In Fall 2010, UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) introduced the 20-week (two-quarter) masters level course sequence PSTAT 296A-B, Research Projects in Actuarial Science and the shorter, 10-week (one-quarter) undergraduate level version, PSTAT 196. The main goal of these courses is to introduce students to research opportunities in insurance-related fields, to encourage actuarial students to go beyond the typical course curriculum, to think outside limited class assignments, to approach problems that do not have clean, well-known solutions. Teamwork, writing professional reports, preparing presentations and other soft skills is also part of the training.
Leading teams of students in their first experience of research requires dedication and time. Thanks to the generous support of the Society of Actuaries through a Center for Actuarial Excellence Education Grant, we were able to establish two SOA Postdoctoral Fellowships and to bring to campus young PhDs interested in applications of statistics and probability to insurance related questions and in working with our actuarial students and faculty.
Undergraduate and masters-level project research at UCSB has expanded to ten team projects per year; the activity is led by several dedicated faculty and SOA postdoctoral fellows. Most of the projects come from the insurance industry, with some sponsored by a local hospital and by the Center for Financial Mathematics and Actuarial Research (CFMAR) at UCSB.
UCSB is happy to share our experience with other Actuarial Programs and with members of the actuarial community. Although some completed projects are not publically available because of confidentiality, others are available and have been packaged in a form that make them reproducible in another college.