Carnegie Mellon University

Antonios Tavlarakis, MSCF '14

What triggered your interest in quantitative finance?

In high school, my teachers noticed I had a knack for technical subjects and encouraged me to take advanced classes. I was selected for a scientific research program, where I researched drugs exhibiting anti-HIV characteristics using quantitative molecular computer simulations – it was my first experience with the power of mathematics in producing practical outcomes. I was also interested in other subjects like current events and the economy. In college, I discovered I could focus many of these interests through quantitative finance.

How did you get to where you are today?  

I joined Goldman Sachs’s technology division as an intern, which turned into a full time offer to start after my college graduation. My initial plan was to continue my studies at the graduate level. However, I was so captivated by the company’s professional and merit-based culture, that I temporarily abandoned my graduate school plans.

Are there any faculty members who helped along the way?

All of the professors in this program are exceptional. For me, the professors who really stood out were Steven Shreve, Dmitri Kramkov and Chad Schafer. They teach by constructing a high-level picture and then tie in each topic. Consequently, you walk away from the class with a thorough understanding of the material. Diffy Paljevic also helped me navigate this challenging part of my life, and throughout the program, gave a tremendous amount of support to all of the students in the NYC campus.

How would you describe the ideal student for the MSCF program?

The program starts with fundamentals, but quickly gets difficult. With increasing difficulty also comes an increasing workload. Some people will have setbacks along the way. You need to be able to recover from those setbacks quickly, because the pace of the program is so fast. I think the mark of a true MSCF student is someone who is resilient and can recover from those bumps in the road quickly. 

What is your advice to individuals considering a master’s degree in quantitative finance?  

Taking on a graduate degree requires a lot of emotional strength and personal sacrifice. It's much easier to stay focused and be energized about MSCF if you are surrounded by people who believe in your journey. Find the people who you can rely on when the things get difficult. Don’t forget to show gratitude for everyone's support and be sure to pay it forward. In my case, I was on the Carnegie Mellon recruiting team at my company, and I also technically mentor junior employees who join the company.