MIT Economics fosters close ties between undergraduates and faculty members through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). Students in the UROP program work closely with faculty members and graduate students to bring the technical skills of modern economics to bear on questions of economic importance. The list below is a sampling of some of the current or very recent projects that students have performed:
1. For a project on US agricultural growth, a student helped to streamline a proof of existence and uniqueness of an equilibrium in a model economy and wrote an algorithm in Matlab to compute this equilibrium.
2. A student is working on preparing data from a conditional community block grants program in Indonesia for public release at the Harvard-MIT data center.
3. A student is working on an analysis of the financial and health impacts of offering health insurance in rural India. The project focuses on the effects of a program that links health insurance with microfinance loans in Karnataka.
4. Students worked to input and organize data provided by over 200 school districts in the state of Oregon in order to study how those districts' premium and benefits policies impact employee enrollment in health insurance.
5. A student has been solving theoretical models which elucidate the role of learning in auctions.
6. A student wrote a theoretical model of research and development decisions of pharmaceutical firms.
7. For a project on the extent and causes of international knowledge flows, a student learned to program in SQL, used it to build a data set, and conducted a preliminary analysis of the data in Stata.
8. In a project on the effects of elimination of rent control in Cambridge, a student built a database of all crimes in Cambridge between 1991 and 2005 by type and location. She then implemented a geospatial algorithm to calculate the frequency of crime within certain radii of each residential parcel in Cambridge.
The Economics Department's faculty is equally committed to graduate and undergraduate education.
Senior professors teach introductory microeconomics and macroeconomics courses. The Department’s success in attracting exceptional undergraduates and preparing them for advanced study demonstrates the soundness of this philosophy and the excellence of the program.
Many faculty have written undergraduate and graduate textbooks that are used in colleges and universities around the world. Paul Samuelson first developed his pioneering economics text in an introductory economics course for MIT undergraduates. Rudiger Dornbusch and Stanley Fischer’s intermediate macroeconomics textbook introduced modern macroeconomic analysis to undergraduates and has been translated into many languages. Olivier Blanchard’s text brings state-of-the-art macroeconomic theory and applications to undergraduates, while Jonathan Gruber’s recent textbook does the same in public finance. Joshua Angrist’s recently released Mostly Harmless Econometrics: An Empiricist’s Companion has been widely praised for its integration of theory and practice and appears to be on its way to being a great success.
The undergraduate major in economics begins with a two-semester introductory sequence that explores theoretical and applied topics in microeconomics and macroeconomics. Additional training in microeconomics, macroeconomics, statistics, and econometrics follows. Majors have a choice of additional applied and advanced courses drawn from a menu that includes public economics, industrial organization, government regulation, labor economics, monetary economics, economic theory, economic development, international economics, health economics, the economics of education, and other courses. The level of mathematics mastery among undergraduates allows economics courses to be taught at a high level. The faculty is committed to innovation in the undergraduate curriculum. New courses are constantly being developed to bring insights from recent research into the undergraduate program. Recent or planned innovations include courses on regulatory economics, environmental economics, market design, and empirical financial economics. As part of an MIT-wide initiative on communication skills, the department also offers a course in which students carry out a series of increasingly independent research projects and hone their writing and presentation skills.
The MIT Undergraduate Research Opportunit ies Program (UROP) supplements coursework. UROP projects allow undergraduates to participate in ongoing research in the Department and to meet with faculty members outside of class. They perform tasks such as gathering and analyzing economic data, writing computer programs, checking mathematical calculations, and gathering research materials.
The Undergraduate Economics Association (UEA) provides an informal forum for students to meet and explore various topics with faculty. Sponsored by the faculty, the UEA is run by and for economics majors to address such issues as career planning and current topics in economic policy. Students and faculty also enjoy the relaxed interaction that the UEA provides.
Undergraduate economics majors go on to graduate work and to careers in business,government, finance, consulting, and law. Many become professional economists. Around the world, MIT graduates in economics hold distinguished positions in academia, business, and government. About 20 percent of MIT Economics graduates enter a graduate program in economics or finance. This may be the highest yield of Ph.D. candidates for any undergraduate economics program.
Approximately half of the Department’s graduates choose to gain experience in business, government, consulting, and non-profit organizations before seeking out business and public policy schools for post-graduate study. The number of post-graduates choosing to study law is growing. Use of formal economics in law is likely to strengthen this connection.
Whatever their destinations, undergraduate economics majors acquire essential skills for a wide variety of jobs, an excellent foundation in economics, and an opportunity to meet faculty and fellow students in a challenging intellectual environment. The Department looks forward to providing continued leadership in economics education.
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