The Physics of Financial Modeling : Insights from a Prescio Intern

15 June 2015

In March of this year I had the opportunity to attend the American Physical Society’s annual March meeting in San Antonio, Texas. This meeting brought together about 10,000 physicists from all over the country to share their research, network, and learn. My attendance was not just to give a talk, but to gain valuable insights into my future career opportunities. As I am about halfway through my PhD studies, thinking about post-PhD career options is something I should start doing.

To learn more about what physics PhDs can expect to do after graduation, I attended a workshop organized by the Forum for Industrial and Applied Physics, which discussed “private sector” careers for physicists. What is the private sector? Where are the jobs? I found some answers to these questions, discovering that joining a manufacturing company such as Texas Instruments or Seagate could involve physics-related work, and these companies are hiring across the United States.

During one presentation, I learned something rather startling- the U.S. mints roughly 1,400 new PhDs each year, while only about 500 faculty positions open up. Thus, there is quite the oversupply of PhDs, assuming a career in academics is the goal. So it’s clear that not everyone PhD graduate can join a university as a tenure-track professor. Those who do not have to find work elsewhere. Although I am employed as an intern at Sandia National Labs, I realized I needed experience in the business world too. As a result, I thought about other ways in which I could apply the knowledge gained from my PhD. regarding quantum information…Hmm, what can you do with that? Thankfully, my research focuses on statistical inference, which, broadly speaking, means making decisions and inferences based on data. Sounds like something a business could use, right? Yes, absolutely!

To understand what skills I needed to develop and how they were applied in real world businesses, I decided to join Prescio Consulting as a summer intern. At first glance, it does seem a bit unusual for a physics student to join a consulting firm. However, the kind of work being done at Prescio is broadly related to the work I do. Prescio allows me to assist with real-world projects developing financial and risk models, understanding how they work and where they don’t, and estimating parameters in those models.

Joining Prescio for the summer is a natural way to enhance my skills, to discover potential topics and methods I could apply in my research, and to learn a little bit about the private sector. So far it’s been a great experience. I would recommend anyone studying mathematics, physics, finance, or engineering to consider applying to similar internships in the private sector in general, or seeking future opportunities at Prescio Consulting in particular.

Travis Scholten

Travis Scholten

Quantitative Analyst Intern at Prescio Consulting
Travis is a Physics PhD student and summer intern at Prescio Consulting. He's interested in solving problems related to statistical inference and writing code for data mining and analysis. He also likes to work on writing new algorithms related to his studies and work at Prescio.
Travis Scholten