Where Are They Now? – Simon Oh (M&T ’18)

Tell us a little bit about your grad program. What is a day in the life like for you?

I am currently a 2nd year PhD student in the Joint Program in Financial Economics at the University of Chicago. The program is run jointly by the finance area at Chicago Booth and the Department of Economics — You can think of it as “M&T” for grad school. Cliff Asness, also an M&T alumnus, went to the same PhD program in finance.

I usually start my day by sending out two daily newsletters.

The first is called “Quote of the Day” which I started in 2015 during my internship with Nalin Moniz (M&T ’04) and Radhika Gupta (M&T ’04). It contains a quote — a sentence of two — from one of the articles that I read for the day. The topics have ranged from municipal malfeasance and Newyorkitis to public knitting and high-speed rails.

The second is called “Plausibly Exogenous” which I started a few months ago. This email contains a source of plausibly exogenous variation used in the economics literature and most subscribers are economics PhD students.

As I am still finishing my required coursework, the remainder of the day looks strikingly similar to that in undergrad: attending classes, doing problem sets and studying for exams. I try to maintain a 5am — 10pm schedule pretty strictly, where the last two hours of the day are spent playing Beethoven on the piano, reading Borges or Auster, or enjoying board games with my girlfriend.

What do you love most about what you’re currently doing?

Each day, I can feel the stock of my knowledge grow and my economic intuition sharpen. I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by great mentors and a bright cohort, and it feels great to start my day thinking that I will have grown “smarter” before I go to sleep.

How do you see the duality of M&T coming through in what you do now?

Background-wise, it has exposed me to a wide set of methodologies that inform much of my endeavor in research projects. In my most recent paper, for example, I combine my background in signal processing (from electrical engineering) and investment management (from finance) to construct a daily series of aggregate growth expectations from stock and bond prices.

More broadly, M&T has essentially trained me to manage my time efficiently and aim for perfection in any goal that I pursue. Having graduated from the program, I am much more willing to accept difficulties and challenges throughout my PhD process.

Where do you see yourself going in the future?

Currently, my goal upon graduation (hopefully due in three years) is to be a professor at a top research institution.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to follow a similar path?

I arrived at my current path through numerous trials and errors. The trials mostly consisted of coursework, clubs, internships, and talking to upperclassmen. I think the collective human capital of M&T community is under-appreciated and leveraging it has potentially very high returns.