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Mar 2, 2015

Researcher of the Month; Lucy Muthoni – the Lady Mathematician

Lucy Muthoni

“Maths is beautiful in its purest form and it is better when applied.” Lucy Muthoni.

 

Traditionally, people believe that mathematicians should be men, therefore a lady mathematician is rare and many times considered odd. Lucy Muthoni, a mathematics lecturer, seems to have conquered the odds with ease. Her passion in mathematics has not only blossomed into a fruitful career, but has also become a livelihood. Her excitement for the subject is infectious and very admirable.


Lucy’s Background…

I am married and a mother of one adorable son named Carson, a name borrowed from the world famous neurosurgeon and writer, Dr. Benjamin Carson.

 

I have been teaching since I was in standard 7. I had dropped out of school due to financial constraints and the circumstances forced me to work as a domestic worker.  I grew fond of teaching my employers’ children mathematics and Science because I was good at it.

 

I gained good grounding for mathematics while in nursery school. This is as a result of me being in nursery school for four years because I could not touch my left ear with my right hand, which was interpreted as being too young to join primary school. During this period, my teachers realized I could grasp mathematics concepts well, so they taught me more of it. By the time I joined primary school, I was already ahead in the mathematics syllabus and by the end of standard four,   I had completed the primary mathematics syllabus. Being ahead of everyone else in the syllabus granted me an added advantage, which I optimized on by giving Mathematics tutorials to weaker students.

 

Officially, I have been teaching for ten years now, five years at secondary level which I would undertake when on university holidays and five years at University level. I have taught Introduction to Actuarial Science, Financial Mathematics, Probability, Statistics and Calculus.

 

Education Background

I studied at New Kihumbuini primary school and proceeded to State House Girls High School. I performed well and was admitted to Maseno University to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Actuarial Science and Information Technology. I emerged as the best female student in the graduating class of 2009. In July 2009, I joined Strathmore University as they were in process of launching the School of Finance and Applied Economics (SFAE). Upon its launch I was appointed as the school’s administrator. Due to my passion for teaching, I requested to go back to the role of a graduate assistant so that I could pursue a Masters which would enable me   to teach at university level.

 

Upon the approval, I joined the University of Nairobi to study MSc. in Actuarial Science.   I graduated in August 2013, and immediately started working on my doctorate proposal. My PhD is in Mathematical Finance at Strathmore University, under the Center of Applied Research and Mathematical Sciences (CARMS) and School of Graduate Studies (SGS). In March 2014, I submitted my first proposal and successfully defended it in May, the same year.

 

My supervisors are Prof. Silas Onyango and Prof. Omollo Ongati.  The two professors have been very resourceful in the foundation of my research and in the breakthroughs made so far.

 

Research Findings and levels completed

Financial mathematicians come up with financial trends in the market through formulas used for pricing products. They deal with products which have a lot of stochasticity (randomly determined sequence of observations each of which are considered as samples of one element from a probability distribution). A good financial market improves the country’s economy by reducing dependence on the climate, which is a key factor in an economy that relies heavily on Agricultural sector like Kenya.  

To settle on a research topic, I approached Capital Markets Authority (CMA) to  be guided on relevant areas of research that would be beneficial to both the Nairobi Securities Market and the country at large. I met the Futures expert from Pakistan, Assim Jang, who had been contracted by the CMA to assist in coming up with regulation framework for the Futures Trading.   He advised me to work on a zero coupon yield curve,  which can be used in pricing of coffee Futures which, it is anticipated, will be introduced to the market by the end of 2017.  A yield curve shows movement interest rates over a specified time period.

 

The title of my doctorate research is Construction of Zero Coupon Yield Curve (ZCYC) for Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE) and Its Application in Pricing Coffee Futures


My first paper was on construction of the nominal yield curve for NSE and it proposed a new interpolation method that improves the monotone preserving interpolation on  method, which was introduced in 2013 by P. Du Preez. This nominal yield curve will then be used to extract a ZCYC, which will be the basis of my second paper. From the ZCYC, we can get risk free rates that will be used to price the derivatives. My third paper will be using the risk free rates generated to price coffee Futures. This area is exciting due to the amount of intense reading and research required, leading to adrenalin rush caused by solving a complex problem.

 

Benefits of this Research

The introduction of Coffee Futures trading is believed to be a method that will improve the earnings from coffee farming, thus encourage farmers to produce more coffee and consequently improve the country’s exports. I hope that this project will give rates that will be used to properly price portfolios, appraise projects and price derivates well. Confidence in pricing models lead to increased trading volumes that generate funds that can be channeled to public projects development, thus improving the  citizens’ standard of living.

 

Challenges for undertaking this Research

There is very limited information available on local models/yield curves to compare with, leaving us to compare our results with international yield curves whose markets closely reflect Kenyan market.

 

Publications

In 2013, I published a book titled Application of Multi Yield Curve Modeling to Kenyan Bond Market. This book is  resourceful to economists, and people interested in bond markets and interest rates.

 

Advice to Aspiring PhD students

Doing a PhD is a good choice because one is able to understand whatever they are passionate better. If one has a passion for something, they should follow it to the end.

Strive to be a master in your area of interest. The fire inside you has to burn brighter than the fire outside, for you to make it.

Contact Details

Madaraka Estate
Ole Sangale Road, PO Box 59857,
00200 City Square
Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: 0703-034000, 0703-034200

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