Dan Wolf '82

Dan Wolf

Dan Wolf is quick to note that when he started work on his senior Honors thesis in “The Mathematics of Geophysics,” he knew next to nothing about geophysics. But that didn’t stop the math major from exploring no fewer than 15 mathematical techniques used in this discipline that studies the physical properties of the Earth by way of quantitative observation. And the thesis came in handy when he graduated from Boston College in the throes of a deep recession—quickly landing a job as a geophysicist.

In that work, Wolf used advanced mathematics to model the structure of the earth, with the highly purposeful aim of finding oil and gas in places ranging from South Dakota to Nigeria and the North Sea. These days, he is senior director of statistical analysis at Capital One Auto Finance in Plano, Texas. There, he leads a team of nine statisticians who employ their number-crunching craft to determine which loan applicants are good credit risks.

Going from geophysicist to financial-company analyst may seem like a sharp career turn. And yet, the basic intellectual tools and motivations behind those pursuits were commonly derived from the education he received as a math major at Boston College.

“The mathematics department instilled in me a love of learning,” says Wolf, who went on to earn advanced degrees in applied math, operations research, and business administration at other institutions of higher learning. “The professors at Boston College shared their deep passion for math and how it could be used to solve problems.”

His advice to students: “If you like math, then pursue it, even if you are not sure what you would do with it for a career.” There will be plenty of professional options, Wolf adds. He points to such fields as medicine, which needs bio-statisticians to analyze the effectiveness of drugs and treatments, and even the entertainment industry, which hires mathematicians to help create spectacular graphics effects. He says, “The possibilities are endless.”