International College of Economics and Finance

'To see the subject through students’ eyes – that can be called teacher’s success'

'To see the subject through students’ eyes – that can be called teacher’s success'

Mikhail Zhitlukhin has been working at ICEF since 2014, when the students chose him as one of the best lecturers. Now Mikhail Zhitlukhin is considered one of the best lecturers in Zoom, according to the survey conducted concerning online education in Spring 2020. Moreover, he has published four papers this year. In his interview he told us why the quality of the material is more important than technical issues and how to make statistics really interesting.

Why do I work at ICEF

I graduated from the Faculty of Mechanics and Mathematics at MSU, then studied for a PhD at the Institute of Mathematics in Russian Academy of Science and at Manchester University at the same time.

I started work at ICEF just after receiving my PhD. First, I was going to conduct seminars, but it so happened that Pavel Katyshev, who had been successfully teaching probability theory and statistics for a long time, left ICEF. I was offered to take his position and I agreed.

I think that the international experience has also influenced my decision to be here. Studying here is very dynamic, students and academics have an opportunity to study and work in an international environment, so communication skills at a global university level were useful.

I think that one of the main reasons for my affection for ICEF is its students. They are smart and goal-oriented, they understand why they need all this, that they come here not only to sit at the desk, but to change themselves and grow. So, the work is very rewarding.

ICEF teachers can see the result of their work, that is the students’ progress

What is special about teaching at ICEF

At ICEF the teachers are open to their students and always keep them interested in the material. If students have questions or want to know more than they were told in the classroom, they can ask teachers, who are always ready to help. We have office hours for that. The students can ask teachers for a more detailed explanation, because the material at ICEF is given very intensively.

For four years I have been conducting an additional course within the framework of ICEF Academia programme. This course is for students who intend to get master’s degree, it is good support for those who get ready for a career in academia. But from my point of view, it is better to prepare students more extensively for a research career, so I think that there should be more such programmes. ICEF will probably have a PhD or research degree programme, so that students could use development opportunities in the international environment more fully.

How to make pure science applicable to financial markets?

My core activity is research work in the Mathematics institute of the Russian Academy of Science. I conduct research on the theory of stochastic processes and its applications (mainly, in economics). This is a very interesting area and mainstream too – simply because many events can’t be foreseen with a 100% certainty, so you need to use the probability methods. For example, most models of financial markets currently use random processes to describe share and asset prices.

To make an academic career I think it is very important to start conducting research as soon as possible, in the 2nd or even in the 1st year. At the start it could be simple results, connected with the synthesis of some already known achievements.

Most important is that a student finds out how the research process is formed from his own experience

It is not just about getting results, but also about working with literature, writing an article, publishing and interacting with journals, participation in conferences. I would recommend that students who want to do research choose an academic supervisor very carefully so that they can adopt his experience.

In the 4th year I teach Mathematics of Finance and Valuation. It is mainly about theoretical models of valuation of options. Unfortunately, ICEF does not have a course on the theory of stochastic processes. It would help unfold my course in full. I hope that such a course will appear someday.

How to make a student like you and your subject?

One can interest a student with a subject not so much with impeccable knowledge of material as with the ability to try to see from students’s perspective. To see the subject through students’ eyes – that can be called a teacher’s success. You can present material in a way that students will be interested in studying. We remember many examples when great scientists weren’t really good lecturers exactly because of that.

In fact, there is no recipe how to make an ideal lecturer. We are all different – for some it is easier to conduct classes in the form of a dialogue and maintain the interactivity; others prefer monologues. Each approach should exist, and the quality is measured by the lecturer’s personal attitude to the subject and by a skillful (and critical!) borrowing of teaching experience.

The subject itself plays an important role in the way the study process goes. Probability Theory and Statistics includes an applied part, and this is when students are interested in testing the theory. Besides, I do my best to note what students find easy and what parts of the course seem to bore them and I constantly make corrections to my narrative.

ICEF Academia is an integrated preparatory programme for ICEF students that aim to work in academia. The best academics work individually with the students of the programmes. They do research and involve students in it. The programme is optional for students that successfully study on the main ICEF programme and plan to build research careers, including entering PhD programmes of the leading universities around the world.

The programme consists of two research components: Advanced Training Programme (ATP) and Advanced Research Programme (ARP). The best students are awarded full scholarships to attend the LSE Summer School.

You can find more about the ICEF Academia programme on ICEF website.