March 25, 2008

Arcane Gazebo sells out

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at March 25, 2008 5:49 PM


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.

Tags: Career, Life

Good luck welcome back to the east coast. Give a call when you get settled.

Posted by: shellock | March 25, 2008 6:49 PM

Good luck with the new job! Sounds more interesting than I'd expect of a finance job, if it really is like a game.

My condolences on the location, that really doesn't constitute an advantage.

Posted by: Justin | March 25, 2008 6:54 PM

AG has 'sold out': Say it ain't so! :P

Actually, finance (in the context things like market theory, etc.) does include fundamental scientific problems. I do suspect that your job won't have you working on those, but I think that many of the academics working on financial problems are very much working on fundamental science. (And the so-called "econophysicists" --- I hate that term, by the way --- would very much disagree with the implication of this stuff not including fundamental problems.) I'm actually just starting to help a grad student out with a reformulation of normal studies of currency to do it as a network problem. We'll see if we get anywhere, but we have an idea that we at least think has a chance to be clever.

Posted by: Mason | March 26, 2008 3:45 AM

oh and since i promised to tell you this:
"you're a SELL OUT" an to think in high school we had you pegged for a rocket scientist... agian welcome back east

Posted by: shellock | March 26, 2008 7:37 AM

I only think you're a sellout in terms of cities... because you're going to NYC and not to L.A.! East Coast Sellout!


The job sounds freaking sweet, really. Who knew that the PhD could be combined so well with years of experience with Final Fantasy Tactics! When you're done with Morgan Stanley you should come back to the west coast and design Finance strategy cames in Silicon Valley.

Dude, I think that was a brilliant idea I had just there...

Posted by: Josh | March 26, 2008 1:05 PM

I've got it!

Phoenix Wright: Market Analyst!


Posted by: Josh | March 26, 2008 1:10 PM

Or finance RPGs - "Stocks & Spreadsheets"

Posted by: Justin | March 26, 2008 1:41 PM

Best of luck at the new job, then! Come up to visit some time, I'll take you to see Blue Man Group.

Oddly enough, I'm debating returning to Academia - I rather like the thought of eventually becoming a professor, or, failing that, a usability specialist.

Posted by: Nick | March 26, 2008 4:13 PM

Congrats on the new job.

Sell out? More like "wise out!"

Posted by: Dave Bacon | March 26, 2008 5:28 PM

Congrats again!

Also: You're gonna keep blogging, right?

Posted by: Lemming | March 28, 2008 5:44 PM

Everyone: Thanks!

Lemming: That should maybe be "start blogging again", but yes. :) I won't be able to blog specific details about what I'm working on, but I think that both living in New York and transitioning to a new field should provide some blogging inspiration, in addition to the usual politics, culture, science topics. In the near future, I'd like to write a post about what kind of work I'll be doing at Morgan, and I think a post or series of posts about the job search process may also be in order.

Posted by: Arcane Gazebo | March 28, 2008 6:08 PM

Your criteria for choosing - just like choosing a lab!


Posted by: SmallButMighty | March 28, 2008 8:26 PM

Travis: It's probably only a matter of time before I start asking you for interesting data. ;) Also, it's a good excuse for me to visit NYC. I've only been there once and spent about 1.5 days there (which thankfully included a baseball game), so I need to go there and explore (a lot) more.

Do you know where you'll be living yet?

And I very much look forward to the renewed blogging!

Posted by: Mason | March 29, 2008 6:39 AM

Travis, congratulations on the job!

In a not so surprising turn of events, Jonathan and I are moving back to the west coast in a couple of months... :-)

I hope you have a great time in NYC!

Posted by: willowlaughter | March 30, 2008 4:13 PM

welcome to PDT! we're all keen to have you join the team. see you on poker night.

Posted by: evnike | March 31, 2008 3:04 PM

I'm really sorry for being tardy, I've been rather busy here. Congratulations on the position! It sure sounds like a great opportunity and (eventhough I know it was in jest) you're no sell out. All the very best!

Posted by: Mylanda | April 2, 2008 7:54 PM
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