Rice Economics Spring 2017 Newsletter - Page 4

Back to the Future: An Interview with Kisoo Kim ’16 Kisoo Kim graduated last year with an MTEC degree and is currently in his first year in the Ph.D. program in economics at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, CA 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 essential insights Are there other things that you would recommend that our students do to prepare themselves for graduate study in economics? 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 and concisely. 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 economics students New seniors: Heller, Lauren M. Liu, Sijia Ma, Yichuan Zhang, Shiyi New juniors: Deme, Palvasha R. Kim, Seohee Liu, Mengjia Ren, Jenny L. Yu, Tian Current members: Alexander, Alexander J. Bennett, Thomas L. Chen, Zinan Coleman, Reid E. Halm, Abby E. Poh, Hee Zhi Schmidt, Timothy S. Song, Chen Sun, Hanqing Tang, Yimeng Tour, Benaiah Wang, Zhifeng Zhao, Yize Zhang, Yue 4