Three PhD offers

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Three PhD offers

Postby will_be_quant » Sat Aug 27, 2011 6:16 pm

Dear Mark (or anyone else who might have an answer)

I am 24, I have finished MPhil degree in Advanced Computer Science at Cambridge with a Distinction. I had strong interest in theoretical computer science, even in pure math, but found pure math research was too abstract and deviated from reality. I am considering to start a new career in quantitative/applied math.

I have received three PhD offers and I don't know exactly how to choose. I have rejected one from Cambridge, since I want to move a new place and no funding at all at Cambridge. The other one is from Oxford, the research is about categorical logic, the combination of category theory and logic (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Categorical_logic) and its applications. It is very abstract and I don't see how it can be used in finance, since it is NOT numerical at all. Oxford does have a good reputation though. The third one is from Imperial College, the research is about computational optimization, which can be used in portfolio theory, and many other financial areas. Personally, I prefer the offer from Imperial College.

My question is that which one do you think will provide me a better career as a quant? Do you know anyone who have done category theory or logic become a successful quant? Please note I think category theory or logic is more fundamental and abstract than normal pure math such as number theory, algebra and so on.

The third option is to start a job between software develop and quant. This type of job is called quant developer, I presume. I have contacted with a few Hedge fund such as GSA, Cloucester Research and am considering if I should take the interviews for quant developer roles. But some people say that once I start a job to be a developer, it is difficult to transfer to be a quant? Do you agree? I feel that if I start as a developer, and teach myself the set of applied math skills required for quant, I can apply for a quant a couple of years later, right? In the essence, why a PhD is necessary to be a quant? I am quite confused about the requirement of PhD to be a quant.

Maybe forth option is to apply for MFE next year. I know Oxford and a few US graduates schools offer excellent MFE courses.

Thank you very much for reading such a long message and answering so many questions, I look forward to hearing advice from you.

Kind Regards
Will
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Re: Three PhD offers

Postby mj » Tue Aug 30, 2011 2:09 am

well you certainly get people who've done phds in irrelevant topics who've become successful quants, eg algebraic geometry.

categorical logic sounds a little extreme, however, unless you can get into the intersection of logic and computer science.

I'd lean towards the Imperial offer if the group is good.

The line between quant and quant developer can be quite blurred and so you can move in that way. The importance of a PhD is as much about signalling as anything.
mj
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Re: Three PhD offers

Postby will_be_quant » Wed Sep 21, 2011 12:38 pm

Dear Mark

First of all, I would like to thank you for your reply and confirmation about my choice. However, I need to bother you again if it is not too much trouble for you, since there is updated information, which I didn't know before.

The research project at Imperial College is "Robust optimization of nonlinear processes under uncertainty", which is a joint project between Computing Department and Chemical Engineering Department. Since the funding is from Chemical Engineering, I have to register at Chemical Engineering Department and probably receive a PhD in Chemical Engineering as well. However, I was suggested by my supervisor (Professor Pistikopoulos, Dr. Kuhn, Professor Rustem) that "Chemical Engineering, as a discipline, has been central in development of optimisation algorithms. Quite a lot of the people working in optimisation today were at Chemical Engineering departments.", and I don't need to learn anything about chemical engineering, just optimization.

My question is that

1. Will a PhD in Chemical Engineering worse than PhD in computing for a Quant job?
2. Let is consider optimization as a set that contains a set of techniques used in different industry, I presume that Finance and Chemical Engineering use different subset of techniques. How much do they intersect? I certainly don't want to spend three years on some specific optimization techniques that can only be used in Chemical Engineering, Not in Finance, when I am sacrificing the good reputation from Oxbridge.
3. I forgot giving complete information about the subject at Oxford. It is Categorical Logic and Quantum Computation (i.e. Categorical Quantum Mechanics), with a priority in category theory, not in quantum mechanics (Indeed, I only need to learn one module in Quantum Computing, rest is about categorical logic). Considering the updated information, could you please let me know which is the best interest for me to get a Quant job after 3 or 4 years. I mean the real Quant job, where I create models, rather than use models. I will be so grateful if you could give me some decisive suggestions (Please don't feel too responsible).

I am looking forward to hearing from you. Thanks a lot in advance.

Kind Regards
Will
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Re: Three PhD offers

Postby mj » Fri Sep 23, 2011 10:03 pm

personally i'd do quantum computing because it is the future!

I haven't met any chem e background quants.

I don't have enough for a feel for the optimization techniques used in various disciplines to judge.


In terms of quality indication to employers, the Oxford offer sounds better,
mj
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