Russell Yang Gao, BS
Zhengzhou, Henan, China
Degree earned at WPI:
BS, Mathematical Sciences
What he does:
As an associate in insurance asset management, Russell enjoys the diversity of his work. He works with insurance companies around the world to design optimal investment strategies given the client’s risk profile and current market outlook.
Math on the job:
Interest theory and basic probability theory are the foundation of any quantitative finance work. Both descriptive and inferential statistics are used frequently. Linear Algebra and Calculus are useful in solving many optimization problems.
Russell was born in Zhengzhou, Henan, China. He graduated from No.1 High School of Zhengzhou in 2004 and came to WPI to pursue his undergraduate study.
As an actuarial major at WPI, Russell dove into actuarial, statistics, and financial courses. The required Mathematical Statistics and Advanced Calculus courses would lay a solid foundation for his graduate study at UC Berkeley. In addition, he enjoyed a number of writing courses and worked as a tutor at WPI’s writing center. He served on the Presidential Commission to review the Sufficiency requirement at WPI. He was also elected to serve as a Senator in the Student Government.
Russell completed two summer internships during his WPI study. The internship at CIGNA and Swiss Re provided valuable first insights into the insurance industry. Russell completed his WPI Major Qualifying Project in London, England, where he worked with traders at Bank of America to price credit default swap indices and asset swaps. The capital markets experience he gained in an investment bank also proved valuable later in his career.
Russell was the first WPI student to receive the John Culver Wooddy Scholarship, a global award given by the Actuarial Foundation. He received the Salisbury award from WPI. Russell qualified as a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries in 2009. He graduated Valedictorian with a Master of Financial Engineering from the Haas Business School, UC Berkeley in 2011.
Advice to math students:
“Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Intellectual quest often starts with silly questions. So find answers rather than simply accepting them.”
“ We should all have a little actuary inside. Ask yourself, what will my future look like in four years?”
“As a small college, WPI offers a rich selection of courses and project opportunities, which leads to infinite career possibilities. Even if you’ve decided to be an actuary, life, health, property and casualty, consulting, asset management, actuarial software solutions are all open choices. Take the time to explore and make best of what’s available.”
“Passing an exam is a necessary but not a sufficient condition to secure an internship. Employers prefer people who can interpret numbers, make judgments, and present results in a convincing way. In short, they want people with abilities that a computer lacks. Take every class project as an opportunity to develop those skills."
“Find your own model! Not in a mathematical sense, but in a sense that you should find your own passion and do things in your own way.”