I always knew that I liked mathematics as a child, but what I would study for my career, I had no idea. There was a common way of thinking in South Africa; if you hoped to become successful, you’d be a doctor, accountant, or a lawyer, and that’s it. I had to beg my parents to let me take a math class, and a tutor told me to study actuarial science — it’s math-heavy, and you can get a high-paying job. I did so on his advice, and enjoyed it enough; there was sufficient statistics and mathematics to keep me interested. I followed along that path, and ultimately went into finance, working for a few years at an asset management firm.
Along the way, I kept looking for ways to pursue my core interests, math and computer-science, and was quite assertive in what I wanted to do: I wanted to integrate machine learning concepts into finance. Thankfully, the firm I was working for let me apply these passions to more forward-thinking projects. For some reason I just still wasn’t happy; I wanted more, but I had no idea what it was that I wanted. It never occurred to me that physics could be the answer.
One evening after a day at work, I was on YouTube trying to find something to implement into a project at the time, when the lecturer in the video I was watching compared how a stock moved in the stock market to a particle moving in space and time via quantum mechanic’s core equation, the Schrödinger equation. I was so fascinated by the mathematics; it excited me to my core and my brain woke up. I knew this was the kind of thing that I wanted to be thinking about. I went down a rabbit hole, contemplating physics, the universe, and all of these crazy ideas, and started thinking about quantum physics at all hours, even while I was sitting at my day job. It wasn’t fair to the people who were more passionate about finance, and it wasn’t fair to myself, to stay where I was. I told my parents that I wanted to quit and go back to school to receive a masters in physics. They freaked out at first, told me it didn’t make any sense. But I persisted, and after writing to what seemed like every professor in the country, I was lucky to receive an email from a professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and I convinced him I’d be competent enough to learn the necessary prerequisites for the degree. I’m thankful I did it — it changed my life.
Today, I’m a research advocate on the IBM Quantum team and pursuing my Ph.D in Quantum Computing at University of KwaZulu-Natal, where I research quantum machine learning algorithms. I’m hoping that I can leverage this research for financial applications. Today, I work with the IBM team in Zurich on quantum finance and optimization, and am starting to do projects related to derivatives and asset pricing.
Read More Here.
Author: Amira Abbas