CHANGING DEMAND FOR THE MATHEMATICAL SCIENCES

At its meeting in December 2010, the committee heard from four people in sectors of industry that are becoming increasingly reliant on the mathematical sciences:

•   Nafees Bin Zafar, who heads the research division at DreamWorks Animation,

•   Brenda Dietrich, vice president for Business Analytics and Mathematical Sciences at IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Center,

•   Harry (Heung-Yeung) Shum, head of Core Search Development at Microsoft Research, and

•   James Simons, head of Renaissance Technologies.

The goal of this discussion was to gain insight about some of the topical areas in which the mathematical sciences are critical. Speakers brought knowledge of the demand for the mathematical sciences in the financial sector and the growing demands in business analytics, the entertainment sector, and the information industry. Because Dr. Shum had been a founder of Microsoft Research–Asia, in Beijing, he was also able to comment on the growing mathematical science capabilities in China. The focus of these interactions was to learn about current and emerging uses of mathematical sciences skills, whether or not carried out by people who consider themselves to be mathematical scientists. The financial sector, for example, employs thousands of financial engineers, only a fraction of whom have a terminal degree in mathematics or statistics. (Many are trained in physics or economics, and many have M.B.A. training.) Understanding the demand for mathematical science skills per se is critical for two reasons: (1) the demand for those skills, especially where it is increasing or moving in new directions, requires college and university education that in part relies on academic mathematical scientists and (2) the demand for those skills implies at least the possibility that the nation would benefit from a larger number of master’s or Ph.D.-level mathematical scientists, especially if their training were designed with consideration of the emerging career options.

Dr. Simons noted that Renaissance Technologies has carried out all of its trading through quantitative models since 1998; it now works with several terabytes of data per day from markets around the world. The company has about 90 Ph.D.s, most in the research group but some in the programming group. Some of these people have backgrounds in mathematics, but others have degrees in astronomy, computer science, physics, or other disciplines that provide strong mathematical science skills. He listed a number of financial functions that rely on mathematical science skills: prediction, valuation, portfolio construction, volatility modeling, and so



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