco Sepulveda

Francisco Sepulveda started at SDM in the fall of 2021, as the program returned to full on-campus instruction. We spoke to him about his time at SDM and what he’ll remember after last week’s graduation festivities.

What’s one memory from your classroom experiences that stands out?

During our first SDM core classes, my classmates shared their opinions on socio-technical issues. Being surrounded by people with diverse backgrounds and experiences was valuable. Their perspectives provided me with fresh insights on situations I had encountered in my work. This moment underscored the importance of diversity in enriching our understanding of complex issues.

What was your thesis topic? How was the thesis experience as a whole?

My thesis focused on addressing workforce shortages and evolving demands in manufacturing by proposing innovative educational solutions. The MITDR (Machining In The Dorm Room) project served as the focal application. It simulates a milling machine in VR to provide an immersive learning environment for students. The project architecture provides personalized, context-aware instructions and feedback. This solution aims to improve technical skills, critical thinking, and decision-making abilities.

My experience with the LEAP Group, led by my advisor Dr. John Liu, was inspiring. The MIT LEAP Group applies design and systems principles to solving challenges in learning and develops learning experiences to meet the increasing demand for STEM skills in tomorrow’s workforce. Our research-to-practice approach includes mixed reality, simulations and haptics, educational technology, and curriculum development. Working with such a dedicated and innovative team significantly enriched my thesis experience.

What’s a memory from outside the classroom that represents the SDM community?

The countless conversations I had with my friends Yousif AlSadah from Bahrain and Koji Takahashi from Japan truly represent the deep connections we form in the SDM community. We shared life experiences and discussed hundreds of professional and personal topics. I realized through these conversations that despite our cultural differences, the values associated with family, career, and life experiences are essentially the same.

Where are you headed after graduation? 

I am returning to Chile to join LATAM Airlines, the largest airline in South America. I will be a senior manager in digital transformation, leading teams under the data analytics group. MIT’s culture of curiosity and problem-solving encouraged me to explore various industries and technological challenges. This exploration broadened my understanding of how I could apply my background to new and emerging areas and the potential impact I could have beyond my original scope of work.

SDM allowed me to dig deeply into areas where I had limited experience, such as finance, corporate strategy, entrepreneurship, and computer science. Moreover, SDM made systems thinking an inherent part of my professional approach. This ability to think critically and strategically about complex problems will be invaluable in my future career.

Is there anyone you’d like to shout out as you leave MIT?

I want to thank my wife, Maria-Consuelo. Without her constant support, none of this would have been possible. She took care of everything at home, taking care of our 3-year-old daughter Vicenta and our 9-month-old son Augusto, while I was completely focused on finishing my studies. Her strength and dedication were absolutely crucial. I also want to thank the incredible program staff. Joan, our director, along with Julie Papp and Ignacio Vazquez, were always by my side, offering support and motivation when I needed it most. Their encouragement helped me overcome the most difficult challenges, and I am very grateful for all they did.