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Half-way through undergrad; not sure how to plan things out from here

A little bit about me: I'm a math major at a top 20 private university in the US, 4.08 GPA not including this semester (grades aren't in yet), I've studied abroad in Moscow in a special advanced mathematics program, I've taken a number of advanced graduate-level courses in pure mathematics, I've had NSF-funded summer research positions at Penn State and Cornell (including this coming summer), I don't have any publications right now but probably will soon. I have two years left after this semester. My mathematical focus has been in algebraic topology but this summer I'll be looking into analysis on fractals--probably more relevant for finance, though I'm not sure how much fractals actually show up, if at all.

Oh, and I have a lot of programming experience: first place in a competition all four years of high school, internship first semester of college, and a few computer science classes with A+s.

My plan has been to get a Ph.D in mathematics and become a mathematician but I've been really looking into becoming a quant over the past year. I've already agreed to a research position this summer in mathematics, so I only have on summer left for an internship.

I'm basically looking for recommendations. If I wanted to become more of a front-office quant/trader, what is the best route for me to follow from here on out as far as internships and post-undergraduate education go? Would an internship at a place like DE Shaw (*if* I could get one) be of worth in this path? Where to go after I graduate? Is a Ph.D. in mathematics, likely with a focus on algebraic topology, even worth it if I want to become a quant, or is it better to go for an MFE?

Thanks very much!
 
A couple of things -- as a Cornell grad I know Prof Strichartz. Very smart guy and I'm sure you will have fun in Ithaca. If Ramakrishna or Hubbard gives a lecture, go.

If you don't want to sacrifice Summer 2012 for an internship instead of research try shadowing at place like DE Shaw during winter break or spring break. Maybe use linkedin or facebook to find people who work there.
 
Since you are well on your way to getting into a math PhD program (and probably at a top school), my advice would be to go that route. It gives you plenty of time to get a finance internship and self-study to determine if finance is really for you. And having a PhD in math won't hurt you in getting a quant finance job.
 
Thanks for the responses! I was wondering if someone would identify the program I was talking about. :D

I wasn't aware that DE Shaw offered spots outside of summer internships, so I'll definitely look into that.

Going for a Ph.D. in mathematics is my default route and it will take some convincing to get me to deviate from that, but still I am interested in the alternative routes resulting in a career as a quant--at the very least just to be aware of my surroundings, so to speak. Is a math Ph.D. in something like algebraic topology--useless to finance no matter how beautiful it might be--really preferable to a more specialized master's degree in financial engineering if one's goal is, without doubt, to become a quant? There is plenty of doubt in my case but more information on alternative paths can never hurt.
 

roni

Cornell FE
As far as I understand, a PhD is needed to become a desk quant, unless you have special mathematical skills+knowledge or extensive experience...
I'm not in the field, yet, but that's what I've managed to conclude...
Take a look at NYU Math PhD. The school is extremely reputable and it has a very good MS in Math Finance program... I'm pretty sure NYU PhD students are allowed to take classes in this program.
 
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