# A Match Made in Math: From Winning COMAP’s MCM to Quant Research at Two Sigma

*Contributed by Two Sigma*

In 2016, COMAP’s Mathematical Contest in Modeling (MCM®) introduced a new challenge—Problem C, which focused on data-centric mathematical modeling. This marked a turning point for students who were passionate about not only math but also the growing field of data science. One of those students was Yizhang Li, who took on this challenge and eventually found himself on a path toward a career in quantitative research at Two Sigma, a financial sciences company that combines cutting-edge technology and data science.

**From Curiosity to Confidence: How MCM Prepared Yizhang for Quant Finance**

In 2015, Yizhang was majoring in corporate finance, but his curiosity about data science drew him to explore how this emerging field would reshape finance. Preparing for the MCM’s Problem C in 2016 became a pivotal experience for him. Tasked with solving a portfolio optimization problem, Yizhang applied his mathematical skills to a real-world finance challenge, even developing his own optimization algorithm using Matlab—a skill he picked up while preparing for the contest.

“It opened my eyes to how I could merge data science skills with classic finance problems,” Yizhang shared. This experience ignited his passion for quantitative finance and set him on the path to becoming a quant researcher.

**From MCM to Two Sigma: The Internship Dream**

The MCM is also how Yizhang first discovered Two Sigma. After being named an Outstanding Winner in the 2016 competition, he dove deeper into the world of quantitative finance. “Two Sigma has been a dream of mine since my undergraduate days—it was the first quantitative investment firm I heard of after MCM,” Yizhang recalled. Years later, this dream materialized when he applied for and secured an internship at Two Sigma for 2024, focusing on quant research.

Much like the MCM experience, the Two Sigma internship was hands-on and intellectually stimulating. “These skills directly translated to my internship, where I used a lot of exploratory data analysis, coding, and statistical analysis,” Yizhang noted. During the program, he worked on real projects from start to finish, mirroring the autonomy and problem-solving mindset developed during MCM.

**The Power of Internships: Hands-on Learning and Teamwork**

Internships, like the one at Two Sigma, are an excellent way for students to gain practical experience and determine if a career in quantitative research is right for them. Interns at Two Sigma are not only matched with projects aligned with their interests but also immersed in the company’s collaborative culture, where people from different teams share insights and expertise.

Yizhang’s internship culminated in a full-time offer at Two Sigma, driven not just by the work but by the people he worked alongside. “I had a fantastic experience. The collaborative culture and support made the internship even more rewarding,” he said.

**Two Sigma and COMAP: Shaping Future Quants**

Two Sigma has been a proud sponsor of COMAP’s MCM and Interdisciplinary Contest in Modeling (ICM) since 2014. Through its support, Two Sigma recognizes the importance of nurturing the next generation of quants who will tackle tomorrow’s challenges in finance and beyond.

For students who aspire to take their mathematical skills to the next level, opportunities like the MCM and internships at companies like Two Sigma are invaluable stepping stones. Yizhang’s journey from MCM to Two Sigma exemplifies how participation in COMAP’s math modeling contests can lead to exciting career opportunities in fields that blend math, data science, and technology. Learn more about Quantitative Research internships at Two Sigma.

To learn about another exciting COMAP partnership, check out our blog post “Take Your Mathematical Skills to Oxford with Ellison Scholars”.

And don’t forget to visit the MCM/ICM contest page to learn how you can compete and begin building the skills that can lead to incredible opportunities!

# Written by

### COMAP

The Consortium for Mathematics and Its Applications is an award-winning non-profit organization whose mission is to improve mathematics education for students of all ages. Since 1980, COMAP has worked with teachers, students, and business people to create learning environments where mathematics is used to investigate and model real issues in our world.