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How NYU Plans to Create the 'Super Quant'

Editor's note: New York University recently launched its MBA/MS in Mathematics in Finance. Designed for the aspiring "super quant manager," the dual-degree program is offered through a partnership of the NYU Stern School of Business and the NYU Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences.

TheStreet.com's Gregg Greenberg recently met with three of the architects of this joint program: NYU Stern Professor of Finance and Nobel Prize winner Robert Engle, NYU Courant Clinical Associate Professor of Mathematics Petter Kolm and NYU Stern Dean Thomas F. Cooley. The following is a transcript of that meeting.

Gregg Greenberg: Why is now the time to create a dual degree to create a "super quant?"

Professor Robert Engel: The demand for quantitative skills on Wall Street and at investment banks and hedge funds all over the world has really never been higher. But there's always a question: Who is going to manage these quants? Who is going to be the person that steps above and can take the broad economic viewpoint as to where "rocket science" belongs and where it doesn't belong. And I think that's exactly what we're trying to train.

Greenberg: Where is the demand coming from? Is it coming from Wall Street or is it coming from the students themselves, who want to put themselves in a better position to get that job at a hedge fund or at a place like Goldman Sachs (GS - Get Report)?

Professor Petter Kolm: I think it's a little bit of both. There's obviously tremendous demand today for people with quantitative talent, but also people who can strike a balance with managerial skills. So those are the demands from Wall Street, but I think that also students themselves want to present themselves to the professional investment industry with an extra edge.

Greenberg: What are your demands from the students who are applying? What are you looking for in an applicant who wants to become a super quant?

Kolm: I think first and foremost, very strong mathematical skills -- a strong quantitative background. But for a program like this, it also needs to be a person who is interested in taking a leadership role. They need to be able to communicate well to other people.

Greenberg: You have a very strong alumni networking program, so what are the alumni saying about this particular program? What's the reception been on Wall Street?

Engel: Well, we have alums from, of course, both sides. We have lots of alums from the MBA program and lots of alums from the math-finance program. And they both, I think, feel like this is a very exciting extension -- that you can do both of these things.

I'd like to add actually to what Petter was saying. After I teach my volatility class at Stern, which is a very popular class -- somewhat technical -- I get all these students coming to me and saying, "What's the next course in this direction? How do I get more quantitative stuff?" Because the MBA program focuses more on general skills and not so much quantitative skills and so now this the program is a natural blend.

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