I haven’t been blogging much lately, due to a combination of travel, job interviews, visitors, generally being away from the internet, and the release of Super Smash Bros. Brawl. However, now that my job search has reached a conclusion, I felt an announcement was in order. I’ve just accepted an offer from Morgan Stanley, where I’ll be working in the Process Driven Trading group as a Quantitative Research Associate.
This is obviously a major career change for me. Those who have followed my posts related to career issues and academia know that I have been dissatisfied with the usual academic physicist career track for a while now, but I only started to seriously consider finance as an alternative about a year ago. There’s a commonly-held belief in the physics community that finance is where you end up if you don’t make the cut in physics, and that the work in that field, while lucrative, is just not very interesting; this led me to rule out the option for a long time without really looking into it. However, in talking to people who work in finance I came to realize that there are intellectual rewards to be found there, and that it was a worthwhile option to investigate. And finance contains the type of problems I enjoy working on in experimental physics—mainly related to working with data and optimizing experimental parameters—without involving hardware-related issues that I won’t miss (such as soldering and handling cryogens), and bringing in some (mainly game-theoretic) topics I’ve long been interested in but haven’t had a chance to pursue seriously.
Over the course of my job search I did find many positions that were ultimately unappealing, either because of the role or the personalities of the people I met. PDT on the other hand combined an intellectually interesting position with an attractive work environment and a group of people I will enjoy working with. Throughout my job search I have considered those factors to be more important than which field I end up in, and it’s the main reason I ended up accepting their offer. An additional advantage is the location; while I’ll very much miss California, I’m excited to have the opportunity to live in New York City. (The photo at the top of this post is misleading, as I’ll be working at Morgan Stanley’s headquarters in Times Square rather than downtown—Wall Street in the metonymic sense, not the literal one.)
One thing I will miss in leaving physics is the sense of working on something fundamental, of learning something profound about how the universe works. This does have real value, and while markets are interesting systems, studying them won’t be quite the same from that perspective. On the other hand, they say that to find your ideal job, you should look at what you like to do in your spare time. And as many of you know, what I do outside the lab is play games, on the tabletop or the TV screen. I love planning strategies and the distinct pleasures of a successful play. The finance industry is the biggest game in the world, and I’m excited to be joining in.
I must confess that I don’t share Cory Doctorow’s intense interest in all things Disney-related, and as a result I tend to skip past the (many, many) Boing Boing posts on this subject. However, his co-blogger Mark Frauenfelder posted one today that caught my eye, about planned changes to the classic “It’s a Small World” ride:
[T]he gorgeous New Guinea rainforest scene, replete with some of Mary Blair’s most whimsical character creations (a crocodile with an umbrella, colorful birds hatching from eggs) and her drummer children with Tiki Masks on the opposite shore will be replaced with a Hooray for U.S.A sequence.
Now, I don’t have any particular attachment to this ride. But, this kind of thing makes me wonder if we’re living in a fictional world, and the writers are on strike. I mean, imagine if you saw a movie where some evil executive takes control of a Disney-like corporation and, to establish his character, the film has him modifying a Small World-like ride by tearing down the rainforest and replacing it with a nationalistic display. We’d all laugh (or cringe) at such a heavy-handed metaphor. It would be like that movie with the ultra-militaristic U.S. vice president who actually shot a guy in the face while hunting. Yeah, we get it. His poor judgement and belligerence caused him to attack the wrong target. Subtle.
In conclusion, reality has excellent, immersive visuals and sound, but terrible writing. I give it two stars out of five.