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Stevens research center aims to connect students to financial companies

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A new financial research center unveiled at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, will give students hands-on experience in software development, financial systems engineering and data analytics increasingly demanded by employers.

"The financial industry now has a gap between a typical business undergraduate student, who's getting a traditional finance education, and a need for them to know things that they haven't been trained in, like computer science and computer engineering," said George Calhoun, director of the undergraduate quantitative finance program at Stevens. "This center was designed with a clean slate … from talking to the financial industry to find out what students need to be effective in today's workplace."

According to Calhoun, most of the support, data and software for the Hanlon Financial Systems Lab were donated over the last nine months by companies in the financial centers of Jersey City and New York, like RealTick, which contributed its trading software currently used in financial markets.

"A lot of companies are donating to us because they see the value in getting a cohort of students exposed to their products," Calhoun said. "In the long run, it's cost effective for these companies, because they won't have to train people down the line to use their software."

Unlike traditional trading-floor models in nearby universities, which are limited to examining simulated financial data, Stevens' new lab will incorporate technology that can analyze real-time data, develop and validate software, and test financial networks' cyber security systems.

According to Chris Ferriri, managing director at ICAP and a Stevens alumnus, businesses in Jersey City find the physical location and novelty of the lab attractive for developing and testing their software, and university representatives are willing to have a discussion with them to open the lab for their use.

"I was just talking to a guy yesterday who's at a software firm that works with the financial industry. He said he can use the center as a place to stress test his software before it's released to his customers," Calhoun said. "I'm not aware of any other trading floors that have that capability."

According to Calhoun, undergraduate students enrolled in the university's unique quantitative finance program — which launched in 2009 — will benefit most from the lab's cross-disciplinary focus, since the program integrates 42 math, computer science and financial systems engineering courses, and includes internship placement at financial firms like Goldman Sachs.

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