From MFE to PhD studies: Meet new grad Luka Vulicevic

June 6, 2024 by Kate Baggott - Department of Economics

Most graduates of the Master of Financial Economics (MFE) program make their professional homes on Bay Street. International banks and financial organizations, like the IMF, also employ a fair number of alumni. Choosing an academic path is less common for students of this professional program. And yet, that is exactly the journey new MFE grad Luka Vulicevic has decided to take. He will start PhD studies in finance at the University of California, San Diego next semester.

Not everyone is surprised by Vulicevic’s choice.

“Luka has impressed me in many ways,” said Professor Jordi Mondria, Director of the MFE program. “Not only are Luka’s math, coding and data skills exceptional, but his maturity and intellectual curiosity deserve to be trained by the most brilliant minds in finance at the very top departments. He is an extremely positive and energetic student. He always has a smile on his face and shows his excitement when discussing research. It is a pleasure having discussions with him about managing discussant or referees’ comments. I believe he will be a reliable source of positive externalities to other students in the UCSD program.”

A full exploration of Vulicevic’s intellectual origin story would doubtless have many landmarks, but one of the stops on the tour, has a special place in most MFE alumni’s hearts — the basement of the economics department. While deeply loved, the workrooms made available to MFE students are never mentioned in discussions of Max Gluskin House’s award-winning architecture. There is obviously more to the setting than appearances.

“Something about that place is magical,” Vulicevic insisted. “The unique mix of graduate students and lack of professor presence allowed us to explore cool and new topics fearlessly. I have countless memories of working with others on projects and research which has affected the rest of my life. I still remember the exact moment I finished some proofs which were dear to me. To be a fly on the wall in those rooms would be to understand the great joys and plights of an MFE student.”

Vulicevic was well-prepared for those cool and new topics long before his spell in the basement. As a child, he was cared for by a person he describes as “the world’s most over-qualified babysitter.” Before retirement, his grandmother, Ljiljana Vulicevic, was a lecturer of classical philology at the University of Belgrade.

“Although she taught me a lot about the classics and history, she also had an impact on my mathematics and economics studies,” Vulicevic remembered. “Throughout my education, she always attempted to understand what new topic I was learning. Despite her background, she always believed that she could understand my studies at some level. Her attitude and curiosity toward new topics were imprinted on me and was fundamental to my journey through the MFE program. Whether it was learning a new theorem for econometrics or taking my first ever PhD class, I always took a deep breath and thought I could understand it eventually.”