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Darla Moore School of Business

MAEcon alumna continues analytics work with Federal Reserve Bank in Boston

Jan. 24, 2019

Melissa Gentry (MAEcon ’18), research assistant, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

What do you do?
I’m currently a research assistant for the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston in the New England Public Policy Center.

What was your most influential experience in the MAEcon program?
The thesis track was definitely the most influential for me. It solidified my desire to continue on and pursue my Ph.D. Having independent research experience was also a major bonus when it came time to apply for jobs. I was able to show that I already had the ability to conduct research and that I was passionate about my field.

How did the MAEcon program help you succeed?
The MAEcon program gave me a solid theoretical background that I can use every day as I research public policy. Pursuing the thesis track gave me an incredible opportunity to hone my research skills and learn more about a topic in economics I’m passionate about.
Additionally, the Office of Career Management workshops provided resources for establishing my brand and valuable preparation for interviews.

How do you use your degree day-to-day in your job now?
Day-to-day in my job, I use the theoretical frameworks that we learn in macro and micro to understand public policy economics issues. These classes teach you theory as well as how to approach the world with a different frame of thought. For example, when I am looking at employment or wage trends in New England, I am able to draw on some of the theory that we covered in class to understand the underlying factors that might be driving the patterns.

Additionally, a good portion of my job entails data analytics, so the work I did in econometrics is relevant every single day. I am constantly looking for data series that could be useful for research projects and incorporating those series into our data for analysis.

What was the most valuable or useful thing you learned through the program?
The most useful tools from my time in the program are Stata and R programming. In every interview I had, one of the main things employers wanted to see is data analytic skills. It’s really helpful if you treat your assignments not just as a chance to learn your class material but also as a way to become more familiar with the software.

What is your fondest memory of the Moore School?
One of my fondest memories is finishing and defending my thesis on geographic-specific poverty thresholds. I loved getting to research a topic that I was interested in and working closely with McKinley Blackburn as my thesis chair was a great opportunity. Throughout that process, I grew as a researcher and as a future economist. The feeling when you are finally able to present and receive feedback on your research is second-to-none!

Side note: If you are interested in pursuing a higher degree in economics — DO A THESIS! You’ll learn more about your research style and you’ll begin to hone in on the specific fields in economics that interest you.

Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
One thing I wanted to mention was how valuable the certificate in applied statistics was for me. I loved that I was able to earn the certificate without needing to extend my time in school — it just required being selective when choosing electives for the program. When applying for jobs (or looking ahead at Ph.D. programs), any kind of additional statistics work is incredibly meaningful as a way to signal that you will be a fantastic candidate.

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