If Richard Lugar had become U.S. president, Christina van Beelen’s career would probably have turned out very differently. Van Beelen, 42, grew up in the college town of Bloomington, Indiana; after earning a political science degree from Northwestern University, she went to work for Lugar, senator for her home state, in Washington. When Lugar decided to run for the 1996 Republican presidential nomination, she was part of the campaign staff. Although the senator failed to secure the nomination, campaigning through New Hampshire, Iowa and elsewhere was instructive for van Beelen. She loved the responsibility, and the role brought home the value of working for good people — a lesson that stuck with her. Van Beelen, who has an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, was always gifted at math and science, but she never aspired to a career on Wall Street; she thought she would go into the foreign service or law. Her entry into asset management happened almost by accident after a recruiter she had reached out to for an investment banking job faxed her résumé to holding company MacAndrews & Forbes in New York. She got hired in 1996 to work in the special counsel’s office for chairman, CEO and buyout titan Ronald Perelman. She then joined former MacAndrews & Forbes special counsel Richard Halperin at Seattle-based fund-of-hedge-funds firm Quellos Group as an associate director in New York before moving to Goldman Sachs Asset Management in 2004 to oversee the firm’s fund-of-funds relationships. One of New York–based GSAM’s top-performing teams at that time was its quantitative investment strategies group, led by Mark Carhart and Raymond Iwanowski. With her math and science background, van Beelen was drawn toward the quants. After Iwanowski launched his own alternative investment firm, New York–based SECOR Asset Management, in 2010, van Beelen was the perfect person to head its alternative product management efforts. Today quant-focused SECOR manages more than $30 billion in assets.