‘Students Have Broadened Their Horizons and Made the First Steps in Financial Mathematics’
Cedric Bernardin from Université Côte d’Azur collaborated with HSE University as a Digital Professor in the second semester of the 2021/2022 academic year. He taught a course on MDP theory with finance applications at the Faculty of Mathematics. Prof. Bernardin shared his impressions of this experience with the HSE News Service.
Cedric Bernardin has been a Professor of Mathematics at Université Côte d’Azur in Nice since 2013. He leads the Probability and Statistics team of the Mathematics department and is the Director of the Master’s in Mathematical Engineering.
He works in probability theory—more specifically, in the rigorous foundations of non-equilibrium statistical physics (classical and more recently, quantum). His research interests are at the interface of theoretical physics, probability theory and partial differential equations. Before going to Nice he was a CNRS (National Center of Scientific Research) researcher at Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS) de Lyon. He defended his PhD thesis in Mathematics in 2004 in Paris.
The French Academic System
I was previously a student of ENS de Cachan, and during my PhD I was enrolled in a kind of associate professor position at ENS Cachan. The French system is very special—it is difficult to explain in a few words and cannot be compared to the Russian one. In France, the best students in mathematics usually go to the ENS (or some `Grandes Ecoles’ like Polytechnique), though there are some famous exceptions. All French Fields Medals winners have come from ENS.
Spreading the Word About HSE University
I have an Italian collaborator, Mauro Mariani, who has a position at HSE University. I have visited him several times in recent years (in particular last fall–winter), and he informed me about the possibility of conducting such a course as part of the Digital Professors Programme. He told me that the students at HSE University were excellent (and they are!) and I was therefore interested in meeting them.
Russia has made the biggest contributions in the world to mathematics (in particular probability, with the Kolmogorov’s fantastic opus) and mathematical physics for more than a century.
The workshop I conducted at the Dobrushin seminar was the most impressive of my life. HSE University remains competitive in the international system thanks to the quality of its researchers, despite the fact the salaries are still not at the level of some other countries.
Teaching Financial Mathematics Online
I gave a course entitled ‘Markov Decision Processes (MDP) with Applications to Finance’. This course mixes probability theory and analysis theory with financial applications in mind. It is an introductory course to MDP theory, which is also a cornerstone of the theory of reinforcement learning—something very popular nowadays in data sciences. Students interested in theory and applications will benefit from this course.
The online course was very comfortable for me, even if I prefer to have face-to-face interactions with students. But for logistical reasons, the dates did not suit the students.
HSE University students are similar to the best students in France at ENS (where the best students in mathematics go). They are interested, motivated, ask questions, are very polite, react to questions and ask themselves questions.
If HSE agrees, I would like to continue this cooperation. My future plan is to get a fixed position at the university.
Cedric is successfully working with our colleague Mauro Mariani and they have made joint publications. At the invitation of Mauro and colleagues from the Poncelet Laboratory, Cedric has come to Moscow several times and met other mathematicians working at our faculty here, including me.
Cedric has a very interesting scientific specialty: he is engaged in statistical mechanics, an important branch of probability theory, but also heads the Master's in Financial Mathematics in Nice. There are very few really deep mathematicians in Russia who are competent in this field and at the same time are engaged in serious science, not just applications.
It was important to us that our students got acquainted with financial mathematics under the guidance of a person who understands how this section fits into modern probability theory and who has extensive experience of teaching and administering such courses. This task was successfully solved.
We are confident that the students have broadened their horizons and made the first steps in getting acquainted with financial mathematics. For some of them, this will be the main area of their future scientific work. We hope to see them on specialised master's programmes at the Faculty of Mathematics and the Faculty of Economic Sciences.
Cedric Bernardin's photo courtesy of himself
As part of the ‘Digital Professors’ programme, HSE University invites international lecturers to work with students remotely. One of the programme’s participants is Dr Pierre Andrieu, lecturer at the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po). At HSE University, he taught the elective courses ‘EU in the World’ and ‘New Challenges and Threats’ in 2021–2022. In his interview with the HSE News Service, Dr Andrieu talked about his diplomatic career, research interests, and interactive teaching.
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