Hometown: Shanghai, China
Year in School: Senior
Interests/Hobbies: Cooking & Baking
Where is your favorite place on campus and why?
My favorite place on campus is the social sciences building. From introductory courses to office hours to research meetings, I’ve spent most of my academic life in the building. I love the view of Lake Mendota from 8417 all seasons.
What has been your favorite Econ course?
My favorite course is Econ 621 Markets and Models taught by Professor Dan Quint. In this course, I learned various topics in market design. An introductory read is Who Gets What and Why by Alvin Roth. Always interested in microeconomics, I find this course eye-opening because it moves beyond a simple supply-and-demand model of the market. We learned about perfectly competitive markets, markets without prices, auctions, contests… For example, we studied a model of waiting in line to attend free events, concerts, and basketball games. I was also amazed at how market design could help improve welfare and efficiency in the real world. For example, the deferred acceptance algorithm helps graduating students from nursing schools get into matching residential programs. The market design on kidney exchange can save thousands of lives. I think the fundamental ideology of market design is powerful: identifying and modeling human behavior under some environment and designing new mechanisms to achieve practical, more efficient, and better outcomes.
If you have any other majors or certificates in addition to Econ, how did you decide to add Econ or add the other major/cert?
I also major in math and have a certificate in gender and women’s studies (GWS). I went into college thinking I want to study economics. Fortunately, I loved everything about it. I was a little hesitant about adding a math major, but it turned out to be extremely helpful in understanding economic theory and applying econometric methods to data. Math helps me develop better intuition of economic theory and have a broader range of tools available to tackle hard problems. The GWS certificate sharpens my communication, critical thinking, and reading skills. It is a great complement to my majors because I can think expansively about social problems, such as gender inequality, population growth, marriage, education, etc., that could be a subject of study in economics. Read more about my experience with the GWS department here.
Where did you intern/research, and did you have a good experience? Why or why not?
My research interest lies at the intersection of gender and labor economics. I have empirical, computational, and theoretical research experience surrounding topics in labor economics. In an honors research project in my junior year, I provided empirical evidence of gender inequality in the labor market under the guidance of Professor Kenneth West. Then, I worked as a research assistant for Professor Simeon Alder and used computational methods to calibrate nonlinear economic models. We analyzed the reallocation of labor across industries and counties in the U.S. in response to exogenous shocks, such as the rise in imports from China. Together with a small team of research assistants, I learned the Armington trade model and abstracted the model into a numerical solver in Julia. My theory research experience is inspired by the market design course and the frictional labor search theory. In Econ 621, I noticed that two-sided matchings between a man and a woman are the default in the marriage matching theories. In the subsequent independent study with Professor Quint, I extended the search and matching model to incorporate people with different sexual orientations. Most notably, bisexual individuals could choose to search in either same-sex or opposite-sex markets or both and get a set of different matching outcomes. I enjoyed every aspect of the research experiences – the pain of not knowing what to do, the joy of learning new things in the literature, the excitement of having a new idea and implementing it via writing/math/coding, the reward and fun along the way, etc. My research mentors are knowledgeable but not intimidating, challenging but extremely inspiring.
What advice do you have for students seeking an independent research project?
Find what you are passionate about. You might worry whether you could find a compatible advisor for the independent research, but the world is your oyster. My suggestion would be to identify a field/question/area of research that you want to spend most of your time on. Because research is HARD, you want to struggle on something that you are truly passionate about.
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 a Ph.D. in Economics after graduation. I want to continue doing research in economics. I believe that I can gain more tools and knowledge in graduate school to help me conduct better research.