Undergraduate Profiles

Serena Goldberg ’21

Serena Goldberg ’21

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!”

Jeremy Costin ’21

Jeremy Costin ’21

Why did Jeremy Costin choose to study at Hopkins? “It checked off all the boxes for me. It was close to home (Westchester County, New York) but not too close to home. It has a campus and lots of green space, but is located in a city. Hopkins also offers a lot of academic flexibility, great for someone who, like me, was unsure what he wanted to major in. I also visited Hopkins twice and loved the campus and the students I interacted with.”

Ultimately Jeremy decided to major in both economics and public health studies.

“After completing Professor Hamilton’s Elements of Microeconomics course, I wanted to understand key concepts and the math behind them in more depth. I took Microeconomic Theory and my love for economics (specifically microeconomics) grew from there. I also find that economics is a good complement to a degree in public health. Economic tools and applications are highly relevant to improving health outcomes. I felt I could be a more complete public health professional if I learned those analytical skills.”

Jeremy particularly recommends Professor Fernandez’ class in Market Design. “The skills learned in that class apply to many unconventional markets such as vaccination distribution during COVID, roommate assignments at JHU, and so much more. It showed me how ineffective many markets are and how we can make them better. I also really loved working on my final paper in Nick Papageorge’s Sex, Drugs and Dynamic Optimization class. I researched the question of why many people decided to start drinking alcohol during the COVID-19 pandemic and realized that public health professionals need incorporate their models less obvious health determinants, such as the effect of social isolation on risky behaviors. More broadly, I took away from economics the idea that the impact of an initiative depends on people at the margins. There are always people who stick to their side no matter what, but a policy such as implementing the COVID vaccine can depend crucially on getting people at the margins to flip.”

In the summer after his sophomore year, Jeremy had the experience of living in a rural village in Uganda where he worked with a cross-national team educating community members on various public health topics including family planning, sanitation, HIV/STDs and malaria.  

Back in Baltimore, he was very involved with Jewish life at Hopkins, as well as the Center for Social Concern and the Life Design Lab, creating resources for students trying to pursue health careers.

After graduation, Jeremy will be pursuing a masters’ in health sciences with a focus on global health economics at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. “I want to pursue a public health degree that will allow me to use and expand the economic skills and public health knowledge I have learned as an undergraduate, thus opening up multiple career opportunities.”

Advice for majors? “Economics is broader than you think: there are many different focus areas apart from finance. Take classes you are going to enjoy and that will expand your horizons. I especially recommend taking classes with professors Moffitt, Morgan and Papageorge. But, whatever classes you take, reach out to your professors and you will find they are really great people who can help you on your career path.”

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!”

Abigail Biesman ’18

Abigail Biesman ’18

Hailing from Nashville, Tennessee, Abigail Biesman was initially undecided as to her Hopkins major: “I was attracted to the warm student body, the strong humanities and social science departments, and, as many classes are small, the opportunity to build relationships with my professors.” Abigail ended up double majoring in International Studies and Economics.  “Prior to attending Hopkins, I had very little exposure to economics, and actually only took it because it was a requirement for International Studies. After taking the introductory courses, I realized that economics could help me understand major crises and current issues. I wanted to learn more about decision-making and the allocation of resources to better inform my opinions on financial markets and public policy, and so I declared a double major.”

Abigail’s most memorable class?  “Sex, Drugs, and Dynamic Optimization: The Economics of Risky Behavior,” a behavioral economics class taught by Prof. Papageorge: “Professor Papageorge pushed us to use precise language and understand fundamental economic principles so that by the end of the semester we could read an economics article and critique the model and assumptions behind it. For our final paper, we each had to model a dynamic decision, and then propose policy solutions.”  Professor Papageorge also advised Abigail’s senior thesis on Women in Economics: “Female voices are important in economics both for policy decisions and gender equality, and there are steps that can be taken to make economics a more inviting field for women.”

Extra-curricular activities were an important part of Abigail’s Hopkins experience. She held positions of increasing responsibility as Staff Writer, News Editor, Chief Business Officer and Alumni Manager at the Newsletter, the campus paper. She joined the Milton S. Eisenhower Symposium staff sophomore year, and served as finance chair for the 2017 symposium. Hopkins Hillel was a home away from home during college.

Abigail interned at Citigroup in the summer after her junior year, where she learned how debt, equity, and foreign exchange markets operate, and precisely how these markets respond to economic events. After graduation, she will be working as an Investment Banking Analyst at Stifel in New York City.   But, says Abigail: “I am not sure what I ultimately want to pursue. I will see where my job takes me!”

What advice does Abigail have for potential Economics majors?

“I suggest taking a diverse set of economics courses so that you expose yourself to many areas of study.  Economics is not just a channel to Wall Street! There are many fields of study such as labor, behavioral, and health economics, to name a few. These disciplines are applicable to a variety of career paths such as consulting, academia, think-tanks, and more. So, you should still consider economics even if you are not interested in finance!”

We could not agree more, Abigail!

Taiwoadetayo “Blossom” Ogunyinka ‘19

Taiwoadetayo “Blossom” Ogunyinka ‘19

Blossom Ogunyinka, majoring in Economics and Public Health, and minoring in Entrepreneurship and Management, is Nigerian-American.

What type of economics courses appealed to Blossom?   The applied economics courses were the most fun, because I was able to see the real-world utility of economics as it pertained to human behavior, and its social implications.  And so, I fell in love with economics.”

Blossom seized the opportunity to study abroad in Tel Aviv, Israel for a coding fellowship where she learned many valuable skills that have proved helpful to her in both the academic and professional world.

Blossom is treasurer of the National Society of Black Engineers, and a member of SCNO – Students Consulting for Nonprofit Organizations.  She chills out as one of the first members of the JHU step team.

What about internships? These have included positions in finance (Aetna) and consulting (Accenture). But Blossom is not sure of her future path – maybe a master’s degree?  “I hope to potentially pursue a career in consulting. This is because consulting is so versatile and allows me to combine many interests at once.”

Good luck Blossom, in your future career! (p.s. thanks a bunch for your tech help in class).

Nakarit “Nak” Devahastin Suthapreda ‘18

Nakarit “Nak” Devahastin Suthapreda ‘18

Nak Suthapreda grew up in Bangkok, Thailand and moved to the United States at age 18 to pursue undergraduate studies.  He initially studied in Boston, but transferred to Hopkins at the beginning of his junior year because of the numerous macro/finance electives offered by the Hopkins Economics Department.  He ended up majoring in Economics and minoring in Financial Economics.

Why did Nak choose to major in Economics? “I studied Economics because of how essential it is in our everyday life. I am fascinated by the connectedness of markets and how policy decisions in the United States influence markets in other continents, and vice versa.”

Still, Nak’s most memorable class was a labor economics course, Economics of Discrimination taught by Professor Morgan. “The structure and content of the course were unique. We were asked to read research papers and write short responses summarizing and analyzing the points in each paper. We exchanged ideas with about the research with our classmates. Given the diverse backgrounds of students at Hopkins we were able to hear contrasting views.”

Nak wrote his Senior Honors Thesis on Thailand’s Optimal Investment Portfolio with Professor Greg Duffee.  The topic was inspired by his internship at the Bank of Thailand. “The Senior Honors Thesis was a challenging, yet rewarding journey. It was challenging because of the freedom in conducting our investigation. However, Professor Duffee was integral in guiding me through my exploration. I was able to apply the theories I learned from my courses at Hopkins to assist Bank of Thailand in forming monetary and capital outflow policies for Thailand.”

Outside the classroom, Nak introduced the Global Economic Awareness (GEA) Profit, a Boston based non-profit to Hopkins students. “We recruited JHU Economics students to become GEA Leaders and lead Economics workshops taught to students in developing countries to foster economic literacy worldwide. So far there have been nine GEA Workshops hosted worldwide since 2016.”

After graduation, Nak will be going to graduate school to complete an MSc degree in Data Science at Brown University.  He plans initially to work in the United States as an Economist/Data Scientist but will ultimately move back home to Thailand. “I want to use my knowledge and experience to help underserved communities in Thailand and provide them with the necessary means, education, and opportunity for them and their families to have a fighting chance in our society. “

Final thoughts?

“Thank you to Professor Greg Duffee for guiding me through my Senior Honors Thesis. Thank you to Professor Barbara Morgan for enlightening me about the presence of discrimination in our society. And thank you to Professor John Driscoll, Professor Yuya Takahashi, and Professor Bruce Hamilton for making my journey at Hopkins a challenging, yet fulfilling one.”

Nak, it has been a pleasure to get to know you, keep in touch.

Gabriel Kabarriti ‘18

Gabriel Kabarriti ‘18

Gabriel Kabarriti selected to study at Johns Hopkins because of its reputation as a leading medical research institute. “After being accepted, I quickly filled my schedule to include classes that would allow me to excel in research by learning the basics such as biology and chemistry. I also filled my schedule with classes, such as economics, that would expand my knowledge and worldviews.”

Gabriel enjoyed introductory macroeconomics with Professor Robert Barbera and his discussions about the role of the Federal Reserve. Barbera emphasized decision-making:  “I was so intrigued by this concept that I continued to study economics and learn more about how people make decisions, as well as how these decisions related to medicine.”

Later, Gabriel conducted economic research with Dr. Antonio Trujillo at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. “We investigated how mergers in the pharmaceutical industry have affected prices that patient’s face at the counter, to help form policies that would ensure that patients are treated fairly. All in all, majoring in economics was the best decision I have made since coming to Hopkins, as it allowed me to gain additional insight to the world as well as pursue medicine.”

At Hopkins, Gabriel was involved in many extra-curricular activities ranging from Tamid, which teaches student about the Israeli and American economies, to volunteering in Thread, a local non-profit that fosters academic advancement for underperforming students, to running events like Arts For Hearts. The list goes on “Hopkins truly allowed me to join many clubs and thereby expand my interests.”

Do you have any advice for potential Economics majors?

“My advice to potential economics major would be take a class in economics just to see what it is like because I did not believe I would major in economics before coming to Hopkins. If you find it interesting, pursue the major and enjoy it; you never know where it may lead you.”

After graduation, Gabriel will be working at Johns Hopkins Hospital as a program coordinator, using “analytical methods I gained from my economics major to increase the efficiency of hospital programs.”  That sounds like a great goal, Gabriel!

Zachary Shelley ‘18

Zachary Shelley ‘18

Hailing from Maryland, Zachary chose to study a Hopkins because: “ It came down to financial aid and general academic rigor. None of the other universities that I was admitted to offered as excellent an academic program or made it as affordable as Hopkins did.”

Zachary majored in Economics, and also took a substantial load of political science courses.

“Economics, and particularly microeconomics, were attractive to me because they provide a framework to understand behavior that is testable and can be used to study such a wide range of topics.”

Zachary particularly enjoyed Economics of Discrimination with Professor Morgan. “This provided an excellent introduction to using economics for analyzing social policy and was the course that sealed my plan to major only in economics instead of double-majoring with political science. Both of Professor Papageorge’s upper-level classes (Social Policy Implications of Behavioral Economics and Sex, Drugs and Dynamic Optimization) were excellent ways to interact with economics research and fostered the most engaging conversations I had in any course.”

Zachary spent a semester in DC through the Aitchison Fellowship, which engaged a cohort of students in a rigorous load of public policy courses and internships at the same time. That experience both working and learning in DC, along with the mentoring I received during that semester, was key to me finding the areas of public policy that I was most interested in.

Zachary pursued these interests by writing a thesis under Professor Papageorge on the impact of health shocks on drug use and participation in the market for sex work.  It had a big impact: “I was interested in a legal career when I came into Hopkins, but my experience with economic research has opened the potential for a career as an academic researcher. To explore these career paths, I will be working in Los Angeles as an economic analyst at a legal consulting firm.”

Advice for potential majors?

“The economics major is open-ended and there are a variety of interests you can pursue within the major. Whatever your initial interests are, you should strive to get into upper-level courses in that area and get engaged with those professors quickly. That’s how you can tell if you are actually interested in a subject area and also how you will open up opportunities for yourself. Make sure to put yourself out there and get engaged early! The Social Policy Minor, Aitchison Fellowship, and financial research with professors are a few of the great opportunities that abound if you seek them out.”

Samuel Jackson ‘18

Samuel Jackson ‘18

Sam Jackson was born in San Diego, grew up in Dallas and decided to enroll in college at Hopkins because of its “diversity of thought, and flexibility of academic studies, as well as prestige.”

Sam loved economics ever since his first economics course in high school. “It teaches you a different way of thinking and, when combined with another discipline like international studies, it becomes an extremely powerful tool with which you can view the world. “

An all-time favorite course was Bob Barbera’s Macroeconomic Forecasting class: “It’s extremely current and puts you in the shoes of the world’s most important economic policy makers. Sasaki’s Big Data, Karni’s Information and Uncertainty, Papageorge’s Sex and Drugs and Dasgupta’s Rich Countries Poor Countries classes are all highlights as well.”  Overall: “Economics teaches you a new way to view and analyze the world, using powerful tools like econometrics and game theory.”

Sam continued his shared interests with Professor Barbara by writing a senior thesis on “The Changing Economics of Non-Renewable Resources and Demand Expectations.” “This was  an amazing experience that  gave me the opportunity to explore a new subject and engage in building my own economic forecast which I then had to defend and enhance over a period of months.“

Sam studied abroad in Hangzhou, China, just two hours out of Shanghai, in a language-intensive program focusing on the developing financial markets of East Asia. He spent each summer of his college career doing an internship, first with a wealth manager from his home town, then in Private Equity with The Blackstone Group and Data Science with Bloomberg LP in NYC.

After graduation, Sam will be working as a consultant for McKinsey & Co.

Sam, do you have any advice for potential Economics majors?

“When you have a lecture… go to it. When you have office hours… go to them. The entry level professors are extremely interesting and knowledgeable. It is much easier to learn from them rather than a textbook especially in the early years and they have the added benefit of being super helpful”

Wen Wen Teh ‘18

Wen Wen Teh ‘18

Wen Wen was born and raised in a suburb of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and chose to study at Hopkins because she was originally interested in Neuroscience.  She then added the Economics major, attracted to the idea that the discipline provides a good framework for studying human behavior and decision-making.  Wen Wen particularly enjoyed Economics of Health taught by Dr. Bishai. “The class had a good blend of theory and application and provided me insight into the economics perspective of the healthcare system. I grew to appreciate how widely applicable the skills and theories of economics are.”

Wen Wen was co-president of the Chinese Students Association as well as secretary of Omega Psi, the Cognitive Science Undergraduate Society. She was involved in the International Student Ambassador Program, and also volunteered as part of the Refugee Action Project and with Charm City Care Connection.

Wen Wen pursued a range of internships, including working with the International Rescue Committee to provide assistance to refugees and asylees in identifying and meeting their employment needs.  In summer of her junior year, she worked with a professor from the Bloomberg School of Public Health and assisted with projects in Vietnam that focused on the psychological impact of injuries.  This was followed up by an internship at a public policy think tank in Malaysia where she witnessed first hand the election resulting in a change in government for the first time in 60 years. Says Wen Wen: “It was really exciting to think that the work I do can impact policy decisions in this historic time.”

Wen Wen is currently pursuing an MA in International and Development Economics at Yale University. Ultimately, she hopes to pursue a career in international development, with a specific focus on health issues. “I believe that there is much potential in developing economies and I would like to contribute, be it in my home country of Malaysia or any other developing nation. “

Do you have any advice for potential Economics majors?

“Take the relevant math classes sooner rather than later.” Sage advice, Wen Wen.