My Life As A Quant

I have just read My Life As A Quant by Emanuel Derman.

I don’t have it with me now, so I will try to comment it just from my memory.

It tells the precise story of the academic and professional journey of its author, starting with his PhD admission in the 60s, following his research efforts, his career change from physics to financial research industry and ending with his return to university teaching, in early 2000s. It’s a permanent struggle to find one’s place where he can make the largest contribution and the best use of his intellectual resources. We follow the author through the graduate school in Columbia University, NY, where he is very eager to make a new discovery in particle physics and dreams to become the next Einstein while at the same time finds it difficult to progress, he’s shy and lonely and has a hard time finding a PhD adviser. We see him taking postdoc programs one after the other, always feeling under pressure to produce publishable results in limited time. Later on, working at a research lab feels much better, without such pressure but still having the freedom to work in one’s own rhythm. As jobs in Physics Departments are scarce, he starts considering changing course to finance, as some of his colleagues already did. Spending the 80s on the Wall Street, he is in the middle of a flourishing industry based on complex derivatives instruments. He witnesses and contributes to its systematization by building better models, computer programs and tools and lastly, by discovering a new model for options derivatives based on variable volatility.

It’s a long trip told with many details, in a sincere enough way. A good way to get a glimpse into US academic life before political correctness or into financial industry at a time when they were just starting using the instruments that became planet-wise known after the 2008 financial crash.


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