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SURI Project Leads Cadet Mathematician into the Realm of Finance

Institute Report, August 2011

This year’s Summer Undergraduate Research Institute projects marked a rise in quality and an interdisciplinary trend.

Lt. Col. Keith Kline, associate professor of psychology, supervised the program, the first since he took the helm as director of the VMI Center for Undergraduate Research. The center moved recently from Mallory Hall to Level 3 of Preston Library.

“We’re trying to raise the bar in terms of the quality of work that is sponsored by VCUR, and we’re trying to convince these young people that they are developing scholars and treat them as such.”

Kline noted that this year’s group included four interdisciplinary projects, projects involving a cadet working with faculty from more than one department or a cadet from one department working with a faculty member from another.

Math major Jacob MacIntyre ’12 paired up with professor of finance Col. Bob Moreschi in a project of the latter kind. MacIntyre looked at NASCAR to determine if the stock market accurately values the expected impact of a major corporate sponsorship.

“Finance, to a large degree, is a quantitative field where the application of one’s knowledge of math, especially statistical analysis, is required,” said Moreschi.

MacIntyre found, however, that he had a whole lot of work to do before he would be in a position to apply his own knowledge of math.

“I had to teach myself business finance,” said MacIntyre. “I didn’t know what an IPO [initial public offering] was, or a portfolio.” And he had to learn to do research, just to get started.

“It took a long time just to get the list of sponsors because there was no database,” said MacIntyre, adding, incredulously, “I had to go to microfilm in the library to look at the Wall Street Journal.”

“Jacob is using his applied math skills, learning finance, and also learning about the challenges social science researchers have in collecting good data with which to perform a variety of analysis,” said Moreschi. “I had to read up on NASCAR as well,” added MacIntyre, who said he is no fan of the sport.

He’s much more fond of soccer and has played on VMI’s NCAA team for the past three years. Though he has friends who are playing professional soccer or are “celebrities” on their campuses, MacIntyre said he has no regrets about coming to VMI and looks forward to greater involvement with the Corps during his 1st Class year. He will be dyke to a rat and will serve as a cadet counselor in addition to playing soccer.

MacIntyre would also like to further develop his SURI project during the upcoming year if there’s time. Having started last spring on the waiting list for SURI funding and then overcome the challenges of getting up to speed in a new discipline, MacIntyre can put what he will take away from this project in one simple phrase: “Never give up.”

Kline values interdisciplinary projects like MacIntyre’s because they help cadets think creatively and make connections.

“His [MacIntyre’s] gain,” added Moreshi, “is the exposure to finance and learning how his applied math major might be useful outside of the math department.”

Thirty-five cadets participated in the 2011 SURI program, 16 of whom presented their work in four sessions July 28. The remaining cadets will present their research during fall semester.