Economics department uses grant to fund student research opportunities

by Paula Mendoza | 10/7/15 7:27pm

Twenty-four students are participating in the Dartmouth Economics Research Program, which aims to increase and improve opportunities to participate in faculty research for highly interested economics students.

The program’s primary goal is to identify promising students and provide them with the opportunity to conduct research alongside professors, economics department chair Bruce Sacerdote said. The program, for which there is no formal applications process, utilizes recently-awarded funding from the President’s Office to allow professors to hire the selected scholars, he said.

Currently, there are 10 and 14 scholars in the 2016 and 2017 cohorts, respectively. The 10 scholars in the 2016 cohort will be the program’s first graduating class.

Sacerdote said the program is not meant to be exclusive, but instead to provide encouragement and support for students with high potential. He said the department hopes to connect these students with further research opportunities after graduation.

Rather than a formal application process, faculty identify students in their sophomore year who have taken core courses in the department, he said.

Research program director and economics professor Chris Snyder said the program aims to enhance the academic experience for all students, but in particular they wanted to serve the most promising students in the department.

“In what is unique to Dartmouth, we wanted to provide a deeper student-faculty interaction, particularly for folks doing research,” he said.

Snyder said the faculty involved were allotted a sum of money to develop the program, but they are hoping to receive more resources to expand further and increase the number of opportunities available to students.

Snyder said that the program aims to foster student-faculty relationships by including students in faculty research. He said that the faculty at the College are in the “knowledge-creation business” and he hopes to integrate students into this process.

“Dartmouth is not just stamping out students. We’re trying to create knowledge and get students to share in that knowledge creation, too” he said.

Snyder said that he hopes to expand the program and gain enough funding to support students who choose to remain on campus without taking classes so they can dedicate their time to research.

“My vision would be to do this more systematically, rather than give a little research support throughout the term while your attention is divided with your classes,” he said.

Presidential Scholar Ran Zhuo ’17 worked full-time for Snyder this summer. Zhuo credits her work with Synder for helping her refine her leadership skills and teaching her how to work alongside faculty and administrators.

Snyder said Zhuo offered him suggestions about his research on publication bias that led him to collect more data.

“She’s brilliant. It’s great to work with students who are smarter than oneself,” he said.

Myles Wagner ’17 is studying behavioral economics in cognitive constraints on value annuities as research assistant to economics professor Erzo Luttmer. Next year, Wagner will be off-campus in the spring and summer to work with Dartmouth alumna Heidi Williams ’03 through the National Economic Bureau of Research. Williams recently won the 2015 MacArthur Fellowship and will receive a $625,000 grant for her research.

“I definitely wouldn’t have gotten this job if it hadn’t been for the two connections I had with professors Luttmer and Snyder,” Wagner said.

The selected scholars recently gathered for dinner with the program’s participating economics professors.

“I was actually quite surprised that almost everyone from the program showed up to this event. I know everyone is busy, but it looks like it’s everyone’s priority to know other students with similar interests,” Zhuo said.

Sacerdote said he hopes the program will continue to grow, as he thinks it could attract prospective students.

“This could be expanded through all the social sciences, and the university in general. I’d love to see that,” he said. “It could become a central administrative program. That would be a real attractive pitch for anyone looking to apply to Dartmouth.”

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