Tushar Vaidya

GSAL | 2014

Having options

Already accepted into a PhD program elsewhere, he chose to join the GSAL program because “the Graham School seemed like a good fit…I had a PhD offer elsewhere, but I was already here [at the University of Chicago] and taking classes, so I came to the GSAL program to get back into the academic way of thinking and to take more math courses. I was also able to work with some professors on some research topics.”

Previously involved in finance, and as a result of the ever-changing financial industry landscape, Tushar’s interests turned from business to more academic. Through the GSAL program, he was able to “take some research classes in the math and stat department. In the year and a half that I’ve been here I have been able to do quite a lot: research and work with professors, teach a few courses…I’ve been involved with the University on many fronts. I also TA for the Master of Science in Analytics program.”

Being Involved. Making Connections. Acquiring Skills.

Having made some valuable connections around campus, Tushar has been able to work right alongside professors on “research that has two different areas—we’re looking at how things are traded in the markets. It’s a really complex problem, which, it seems, only gets more complicated the more we work on it.” A problem not easily solved, and in an effort to aide his research, Tushar has called additional colleagues he’s connected with from around campus: “I’ve been talking to a lot of people in Computer Science and others with more math background. I don’t think I’ll actually solve the problem, but my hope is that at least we can make some good progress with what we’re doing.”

In the process of doing his research, Tushar has come to realize that one of “the reasons I like the University of Chicago is that it’s a really independent place. It’s not really a place for someone who needs to be guided. You have to know what you want to do if you plan on doing research. For those coming in as GSAL students, I would suggest that they know what they want to study.”

Moving Forward: Next Step, PhD.

“My goal with coming to the GSAL program,” Tushar states, “was to help me get into a PhD program—not necessarily in the United State as I applied to some in Europe and other places.” The GSAL program, it appears, was able to help him accomplish this goal.

“I’m enrolled in a PhD program at a new university in Singapore. MIT is setting up this new technology school there called SUTD (Singapore University of Technology and Design). It’s a new school and my understanding is that I’ll spend some time at MIT as well.”

GSAL Experience: Benefits and Potential Areas of Improvement

While Tushar’s experience, on the whole, has been largely positive, he does see some potential areas of improvement for the program, suggesting “…maybe they could provide more specialized tracks for other students who are interested in pursuing specific graduate degrees. For example, those students who are interested in pursuing a PhD in the Biological Sciences, or perhaps other degrees.” Additionally, he noted that the quarter system was a bit of a change from his previous academic experience, noting that “[he] found the quarter system to be a bit harsh, especially because professors really cram a lot of work into the 10 weeks that you are given. But, that’s just the overall experience: courses are really intense. And, sometimes, you find that you don’t have time to do anything else.”

That said, Tushar also acknowledged that benefits of the quarter system, such as the fact that “…at the end of the day you end up with a really good ability to solve problems very quickly.” He also notes that, since you are spending a great deal of time in class, “…you end up making a lot of friends because you end up working with a lot of people. I have actually made a lot of friends, and the students are great (the undergrads).”

Final Thoughts and Words of Wisdom

In summary, Tushar had these final thoughts about the GSAL experience on the whole: “The program is great. It allowed me to come here and do exactly what I wanted to do. It was very flexible. The only word of caution would be that the University of Chicago is tough, so hopefully prospective students know what they are getting into. And I might avoid taking classes full-time if possible; I just found that it was just too much time.”

“Another great aspect of the University of Chicago is that the professors are very open. If you ask if you can attend their class or a seminar they are putting on they almost always say yes, and if you want to TA, as long as you have the requisite background, I found this to not be too difficult as well.”

“In actuality, the program fulfilled my needs better than I expected because I got to take classes, teach classes, and do research all at the same time.”