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Profiles of B.S. Alumni

Thalia Bouklas  graduated from Stony Brook in 1986 with a Bachelor's degree in Applied Mathematics and Statistics and a Master's degree in Statistics. Upon graduation, she took a position as an Actuarial assistant in the Life and Health Insurance field at a nearby office of Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. Thalia first learned about the actuarial profession in high school, and as a Stony Brook undergraduate, took and passed the first two actuarial exams. Building on coursework in applied, operations research, and numerical analysis, she took and passed the next three exams of the Society of Actuaries shortly after leaving Stony Brook. 
She found that an actuary's job is varied, encompassing many duties: general management, marketing, research, underwriting, investments, accounting, administration, and long-range planning. She notes, "Actuarial work gives a statistician or applied mathematician a chance to apply his or her mathematical skills in the real world. It requires a good mix of actuarial and business thought and offers the opportunity to delve into topics of both a mathematical and non-mathematical nature. Someone who has a talent for, and is building a strong foundation in, mathematics and statistics will find that actuarial work can provide an exciting and financially rewarding career that is challenging and offers many avenues for advancement in managerial roles.. "

Julie Castano
 earned her B.S. in Applied Mathematics and Statistics with a minor in Hispanic Literature. She works at AT&T as a systems engineer. "Throughout my college years, I was very involved in extracurricular activities and interacted with many professionals. I feel that this experience, along with my training in applied mathematics and statistics, gave me essential skills for success in Corporate America. My internship with AT&T in the summer of my junior year made it clear, in working beside students from other prestigious institutions, how well Stony Brook and the AMS Department had prepared me for the technical workplace.

"During my internship, I was given two projects. I performed an analysis of the impact on AT&T's network when it became a local service provider, and I also created a reliability model for a network architecture using mathematical distributions. I worked on a team in which my analytical, communication, writing and interpersonal skills were essential. Stony Brook helped me developed all these skills in a professional environment.

"Stony Brook taught me to aspire, to strive for excellence and to put 100% of my effort into whatever I do. One of the most valuable outcomes I got from my studies in the Applied Math Dept. was my mathematical approach to life. I use my problem-solving skills and my ability to think logically and systemically on a day-to-day basis. It is extremely reassuring to know that I can analyze situations to find optimal solutions before I make any decision. This capability is fundamental to my job as well as to my life in general. This will always be key to my success."

Sergio Cosmai  received a B.S. and an M.S., with an Operations Research concentration from Stony Brook in Applied Mathematics and Statistics. Upon graduation, he accepted a systems analyst position in the Group Insurance Department of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (MetLife). His programming skills were actually quite limited, and the position was more of a general-purpose quantitative entry slot in a company that offered a variety of tracks for professional advancement. Initially, Sergio developed his programming skills and strengthened his knowledge of statistical methods. One of his initial major projects involved 'Stop Loss Insurance' whose rate structure for coverage depended on the Gamma distribution.

After two years, he moved to a Systems Engineer position in the Data Communication Department. One satisfying project involved a study of response times in a network linking 1200 sales offices with an information center in Scranton. Various configurations of 140 multidrop leased data circuits were studied (varying the number of offices on each circuit) using regression models. Extensive simulation and analysis (all done by Sergio) revealed that inactivating 'batch' physical units during business hours would increase the polling rate and interactive response times. Currently Sergio is a supervisor in Data Communications.

"As well as preparing me to model and analyze insurance and telecommunication problems, the Applied Math training I got at Stony Brook helped me to understand many new data networking techniques, such as DES (Data Encryption Standard) algorithm and graph-theoretic algorithms for optimizing LANs (Local Area Networks). My one piece of advice of current Applied Math students would be for them to give more attention to writing skills and a basic knowledge of how businesses function."

Mark Derwin  came to Stony Brook University with 3 years of computer training from high school. But, after 2 years in the UniversityÕs Computer Department, he changed over to Applied Math and Statistics. He realized that he enjoyed problem-solving more than coding. Courses like Game Theory, Graph Theory, Cryptography and Combinatorics showed him how to apply the theories to real life situations. Applied Math gave him the ability to use computers to solve real problems. 

One of these problems-solving opportunities came while he was in the Operations Research Masters program at Stony Brook. He had an internship with the Long Island Rail Road on a 'Time Between Failure' system., giving him a chance to apply classroom theories to real world situations. It also taught him how to work in small groups and make presentations. 

During graduate study, he worked as a technical writer for a local software company, and then moved into Quality Assurance. Finding bugs in their systems was just another form of problem solving. Today, he is still solving software problems at a much larger software company. As a support manager, his team handles both customer and system problems. "My background gives me the ability to perform many different tasks. Besides QA and Support, I get to write, teach and travel. I get to travel around the country and give courses on application design and problem-solving."

Looking back on college, he appreciates that his applied mathematics courses taught him general strategies for problem-solving as well as specialized mathematical techniques. The skills that he learned in Stony Brook's Applied Math and Statistics department have truly helped him to get to where he is today. 

Ellen Feinberg  graduated from Stony Brook with a B.S. with Highest Honors in Applied Mathematics and Statistics. Two courses in operations research and a course in graph theory piqued her interest in particular. Ellen continued her education at Stanford University, earning an M.S. and Ph.D. in Operations Research. Upon graduation, Ellen returned to the east coast and joined the Operations Research Department at AT&T.

This job provided an excellent transition for her from academia. Ellen's responsibilities included serving as an internal consultant for other AT&T business units and undertaking her own research. Her first assignment involved modeling and simulation of AT&T billing collection strategies and customers' behavior as a result of these policies. Other subsequent assignments included modeling and analysis of manufacturing lines to improve capacity planning and scheduling projects. At the same time, Ellen continued research ideas in combinatorial optimization begun in her thesis at Stanford. A project on disruptions to manufacturing lines involved synergistic applied research drawing on her combinatorial optimization theoretical research.

After three years in the Operations Research Department, she transferred within AT&T to do Systems Engineering of AT&T's huge telecommunication network. In her current job, Ellen deals with capacity, flow control, and other resource-related network issues. Although many of the assignments in her present job are not mathematical in nature, she draws upon her problem-solving talents acquired through courses taken at Stony Brook to develop creative solutions.

Robert Frey  holds both Stony Brook B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Applied Mathematics and Statistics. "My whole education took place part-time. It took me 12 years. I was a nontraditional student in every way, from a family in which no one in the previous generation had gone to college."

During his 12 years of part-time study, Robert was simultaneously moving ahead in the business world. He was initially a management analyst for the IRS, then an operations researcher for Doubleday Book Co. and later for European-American Bank; on the side, he started his own consulting firm. 

At the time he wrote his dissertation, he was head of the 25-person operations research/ artificial intelligence group at the Harris Corporation. Among other projects at Harris, Frey led an analysis of how to design a military airplane so that automated testing equipment could diagnose faults in complex electronic systems. A new generation of Navy fighter planes was developed under the guidelines Frey proposed. After his Ph.D., he moved to Morgan Stanley's trading operation where he helped build a mathematically based trading system. He then became a founding partner of Kepler Financial Management, Ltd., which ran a computerized equities fund. Kepler was purchased by Renaissance Technologies Corp., one of the country's most successful hedge fund managers. At Renaissance, he has worked on broadening Renaissance's products into more traditional areas of investment management. In 2004, he retired from Renaissance and returned to the University to start a Quantitative Finance option with the Applied Mathematics and Statistics graduate program. In 2008, he endowed the Frey Family Endowed Chair in Quantitative Finance in the department.

"I like the fact that I can change fields and rapidly become deeply involved in new careers. With the proper quantitative background, you develop powerful cognitive facilities. I have learned to pick stuff up fast."

Brad Golding  graduated with a B.S. with a double major in Applied Mathematics and Statistics and in Economics from Stony Brook. On a referral from an Economics professor, he was interviewed by a Chicago brokerage company for a position as a financial analyst. "Looking back at the interview, I realized that they had asked me very few questions about financial markets and economics. The majority of the questions were about math, computer programming and tests of my logical abilities. After years of taking Applied Math classes and wondering what they were preparing me for, I was beginning to understand."

When hired, Brad was still nervous about his limited financial background. Most of his coworkers had MBA's and PhD's from the country's leading universities. A co-worker said, 'Given your math background you should be able to pick the basics up.' The advice turned out to be correct; again Brad was pleasantly surprised. "Now I feel comfortable and skillful at analyzing financial problems, even in new situations I have never seen before." After a year as an analyst and two years as an institutional futures and bond broker, he was promoted to a Vice President in The Chicago Corporation and traded futures for the company. Then he moved to Boston and became a co-director of a large international currency fund. After two years, he moved to a financial management position in New York with a Japanese bank. Currently, he serves as the North American Business Manager for one of the leading international bond trading syndicates. Brad observes, "The quality of my decisions and the speed at which I arrive at them are of utmost importance. At times this can be deciding if I should buy one option and sell another or how a news story will affect bond prices.

Developing my problem-solving abilities and logical thinking was the greatest benefit I received from my Applied Math training at Stony Brook. And, if at some point I change jobs again, I am confident these skills will remain valuable."

Ian Goldstein  transferred to Stony Brook after one year at Boston University. He graduated from Stony Brook three years with a double major in Applied Mathematics and Statistics and Computer Science. Through part-time work, he had gained some experience in building computer networks. Rather than work for a large company, lan decided to start his own company, Goldtronix Corporation, specializing in network systems for small and medium sized businesses. He purchases commercial software and hardware and then designs networks and specialized software to create customized solutions to the computer needs of his clients. The critical step is to model the operations of a company so that an appropriate system can be designed to handle those operations, and also anticipate expansion needs for future growth. His clients have included accounting firms, law offices, manufacturing plants, processing plants, and shipping companies.

"Majoring in Applied Math was of greater value to me than I ever realized," lan recalls. "While attending Stony Brook, I found the Applied Math courses both intriguing and challenging. However, I did not realize until after graduation that Applied Math classes I took helped to develop my problem-solving abilities more broadly. Transforming business needs into efficient, affordable and reliable computer systems takes the ability to think abstractly as well as a solid understanding of mathematical modeling. Graph theory, numerical analysis, and probability are but a few of the subjects that not only enhanced my education, but gave me the determination to set my own career goals and the capabilities to attain them."

Abbe Herzig  graduated from Stony Brook with a Bachelor's degree in Applied Mathematics and Statistics and a Master's degree in Statistics. Her initial job was at Brookhaven National Lab working on environmental health statistics. She consulted for the United Nations Statistics Office, the Yale School of Medicine, and the Legal Defense Fund of the NAACP, and then worked for several years as a statistician with Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports and Zillions magazines. 

At Consumers Union, Abbe designed experiments to test products, analyzed the resulting data, and helped editors interpret those results for publication in the magazine. She developed databases of auto test information, and analyzed survey data with hundreds of thousands of records about automobile reliability. She also advised Consumers Union's Education department on the development of statistical and mathematical exercises to be included in teaching guides for classroom use of Consumer Reports and Zillions magazines.

She decided to return to university and earned a Ph.D. in Mathematics Education at the University of Wisconsin. She is currently a tenured professor in the School of Education at SUNY-Albany. For her research about women and students of color leaving mathematics, she draws heavily on her statistical expertise, combining those quantitative research skills with qualitative methodologies.

"The aspect I've always enjoyed most about being a professional statistician is that statistical methodology is used practically everywhere. I've had the opportunity to work on a discrimination lawsuit, in scientific research in biology, education, psychology, medicine, and in the physical sciences and engineering."

Brian Kohn  graduated from Stony Brook in the combined BS-MS program in Applied Mathematics and Statistics. His graduate concentration was Operations Research. He then accepted a position as Systems Engineer at Verizon. His job responsibilities included developing specifications for systems for managing and analyzing quality data.

He soon migrated into defining and improving methodologies, standards and guidelines for quality planning in large research and development projects. He became part of teams to oversee and review the management of new projects from concept through development and production to market. After three years, he began leading such project and organizational reviews and postmortems. His current title in Quality Consultant. Part of his responsibilities are to consult with organizations attempting to implement new management technologies to improve quality, such as Process Management and Quality Improvement Cycles.

"While I'm not using any of the 'schemes' that I learned to battle the problems in Applied Combinatorics, for example, I apply the learning of how to develop schemes every time I develop a new element of a methodology or help a group work on a quality improvement challenge. There are currently no 'majors' better than applied mathematics for teaching the analytical skills needed to understand the organization dynamics and solve the management problems I face as a quality consultant."

Brian also noted that his work entails a significant amount of public speaking. While nothing in the Stony Brook curriculum helped here, his graduate TA assignment teaching AMS 210 was a tremendous help, as were his extracurricular activities in student government (he was Polity Treasurer).

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