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University of Delaware - Alfred Lerner College of Business & Economics

By Sunny Rosen February 28, 2019

Last year, the University of Delaware’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics celebrated its first-ever graduating class of doctoral graduates in financial services analytics (FSAN). This groundbreaking program created by the Lerner College’s Institute for Financial Services Analytics (IFSA) in partnership with UD’s College of Engineering is the first of its kind at the intersection of industry and academia.

In this article, we check in with the five members of this first cohort. Less than a year after graduation, all five FSAN doctoral graduates are enjoying rewarding roles for companies like JPMorgan Chase, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and financial technology startups. Read on for Q&As with each graduate about their burgeoning careers, future aspirations and advice for current students.

Leonardo De La Rosa Angarita, modeler for JPMorgan Chase

Q: What is your favorite thing about your current role?

A: My favorite thing about my current role is the challenge of unearthing some hidden gems in a variety of complex datasets.

Q: How did your time in the FSAN program help prepare you for this career?

A: My time in the FSAN program provided me with all of the necessary tools to face any type of challenge as a data scientist. It shaped my mind to be able to understand how to frame a data science problem, what algorithms are most appropriate for specific types of datasets, as well as what performance measure best helps evaluate a model. In addition, being part of the FSAN program allowed me to become skilled at understanding how to prepare and transform datasets to better expose the underlying patterns of a dataset to machine learning algorithms, which is a critical task that I frequently have to address in my role as a data scientist.

In addition, thanks to the FSAN program, I was given the opportunity to work as a data science intern at JPMorgan Chase for the majority of my Ph.D. This was a crucial aspect of my doctoral program, as it provided me with all the knowledge and experience I needed to take a full-time job as a data scientist, particularly a background in programming languages and an understanding of finance.

Q: What are your goals and dreams for the future?

A: My dream for the future is to be able to pioneer the next disruptive innovation in financial services.

A: What advice would you have for students who are interested in a Ph.D. in FSAN?

If you don’t know how to code, it is imperative that you learn how to program (in any language) right away. Programming is a fundamental tool in the data scientist’s arsenal. In addition, understand the fundamentals of machine learning. Most machine learning algorithms have already been implemented and are readily available as packages for a variety of programming languages. However, improving the performance and tuning the parameters of your model is an art and it is imperative that one become an expert in this challenging field.

Xin (Jane) Ji, data scientist for Thomas Jefferson University Hospital

Q: What is your favorite thing about your current role?

A: So far my favorite thing about my role is that I get to keep learning about new technologies and thinking about how they may be leveraged and applied in healthcare data analysis. I love working with healthcare data and take pride in my efforts to improve lives.

Q: How did your time in the FSAN program help prepare you for this career?

A: My research and learning experience in the FSAN program helped a lot in securing my current position. One of my thesis projects was related to healthcare informatics. This experience opened up new career opportunities during my job search. I am so glad that I did this and was able to prove my capability to handle healthcare data analysis without much biology or medical education background.

Q: What are your goals and dreams for the future?

A: I aim to be a top-tier data scientist in healthcare informatics. Currently, there is a lot for me to learn. I enjoy learning and appreciate the knowledge and skills that FSAN equipped me with. I will keep learning and get my hands “dirty” with real business data projects.

Q: What advice would you have for students who are interested in a Ph.D. in FSAN?

A: Study hard and enjoy every challenge you have to stick through. You will enjoy it very much.

Arash Riasi, credit strategy manager for Marlette Funding, a Wilmington-based financial technology startup

Q: What is your favorite thing about your current role?

A: In my current role I design credit and pricing strategies for the personal loan product. I love my current role because it is very vibrant; I have to closely observe the economic trends and recommend changes for the product’s pricing strategy accordingly.

Q: How did your time in the FSAN program help prepare you for this career?

A: During my time in the FSAN program I was able to take several elective courses which helped me to improve my coding skills. I use these skills to perform my daily tasks.

Q: What are your goals and dreams for the future?

A: I would like to have my own company in the future and be an entrepreneur in the fintech [financial technology] space.

Q: What advice would you have for students who are interested in a Ph.D. in FSAN?

A: I think FSAN is a great choice for anyone who wants to pursue a career in data analytics. The program provides a wide range of research opportunities to students and prepares them for interesting careers in the financial services industry.

Deshen Wang, core risk modeler for JPMorgan Chase

Q: What is your favorite thing about your current role?

A: My favorite thing about my current job is that I can learn about real business, and touch some real big data.

Q: How did your time in the FSAN program help prepare you for this career?

A: Everything that I learnt from FSAN perfectly matches my job, such as modeling, coding skills and data analysis knowledge.

Q: What are your goals and dreams for the future?

A: My short-term goals are to improve my abilities and become an expert in the field.

Q: What advice would you have for students who are interested in a Ph.D. in FSAN?

A: Dedicate yourself to your research and dissertation. Learn from your advisor.

Sean Kilgallon, lead data scientist for cybersecurity startup Cyber 20/20 Inc. and postdoc at UD’s Department of Computer and Information Sciences

Q: What is your favorite thing about your current role?

A: My favorite thing about my current role is the freedom to continue my academic research in a more fast paced environment in industry.

Q: How did your time in the FSAN program help prepare you for this career?

A: My time in the FSAN program helped me expand my knowledge in a more broad manner initially, and then helped me focus my research on machine learning and cybersecurity.  My current role is particularly suited for me as I can apply all of the knowledge I gained in the FSAN program to my current job role.

Q: What are your goals and dreams for the future?

A: My goal is to use the knowledge I gained in my studies to help prevent cyber attacks from happening and to remediate them much faster than we do now. FSAN’s program is unique as it is multidisciplinary and allows the students to follow the research path that they are most passionate about.

Q: What advice would you have for students who are interested in a Ph.D. in FSAN?

A: My advice to these students is that if you are interested in a Ph.D. program and your interest does not quite fit in a traditional research subject, this Ph.D. is perfect for you!