KU News Release

May 19, 2011
Contact: Brendan M. Lynch, University Relations, 785-864-8855

Graduation stories: Yue Chu’s passion for numbers leads her to Wall Street

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LAWRENCE — Growing up in Nanjing, China, Yue Chu was encouraged by her mother to study dancing and singing, but urged by her father to hone her talent with mathematics. Chu found herself more enchanted by numbers and made up her mind to focus her energy there. And when it came time to go to college, Chu considered several universities in the United States.

“My father thought it was probably good to go to America,” Chu said. “In China, you basically learn the theoretical knowledge. Here you have chances to apply math to other fields, such as finances and engineering.”

Yue Chu (photo by Galen Spiller/University Relations)

She was drawn to the University of Kansas for its 12 cooperative living scholarship halls, where students cook and clean in exchange for a lower rate.

“It looked very fun getting a group of people living together in a small house,” said Chu.

At first frustrated by her imperfect English during rapid-fire classroom discussions, Chu found that doing chores side-by-side with Americans in Miller Hall improved her language skills. Soon, she was not just keeping up in class, but excelling beyond even the highest expectations of her academic advisers.

“I didn’t know what I would do at first,” admits Chu. “But then I met several great professors in the math department, all in the field of probability and stochastic calculus. I got very interested because from the math theorems I learned, I understood the essential mathematical theorems used in the financial market and the stochastic model applied in stock market. That interested me a lot.”

While Chu was learning to apply math to finance, the subprime mortgage crisis was unfolding, giving her studies a new urgency.

“My father had a friend here in the U.S. who had bought a house and was suffering around the same time, and I thought if I had tools from math to help people like her, that would be a great thing,” Chu said.

Deepening her fascination with finance, Chu returned to China in the summer of 2009 to complete an internship at the Bank of Jiangsu in Zhenjiang. She learned about foreign exchange transactions, assisted investment managers and performed statistical analyses for clients of the bank.

Back at KU, Chu took on a remarkable load of graduate-level courses related to financial modeling, at times earning higher grades than graduate students. Simultaneously, Chu started working as an undergraduate teaching assistant for a statistics class. In fall 2009, she was one of 10 KU students picked for the Dean’s Scholars Program, which readies students to apply to top graduate schools.

Indeed, she leaves this spring with a bachelor’s degree but nearly has completed the requirements for a master’s degree.

“Yue Chu has far exceeded the mathematics requirement for the bachelor of science in mathematics,” said Margret Bayer, professor and associate chair of mathematics. “In fact, if her courses were counted instead for a master’s degree, she would be lacking only one specific course and the master’s thesis or research component.”

At the same time, Chu found time to serve as treasurer in the KU chapter of the Association for Women in Mathematics.

“I helped to organize the meetings and invited more undergraduates to attend meetings,” she said.

This fall, Chu will begin pursuit of a master’s degree at New York University’s Mathematics in Finance program, which has strong ties to the financial industry.

“Many of the professors also work for Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley, and they have social networks on Wall Street,” Chu said. “It’s a year-and-a-half program, and after the first year they organize an internship for us on Wall Street. I hope to finish my degree while working at a firm and start my career there.”

Chu said she hopes to gain experience for three to five years on Wall Street and then return to China to work in finance — a plan on which her parents, once again, don’t quite agree.

“My dad is always encouraging me and involved in the plan for my future and sees my achievement as also partly his achievement,” said Chu. “My mom is more concerned about my health and life. She’s concerned that, you know, on Wall Street you have to work about 100 hours a week. But I told her, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll get used to it.’ ”

The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

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