I am applying to the University's doctoral program in economics in pursuit of a career in academic research. I entered economics research because I enjoy modeling real-world situations with math. This interest was confirmed by my research, which included projects on mortgages, optimal surveys, and consumer savings. These research experiences also led me to discover that I enjoy theory work, especially theory fields that see wide use in empirical research, fields like game theory and mechanism design. My interest in game theory and behavioral economics recently led me to explore the subfield of learning in games, in which I have a few research ideas.
I entered economics research because I enjoy the process of modeling social situations, the process of looking at an economic phenomenon, thinking about the key empirical factors, and making the correct variable and structural choices to generate a tractable model that explains the situation. For example, one project I worked on for Professor John Jonson involved finding a formula that gave the best time to refinance mortgages. In this project, I enjoyed contemplating the various tradeoffs between simplicity and richness that went into the model design. Should we model interest rates as mean-reverting, or is a simple random walk sufficiently approximate? Should we be precise and model mortgage amortization time, or should we avoid an extra state variable and instead just use a time-stationary hazard rate? These tradeoffs were interesting to think about, and existed in all projects: for example, my work on optimal surveys required careful consideration of response interaction complexity. Overall, my research work confirmed my interest in economic model building.
In doing research work, I also began to discover a new interest in economic theory, especially in theory work that is heavily used by empirical economics. For the mortgage-refinancing project, my major personal contribution was finding a closed-form solution for the refinancing formula. I discovered that I enjoy carefully thinking about the highly mathematical parts of the problem, as the existence conditions for the formula’s solutions or the analytic details of the bellman equations. Similarly, I enjoyed the process of finding mathematical insights in my optimal survey project. One insight involved using a multidimensional envelope theorem; another insight involved pushing a standard delta-method technique in statistics to infinite cases. In both projects, I was especially satisfied to know these theoretical results advanced practical goals in empirical research. For mortgage research, a closed-form solution significantly advances the paper’s goal of providing a simple formula homeowner can use. For optimal survey research, the math insights led to a method of construction of the best survey possible. The method was put to actual use for a separate journal article on empirical intertemporal discount rates. Through all these projects, I both enjoyed generating mathematical insights and knowing that these theoretical advances have real empirical benefits (college application essay examples 500 words)
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