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Julian Gilyard

Julian is featured in this New York Times article where recent grads share their job-hunting experiences.

Extracurricular activities: Resident Adviser, President’s Aide, Honor and Ethics Council Member, Member of Samuel Cho’s computer science and physics research team, member of Alcohol and Drug Prevention Coalition, EMT for Wake Forest Emergency Medical Services and First Year in Focus Mentor.

Q: Did you know what you wanted to major in when you came to Wake Forest?
A: When I came to Wake Forest, I wanted to be a political science major taking enough classes to be pre-med as well. At the age of 35, I planned to be a distinguished congressman from North Carolina who was a part-time trauma surgeon. But after sitting through my first-year seminar in political science and deciding to drop chemistry in the first semester of my freshman year, I quickly reconsidered this path.

I remember being confused during that period of time and not knowing what to do next. I had always been good with computers and my father taught me how to build my first computer when I was ten. So, I decided to take Computer Science 111. My professor’s teaching style, encouragement and knowledge immediately captivated me, and I knew I wanted to be a computer science major.

The mathematical economics major came from a desire to challenge myself and to see how I could learn an applied discipline. The reason I chose the major was heavily influence by professors in the math department and in the economics department. Math professor Miaohua Jiang was very forward about encouraging me to try the major, while econ professor Fred Chen was subtler with his encouragement. The more of professor Chen’s classes I took, the more attracted I became to the mathematical economics major. That attraction turned into a serious relationship, and I ended up married to the major.

Q: What are your post-graduation plans?
A: This fall I will join UBS in New York City. I will be a trader working on their cross-asset desk. We work with almost any financial products that you can think of while creating interesting models to look at the secondary and tertiary effects in markets.

Q: You have co-authored several papers and presented at the Siam Conference. How have these opportunities prepared you for your post-graduation career?
A: The best part about the publications is that they helped prepare me to write my senior thesis, but they also provided me with terrific research skills. Working with professors and colleagues at other universities taught me how to work in large teams, manage deadlines, and also prepare presentations. I was in constant contact with colleagues from UMBC, Penn State, Michigan State, and Georgia Tech. Papers were constantly being rewritten, figures were being redrawn, and calls were ongoing. This level of collaboration helped me develop professional relationships to last a lifetime.

Q: How have your mentors helped support your education?
A: My mentors have been integral to my experience at Wake Forest. Computer science and physics professor Samuel Cho has provided me with a breadth of opportunities, while encouraging me to always contribute back to the community. He has been the greatest influence on me in my undergraduate career. Wake Forest Scholars Director Tom Phillips has been a stable companion and friend. The conversations that I have had with him have encouraged my research and helped to lay the foundation for my future.

Q: How does your love of music fit with your other interests?
A: I play tenor saxophone in the Deacon Jazz Machine. Personally, music brings peace and a challenge. I enjoy the three hours a week that I get to relax with friends and play my instrument. I think that the concept in music that “one person being out of line ruins it for everyone” also applies in the financial world. In a band, if the intonation is wrong, the tempo is off, or the dynamics fail to blend, the music doesn’t sound right. The same is true in finance where the concept of accountability and knowing one’s role is incredibly important. In finance, we often rely on our peers to complete projects and for advice. If the information isn’t correct, the entire project is jeopardized.

Q: What was your most interesting class and why?
A: The most interesting class I have taken was “Game Theory.” While difficult, it was incredibly rewarding. The game theory class looks at optimal choices and seeing if equilibriums can be achieved in certain games. It changed the way I saw the world, conversations, deals and most assuredly ‘The Bachelorette.’ For my final project, I told the professor I wanted to research the optimal strategy for bowling. I spent weeks going to Northside Lanes collecting data about the oil patterns and scores from numerous bowlers. I bowled 60 games myself and compiled the data. From there, I was able to make a bowling simulator that looked at the optimal part of the lane for an individual to bowl in depending on the handedness of their opponent. It was a fun research project.

Q: Did you study abroad? Do you have any advice for students traveling?
A: I studied abroad in the Vienna Flow House the spring of my sophomore year. It was a fantastic experience, I was able to travel during the weekend, go on crazy hikes and truly experience the culture. I have a huge interest in Bitcoin and technology. So before I traveled, I looked for maker-spaces or hacker-spaces where people interested in technology gather. I looked for locations like that in Vienna and found a place called Metalab. It is an English/German hacker-space that is located in the basement of the Rathaus (City Hall).

I recommend meeting the locals and talking with people who live in the country to enjoy the full experience. Short weekend trips are also great. As a student, housing is cheap. You can usually find a hostel to stay in for less than $20 a night.

Q: What is your favorite Wake Forest tradition?
A: My favorite Wake Forest tradition has to be the President’s Ball. The event reaches across a plethora of cultural and community boundaries and unites the campus for one terrific night. It is one where students, faculty and the community can appreciate the excellence that is the University.