Degree Date: PhD, 2010
Current Placement: Northwestern University
After working at a hedge fund for a few years, Blake McShane realized he wanted more than his current career could offer. His new path involved earning a PhD, but it also meant that he would have the freedom to explore areas of research he found intriguing and the ability to impact others through teaching. “That’s something I found rewarding,” he says. “That is something I was looking forward to.”
And explore he did. As a PhD candidate in the Statistics Department, McShane focused on adapting machine-learning methods to accommodate time-series or sequential data, an area of concentration he was able to develop during his time at Wharton. “Because of the general nature of statistics as a field, I’ve worked on a wide variety of projects and to me that was satisfying,” he says. He researched and wrote papers that focused on everything from law to basic probability modeling to home runs in baseball to sleep in mice. This last topic ultimately served as the subject of his thesis, for which he built an algorithm based on video data for scientists at the Center for Sleep and Repertory Neurobiology who were studying the genetics of sleep in mice.
Preparing for the Future
Wharton helped McShane prepare for his future role as a professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management by providing ample opportunities to work on public speaking and teaching skills. “Wharton’s Communications Program does a terrific job of preparing people for things like papers, speeches, and talks,” he says. “I also had a number of good experiences teaching undergrads, MBA students, and PhD students. Teaching is something that you need to learn by doing.”
McShane credits his experience at Wharton with helping him get to where he is today. “Obviously it’s a phenomenal school,” he says, “a terrific place with a wonderful faculty, on the cutting edge of research.”