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Wall Street Is Bullish on the Right Ph.Ds

As science spawns a growing number of technically sophisticated industrial and consumer goods, some financial houses have been hiring scientists to help analyze the products and their markets. "Our approach is simple," said William Welty, managing director of research for Hambrecht & Quist, based in San Francisco. "We look for Ph.D.s to analyze those industries where rapid scientific advances will make a major difference to the success or failure of its companies. A classic case right now is bio

By | April 20, 1987

As science spawns a growing number of technically sophisticated industrial and consumer goods, some financial houses have been hiring scientists to help analyze the products and their markets.

"Our approach is simple," said William Welty, managing director of research for Hambrecht & Quist, based in San Francisco. "We look for Ph.D.s to analyze those industries where rapid scientific advances will make a major difference to the success or failure of its companies. A classic case right now is biotechnology."

Welty also recruits research analysts with doctorates in such areas as mathematics, physics and chemistry. But Daniel Nelson, director of research for Cable Howse & Regan in Seattle, said the need for science expertise among financial analysts is largely restricted to the health sciences.

"Our analyst in biotechnology has a Ph.D. and we just hired a person with a Ph.D. in pharmacology," Nelson observed. The reason: only analysts with a Ph.D.-level knowledge of advanced biotech research can truly understand what the companies are working on, he believes. Such knowledge also is needed to evaluate whether a company's products have merit and are patentable, an important consideration in a field in which a new company can take several years to show a profit.

Scientists who move from the bench to the brokerage house cite varying reasons for doing so.

"I was not really satisfied in the academic setting," noted Stelios Papadopoulos, 38, vice president of research with Drexel Burnham Lambert and the firm's biotechnology analyst. After obtaining a doctorate in biophysics from New York University, he taught cell biology/histology at NYU medical school during the day while working toward an MBA in the evening.

"I was more interested in science from a global perspective rather than just from the laboratory," Papadopolous said. "I wanted to become involved in business, to take risks in more real way. A turning point for me came in 1979 when I met a drug analyst on Wall Street who had a Ph.D. in organic chemistry."

Jeffrey Swarz says his teaching experience helps on Wall Street. The 37-year-old drug industry analyst for Goldman, Sachs and Co. has a Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University of Rochester and was part of a teaching team in neuroanatomy and histology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Unlike the others, however, he also has extensive experience in the business world, having worked for two corporations, started his own business and done contract work on biotechnology for the Environmental Protection Agency. He also worked on the initial biotech regulations for a U.S. Senate subcommittee.

"Frankly, I was fed up with the grantsmanship way of life and did not really want to be dependent on the federal government for my income," said Swarz. "It was too confining, too narrow a way to live and to plan for your future. While I loved research—I produced more than two dozen papers—I found I had broader interests."

A Knack for Figures

The road to Wall Street was especially circuitous for Misha Petkevich, 38, a Rhodes scholar and world-class figure skater. After obtaining a Ph.D. from Oxford University in cell biology, specializing in herpes simplex, he spent more than three years studying and composing music as a visiting fellow at Harvard University's music department.

"At that juncture, I decided it was time to get back to using some of the extensive educational skills I had acquired," said Petkevich, laughing. "I began looking at Wall Street as an opportunity, thinking that technical expertise might be useful in an investment-oriented firm. I credit Hambrecht & Quist for being farsighted in this regard."

The material rewards of their new profession are more than adequate: Wall Street observers say annual salaries of $200,000 to $400,000 are not unusual for top market analysts. None of the three analysts interviewed expressed any regrets about having abandoned more conventional scientific careers.

The three men have one more thing in common. When asked to name the best biotechnology analysts on Wall Street, each listed himself first.

Makulowich writes on business and biotechnology issues from Montgomery County, Md.

Free Equipment for NSF Grantees

WASHINGTON—Researchers funded by grants from the National Science Foundation may be eligible to receive a bonus: free lab equipment, instruments and other supplies left over from past experiments.

Last year, NSF grantees acquired scientific equipment worth more than $18 million through this program, which is operated by the General Services Administration. To be eligible, NSF project grantees must be public or private institutions of higher education or nonprofit organizations whose primary purpose is to conduct scientific or engineering research or education. The equipment must be used on NSF-supported research projects.

Further information is available from Linda Oliphant at Room 506, National Science Foundation, 1800 G St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20550, or by calling (202) 357-7414.



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