Back to the Future: An Interview with Kisoo Kim ’16
year with an
and is currently
in his first year
in the Ph.D.
How have you enjoyed your first year at
Caltech? What can you tell prospective
students about the first year of
economics graduate school??
It has been six months since I began the
Ph.D. program last September. The first
year has been tough so far and I expect
it will be getting even tougher as we
get closer to the preliminary exams in
June. I am accumulating a wide range
of knowledge at an extremely fast pace.
Sometimes it is demanding both physically
and emotionally, but at the same time I find
it very satisfying as I am on my way to
becoming a professional economist.
How did your classes at Rice as well as
your overall student experience help
prepare you for graduate study? In
what ways do you feel you could have
been better prepared?
The most helpful thing was getting a solid
mathematical background. When I first
became interested in applying for a Ph.D.
program in economics, my advisors told me
to take as many mathematics and analytical
courses as possible so that I could more
easily learn formal economic constructs.
I think that was the correct advice. Many
concepts in economics are defined and
developed mathematically, and to work
with them it is crucial to have the ability to
think analytically and abstractly.
Before joining Rice, I was an undergraduate
in Japan, majoring in business
management. When I first arrived at Rice,
I hadn’t taken much math. I still remember
how much trouble I had the first few days
in Professor Frank Jones’s Calculus course
in the first semester trying to understand
what a vector was. But I ended up taking
many mathematics courses, including
honors calculus, analysis, linear analysis,
topology, statistics, and probability, all of
which are extremely helpful now.
One thing I would like to add is that a large
portion of the sophisticated, advanced
economic theories I am learning now are
fundamentally based on the simple models
and basic intuition that is taught in the
undergraduate economics courses at Rice.
Looking back, I confess that I was fairly
obsessed with getting good grades and
finishing problem sets in college, but now
I think it would have been more helpful if I
had tried to understand those basic theories
more deeply to digest and internalize their
Are there other things that you would
recommend that our students do to
prepare themselves for graduate study
I would recommend taking classes and
participating in extracurricular activities
that can help improve communications
and interpersonal skills. A widespread
misconception among students pursuing an
academic career is that it does not require
as much social ability as other fields.
According to what I have seen thus far,
that is not true. Of course it is of foremost
importance that a successful scholar have
a scientific and analytical mind, but it
is also crucial to be able to effectively
communicate ideas to colleagues and
others. Academics is basically about
searching for new findings and then
presenting them to the public. You will
often be required to express your ideas
and the logic behind them coherently
What are the best features of the
Caltech Ph.D. program?
I have found that the curriculum fits
my academic interests perfectly. I am
particularly interested in the intersection
of economics and politics, especially
on the role of the media in transmitting
information on democratic political
processes and outcomes. In analyzing the
dynamic interaction between economic
agents and political institutions, it is
important to be comfortable with game
theoretic and econometric tools, and
Caltech has many great professors in these
fields. In addition, having many professors
who are interested in my research questions
and willing to work with me has been a
great motivation for me to complete my
first year studies successfully.
How do you like living in beautiful
sunny Southern California?
The first year has been so busy that I
haven’t really enjoyed the beautiful weather
too much. What’s more, the offices for first
year students are in the basement. (I have
to admit it’s not much fun going down the
stairs in the morning, leaving behind the
sunny weather.) My goal this year is to
pass the preliminary exams and make it to
the second floor offices for the fall 2018
semester. Then I will be able to enjoy both
enlightenment and more sunlight! ☺
We welcome eight new
members to Omicron Delta
Epsilon, the international
honor society for
Heller, Lauren M.
Deme, Palvasha R.
Ren, Jenny L.
Alexander, Alexander J.
Bennett, Thomas L.
Coleman, Reid E.
Halm, Abby E.
Poh, Hee Zhi
Schmidt, Timothy S.