Job Market Calls, WPI Answers with New Graduate Programs

Contact: Arlie Corday WPI Media & Community Relations

WORCESTER, Mass. - There's nothing like demand in the job market for suggesting a promising new educational direction among enterprising colleges and universities. Now Worcester Polytechnic Institute has parlayed its long history of combining theory and practice into steps toward two new master's degree programs aimed at placing graduates in industry jobs.

WPI has received a $290,000 award from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to establish two professional master's degrees in mathematical sciences. The university has committed another $267,000 toward the programs, with $211,000 of that earmarked for financial aid. The aid will allow WPI to recruit top students, setting a high standard of excellence right from the start.

The biggest difference between the new programs and other advanced math degrees is their business-oriented aspect. Typically, advanced degrees in math focus on the academic rather than the business world.

"Rethinking the master's degree as a terminal degree and designing it to provide students with the skills needed to make them successful in jobs outside academia, is an effort we wholeheartedly support," said WPI President Edward Alton Parrish. "The job market needs specialists with strong quantitative, modeling and scientific skills, and universities need to understand how to better prepare them."

The new programs, "Master's Program in Industrial Mathematics" and "Master's Program in Quantitative Finance," will be overseen by WPI math professors Bogdan Vernescu and Domokos Vermes and offered to students in the fall of 2001.

"In developing the programs, we will be assisted by two Advisory Committees formed by experts nationally recognized in these fields," Vernescu said. "Industrial and financial projects, internships and training in business and communications will be designed to equip students to be successful in the job market."

WPI will join an elite group of schools in this new venture. "With this grant, WPI will join a small number of universities funded by the Sloan Foundation to develop model programs," noted Homer Walker, head of WPI's Mathematical Sciences Department.

The industrial mathematics program will focus on the job marketability of students and making connections between them and industry. The program will be administered by WPI's Center for Industrial Mathematics and Statistics, which encompasses numerous industrial partnerships. Since its creation in 1997, CIMS has developed more than 30 projects in conjunction with industry.

What kind of jobs will program graduates find? Industrial mathematicians work in wide-ranging fields such as aircraft and automobile design, software development, computer security and weather prediction. Working with other professionals, they provide technical advantages and cost savings that keep a company on the competitive edge.

Graduates of the quantitative finance program will work in the financial and insurance fields. Typical careers include portfolio management, securities pricing, insurance and investment banking.

These two initial programs are expected to become the models for future professional master's degree programs in other areas of science education at WPI.

"The Sloan initiative addresses an important national need for leading-edge programs designed to prepare science professionals to meet the ever more challenging needs of industry," said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs John F. Carney III. "WPI has a long tradition of a project-based undergraduate education and an application-oriented graduate engineering education, benefiting from a strong network of industrial partners. The job-oriented education is thus one of our hallmarks."

Founded in 1865, WPI enrolls 2,700 undergraduate and 1,000 graduate students in science, engineering, management, humanities and arts, and social sciences. Under the WPI Plan, undergraduates complete three projects focusing on their major course of study, the humanities, and the interactions among science, technology and society.