2023 Undergraduate Student Spotlights Eric Hsienchen Chu

Eric Hsienchen Chu

Hometown: Taipei, Taiwan

Year in School: Sophomore

Interests/Hobbies: Cycling around Monona, Mendota, and Wingra (Wisco Cycling!)

Involvements/Employment/Activities: Comprehensive Assessment of Leadership Learning-Equity Centered Leadership (CALL-ECL) Project, Wisconsin Center for Education Research. Economics Inclusion Board, Department of Economics. Editor-in-Chief of Equilibrium: The Undergraduate Journal of Economics.

Where is your favorite place on campus and why?

The Chazen Cafe is my all-time fav. Great view, consistent latte, and superb atmosphere! It is the place that prompts most of my coursework and research ideas. Third floor at the B-school is lowkey nice as well!

What has been your favorite Econ course?

While our Econ department provides a diverse and solid profile of courses, my favorite econ course so far is the Directed Study, Econ 699, I’m doing this semester. Under the guidance of Prof. Matteo Camboni, I am working on an independent project that applies frameworks from mechanism design and policy intervention in networks. I investigate the black box of how a department’s job market placement policy affects candidate–candidate peer effects and collective reputation spillovers influencing academic inclination and placement, with the goal of expanding to exogenous market shock in the Econ Job Market. We also review some advanced game theory along the way so that I can propel this theory work further in the following summer and beyond. The thinking process of framing an econ question and the opportunity to present such ideas to faculty are invaluable.

If you have any other majors or certificates in addition to Econ, how did you decide to add Econ or add the other major/certificate?

I am also majoring in math and statistics but focus more on the former. I chose UW-Madison basically based on the premise of going for econ grad school and somewhat having to explore research opportunities during undergrad. It was purely a strategic move, but the plan carries out well so far! Math major adds to a better understanding of theoretical frameworks, and I decide to explore the microeconomic theory field more at this moment since I find it just so fascinating.

How do you manage your course load?

I lived at the library.

Where did you intern/research, and did you have a good experience? Why or why not?

My research interests lie across Microeconomic Theory and Labor Economics. I have empirical and theoretical research experience surrounding education and network topics. I saw Iris’s Student Spotlight before I enrolled in this school and decided to join Equilibrium to write articles about inequality and education issues during my first year. My first EQ pieces about opportunity inequality propel me to advance similar topics- I first worked with a Soc PhD Candidate using R and Stata and co-authored a paper studying how universities employ different screening metrics to gatekeep in perspectives of organizational strategies and stratifications. I currently work as RA to the CALL-ECL project at WCER. This study explores how leadership networks evolve and increase equity-centered belief in education scenarios and curriculums. I mainly help with data cleaning in R and literature reviews for the Social Network Analysis Working Group. My theory research experience is inspired by several past junior honors proposals doing theory work- they were all high-quality and intriguing stories! I like the way theory papers are conducted as I need to think through the assumptions of each agent in the game settings and try solving equilibriums under their payoff functions, intensively using math to solve complex problems. I therefore did my Directed Study exploring candidate–candidate peer effects, which combines my interest in education and network, and got to see what else (math) I need to pick up before doing rigorous theory research. Prof. Matteo Camboni has been supportive and guided me through econ theory learning, which I am extremely grateful for!

What advice do you have for students seeking an internship/research experience?

Econ research is hard. Exponentially hard and requires commitment. If you have found something passionate about, I would say try picking up econometrics as soon as possible and starting RA searches from a relevant department. I finished UGRD Econometrics (410) before entering second year, so I got to engage in those empirical-based research projects in some outside departments (Soc and Ed) over the past year. If you are fortunate to have a RA opportunity for some econ research, it is a no-brainer. If not, don’t get discouraged and start with projects in another department. Maybe it will cultivate or inspire your long-term research interest! Once having enough research experience, converging back to econ research should be easier than starting with empty hands.

Do you know what you want to do after graduation? If yes, what? If not, what advice would you give to another student who may not know either?

I plan to pursue an Econ PhD after graduation. I simply aim to continue conducting economics research, but not yet sure if it would be in theory or empirical. Prof. Lones Smith once told me the following after reviewing my EQ pieces, “Keep in mind that a science paper pursues comparative statics and predictions. It is not just about the story.” I will work toward this goal and equip more theoretical tools and empirical skills for the next following two years. Definitely savor my time at such a wonderful campus here!