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4 fresh courses for fall

From blockchain to machine learning, here are the new MIT courses that are generating attention.

By Betsy Vereckey  |  September 5, 2018

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Why It Matters

New courses parallel the most important skills, knowledge, and ideas in management today. Next up: Blockchain finance, employment law, and machine learning.

This fall, MIT Sloan is introducing a number of new classes for students. Some have immediate real-world application and are being taught by industry experts, while others by longtime MIT professors delve deeper into specific concepts, such as machine learning. Here’s what’s on offer to MIT students this fall.

‘Blockchain and Money,’ taught by Gary Gensler
It seems everyone has an interest in cryptocurrency these days. Gary Gensler, who has worked on Wall Street and in the public sector, will teach a new course that breaks down the complicated ins and outs of blockchain technology (such as smart contracts and distributed ledgers).

Gensler, who is the former chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, believes there are numerous reasons that students should learn about the world of blockchain. “This technology has real potential as a catalyst for change in the world of finance and the broader economy,” he said.

In Gensler’s course, students can expect plenty of practical, real-world examples. A close examination of bitcoin will pepper the curriculum, as will commentary from industry experts. Gensler designed the class as a “real how-to course” that allows students from all walks of life (not just technologists) to work together in groups on a final project of their own choice where they can create their own blockchain idea.

Key Employment Law Issues for Employees, Entrepreneurs, and Managers, taught by John L. Akula and Louis Rodrigues
There’s no shortage of thorny issues that occur in the workplace today. Over the course of 12 weeks, students will learn how to navigate sensitive topics (such as discrimination and sexual harassment) and how to handle them, from the perspectives of both employees and managers.

“This course is a practical, hands-on, real-world explanation of some of the key employment law issues that people will experience as they work their way through their careers,” said Louis Rodrigues, a retired attorney who has been a guest lecturer at MIT Sloan since the mid-’80s. He will be teaching the course along with John Akula.

Students will learn how to dissect complicated documents, such as non-disclosure agreements and offer letters, which aren’t always easy to read or straightforward. From day one to layoffs, Rodrigues will devote an entire class to the ins and outs of a job interview and teach students about the termination process.

Advanced Data Analytics and Machine Learning in Finance, taught by Mikey Shulman and Michael Kozlov
This new class delves into the ways in which advanced data analytics concepts and machine learning can be applied to finance. It will build on basic knowledge that students already have of topics such as Python programming and derivatives pricing. 

Mikey Shulman, who has been a guest lecturer at MIT, will bring his real-world expertise to the classroom. Shulman works at an artificial intelligence company named Kensho, which specializes in machine learning and analytics for the banking industry as well as the intelligence community. His part of the course will explore the techniques he and his team use every day and help students learn how to build useful machine learning models that can understand natural language.

“This course is going to give people with traditional finance and econometrics backgrounds a little bit of an introduction to different ways of thinking about problems that will hopefully be useful to them later on,” Shulman said.

Shulman will teach the course alongside Michael Kozlov, whose portion of the course will teach students about data classification, data handling, and futures engineering. Kozlov, who is the senior executive research director at hedge fund WorldQuant LLC, will also cover machine learning algorithms for classification and dimension reduction problems.

Machine Learning via a Modern Optimization Lens, taught by Dimitris Bertsimas
This course, taught by Dimitris Bertsimas, will examine classical problems in machine learning and statistics, as well as demonstrate how the application of modern optimization treatment can benefit them.

Bertsimas will cover variable selection in linear and logistic regression; convex, robust, and median regression; clustering; deep learning; how to transform predictive algorithms to prescriptive algorithms, and much more.

Bertsimas, who has used math to study the field of diabetes, is the Boeing Leaders for Global Operations professor of management and the director of the Master of Business Analytics program at MIT Sloan. He has been at MIT since 1988.