Abdullahi standing with three people in the McNamara Alumni building.

CSE graduating senior embraces numbers and learning from others

Abdullahi Abdullahi finds a career in quantitative research

When Abdullahi Abdullahi didn’t get into the University of Minnesota despite straight A’s and PSEO classes in high school, he found another path. The Twin Cities-raised Abdullahi enrolled at a community college, eventually transferring to his dream school.

The University of Minnesota has one of the best programs in engineering,” he said. “I started having an interest in robotics in 9th grade. I did well in it and other STEM activities. I knew the U was the right fit for me in high school.

I remember walking in Williamson Hall [location of the U’s admissions office] during a campus tour and thinking, ‘Yup, I’m going here.’”

Abdullahi took general education courses and earned the required transfer grades at Century College, a community and technical college northwest of downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul in White Bear Lake. He was accepted into the College of Science and Engineering in fall 2019.

As a mechanical engineering major, he is very familiar with thermodynamics, heat transfer, and control systems. He also knows calculus, linear algebra, and differential equations pretty well. His last courses this spring are capstone design, thermal engineering lab, and some electives.

“We do a lot of rigorous math in this program,” he said. “Because we need it for quantitative research.”

In fact, that’s the field Abdullahi plans to pursue. Quantitative research, or more specifically, quantitative finance, appeals to him because it deals with numerical data.

“I like numbers and patterns, and I like the satisfaction of solving a problem,” said Abdullahi, who received the CSE Polaris Scholarship, as well as both the Alfred F. Johnson Scholarship and Vorpahl Family Memorial Scholarship from the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

He has worked at D.E. Shaw, a global investment and technology development firm, as a quantitative research intern. And this February, he joined DSG HighTower Advisors as a part-time quant. This opportunity came about after he served as an intern with the Minneapolis-based financial investment firm last year. Quants, by the way, are quantitative analysts who use computer algorithms based on mathematical models to identify financial and risk management opportunities.

He credits landing that four-month internship to his involvement in the MN Quants student organization on the Twin Cities campus. 

“Through MN Quants, I got to work on a real-life project—researching quantitative strategies in the stock market—with a faculty mentor, a grad student from MCFAM [the Minnesota Center for Financial and Actuarial Mathematics], and three other undergrads,” Abdullahi recalled. “The goal was to build an investment portfolio, and our work basically involved testing out a hypothesis and building out a systematic approach to it. The experience gave me a better understanding of how quantitative finance and technology work together, and it helped build my resume.”

Abdullahi standing in front of his research poster.
CSE graduating senior Abdullahi Abdullahi with his capstone project at the Mechanical Engineering Senior Design Show.

Abdullahi is also well versed in Web 3.0. The technology blends the subjects he likes. This includes economics, computer science, and mathematics.

In addition to technical skills, Abdullahi has honed his leadership and public speaking skills through several student groups since his first semester. Today, he is head of quantitative research in MN Quants, vice president of operations at UMN Blockchain, and the academic excellence chair of the National Society of Black Engineers UMN chapter.

“I really enjoy meeting people and learning from them,” he said. “Being around smarter minds and seeing how they think opens me up to new information.

It also leads me to the next person and the next person, he added. You never know who, or where, an opportunity will come from.”

Keeping an open mind is also the strategy he plans on using for life after graduation. Although the Covid-19 pandemic persists, Abdullahi noted one favorable byproduct for himself and fellow graduating seniors: An expanded pool of future employers.

“I’m thinking of companies outside the Twin Cities now,” he said. “That’s not something I would ever have considered. For example, I wouldn’t have applied to a company in Chicago, but more companies are hiring remote employees."

Story by Pauline Oo

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