Dr Mesias Alfeus, senior lecturer in the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science, Stellenbosch University (SU), wears various hats.

‘At the NITheCS Quantitative Finance Research Programme, I oversee all the quantitative finance research activities in the whole of South Africa, fostering quantitative finance research collaboration between different universities and industries in South Africa. Among others I organise quantitative finance research workshops and seminars. At SU’s Financial Risk Management, I am responsible for the theoretical aspects of financial risk management and derivatives pricing. At the Operations Research Society of South Africa (ORSSA), I oversee all quantitative finance activities within the society and write blogs about new and interesting research in quantitative finance. And as node leader of the InSPiR2eS Centre for Responsible Science (IC4RS) I promote basic sciences and advocate principles and practices of Responsible Science in Africa.’

Dr Alfeus says his main academic interests are stochastics volatility modelling (option pricing, model calibration and hedging), interest rate modelling (LIBOR transition and roll-over risk) and financial econometrics (filtering methods and empirical estimations).

His solid mathematical background started at a young age. ‘I am from a poor village in northern Namibia. As a child, I was bullied and was criticized because of the way I spoke English. At the Okadila-West primary school, we also had limited resources to read and practice mathematics, but I discovered my passion for maths when I used to play a game called Owela (a traditional two-player abstract strategy game). I was very much encouraged by my teachers to keep pursuing mathematics.’

Even at a young age, the young Mesias started a maths tutorial group in Namibia ‘with the purpose of helping learners with difficulties across the country. My slogan was “Makin’ math look sexy” and the vision was to make people discover the beauty of mathematics.’

After winning the first place in the National Senior High School for mathematics in Namibia, he studied mathematics and physics at the University of Namibia, where he became the top student in the faculty of science. This earned him a full scholarship from the Namibian Financial Institutions Supervisory Authority (NAMFISA) to study Financial Mathematics at SU, where in due course he was awarded merit awards as the top financial mathematics honours and masters’ student. In 2016 he started his PhD in at the UTS Business School, Australia, and completed the PhD in Quantitative Finance from UTS in 2019 with a dissertation entitled ‘Stochastic Modelling of New Phenomena in Financial Markets’. He worked as research associate in the Finance Discipline Group at UTS until accepting a lectureship position in the School of Mathematics and Applied Statistics, University of Wollongong, Australia from Jan 2019 to July 2020. Thereafter he returned to South Africa, ‘to be closer to my beautiful wife.’

Dr Alfeus says discipline is key to his academic success and that one should hold on to the basic sciences with a ‘sense of “dissatisfaction”, discipline and determination. I have always been hungry to learn more. I never feel as though I “have arrived”, and am always thirsty.’

In terms of his current work, he says: ‘I am exploring and developing new mathematics to implement state-of-the-art financial models that can capture the dynamics of observed financial market risks or phenomena. As a young researcher, I embrace the research network with my international collaborators, and I want to be flexible to dive deeper into challenging research projects that can lead to a break-through in modern finance and financial risk management discipline.’

Dr Alfeus is rated by NRF as a younger researcher (under 40 age), with the rating valid from 2023-2027. He has already had more than ten journal papers published in high-quality international peer-reviewed journals, including in the Journal of Economic Dynamics & Control, a prestigious journal in the area of quantitative finance.

He has also won various awards: in 2018 he won the younger investigator training award to attend the Quantitative Finance Workshop held at the Roma Tre University (an Italian public research university) and spend one month of research at the University of Padova. Recently he received an invitation by the board of Springerbriefs to write a book based on the model for the roll-over risk and to contribute to the current debate about the risk-free rate and the LIBOR transition.

On a personal note, he adds that he is a committed Christian: ‘This was a crucial life decision. Coming from a poor village where my peers use drugs and alcohol, having committed my life to Christ made me not to look at the beauty of this world first, but to embed my values in Christ.’

As a last thought Dr Alfeus says he never lets go of the wonderful opportunities. He grabs on to those opportunities and always does his best, because ‘first impressions count, and consistence is a foundation of virtue.’

His personal website is at https://mesiasalfeusmockup.weebly.com/