When Irish Eyes are Coding: Intern's Quantitative Insights Create Impact in Dublin
Laura Murphy's Stevens Coursework Helped Her Make Sense of Trinity College's Data
Laura Murphy came to Stevens Institute of Technology hoping that her studies would include a semester in Europe.
But since arriving on campus, the Hazlet, NJ, native has rapidly filled her dance card. She’s active in the Stevens Honor Board and Stevens Women in Business, and holds leadership roles with the Student Managed Investment Fund and the Alpha Phi sorority; getting away for a full semester would be a tall order.
So this past summer Murphy, a Pinnacle scholar studying Quantitative Finance at the School of Business, accepted a nontraditional internship, handling financial planning responsibilities at Trinity College, in Dublin, Ireland.
“Next year, I’ll be looking to do a more traditional internship, but this summer was a perfect opportunity to do an internship and get to live abroad without having to leave Stevens for a full semester,” she said.
Murphy’s Quantitative Finance coursework is a unique blend of business, computer science and mathematics that’s designed to give students instant credibility and a future-oriented perspective in a finance industry that’s been rocked by seismic changes. For Trinity College, that meant bringing on someone who could efficiently allocate grant funding to different academic departments based on various criteria of the country’s Higher Education Authority.
“They had 1,000-something rows of data in Excel, all the way down to the different courses in each school, and they needed me to distribute the funding according to the guidelines from the state and the priorities of the school,” she said. “Even though I’ve done a lot of programming work, I feel like I was missing that important Excel foundation. I certainly got that this summer.”
A standout thanks to Stevens coursework
Murphy, now a junior, said her Stevens coursework gave her insights that helped her stand out in a nontraditional internship assignment.
“I love the background Stevens has given me from a technical perspective, because those skills can be applied in any career,” she said. “And the problem-solving aspect of it all really prepares you to handle a lot of different projects.”
Her experience also had her rethink whether she’s cut out for life in the cubicle. She’s now leaning toward a career in technology consulting, “where I can be more involved, have more interaction and work on more team projects.”
That’s a lot like the work she does with the Student Management Investment Fund, where she’s head of risk. SMIF is a collaborative course in which students use quantitative methods in managing a sizable portfolio of funds in Stevens’ endowment. In her role, she challenges the investment recommendations of other students based on her read of the risk involved.
She said she owes her success in SMIF in part to an introductory programming class with Dr. Brian Borowski. Her experiences with programming in high school left a bad taste in her mouth, but Dr. Borowski’s class gave her new perspectives on the discipline.
“Having that technical background and being able to build applications in R has been really helpful in making decisions on projects,” she said. “And Professor Jonathan Kaufman shows us how all that comes together in taking positions.”
Her two-month internship wasn’t all work — Murphy got to spend her weekends visiting different parts of Ireland, including a visit with her family in Kerry, and spent some time in Paris and Barcelona — and Murphy said she built close ties with other American students interning in various industries in Dublin, including environmental advocacy and talent recruitment, as well as her coworkers. But managing to complete her financial planning and resource allocation project stands out as her proudest achievement.
“Maybe my only regret from my internship is the work wasn’t as technical as what I’d like to do in my career,” Murphy said. “But I loved the experience. And it was really satisfying that I was able to complete such a big project for them before I returned home.”