Chicago MSFM Unofficial review of Chicago MSMF program

Saw this on GD. Maybe QN can ask that guy to submit an official review here. That would provide more credibility to what he said
I am a student in the program and would strongly agree. The MSFM program sucks. There is a LOT of scope for improvement.

Two good things about the program:

1. Roger Lee: He is a God. Beyond excellent. Takes his time to work through the material. Uses 3 standard textbooks. Derives all the proofs. If you are not taking the Math of Options class offered by him this semester, you are wasting your time at Chicago.

2. Nygaard: The regression analysis class is surprisingly quite good.

Bad things about the program: Everything else!

Horrible stochastic calc professor, Stoc Calc was a total waste of time and money, will have to retake this someplace else.

useless TAs, giving 1 word answers like "yes!", "no!" even when you ask a question in detail.

rampant and widespread homework copying among students. You can actually SEE people sitting and copying answers from each other half hour before the class starts. quite sickening. Don't see what is the point of homework if everybody is cut-pasting solutions.

office hours are a waste

zero blackboard usage leading to students nodding off to numerous powerpoint slides at 9pm at night. Seriously, this 6:30-9:30pm slot does not work for me and many others. Majority of the students are day scholars and entire daytime is being wasted.

No university teaches mathematics using powerpoint slides. People have traditionally used chalk & blackboard for over 500 years because when you take the time to write it out, derive it, solve it, prove it, that's when it actually registers. Math is not a storybook you can just read by flipping powerpoint slides. You have to work through it. Roughly 20 minutes is wasted dealing with the technology hiccups when one tries to scribble on the tablet pc. Just use the chalk on the blackboard behind you.

horrible classroom timing, zero use of daylight, zero interaction with faculty outside of class.

The StatRisk class had no standard textbooks and took different bits of material from different places, cannot understand how anyone can go from Basic Probability to Copulas in just 1 class! Though the material was comprehensive, it is much better to stick to a standard textbook. However, this was one of the better classes last sem, so I won't complain too much.

The finance classes were a total joke. I don't think one can call that form of "teaching" as a class or education. It was just mindless chitchat, anedote-swapping, war stories, "when I was at UBS then I did this that and the other..." - so why exactly do I care ? Shut up and teach. Honestly I felt I was watching a mishmash of Seinfeld and CNBC. Some jokes, some industry chatter, some more jokes. No actual teaching.

I could go on and on.

Overall, I am sticking it out, hoping things will improve next semester. But if they use the same set of faculty and "industry professionals", it is very unlikely.

Ten Suggestions for UChicago:

1. stick to UChicago faculty like Nygaard, Roger Lee, Mykland. These people have real PhDs and they can really teach.

2. use standard time-tested math textbooks which are used in most MSFM and PhD programs. Don't cut-paste material from different sources, you just introduce mistakes and non-standard notations.

3. discourage/penalize copying among students.

4. The "industry pros" and retired visiting faculty are a complete waste of time. Get real UChicago faculty from Booth/Econ/Finance depts.

5. Provide electives. Many of the daytime college courses especially in Stat are quite good and should be available as elective.

6. Provide some actionable trading strategy, work through examples, not just plain theory.

7. Useful office hours, not saturday 8am.

8. Get knowledgeable and polite TAs, not rude economics majors with 1-liners.

9. Some daytime alternative for people who cannot do mathematics at late night.

10. Charge more. I and most of my colleagues will happily pay 100k$ if you actually do a good job. This is University of Chicago, not a diploma mill, for Christ's sake. Why do you have 130 students in 1 classroom ? Isn't that some kind of fire-code violation ?
Sounds plausible. The University of Minnesota's MSFM is based on that of Chicago, and if anything, is even sh!ttier: incompetent teachers, widespread copying of homework (and even cheating in exams), adjunct "faculty" and "industry experts" who can't tell their heads from their a$$es. The widespread use of Powerpoint. As I was reading the post, I thought for a moment the U of Minnesota's program was being described.
We received a review by a student who currently studies part-time in the Chicago MSMF Singapore program. Since he only started the program in 9/2009, we are not releasing it as an official review, but as feedback after one semester.

Can you tell us a bit about your background
Master's degree in computer science. Worked for a bank as a risk analyst and currently working as an energy trading strategist for a major energy company. I am located in Singapore and report to boss in UK.

Did you get admitted to other programs?

Why did you choose this program (over others, if applicable)?
I only applied for UChicago MSFM Singapore as it seems the best choice in Singapore or even Asia in terms of reputation.

Tell us about the application process at this program
The website was and is outdated. Most of the information regarding this program was found in online discussions. They responded my emails selectively.

On a scale of 1-10, how would you grade the accessibility of the faculty and staff?

Programs like Baruch MFE, UCB MFE have refresher courses for incoming students. Does this program offer such courses? How useful was it?
Yes, useful.

On a scale of 0-10, how would you grade the usefulness of these refresher courses?

Tell us about the courses selection in this program. Any special courses you like
1. Course selection is not flexible. I like Statistical Risk Management, Mathematical Foundation Option Pricing and Fixed Income so far.
2. Singapore students can study in Chicago for 1 or 2 quarters our of 3 quarters. a lot of us chose to go to Chicago in Spring quarter Apr - Jun
3. We can choose one course from Chicago Booth, which is only available in Chicago campus

On a scale of 1-10, how would you grade the flexibility of the curriculum?

Tell us about the quality of teaching

1. Practitioners teaching Fixed Income are good. because the course is reduced for some reason they insist offering additional seminar which is not counted in grading.

2. the class is like a video-conference bringing people from Chicago, Singapore and Stamford together. the video quality is good. we can ask questions using a microphone. all classes are recorded and can be played back later.

3. Teachers for each course normally come to teach in Singapore for 2 weeks, giving lectures and office hours.

4. Singapore program has local TAs for every course, mostly previous graduates. They are very helpful. Without TA's help it's not possible to figure out homework. In terms of homework, TAs are much more useful than lecturers.

On a scale of 1-10, how would you grade the quality of teaching?


Materials used in the program
Notes are enough

Programming component of the program
Matlab is dominant. There's c# class but i haven't taken. For me not much programming except the Matlab programming in statistical risk management and regression analysis.

so far i haven't done any project, expecting one for Regression Analysis.

On a scale of 1-10, how would you grade the practicality of the curriculum?

Career service
1. We visited a couple of banks in Singapore
2. Our resumes are compiled and sent to banks
3. Other than campus recruitment, quite a few immediate openings have been sourced by local career service.
4. nothing specific to intern

On a scale of 1-10, how would you grade the career service for internship and full-time job?

What do you like about the program?

i am much more confident about my math now. previously i picked up some models on my own, which can't compare to what I learn in the program in terms of both coverage and depth.

On a scale of 1-10, how would you grade your experience in the program?

What DON'T you like about the program?
1. the most important course Stochastic Calculus should be taught much better.
2. the management doesn't care much about publicity. i think for a professional program this is very important. the more people appreciate the program the more value that the current students and previous graduates get.

On a scale of 1-10, would you recommend this program to others?

Suggestions for the program to make it better
I would hire a public relationship manager to advertise the program better.

On a scale of 1-10, how would you grade the value of the program for the price tag?

Can you comment on the social interaction between students of different ethnics, nationalities in the program?
Ethnics are quite diversified and balanced. we are also invited to Chicago Booth alumni gathering in Singapore.

What are your current job status? What are you looking for?

as a quant strategist in energy trading. i want to expand my skill set further and look for more challenging opportunities, e.g. trading, portfolio manager, deal originator, etc
Just ran across this looking up some old course topics. Interesting in that there is some truth and some difference in perspective to this account.

Being sold on interaction with the b-school but then finding out that won't be happening? TOTALLY true. In fact, that's one of the biggest disappointments of the program. If that ever existed, then the person who screwed it up should get canned.

Roger Lee and Jostein Paulsen are indeed very good. Per Mykland's lectures can be sloppy, but he mostly grades on whether you got the idea or not. I could write up my justification and take a stab at the math and sometimes get 80% on a question. That is very fair for not having the answer. However, it is odd to say you chose a program for its mathematical focus and then to bemoan that focus.

Data analysis is a different beast. Nobody else teaches a course like this -- for good reason. What is covered in the course is typically covered over three courses in the statistics department or the b-school. (My TA pointed this out and it explained a lot.)

So if you haven't had courses before in basic stats (not probability) and linear modeling... well, that's three courses you will cover in the first 5 weeks. Then time series and extreme value theory and trading strategies in the last 5? Way too much. Worse still, data analysis is less of a science and more of an art: experience matters. But you can't get that wisdom in 10 weeks so the only people who get much out of that course are those who have some experience going in.

I'm not saying they should fire Mykland or can the data course. Rather, they should make Mykland fix his notes, move programming away from its own course and into part of every course, and then use that time for doing the data course right.

Overall: not bad, but I've heard so much better about CMU. And some of the fellow students are clearly only there because they can pay the money. A career doing outsourced backoffice offshore with no math background? That's how I spell LOSER -- and there were too many in the program to make me feel part of any 'elite.' I felt ripped off.
If you don't have a good preparation and passion for Math intensive study life, why do you bother to go to U of Chicago to learn FinMath from such distinguished scholars including Prof. Mykland and at last only to lead an unchanged worklife?!
The following is an introduction access to Prof. Mykland.
Per Mykland
Director, Stevanovich Center for Financial Mathematics
Robert Maynard Hutchins Distinguished Service Professor
Department of Statistics
The University of Chicago
Man Professor of Statistics and Finance, University of Oxford, 2009-10