Prof. Andy Lo learned early about great teaching.
“My third grade teacher changed my life. She saw something more in me than I saw in myself,” says this finance expert who in elementary school was terrible in math. (“I was mildly dyslexic and had trouble memorizing the multiplication tables.”)
To boost his self-esteem, that teacher appointed him the class scientist. “I just couldn’t believe it. I was so proud. I stood before the class and gave mini-lectures.
“Looking back, I know that whatever success I achieved is because of that teacher, Mrs. Barbara Ficalora,” says Lo, who when he received tenure at MIT, wrote her a letter to say thanks.
Lo earned an economics degree from Yale in 1980 and a master’s and Ph.D. from Harvard in 1984. He now teaches financial engineering and computational finance and is director of MIT’s Laboratory for Financial Engineering. He has co-authored A Non-Random Walk Down Wall Street and The Econometrics of Financial Markets.
Students say Lo makes it a point to get to know them. And he gives honest feedback. But his big success, they say, is he approaches the subject from the students’ perspective — never forgetting what it is to not-know.
“I recall what it was like to be a student. Finance seemed so complex. I remember having professors who spoke 20 miles-a-minute, and it was just impossible to write down what they said and still pay attention,” says Lo, who now provides students with a detailed outline of each lecture beforehand. He also prepares two days for each 90-minute lecture, reading, gathering material, and incorporating new insights.
“MIT students are so smart. It’s just wonderful to have a whole classroom of exciting minds to teach. When you help a student see a whole new idea, that light of recognition on their faces is one of the most gratifying experiences in the world.”