Category: MSMF Graduate Profiles
Counting Her Steps
Students of the School’s Master of Science in Mathematical Finance (MSMF) program are not weak of heart. To take on such a rigorous course of study, you just can’t be.
“A lot of people are scared of math,” says first-year student Mudita Dhingra (MSMF ’12). “But I’m the opposite. I love solving mathematical problems. For a lot of people they’re just numbers, but I love the idea that when you put them to the right use, you can get so much information from them.”
Growing up in New Delhi, India, the daughter of a university professor of Spanish and a World Health Organization (WHO) consultant, Mudita is articulate, driven, and deliberate. She’s goal-oriented and loves to lead. “Leadership experience started early with me, with things like being a class monitor,” she says. “A lot of people might want to run away from those types of responsibilities, but I’ve always enjoyed them.”
At Sri Venkateswara College as a math major, Mudita was in heaven. Not only was she able to focus on math (she was valedictorian of her class one of three years, and among the top three the other two years), but she had the chance to lead the college mathematics association as vice president. She liked organizing math events and spearheading the efforts and overall decision-making of the association. After college, Mudita joined Standard Chartered Bank in Mumbai, as part of wholesale banking, and was actively involved with the bank’s Living with HIV initiative. But she wanted to know more than just front-office finance.
“Because I love being around people, my friends and family thought I would pursue an MBA. But I’m also very detail-oriented and always want to know what’s going on behind the scenes. When I’m quoting a figure to a client, I want to know the math that’s going on behind it. I may get my MBA later, but I want to be strong with my quantitative fundamentals first. My ideal career is to combine my finance and leadership skills with my love for numbers in something like risk management or equity research.” With such goal-oriented interests, you might be wondering what, if anything, Mudita does to relax and have a good time. She did a lot of public speaking and debating in school, but the thing that really took hold of her heart was dance, specifically a classical Indian dance from Tamil Nadu called Bharatanatyam.
“Dance isn’t something I would call a hobby,” she explains. “It’s a passion for me. I started learning Bharatanatyam when I was seven years old. It takes a lot of practice, but that’s my way to relax. I looked forward to it more than anything else, and I got to exercise and learn something amazing at the same time.”
Bharatanatyam, a “story” dance based on ancient myths about Indian gods, requires intense teaching from a guru for many years. It involves many intricate moves and costumes, and a particular set of instruments and style of music.
“I danced for 11 years before my guru, my practiced teacher, felt I had learned it in all its nuances and that I could perform independently and professionally.” Mudita is looking forward to the chance to perform publicly in the United States and, when her busy schedule clears up, she may trade formulas for choreography, at least temporarily.
By Alissa Mallinson
By Susan Johnston
Growing up in New Jersey, Michael Monaco (MSMF ’12) started private tennis lessons in middle school and grew to love the combination of physical and mental challenges. “Even if somebody’s in a lot better shape, you can still beat them by being more creative,” he says, comparing a game of tennis to a chess match. Monaco continued playing singles tennis on his high school’s varsity team and on a club team at Lehigh University, where his team advanced to nationals in Arizona one year.
Monaco’s strategic maneuvers on the tennis court also parallel his study of mathematical finance in Boston University’s School of Management (SMG). “Math finance is like having sound mechanics,” he says. “If you have a good backhand, that’s good, but it doesn’t mean you’ll win matches. You have to understand how to play to your opponent’s weaknesses. It’s having the tools but also needing to know how to use them.”
While at Lehigh, Monaco joined the fraternity Phi Kappa Theta and spent two summers studying abroad and interning in Prague. But an internship in New York City at Bloomberg’s FX department the summer after junior year sparked his interest in using mathematical tools to better understand the financial markets. “They had me building this model for financial conditions in the middle of the credit crisis, but I hadn’t had serious statistics at that point,” he says. “I was curious ‘how can I do this more precisely? What are the standard practices to use?’” Back at Lehigh, Monaco began taking more math classes, where a professor urged him to apply to graduate programs in mathematical finance.
The length and structure of SMG’s program appealed to the business and economics major, because many of the other programs he found lasted only a year compared to seventeen months at SMG. “First semester is pure math and second semester you start to apply the theory as much as you can based on what you learned in the first semester,” says Monaco. “During the final semester, it’s applied and everything comes together.” He says he also appreciates the balance of theory and application, as well as the diversity of his classmates.
Monaco spent the summer after his first year in Washington, D.C. interning at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) upon the suggestion of the Feld Career Center. With a year of mathematical finance coursework under his belt, Monaco says the internship “was really rewarding to contribute in a meaningful way and contribute with what I was learning.” One of Monaco’s projects at the SEC involved providing calculations to lawyers for a product whose price was in dispute, which inspired him to apply for positions in litigation support at consulting companies.
Once he graduates, Monaco hopes to stay on the East Coast (Boston, New York, or Washington, D.C.), but he’s open to other opportunities, too. Whether building pricing models or practicing his backhand, Monaco’s ability to remain flexible and think on his feet serve him well.
Math Concepts Applied.
Before starting the Mathematical Finance (MSMF) program at the School of Management Ilanit Shtein (MSMF’12) spent several years as a math and physics instructor for flight cadets at the Israeli Air Force Flight Academy and as a JAVA software engineer for Comverse, a technology firm. She earned a degree in electrical engineering and computer science at Tel-Aviv University. Passionate about software and math, Shtein sought out new intellectual challenges where she could apply her skills and grew interested in financial engineering.
When Shtein moved to Boston in 2009 with her husband where he was pursuing an MBA, she decided to look into a master’s in math finance. “I figured this would be a fascinating application of my math and engineering passions,” she says. “There are so many interesting problems to be solved in derivatives pricing, risk management, and algorithmic trading.”
Shtein became most excited about BU’s program after attending a financial masters programs fair where she met several BU representatives. Professor Lyasoff, founder of BU’s MSMF program, impressed her with his passion for the program and his commitment to balancing theory with practice. “I liked the fact that they try to keep it very mathematical and very practical,” she explains.
A subsequent visit to Assistant Professor Konstantino Kardaras’ stochastic calculus class helped reinforce her interest in BU. In fact, Kardaras became one of her favorite professors. “He explains everything so thoroughly,” says Shtein. “He teaches three-hour classes without bringing a single note with him. He remembers everything, and writes everything on the board. My notes from his classes are better than any book. He also tries to relate everything to practice.”
Summer Better Than Others.
During her first semester, Shtein attended on-campus presentations by several financial firms including Duff & Phelps, a financial advisory firm where she successfully landed an internship the following summer. “The MF program has a very strong relationship with Duff & Phelps,” she says. “There are four graduates of the program who work or have worked at the San Francisco office, which includes about a dozen team members, so they truly appreciate our program.”
At Duff & Phelps, Shtein worked on researching and developing a LIBOR (London Inter-Bank Offered Rate) market model for pricing interest rate derivatives, a project that drew on her coursework in stochastic calculus and fixed income securities.. “The MF program was a wonderful preparation for the hard work required to independently research and implement financial models,” she adds. Additionally, Shtein worked on projects for valuations of convertible stocks and compensation plans using Monte Carlo simulations and binomial trees.
She urges incoming students to take lots of notes but not to develop tunnel-vision about studying to the extent that they ignore professional development opportunities. “Start researching companies during the first semester,” she says. “Don’t apply without researching the company first. It’s better to apply to fewer firms that you’ve had a chance to meet with their professionals or research the company.” Shtein also suggests preparing for interviews during winter break, since second semester tends to be hectic.
Looking ahead, Shtein says there are still many aspects of math finance that she’d like to explore. She hopes to gain more professional and managerial experience before eventually returning to Israel to start her own financial practice.
Talks About His Background and Experience at the School of Management
On Life Before BU:
“I received my BA in actuarial science from Anahuac University in Mexico City.
“After graduation, I worked for several years in risk management for Santander Financial Group. Since I was part of a small department, I also had the chance to get involved in other areas, and I got more interested in finance that way.”
On Choosing School of Management:
“I wanted to continue developing my analytical skills, and the Master in Mathematical Finance (MSMF) Program offered by Boston University was the perfect opportunity.
“It gives a great importance to the theory but also to the practice. We learn mathematical tools to solve complex financial problems and we actually put them into practice, which many schools don’t do.”
On The Math Finance Experience:
“The experience in the program has been incredible so far. All the classes have been very valuable to our education, and even if this semester was predominantly theoretical, it is very interesting to see how all of the different aspects are connected. I can just imagine how exciting the next two semesters are going to be.
“My favorite course this semester was Stochastic Calculus for Finance II, taught by Professor Kardaras. It was the most challenging one, but also the one I learned the most from.”
On Looking Toward the Future:
“I am looking forward to going back to work in the financial industry and putting into practice the tools I’m learning now. Risk management is a field that I loved working in, but I would like to try something different—hopefully involving the pricing or analysis of complex derivative securities.”
On Life Outside of School:
“I like sports, swimming, and jogging. I also love music. I’m terrible at playing musical instruments, but I enjoy going to concerts.”
Learn more about the Mathematical Finance Program at Boston University School of Management.