IAP 2011: Grad Student Scientist Explores His Business Side

by Amy Marcott on February 17, 2011 · 1 comment

in IAP, Student Life

This is part of a series of posts from MIT students who were involved in the Student/Alumni Externship Program, which connected current students to alumni in workplaces worldwide during MIT’s Independent Activities Period. Alumni, learn how to get involved.

Guest blogger: Qi Qin, PhD student in electrical engineering and computer science
Host: Armen Avanessians ’82

Qi Qin (far right) with Goldman Sachs trader ChungKit Chan '04 (far left) and trader/managing director Rajesh Venkataramani PhD '00, MBA '00.

Qi Qin (far right) with Goldman Sachs trader ChungKit Chan ’04 (far left) and trader and managing director Rajesh Venkataramani PhD ’00, MBA ’00.

After devoting myself to scientific research at MIT for several years, I decided to taste the financial industry, following an interest I built up taking finance courses at Sloan. Before the start of my externship at Goldman Sachs, I was not sure what I would get out of one month’s work in a totally new field. Luckily, it turned out to be far more exciting than what I expected. Being asked to contribute to advanced financial modeling and watching traders trade hundreds of millions of exotic products have given my experience at Goldman both a scientific and a business flavor.

I came in as a strategist extern. From day one, I was meeting with an eclectic mix of impressive and interesting people—and several traders and strategists are MIT alumni. My team trades on U.S. interest rate products, and my project is one part of the most advanced pricing model of these, which is cool and important to the daily trades.

I was surprised by the depth and intuitive thinking behind the model. It is similar with scientific research, but applied to a business framework. This offered me a chance to look at the knowledge and skills I developed from my research in a very different way, which is exciting. I am lucky enough to sit right beside the managing director of the team, so I could frequently take a “free” class of the real financial industry. I gained more knowledge by listening to the frequent discussions between him and colleagues. Additionally, the interaction is also multidisciplinary. My supervisor, Jaehyuk Choi PhD ’05, not only discussed the project with me but also shared much of his wisdom about the financial industry, which is hard to get in classes. Furthermore, interaction with traders is really useful to better understand the market beats usually we get to know only from the newspaper. Their sharp opinions frequently inspired my deeper thoughts about small bits of the market that are easily neglected.

It has been a wild ride thus far, one in which I have had the opportunity to work with smart people at every turn. Although MIT is already a busy place, the fast pace of the financial industry still impresses me. Most of the time, the work is detail orientated, which means that people not only care about the results but also have to know why in order to understand the market. Already I have learned quite a bit about the brokerage side of the business, using the research skills I’ve honed at MIT to help work out pricing projects quantitatively. This week appears to be a happy ending of this short externship. But I definitely recommend other graduate students take this opportunity to explore a different field.

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