Six Degrees of Stevens: With Ph.D. in Financial Engineering, Luis Ortega to Earn Sixth University Degree

5/16/2013

It’s been a hectic time of year for Luis Ortega. He’s putting the final touches on his Ph. D. dissertation in Finance Engineering, which he presented in mid-May. He’s prepping for a new job, which he starts in June. And a mere weeks before the end of the semester, his wife gave birth to twin daughters, Lucia and Amelia, his first time being a parent.

“There are times when I feel like my head is going to explode because I’m so busy,’’ he said. “But I will never forget this period in my life.’’

Indeed. This native of Ecuador, who came to the United States when he was ready to begin his undergraduate education, will be receiving his sixth degree from Stevens next week. His academic career already boasts a B.E. in electrical engineering; an M.S. in computer science; an M.S. in management planning; an M.S. in financial engineering and an M.B.A. in technology management, both in ’09. His Ph.D. will be in the field of financial engineering. His thesis is titled, “A Neuro-Wavelet Model for the Short-Term Forecasting of High-Frequency Financial Time Series of Stock Returns.’’

Six degrees from Stevens? “What can I say? I want to study and learn all I can,’’ he said recently, while picking up his cap and gown on campus.

He came to the United States after finishing high school in Ecuador, wanting to attend Stevens, and experience the American culture, he said. He joined a fraternity (Delta Tau Delta), played varsity soccer and always studied. “Academics came first,’’ he said of his undergraduate days, which he described as exciting and fun. But he considered the non-academics part of a student’s life as another chance to learn, as figuring out how to schedule priorities is an important skill to master. As a student, “I wanted to experience the whole package: academics, sports, a fraternity.’’

And gaining knowledge was a constant in everything he did, even when not in the classroom. “My Delt brothers taught me how to fit in, what to eat, life skills,’’ he said.

Ortega has been working full-time on his Ph.D. for the past five years, saving money for his education while working in the telecommunications field, with Verizon Wireless and with The World Bank. “I was a good planner,’’ he said with a quick smile. But he credits good friends and of course, his wife Veronica, with their support during this time. He laughs heartily when asked if he is independently wealthy.  

He starts a new job with Goldman Sachs on Wall Street in New York in June, working as an associate in the model risk group. “I can’t say too much about it,’’ as he gestures with a finger to his lips, but he will be doing something with the stock market.

Leaving Stevens will be hard, he admits, as he’s spent a good chunk of his time on campus. And he cherishes the friends he’s made here, including some fraternity brothers he’s known almost 20 years. He pointed out several former members of the Stevens community (Dean Charles Suffel, Vice President Joseph Moeller ’67 and Coach Nick Mykulak ) who have made an impact on him while a student.

Having the experience of being a Stevens undergraduate and then a Stevens graduate student has shown him some differences between the two. “Of course, you have to read more as a graduate student,’’ he said. “My advice to graduate students is to get more involved, experience the Stevens culture, ’’ he said.