Later this week, WPI’s new location in Boston’s Seaport District will be unveiled to the public and industry partners. In an effort to advance the university’s role in innovation and cutting-edge ideas and technology, the new space will be host to a variety of events and classes for all members of the WPI community, including projects, panels with industry leaders, and more.
As part of the celebration of technological expansion, Foisie Business School professor Kevin Sweeney and mathematical sciences professor Marcel Blais will be in attendance at Seaport’s grand opening with a handful of their students, sharing with visitors and industry professionals the importance of and WPI’s expertise in financial technology, more commonly known as FinTech.
FinTech combines financial services and information technology to influence the various ways money is handled. WPI has been active in the world of FinTech for several years, whether through student projects at the Wall Street Project Center, work at the Center for Industrial Mathematics and Statistics, or other project-based learning and research. With the opening of Seaport, WPI has also become part of a collaboration of community, academic, and business stakeholders working to make Boston and the surrounding area a globally recognized FinTech hub.
“There are some amazing learning and professional opportunities for students that will grow out of FinTech,” Sweeney says. “[It] is uniquely aligned with a key strength of WPI—its balanced focus on technology and innovation through theory and practice.”
Over the past few years, Sweeney and Blais have worked together with faculty, students, and administrators to create the WPI FinTech Collaborative, a group that focuses on projects and multidisciplinary activities related to FinTech.
“The FinTech Collaborative provides students with project opportunities in which they can use the technical skills they learn in the classroom at WPI in an applied financial technology setting. This gives the students a unique hands-on project learning experience and prepares them for a career in the FinTech industry,” Blais explains.
While students already have opportunities to participate in and complete FinTech-related projects through the Collaborative and a handful of project centers, Sweeney is looking forward to the effect the new Seaport location will have on FinTech efforts.
“[It] will enable WPI and its internal FinTech Collaborative to engage more actively in these important initiatives with a more visible presence in the Boston and New England FinTech ecosystem,” he says.
One recent project in particular effectively illustrates the work that Sweeney, Blais, and several students in a variety of programs have been able to collaborate on together. In fall 2017, four graduate students, Madhuri Surve, Alexander Shoop, Khasan Dymov, and Zoey Chen; and six undergraduate students, Andrew Aberdale, Juan Carlos Chávez Guerrero, Zhi Hui, Juan Pablo de Lima, Benjamin Sarkis, and Rekik Tafesse; worked with Cambridge-based firms Vestigo Ventures and Cogo Labs, who work with venture capital and start-up acceleration and data analytics, respectively.
“The FinTech Collaborative provides students with project opportunities in which they can use the technical skills they learn in the classroom at WPI in an applied financial technology setting. This gives the students a unique hands-on project learning experience and prepares them for a career in the FinTech industry.” -Marcel Blais
Over the course of a series of projects, the students determined ways to most effectively manage and evaluate big data analytics for predictive decision making around venture capital and other investments. Professors Jon Abraham, Mike Ciaraldi, and Reinhold Ludwig also had a hand in advising students on the project.
“This versatility to choose project team members from different disciplines as specialists is a major strength of the collaborative, and there are opportunities to which this versatility is critical,” Blais explains. “Sometimes a project just won’t work if it’s single discipline in focus.”
“It was a true WPI-wide initiative,” Sweeney adds. He and Blais will be present while a group of business, math, computer science, and electrical & computer engineering students who participated in the project will provide an interactive overview of their work to Seaport visitors.
Great strides have been made in WPI’s FinTech Collaborative, but Blais and Sweeney are keen to see what breakthroughs will be made next, both in the Worcester and Boston areas and beyond.
Sweeney says, “I’m optimistic that we’ll continue to grow our FinTech-related project opportunities in the Boston and Cambridge area, and I’m sure that we’ll be able to leverage the new Seaport location to enhance those projects with local WPI resources and greater visibility.”
- By Allison Racicot