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Swiss Government Scholarship-Motivation Letter from a passionate mathematician


canis89 1 / 3  
Nov 22, 2011   #1
Dear forum members,

Hi, this is my first time in the forum. Let me present myself first. I'm a recently-graduated Indonesian student of actuarial mathematics. I am currently applying for the Swiss Government Scholarship to pursue Quantitative Finance (taught) master programme in ETH Zurich. I am asked to supply a motivation letter in my application stating, obviously, my motivation to apply for the programme, and why they should consider me as a recipient for the scholarship. Below is the draft of the motivation letter. Please read it and give me your thought on how I can improve it. Thank you.

Studying abroad is very costly. It is necessary to have the resources to cover both our living expenses in a foreign land and the tuition fee for our study programme. It is especially costly when the destination country has much higher purchasing power than our home country's. That's why the Swiss Government Scholarship is such a precious opportunity that I can't afford to miss. I will elaborate the reason of why I wish to study in Switzerland by explaining four points: my fond of financial mathematics, the reason of why I choose to study in Switzerland and specifically, in ETHZ Quantitative Finance master programme, my plan after finishing my study and how I intend to realize it.

My passion for financial mathematics grows after seeing the research of my professor, Dr. Budhi Arta Surya. Recently, he and Yamazaki [4] wrote about the determination of optimal bankruptcy level from the Leland-Toft optimal capital structure model. What fascinates me most about this research is that a seemingly intuitive problem in the financial world can be solved by heavily sophisticated and very theoretical mathematical concepts such as Levy process and smooth pasting principle. His works really show that even a pure mathematician, the one that tends more to the theoretical side, has a place in the financial world.

As my professor said and I too have witnessed, the study of financial engineering at Europe is very sophisticated and advanced. In Europe, the research has been centered on Levy process as the stochastic process governing the evolution of financial asset price. Levy process is a very general class of stochastic process that incorporates jump movement which is very important in modeling financial phenomenon. But, more importantly, currently the author of the legendary textbook of Levy process [1], Jean Bertoin, currently resides in Switzerland and is a professor at University of Zurich. I really look forward to do research with him one day and thus I need to establish connection with him. Fortunately, the Quantitative Finance programme in ETHZ is both an international programme which does not require me to be able to speak German for the entry requirement, and a joint programme with the University of Zurich.

Another important reason why I choose Quantitative Finance in ETHZ is that because there reside famous mathematicians from the financial mathematics field such as Prof. Dr. Paul Embrechts and Prof. em. Dr. Hans Buhlmann. Professor Embrechts is famous for his book in quantitative risk management [3], which is also the main reference in my bachelor thesis, while Professor Buhlmann is known for his own Buhlmann model in credibility theory. In ETHZ, I really intend to learn from the giants of financial mathematics.

Moreover, by learning from the gurus, I can gain the necessary skills that I need to do my future research. I know that I haven't even started the master programme yet, but I've already had in mind some research topics for my doctoral research. I plan to continue the research of my professor as there is still room for improvement. For example, in his research, he used the spectrally negative Levy process as the governing process of the firm's asset. I intend to do an investigation on whether the problem can still be solved if we change the process to the general Levy process, even though Hilberink and Rogers [2] have stated that the problem will be intractable that way.

After I've finished my study, preferably after my doctoral study, I intend to work as a quant in Switzerland's top tier banks. After all, we have to really know what's really going on in the world so we can develop a more realistic model. After several years working there, I intend to go back to Indonesia and there do research alongside my professor. But, what I really intend to do in my home country is pioneering the study of financial mathematics in Indonesia as there is none currently there.

Currently in Indonesia, every program in finance relies mostly on the fundamental aspect of financial analysis. Yes, the graduates have the abilities to read financial market, but, do they have a strong grasp of the quantitative skill needed in almost every important position in the financial industry? For example, when a risk manager values a certain derivative, he/she has to know which valuation model to use. To know which model to use and to do further analysis on derivative pricing, a strong background in financial mathematics is required. Unfortunately, only a few professors/lecturers in Indonesia specialize in this field. The implication of this is that local finance graduates have low chance of sitting in important positions in financial industry. That's why large percentage of portfolio and risk managers is composed of expatriates, or, Indonesian graduates from foreign universities. I intend to change this situation by pioneering the financial mathematics program in universities in Indonesia.

How I want to pioneer the discipline relates to why in the first place I dream to do this radical thing. My professor, Dr. Budhi Arta Surya is a graduate of stochastics and financial mathematics program in Utrecht University. Currently, he is heading a research department in School of Business and Management ITB, Bandung, and is setting up a financial engineering program there. When I've finished my study, I intend to go back and help him developing the area of financial engineering by becoming a lecturer and fellow researcher there. I also intend to use my connections with foreign mathematicians which I will establish during the course of my study in Switzerland to invite them as guest lecturers and organize international conferences on financial engineering. Hopefully, our actions will attract the attention of Indonesian mathematicians to the field of mathematical finance.

Thus, I really hope that you consider me for the Swiss Government Scholarship as I am really passionate of what I want to do and I do intend to serve my country by sharing the knowledge that I will have gained after my study in Switzerland with fellow Indonesian mathematicians and financial practitioners. In the end, you will do good for both me and my country should you decide to grant me this scholarship. Thank you.

References

[1] Bertoin, J., Levy Processes, volume 121 of Cambridge Tracts in Mathematics, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1996.
[2] Hilberink, B. and Rogers, L.C.G., Optimal Capital Structure and Endogenous Default, Finance Stoch., 6(2):237-263, 2002.
[3] McNeil, A., Frey, R. and Embrechts, P., Quantitative Risk Management: Concepts, Techniques and Tools, 6th Edition, Princeton University Press, Princeton and Oxford, 2005.
[4] Surya, B.A. and Yamazaki, K., Toward A Generalization of the Leland-Toft Optimal Capital Structure Model, 2011, arXiv:1109.0897v1.
EF_Susan - / 2364 12  
Nov 27, 2011   #2
I will elaborate the reasonsof why I wish to study in Switzerland by explaining four points: my fondness for financial mathematics, the reason of why I choose to study in Switzerland, and specifically, in ETHZ Quantitative Finance master programme, my plan after finishing my study and how I intend to realize it.

Great essay and especially good ending. I think they'll see that they'll be lucky to have you as a student. Good luck with school and have fun!
OP canis89 1 / 3  
Nov 27, 2011   #3
Hi Susan, thank you very much for your review and comments. Gotta say though that I'm pretty embarrassed by the typos. I'm pretty sure that they weren't there in the original document. Anyway, when I first saw this forum, I got very excited and quickly posted my recently made draft here without further review, so that explains the many grammar mistakes.

The term 'quant' stands for quantitative financial analyst. It's the type of analyst that is closest to a mathematician. The term is quite common, I think, in the financial world. Maybe I'd better explain its meaning in the letter so the committee doesn't get confused.

Oh, and also, do you think it's okay to put references in a letter? My reason to put them there is, well, for show-off mainly. It's to show that I really know about my field. Anyway, thank you very much for your compliment and effort to review my letter. I really appreciate it.
crystal70k - / 6  
Nov 28, 2011   #4
Constructive feedback: If I was on the Swiss Government Scholarship judge panel and I read this letter my question would be: Why should the Swiss Government want to spend its money training a student who will leave the country immediately afterwards, when the government has the option to award scholarship money to another student who is more likely to stay in the country afterwards and contribute to Switzerland's economy for years to come?

Is there a way you can answer this question and describe how Switzerland will benefit in the near future by spending THEIR money providing you with a top notch education? Maybe explain how Switzerland will benefit by being invited as guest lectures to international conferences.
OP canis89 1 / 3  
Nov 28, 2011   #5
Hi crystal70k, good point. Thank you. I haven't made a point about how I can benefit Switzerland by funding my study. Below is a revision of the last four paragraphs of the letter. Basically, in it, I state that I can act as some sort of representative for Swiss mathematicians and financial practitioners in Indonesia to strengthen the bond between the two countries.

--------------------------------------------------

After I've finished my study, preferably after my doctoral study, I intend to work as a quantitative financial analyst, or a quant, in Switzerland's top tier banks. I want to apply what I have learnt during my study to Switzerland's banking system, like my professor, Dr. Surya, did during his days as a quant in Bank of America. After several years working there, I intend to go back to Indonesia and there do research alongside my professor. But, what I really intend to do in my home country is to pioneer the study of financial mathematics in Indonesia as there is none currently there.

Currently in Indonesia, every program in finance relies mostly on the fundamental aspect of financial analysis. Hence, financial services companies tend to hire expatriates for their quantitative analysts. Take for example, Kresna Securities, an Indonesian financial services company, which hires expatriates instead of Indonesian to develop and maintain their algorithmic trading mechanism. One of the reasons for the nonexistence of the discipline in Indonesia is that only a few professors/lecturers in Indonesia specialize in financial mathematics. I intend to change this situation by pioneering the study of financial mathematics in Indonesia.

How I want to pioneer the discipline relates to why in the first place I dream to do this radical thing. My professor, Dr. Surya, is a graduate of stochastics and financial mathematics program in Utrecht University. Currently, he is heading a research department in School of Business and Management ITB, Bandung, and is setting up a financial engineering program there. Upon my return to Indonesia, I want to help him developing the area of financial engineering by becoming a lecturer and fellow researcher there. I also intend to use my connections with Swiss mathematicians and quants which I will establish during the course of my study in Switzerland to invite them as guest lecturers and as speakers at international conferences on financial engineering which I, along with my professor, will organize in the future. Hopefully, our actions will attract the attention of Indonesian mathematicians to the field of mathematical finance and also strengthen the bond between Swiss and Indonesian mathematicians and financial practitioners.

Thus, I really hope that you consider me for the Swiss Government Scholarship as I am really passionate about what I want to do and I do intend to serve my country by sharing the knowledge that I will have gained after my study in Switzerland with fellow Indonesian mathematicians and financial practitioners. Furthermore, this way, I can also act as some sort of representative for Swiss mathematicians and quants in Indonesia to further strengthen the bond between the two countries. In the end, you will do good for me, my country and Switzerland, should you decide to grant me this scholarship. Thank you.
EF_Susan - / 2364 12  
Nov 28, 2011   #6
I think it's fine to put references in. I would pull out all stops and use anything that might help! (Also, you are very bright and have every reason to 'show off'!)

Upon my return to Indonesia, I want to help him developing the area of financial engineering by becoming a lecturer and fellow researcher there.

I also intend to use my connections with Swiss mathematicians and quants, which I will establish during the course of my study in Switzerland to invite them as guest lecturers and as speakers at international conferences on financial engineering which I, along with my professor, will organize in the future.

Thus, I really hope that you consider me for the Swiss Government Scholarship, as I am really passionate about what...

This is great! I hope you don't have to wait too long to find out if you get the scholarship, but if you do, enjoy the suspense! Good luck!
crystal70k - / 6  
Nov 29, 2011   #7
canis89, I like the revision. There is a lot more clarity. I have further constructive feedback. Applicants are asked to send a motivational letter. Scholarship judges are expecting applicants to introduce themselves as being motivated. But the introduction of your letter currently introduces you as a needy person who needs money. I suspect the scholarship judges will likely view this introduction as "there is another one who wants the money" vs. "wow, this person is really passionate and needs the money to continue their studies, let's give the money to this person".


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