Rice Economics Spring 2018 Newsletter - Page 4

Back to the Future : An Interview with Maggie Shi ‘ 16
Back to the Future : An Interview with Maggie Shi ‘ 16
Maggie Shi is a second-year economics PhD student at Columbia University . Her research interests are in public finance and labor economics – interests that were very much influenced by the classes she took at Rice . Maggie was a member of Baker College and majored in Mathematical Economic Analysis and Statistics .
How have you enjoyed your first two years at Columbia ? What can you tell prospective students about economics graduate school ?
I have grown immensely , both academically and as a person . The first year was tough but also incredibly rewarding . As in most economics PhD programs , at Columbia I had to take the “ big three ” core classes – micro , macro , and ( econo ) metrics – and prepare for certifying exams in the summer . While three classes might sound like a breeze … it certainly wasn ’ t ! I probably worked 2-3 times harder than I did as an undergrad . They put you through the ringer so that you understand the models inside and out . This requires understanding every assumption , working through all the details in the mathematical proofs , and fully grasping the intuition . But all that hard work wasn ’ t fruitless . Once I understood the material , ideas and models I had encountered in my undergrad courses at Rice suddenly clicked together . I really started to appreciate the beauty of economics ( am I getting too nerdy here ? Guess that ’ s why I ’ m in grad school !). The first year of grad school also pushes you as a person – I came out of it a lot more self-disciplined and a lot more aware of how to manage stress .
I ’ m now in my second year , which is a lot more relaxed and fun . I ’ m taking really interesting electives in public finance , political economy , education , health economics , and development . I ’ ve enjoyed seeing what is on the research frontier in these classes , and I am planning
on choosing public finance and applied microeconomics as my two fields . I ’ ve also started to dip my toes into empirical work this year , which you don ’ t get to do a lot in first year .
How did your classes at Rice as well as your overall student experience help you prepare for graduate study ? In what ways do you feel you could have been better prepared ?
I think the most important classes that prepared me at Rice were the electives . Yes , math is incredibly important , and so are the basics of micro and macro . But personally , the research and ideas I was exposed to in my electives are what keep me inspired .
Another really important part of my Rice experience was the mentorship I received from professors . While I was applying for PhD programs , they helped me evaluate schools and showed me what I needed to do to improve my chances . Last year , when I felt like there was no way I could master the material , I thought back to all my Rice professors who believed in me , and I pushed on .
Looking back , my only regret is that I didn ’ t work under a professor to get more research experience – many of my classmates had experience as research assistants . So , I am still catching up to them in terms of Stata and data cleaning / management , although I can leverage what I learned from my honors research project in my senior year .
Are there other things that you would recommend that our students do to prepare themselves for graduate studies in economics ?
First , make sure you really want to get an economics PhD . Figure out what people do after getting an econ PhD and what life in a PhD program is like , and see if it lines up with your own preferences . Graduate school is not just five more years of undergrad . If you do the research on grad school and are still interested , then I would recommend reaching out to professors in the department to ask about next steps . This probably includes taking as many math classes as you can , studying for the GRE , maybe taking a course in the ECON grad program , and doing an independent research project in your senior year .
What are the best features of the Columbia PhD program ?
It is a really supportive environment . Of course , I have not personally experienced any other PhD program , so I can ’ t really compare . But I have found that my classmates are really friendly and not competitive at all , which is great when it comes to first year classes and also coauthorship opportunities in the future . Additionally , there are very few limitations on research areas as there are so many professors whose research covers almost any topic you might be interested in and Columbia ’ s economics department doesn ’ t have a reputation for being heavily skewed toward any particular field . There are also a lot of fantastic economists working in Columbia ’ s other graduate schools , like the School of International and Public Affairs , Teachers College , and Columbia Business School .
How do you like living in New York City ?
I love it ! It is really different from Houston – lots of public transportation , walkable neighborhoods , and we get all four seasons ! Columbia is located a bit north of the busiest parts of the city , but it is still in Manhattan . My neighborhood is relatively quiet ( which is good for when you want to focus ), but I still have access to everything New York City has to offer . It is definitely an expensive city for a student living on a grad school stipend , but there are lots of inexpensive and fun things to do . Being a grad student , my hours are flexible enough that I can do things like catch a matinée performance of Hamilton or go to the Met on a Tuesday afternoon when no one else is around . Living in New York City adds a great new dimension to graduate student life .
4
Back to the Future: An Interview with Maggie Shi ‘16 Maggie Shi is a second-year economics PhD student at Columbia University. Her research interests are in public finance and labor economics – interests that were very much influenced by the classes she took at Rice. Maggie was a member of Baker College and majored in Mathematical Economic Analysis and Statistics. How have you enjoyed your first two years at Columbia? What can you tell prospective students about economics graduate school? I have grown immensely, both academically and as a person. The first year was tough but also incredibly rewarding. As in most economics PhD programs, at Columbia I had to take the “big three” core classes – micro, macro, and (econo)metrics – and prepare for certifying exams in the summer. While three classes might sound like a breeze … it certainly wasn’t! I probably worked 2-3 times harder than I did as an undergrad. They put you through the ringer so that you understand the models inside and out. This requires understanding every assumption, working through all the details in the mathematical proofs, and fully grasping the intuition. But all that hard work wasn’t fruitless. Once I understood the material, ideas and models I had encountered in my undergrad courses at Rice suddenly clicked together. I really started to appreciate the beauty of economics (am I getting too nerdy here? Guess that’s why I’m in grad school!). The first year of grad school also pushes you as a person – I came out of it a lot more self-disciplined and a lot more aware of how to manage stress. I’m now in my second year, which is a lot more relaxed and fun. I’m taking really interesting electives in public finance, political economy, education, health economics, and development. I’ve enjoyed seeing what is on the research frontier in these classes, and I am planning on choosing public finance and applied microeconomics as my two fields. I’ve also started to dip my toes into empirical work this year, which you don’t get to do a lot in first year. How did your classes at Rice as well as your overall student experience help you prepare for graduate study? In what ways do you feel you could have been better prepared? I think the most important classes that prepared me at Rice were the electives. Yes, math is incredibly important, and so are the basics of micro and macro. But personally, the research and ideas I was exposed to in my electives are what keep me inspired. Another really important part of my Rice experience was the mentorship I received from professors. While I was applying for PhD programs, they helped me evaluate schools and showed me what I needed to do to improve my chances. Last year, when I felt like there was no way I could master the material, I thought back to all my Rice professors who believed in me, and I pushed on. Looking back, my only regret is that I didn’t work under a professor to get more research experience – many of my classmates had experience as research assistants. So, I am still catching up to them in terms of Stata and data cleaning/ management, although I can leverage what I learned from my honors research project in my senior year. Are there other things that you would recommend that our students do to prepare themselves for graduate studies in economics? First, make sure you really want to get an economics PhD. Figure out what people do after getting an econ PhD and what life in a PhD program is like, and see if it lines up with your own preferences. Graduate school is not just five more years of undergrad. If you do the research on grad school and are still interested, then I would recommend reaching out to professors in the department to ask about next steps. This probably includes taking as many math classes as you can, studying for the GRE, maybe taking a course in the ECON grad program, and doing an independent research project in your senior year. What are the best features of the Columbia PhD program? It is a really supportive environment. Of course, I have not personally experienced any other PhD program, so I can’t really compare. But I have found that my classmates are really friendly and not competitive at all, which is great when it comes to first year classes and also co- authorship opportunities in the future. Additionally, there are very few limitations on research areas as there are so many professors whose research covers almost any topic you might be interested in and Columbia’s economics department doesn’t have a reputation for being heavily skewed toward any particular field. There are also a lot of fantastic economists working in Columbia’s other graduate schools, like the School of International and Public Affairs, Teachers College, and Columbia Business School. How do you like living in New York City? I love it! It is really different from Houston – lots of public transportation, walkable neighborhoods, and we get all four seasons! Columbia is located a bit north of the busiest parts of the city, but it is still in Manhattan. My neighborhood is relatively quiet (which is good for when you want to focus), but I still ٔ)Ѽٕѡ9܁eɬ 䁡́Ѽȸ%)́ѕ䁅ͥٔ䁙ȁՑ)٥Ʌ͍ѥЁѡɔ)ɔ́ͥٔոѡ́Ѽ) ɅՑа䁡́ɔ)᥉՝ѡЁ$ѡ́)эѥəɵ!ѽ)ȁѼѡ5ЁQՕ͑䁅ѕɹ)ݡ͔́ɽչ1٥9)eɬ 䁅́ɕЁ܁ͥѼ)ɅՅєՑЁ(