Serena Goldberg was attracted to Hopkins because of the unparalleled research opportunities it offers. As a Woodrow Wilson Undergraduate Research Fellow, she had guaranteed funding for a research project. “I heard from several students about how accessible research at Hopkins is for undergraduates. The students also seemed very friendly and passionate about their respective areas. I felt like I would fit in well at Hopkins.”
Serena triple majored in economics, mathematics, and applied mathematics & statistics. She explains her major choices this way: “Throughout high school, I was very interested in a range of policy issues, particularly how policy can be used to improve the lives of the disadvantaged. I participated in debate and Model United Nations in high school which helped me explore these interests. Economics takes the scientific rigor I enjoyed in my math and science classes and applies it to these kinds of policy questions.”
Serena’s first elective economics course was Economics of Discrimination. “This really gave me my first taste of how economics grapples with pressing questions, such as why the gender pay gap exists, and piqued my interest in pursuing economics more seriously. Another memorable experience was taking a class with Professor Papageorge. “I was pushed to read economic papers more critically. I learned how to think analytically about what mechanisms drive individual behavior and how to model that.”
Extracurriculars were an important element of Serena’s Hopkins experience. She was a founding member and Chair of the Economic Policy Issues Colloquium (EPIC) , an undergraduate group that holds seminars on policy issues from diverse perspectives. She was also Secretary General of the Johns Hopkins Model United Nations Conference, leading a staff of 500 members in hosting a conference for over 1,800 high schoolers. Serena also served as head teaching assistant for Mathematical Game Theory, teaching assistant for Econometrics, Learning Den tutor for Elements of Micro and Micro Theory, and various levels of Calculus and Statistics, and PILOT (Peer-Led Team Learning) Leader for Elements of Micro and Linear Algebra, experiences that not only gave her teaching experience but also helped consolidate her own knowledge.
With the guidance of Professor Papageorge, Serena wrote a senior thesis on the intersection of gender and income in health decision-making during COVID-19. “I had originally planned working on a completely different project, but COVID-19 made that impossible to pursue. Paradoxically, COVID gave me the opportunity to research a relevant topic and develop my interest in the economics of health behaviors.”
Serena’s passion for economics will continue at Yale, where she will pursue a PhD in the field.
“I want to learn more modeling techniques and to continue to conduct research on human capital topics, particularly how decision making varies by gender, income, and race. Ultimately, I hope to become an academic economist because I love research!”
Serena has lots of advice for students considering economics as a major. “Try out research! Many professors are looking for research assistants and even if you end up not pursuing research as a career, it is the best way to learn both economics and skills (data analysis, project management, thinking creatively) that are applicable in a range of contexts. Come to EPIC events! They’re a great opportunity to learn about current research, and meet other students and professors in a more casual setting. Don’t be too afraid of math–it’s all about practice and exposure!”