“My experience at IPA confirmed an interest I developed during college and that has since guided my work at HBS: a desire to apply the rigor of economics to pressing problems.”
I came to HBS after two years of working for Yale Professor Dean Karlan at Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA). IPA is a research organization that conducts randomized controlled trials in development economics. My experience at IPA confirmed an interest I developed during college and that has since guided my work at HBS: a desire to apply the rigor of economics to pressing problems.
I first identified that passion in a freshman seminar in college at Stanford University, where I saw firsthand how social science can turn complex, pressing issues into tractable research questions. Soon after, I found myself in a tutorial on the history of economic thought. One of our assigned readings was Robert Heilbroner’s, The Worldly Philosophers. Heilbroner charts the lives of economists throughout history, beginning with Adam Smith. His narrative illustrated well how these thinkers married their knack for scientific thinking with immersion into important public issues. Their stories inspired me to pursue research as a career and Harvard has provided me with an ideal environment in which to continue that pursuit.
As I finish my first year in the doctoral program, my research interests are primarily in applied microeconomics and behavioral economics, with a focus on behavior in education and healthcare markets.
One strand of questions focuses on information and decision making. Information is a critical ingredient to competitive markets; the absence or asymmetry of information can produce suboptimal outcomes, sometimes in ways that our traditional understanding of economic behavior would not predict. Some of my current work looks at how people respond to information in online grocery stores and in matching markets such as New York City’s high school application process.
A second strand of research focuses on the determinants of productivity in hospitals and schools, where assumptions about competitive markets do not apply in the same way as in other industries. I’m exploring these questions at hospitals in Boston and abroad.
Business Economics Program
The Business Economics program is a joint program between HBS and the Department of Economics at Harvard. In my view, it provides the best of both worlds: rigorous training in economics alongside other Economics PhD students and access to the incredible resources at HBS, including faculty, students, and courses that make it easy to identify research questions that are relevant to the world.
One of the highlights of the program is having a community of peers in both schools. We spend our first two years in the same classes with the other Economics students, and share office space with the other HBS doctoral students. Both groups are full of smart and inspiring folks who have challenged me to be a better researcher and have supported me in all kinds of ways. That is one thing that really shines through as I think about the program—the support from the doctoral office, faculty members, and fellow students has been outstanding.
Advice for prospective students?
I would suggest that prospective doctoral students pay close attention to the sense of community they find at schools they are considering. A good amount of social science tells us that the people around us make a big difference. HBS has provided me with a warm and engaging community, which has made the transition to graduate school a joy.