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Deborah Kim

PhD Candidate in the Department of Economics

Deborah Kim

I feel excited and fulfilled when I discover opportunities to apply the tools I've developed to assist researchers or when I encounter problems where I can make contributions.”

Deborah Kim is a PhD candidate in the Department of Economics in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. Her research interests lie broadly in econometrics, and she is currently working on testing for sign agreements. 

How would you describe your research and/or work to a non-academic audience?
I study and develop statistical tools that help researchers make precise decisions based on data. Researchers often seek to understand the state of nature by examining questions through a lens of data such as “Does political partisanship hinder objective interpretation of gun-violence data?” or “Do microfinance programs benefit all participants?” However, answers to these questions may vary depending on the quality of including factors such as size and noise as the data only contains partial information of that nature. The statistical models that I study offer answers with probabilities that account for the data's quality.

What have been some of the most memorable twists and turns of your career?
The guidance and support of exceptional advisers have played a pivotal role in shaping my career trajectory. One significant turning point occurred when I took a class taught by my former adviser, Yoon-Jae Whang. This experience prompted a shift in my focus from engineering to pursuing a master's degree in economics, paving the way for a new direction. During my PhD journey at Northwestern, another remarkable shift took place thanks to my current adviser, Ivan Canay. His remarkable assistance and encouragement in my research process as well as watching him enjoy the research naturally led me to pursue a career in econometrics. 

Why Northwestern?
Northwestern University is one of the few universities with a large community of students and faculty dedicated to the study of econometrics. More importantly, we have an inclusive and collaborative environment that fosters the sharing and exchange of research ideas, not only among peers but also with esteemed faculty members. I can’t think a better place to study econometrics as a PhD student.

What inspires you?
At the beginning of my PhD, I found the nature of problem-solving to be the most inspiring. Constructing statistical models based on intuitive insights and validating them through theory was as enjoyable as playing chess. However, nowadays, I find myself more motivated by the practical aspects of problems. I feel excited and fulfilled when I discover opportunities to apply the tools I've developed to assist researchers or when I encounter problems where I can make contributions.

What did you originally want to be when you grew up?
Ever since I was a child, my dream was to become an astronomer. Even today, discovering random facts about the universe or diving into related books still gives me goosebumps. But I'm also grateful that my path eventually led me to become a researcher, where I can study or help uncovering fascinating truths about our world.

Published: October 17, 2023

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