Quant Guide 2020: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Urbana and Champaign, Illinois, US


The Master of Science in Financial Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign makes its first appearance in this edition of the Risk.net quant guide. The degree is taught between two University of Illinois colleges: the Gies College of Business and the Grainger College of Engineering. Its academic director is clinical professor of finance Morton Lane.

The curriculum has undergone significant change in the past year, Lane says. The overall number of core modules – mandatory classes students must pass to progress to the next stage of their study – has fallen by 40%, leaving more space for electives. The idea is to give students more choice, Lane says.

“We decreased the amount of time devoted to derivatives and increased the time spent on machine learning and data science,” he adds.

The compulsory classes in machine learning involve topics like neural net architecture, reinforcement learning and work with popular libraries like Pandas, NumPy and Scikit-learn. A boot camp on computer science for quants has also been added, Lane says. Students should also expect new concentrations in low latency trading and hedging to arrive in 2020.

Like many programmes, the university encourages students to work on for-credit projects with industry sponsors. Semester-long ‘practicums’ undertaken with financial companies are mutually useful, Lane explains: the degree candidates get practical problems to work through, and the companies benefit from the students’ work and ideas.

“Inevitably, sponsors want to experiment with the latest trends they see in industry – especially from their competitors,” he says. “They use the practicums to their benefit by having our able students test out their ideas alongside their internal activities.”

View this institution’s entry in the 2019 guide

View other universities and a guide to the metrics tables

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