UMass economics undergraduates showcase faculty sponsored research at EURA poster session

Monday, December 18, 2017

The UMass Amherst Economics Department, housed in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, held the EURA poster session on December 12, 2017 featuring ten undergraduate research projects from the fall semester. The Economics Undergraduate Research Assistantships (EURA) program engages students in cutting-edge economics research beyond the classroom. Each researcher featured below worked in conjunction with a faculty sponsor to investigate their research questions, gaining valuable experience in the process.

Kenyon Kowalski: “Racial Disparities in Pollution Exposure and Employment at U.S. Industrial Facilities”

Kenyon Kowalski

Kenyon Kowalski ’18 assisted professor Michael Ash with collecting and manipulating data for a paper written by professor James Boyce. The paper studies the effect of pollution from industrial facilities on job opportunities available to minority groups in surrounding communities. Kowalski used the programming software “R” to clearly interpret and present tables and data that involved separating 712 industries into categories and highlighting disparities among minority groups showing that industrial pollution does not create equal job opportunities.

 “The best way to getting assistantships is by talking to professors that you have class with or by looking online to see if they have similar research interests”, says Kowalski. “They like seeing that initiative from students”, he adds.

James Jedras: “The Rise and Fall of Trump's P3 Plan”

James Jedras UMass Amherst

James Jedras ’19, sponsored by Gerald Epstein, focused his research on public-private partnerships (P3s) in the context of infrastructure construction projects. The project analyzes the effect of President Trump’s proposed budget and tax plan on federal and state revenues and infrastructure investment. “It was hard work but a rewarding experience”, says Jedras looking back on the experience.

Cobi Frongillo: “How Should We Price Carbon?”

Cobi Frongillo UMass Amherst 

Cobi Frongillo, a senior majoring in political science and economics assisted professor James Boyce in his work on pricing carbon. “The current price of carbon leads to a 3.5° C increase in global mean temperatures by 2100”, says Frongillo. The project involved looking at current prices and policies around the world and conducting a cost-benefit analysis to determine the ‘optimal’ price of carbon.

“I’ve always been interested in environmental policy”, he says, crediting his interest in the EURA program to a course he took on political economy and the environment taught by professor James Boyce. “It was the best course I’ve taken at UMass”, says Frongillo who hopes to continue working on practical ways of combating climate change through economics and political science.  

His advice for aspiring undergraduate researchers is to talk to professors as “most of them are doing research in the field and are open to research assistants”. “Take advantage of office hours and capitalize on opportunities and relationships here on campus”, he adds.

Stelliana Benson and Rebecca Eige: “Where do Teachers Live?”

Stelliana Benson and Rebecca Eige Umass Amherst

Rebecca Eige and Stelliana Benson’s research focused on where teachers live and how that impacts students specifically in inner-city schools. Using census data and tools like Stata, IPUMS and mapping software, they collected and analyzed data to­­ map residential patterns of teachers in the Boston area­­. Their research will be built on by research assistants who will take up the project next semester.

Eige’s future plans are to attend graduate school to study public health and become a hospital administrator while Benson, on the verge of graduation, is currently applying for jobs.

“We learnt skills like mapping data using ARC, GIS and Stata and these are all skills that we see on graduate school and job applications”, Benson notes.

Oluwatimilehin Iwayemi: “The Role of Land Grabs in Food Security of the Gulf Cooperation Council”

Oluwatimilehin Iwayemi UMass Amherst

Iwayemi’s project studied the role of land grabs in food security in gulf countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and others.

“There are issues with growing food on their own lands since the land is arid” he says which makes it difficult to provide food to their populations. Relying on import strategies to meet food needs became unfeasible after the food crisis in 2008 that saw prices skyrocketing leading to land grabs in the Horn of Africa. This involves African governments selling or leasing local land.

“This led to displacement of people farming the lands for years reducing their standard of living” says Iwayemi. Iwayemi proposes that African countries focus instead on developing small holder agriculture, improving farming techniques and infrastructure that can create a path of sustainable development and also ensure food security in gulf countries by improving production and exports. Ultimately, this would help protect the land and people in African countries.

Iwayemi’s interest in this research topic is the result of a class he took with professor Mwangi wa Githinji on post-independence African development after which he applied for and was awarded the LeBovidge Research Award.

He encourages students who may not be aware of such opportunities to actively seek them out. “Going to lectures alone and listening doesn’t create a big enough knowledge base for you to take into the world”, he notes.

Other projects this semester include:

Tiffany Duong: "Effects of the Single Payer Plan on the Healthcare Sector"
Faculty Sponsor: Gerald Friedman

Ethan Moran: "Capital Requirements: A Higher Equity Requirement for Banks Doesn't Mean Less Lending"
Faculty Sponsor: Douglas Cliggott

Shane McCormack: "Unequal Exchange in International Trade"
Faculty Sponsor: Naoki Yoshihara

Noah Kouchekinia: "Matching Patent Interference Cases to the PATSTAT Database"
Faculty Sponsor: Ina Ganguli