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New predoctoral program trains future economists

Sep 19 2017
2017-18 predoctoral fellows
Anaïs Galdin, Morgan Foy, Felipe Kup and Helen Kissel (from left to right) are four of this year's predoctoral fellows.
Photo by Elena Cryst

The start of the academic year is here, and an inaugural group of 28 predoctoral fellows and research assistants at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research is all set for a rigorous intellectual journey ahead.

The fellows are part of the new SIEPR/Economics Predoctoral Research Fellows Program that is designed to train and inspire those who are interested in pursuing graduate degrees in economics, public policy or related disciplines. During their terms — which can be one or two years — fellows work closely with faculty who are pushing the frontiers of economic research. They also get to take for-credit courses that will be helpful in pursuit of a PhD.

The program — a joint venture with the Department of Economics — serves as an ideal bridge between college and graduate school. It benefits not only the aspiring doctoral candidates but also the affiliated faculty who get to expand their research capacity on policy-relevant issues.

"The Predoctoral Research Fellows Program at SIEPR helps us expose promising students to careers in economic policy research while simultaneously supporting our faculty and strengthening their scholarly work," said Gopi Shah Goda, SIEPR’s deputy director and a senior fellow at the institute.

SIEPR is among the first at Stanford to offer a predoctoral fellows program. It’s modeled after similar programs that have proven to be successful launch pads to top-notch graduate programs.

This first cohort of SIEPR predoctoral fellows will work on cutting-edge research projects with leading SIEPR scholars: professors Ran Abramitzky, Marcella Alsan, Susan Athey, Adrien Auclert, David Chan, Arun Chandrasekhar, Raj Chetty, Rebecca Diamond, Pascaline Dupas, Matt Gentzkow, Goda, David Grusky, Eric Hanushek, Colleen Honigsberg, Brad Larsen, Melanie Morten, Petra Persson, Maria Polyakova, Joshua Rauh, Maya Rossin-Slater, Amit Seru, and Isaac Sorkin.

With bachelor’s or master’s degrees in economics or applied mathematics under their belts, the fellows come from universities both near and far — from Stanford and Wisconsin to Munich and Mumbai. All will get training in the latest methods of analyzing large, complex datasets and learn what it means to be a research economist.

"Their training under SIEPR faculty will equip them with the tools and techniques to hit the ground running as graduate students pursuing their own research ideas," Goda said.

The research projects they will support are focused on some of the most vexing issues facing our nation, including inequality, tax policy, social insurance programs and education.

A sampling of the labor-intensive research at hand:

  • A field experiment examining the impact of a retirement income tool on savings decisions — a project that can help inform policies related to the burgeoning retirement population.
  • An analysis of how financial regulations and tax burdens at the state and local level are affecting the movement of firms across states.
  • A large-scale project that is analyzing key determinants of intergenerational mobility to shed light on policies that could combat poverty.

The experience promises to be rewarding, according to former predoctoral researchers who participated in a SIEPR pilot that served as a precursor to the fellows program.

Filippo Pallotti wrote in a testimonial that it was a “life-changing opportunity” and “beautiful learning experience” to work with Auclert, a SIEPR Faculty Fellow, on monetary policy research. The firsthand exposure to all stages of research will be “a crucial asset for the structuring and the completion of my PhD dissertation in the future,” Pallotti wrote.

Ziao Ju said he developed essential research skills when he worked with SIEPR Faculty Fellow Larsen on evaluating the effects of occupational licensing for teachers and with Faculty Fellow Diamond on dissecting the effects of the Affordable Care Act.

“I also got inspired and motivated by these outstanding scholars to pursue my passion for economics and achieve greater success in the future,” Ju wrote.

Faculty are excited about providing mentorship and getting valuable help.

Larsen said his work “benefited immensely” from Ju’s assistance as they collaboratively tackled research questions last year. “I am hopeful that I will be able to continue to work with amazing research assistants in the future through the SIEPR/Economics Predoctoral Research Fellows Program,” he said.

SIEPR’s Predoctoral Research Fellows for 2017–18 are:

Daniel Agness, BA, Economics, Stanford University

Morgan Foy, BA, Economics, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Anaïs Galdin, BA and MSc, Economics, Sciences Po, Paris

Paula Gablenz, BSc, Economics, Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich

Helen Kissel, MA, Economics, University of Toronto

Felipe Kup, MSc, Economics, Sciences Po, Paris

Devika Lakhote, BA, Economics, St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai

Quan Le, BSc, Economics and Mathematics, University of Toronto

Yuxiao Li, MSc, Economics, London School of Economics

Giovanni Righi, BA and MA, Economics, University of Georgia

Adam Rosenberg, BA, Economics, Middlebury College

Laura Talpey, BA, Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology, Washington University

Hong Yi Tu-Ye, MSc, Computational Statistics, University College London

Lindsey Uniat, MSc, Economics, London School of Economics

Shun Yang, BA, Mathematics and Economics, Carleton College

Chuan Yu, BA, Economics and Finance, Tsinghua University

Research assistants hired to work with Chetty’s Opportunity Lab are:

Michael Droste, BA, Economics, Swarthmore College

Robert Fluegge, BA, Applied Mathematics, Harvard University

Charlotte Grace, BA, Economics, University of Cambridge

Jamie Gracie, BA, Economics and Spanish, Amherst College

Benny Goldman, BA, Economics, Macalester College

Alexandre Jenni, MSc, Economics, University of Mannheim

Martin Koenen, MSc, Economics, University of Mannheim

Sarah Merchant, BA, Ethics, Politics, and Economics, Yale University

Jordan Richmond, BA, Economics and Physics, Bowdoin College

Jesse Silbert, BA, Economics and Mathematics, Columbia University

Wilbur Townsend, MA, Economics, Victoria University of Wellington

Joseph Winklemann, MSc, Economics, The Graduate Institute Geneva