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Joel Atkins

Chicago, Illinois
B.S. in Mathematics, 1990


I earned a BS in Math in 1990, and then went to UC Berkeley.  I earned a PhD in statistics in 1994.  UC Berkeley is a very theoretical department.  There I got a very good foundation in probability and statistics.  I spend all three summers while I was in graduate school working at Sandia National Laboratories - which was facilitated by David Womble, another Rose grad.  Those summers gave me valuable experience in an applied setting.  The school years at Berkeley and the summers at Sandia were very different and quite complementary.

After I finished my PhD, I worked on the Yucca Mountain Project, a DOE project studying the viability of burying high level nuclear waste under Yucca Mountain, in the Nevada Test Site.  My group was responsible for the "Total System Performance Assessment".  I worked with a number of other people with diverse backgrounds, including hydrology, geochemistry, and materials science.  Together, we built a stochastic simulation to help understand the likely impact of the proposed repository.

After I was there for 2 1/2 years, I got married.  My wife was in graduate school at Cornell, so I joined her there.  I took a post-doc in the chemistry department.  (I took a 50% pay cut and went from a permanent job to a temporary one.)  There, I was working with a number of chemists on nuclear magnetic resonance - science that is used in MRI's and was being studied to detect contraband.

While I was at Cornell, I looked around for my next career move.  After interviewing a number of places, including Batelle and the Census Bureau, I accepted a position at Allstate Insurance.  I spend 7 1/2 years there.  Most of my time was in the research area, studying lifetime value, retention, elasticity, and economic simulations.  I also spent two years in the finance department working on enterprise risk management.  There, I worked on capital adequacy, capital allocation, investment allocation, reinsurance strategies, and return on equity.  About one year ago, I left Allstate for Zurich - a commercial insurance company.  Here, I am working on predictive modeling, to help us understand what traits predict future loss experience.

I've been fortunate to work in a number of areas in both science and business.  In all of these, I've worked with a number of people with different backgrounds.  With time, I've learned a little about a lot of fields.  In each case, my knowledge of mathematics and statistics has helped me contribute.

I've received a number of complements on my quantitative skills which are consistently my biggest strength.

It's ironic.  When I was at Rose, Dr. Kinney suggested that I could easily be an actuary if I wanted.  At the time, I wrote it off, thinking that I wanted to do cutting edge research at a national laboratory.  For a number of years, I worked toward that end.  After a wide detour, I am an actuary.  Having gone the circuitous route has given me a lot of interesting experiences.

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