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Student story

Nicholas Steyn

20 July 2023

"It provides an awesome range of subjects that I couldn’t get any other way..."


Bachelor of Science in Financial Engineering and Statistics

Bachelor of Science with Honours in Computational and Applied Mathematical Sciences

Research Assistant, Te Pūnaha Matatini

Nic's studies combining science and commerce fields have given him a strong background for work in finance research and industry.

"It provides an awesome range of subjects that I couldn't get any other way. They all relate to each other more than I expected," he says. "Taking the courses in this way provides insights you wouldn't have if you just took one subject. This means you have to cover a lot of background material to stay up-to-date in all subjects."

It was the scope of the Financial Engineering degree that drew Nic to UC, who was looking for studies in quantitative finance.

"The wide range of courses in the Financial Engineering degree was the biggest draw.  I knew I wanted to study some form of mathematics/statistics at university, and Financial Engineering allowed me to tie in some Computer Science, Finance, and Economics. The Statistics major followed naturally as it strengthened the quantitative aspect of my degree."

He received a UC Undergraduate Entrance Scholarship and an Emerging Leaders Scholarship with his enrolment, recognising his academic and leadership potential.

Since then, Nic has earned more awards for his degree studies. Alongside subject awards in both Mathematics and Statistics, Nic also received a UC Vice Chancellor's Excellence Award to take a course in Philosophy outside of his degree area.

"This was a great way of getting experience in a traditional “Arts” paper. In particular, the writing skills gained here will help across the rest of my academics."

However, it is his global experiences that has made Nic's time at UC truly memorable.

During his second year, Nic was part of the winning team in the 2017 NZ-India Sustainability Challenge through UC Centre for Entrepreneurship. The Challenge sees university teams across India propose a sustainability project, with six chosen for the finals to work with students in New Zealand.

Nic was chosen to travel to India to help showcase a project named VaxiBead with students from Manipal Institute of Technology, which later became the overall winner of the competition. VaxiBead is an app platform which better stores and updates children's vaccination records in India, and uses beaded bracelets with near-field communication chips to also help give a visual reminder of the vaccines given.

"I learned a lot about the state of healthcare in India and made some lifetime friends," he says.

Also during his second year, Nic completed the ECON390 Intern Consulting Project course with World Vision.

"We used techniques learned in econometrics and data mining to help World Vision plan and allocate their time in schools more effectively. Using tools from class in the real world allowed us to truly understand how our theoretical knowledge is actually applied to real problems."

In the final year of his BSc, Nic also travelled overseas for internship and exchange opportunities, receiving two Prime Minister's Scholarship for Asia awards.

During the summer of that year, Nic completed the six-week PACE Thailand Internship Programme in Bangkok.

"Here I worked in a small (but rapidly growing) business, using my statistical, machine learning, and computer science knowledge to automate internal report generation.  This saves them significant time as they no longer need to hand-prepare these reports.  There was also the opportunity to introduce some more “intelligent” systems, such as internal connection suggestions, to keep them ahead of their competition."

Semester Two was spent on exchange with the National University of Singapore, where he was able to complete specialised Statistics courses.

"Being so central in Asia also allowed me to travel heaps while still studying. My time in Singapore ended up being an academic gap-year of sorts, with things like diving in Borneo, walking the Great Wall of China, and visiting friends in India mixed into my study," he says.

Back at UC, Nic went onto becoming a course tutor, and frequently took part in events and competitions with the UC Investment Society club and UC Centre for Entrepreneurship.

He later worked towards an honours degree in Computational and Applied Mathematical Sciences.

"I chose applied mathematics for my honours due to the demand for mathematical skills in the workforce," he says. "The papers at 400-level are also really interesting and small class sizes let you get really deep into the material."

Since graduating, Nic has taken an internship at Optiver, a global market trading company. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he joined a team of researchers at Te Pūnaha Matatini based within the University of Auckland and University of Canterbury, where he worked on COVID-19 modelling for various government organisations.

He has since continued in this field, studying towards a DPhil in Statistical Epidemiology at the University of Oxford.

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