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Calvin Barber, ’21

Calvin Barber, ’21

Calvin Barber chose Hopkins for college because of the opportunities it affords to “learn from and interact with great researchers who care deeply about their chosen fields.” Calvin double majored in biophysics and economics, with a minor in finance.

“I feel economics is an insightful way to understand and interpret the world around us. The tools economics offers can be used to study almost anything. From a young age I enjoyed investing and learning about how financial markets function, but I was also captivated by the social insights that economics researchers draw from all sorts of data. In middle school I read Freakonomics over and over. Levitt and Dubner showed me how creative economics can be, investigating everything from human behavior to policy impacts, albeit with mathematical rigor.”

Calvin’s most memorable classes were “the ones that demystified commonly misunderstood concepts. Professors Duffee and Papageorge were particularly good at this. In his class on Corporate Finance, Professor Duffee analyzed how firms make important financial decisions and respond to government policy. In Professor Papageorge’s class on Social Policy and Behavioral Economics, I gained a much better understanding of which aspects of this popular field are overblown and which make important improvements to economic policy. Overall, economics gave me a framework for evaluating and understanding the world around me.”

Calvin interned at IDEXX laboratories in the Infectious Disease Research and Development Department. “Primarily I analyzed canine blood samples from across the United States to track migrating tick populations. In this position I coded in R daily and honed my data science skills. After junior year I worked with Professor Hwang where I continued learning R in an economic context. As a microeconomist interested in family and gender studies, Professor Hwang taught me a lot about using economics to understand human behavior on a small scale. Additionally, this was my first experience using Python for text mining to study the content contained in thousands of documents and news transcripts.”

Advised by Professor Hwang, Calvin wrote a senior thesis examining the extent to which positive or negative news sentiment influences returns and volatility in American equity markets. He showed that increases in negative news have significant positive impacts on market volatility the following day. “Doing this research for my senior thesis was a great way to lean about both financial economics, and natural language processing, to extract information from hundreds of thousands of news articles.”

After graduation Calvin will be working for JPMorgan Chase as a data scientist, and ultimately hopes to pursue a career in which economics and statistics intersect.

Does Calvin have advice for potential majors? “Take lots of different classes to figure out what excites you and what doesn’t. When you find something you like, engage with the material, read the latest literature, and try to find an opportunity to get involved with some related research. Also, do a thesis!”