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Obituary: Dr Lawrence Ma (1962-2022)

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Monday 7 November 2022

The academic and professional career of Dr Lawrence Ma was marked by his contributions to the great socioeconomic digital transformation of the early 21st century and leading from the cutting edge of applied cryptography and blockchain technology.

He was the inspiration for countless young students and professionals, providing a positive influence and persuading many to pursue a career in computer science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Throughout his life, whether working in academia or industry, Dr. Ma was on a lifelong mission to search for the hidden gifted talents. With sky-high standards, Dr. Ma may not have considered his mission a success, but he has successfully made an impact on over 10,000 secondary and tertiary students through the teaching of industry knowledge across a plethora of topics, including the most cutting edge of AI, machine learning, blockchain, cryptography, data analysis, and financial engineering. His teachings helped hundreds of students secure positions in professional firms and PhD programmes around the world.

Early Years

Lawrence Ma Kwan Ho (馬君豪) was born on 29 May 1962 in British Hong Kong and was brought up in a loving family atmosphere that supported his pursuits in science and mathematics. Lawrence received his primary education at the Diocesan Boys' School in Kadoorie Hill, near Mong Kok and Ho Man Tin. Lawrence gained a reputation for a penchant for learning among his teachers.

Lawrence Ma (left) in his younger, wilder years.

Lawrence Ma (left) in his younger, wilder years.

Lawrence attended secondary school with the future Chief Executive of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Hon. John Lee Ka-chiu, at the Wah Yan College (Kowloon) in Yau Ma Tei, near Mong Kok and Ho Man Tin. Lawrence explored his interests in natural sciences, especially in chemistry. Lawrence completed his secondary education at The Lawrenceville School, located at the Lawrence Township, in Mercer County, New Jersey, United States of America. However, in choosing a career, Lawrence decided to embark on the path of math, reasoning that thought experiments would be markedly less dangerous than lab experiments.

On the Path of Math

Lawrence entered Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, USA in 1980, taking classes with the future founder of the Julia programming language, Dr. Prof. Alan Edelman. Lawrence earned his Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics in 1984 and decided to continue studying mathematics at Stanford University in Santa Clara, California, USA. Lawrence earn his Masters in Mathematics in 1986.

Lawrence continued to study mathematics at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, USA. In 1993, Lawrence earned his mathematics PhD with the dissertation: Quasisymmetric Conjugacy of Degree N Critical Circle Map, advised by John Hamal Hubbard. Upon completing his PhD, the National University of Singapore invited Lawrence to teach mathematics. Academic life was however not his cup of tea and Lawrence was analyzing other opportunities.

From Theory to Application

In 1998, Lawrence successfully escaped from the gravity well of academia and began his lifelong impact in applied mathematics, starting with quantitative finance, the use of mathematical models and extremely large datasets to analyze financial markets and securities. It is a highly rewarding career with finance and intellectual fulfillment.

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