Quinlan Lee is an economics alumni. He worked a year at the Bank of Canada as an RA after graduating from UW. He is now currently a 1st yr PhD Econ student at UofT.
Q: Why did you choose to study economics?
A: I chose to study economics because it’s a discipline at the intersection of social sciences and mathematics. While our goal is to understand human behaviour and decision-making, we also dedicate an extensive amount of effort in representing such choices using quantitative models. Economics is also a diverse field of study with many applications in the real world. As such, economists have constant exposure to new ideas and opportunities to work in a broad range of industries.
Q: What was your favourite economics course at Waterloo? Why?
A: ECON 423 – Time Series Econometrics with Professor Dinghai Xu. Usually courses are either applied or theoretical, but I felt that this one delivered on both. I especially enjoyed writing the final paper and presenting my results to the class. You learn a lot about engaging in research from start to finish – establishing your own research question, gathering the appropriate data, conducing analysis, and communicating your findings to an audience. Furthermore, Professor Xu was a very enthusiastic and friendly instructor, so it made the class enjoyable for everyone!
Q: What did you decide to do after graduation? How is your Economics degree applicable to your field of work?
A: After my undergrad, I worked as a research assistant in the Bank of Canada’s International Model Development Division. I felt like my whole time there was an ongoing test of the knowledge I learned in undergrad. For example, some models of monetary policy at the Bank were more theory founded, so I needed to have good understanding of macroeconomic theory from ECON 306 and ECON 406. I was also asked to build my own econometric models, and the theory that I learned in ECON 423 was especially helpful in completing the task.
Because my goal is to become a professor, I decided to leave the Bank and begin my graduate studies last year. Currently, I’m a PhD student at the University of Toronto.
Q: Tell us about your research interests, particularly research projects you are currently involved with.
A: My primary research interest is in econometric theory. A notable topic I hope to work on is the structural identification of economic shocks. Because shocks cannot be explicitly observed in the data, econometricians have developed ways to uncover their effects by imposing theoretical assumptions in their models. However, there are two ongoing challenges in the current literature: On one hand, regardless of how sophisticated your model is, imposing the wrong assumptions would invalidate any of your results. On the other, some assumptions may be theoretically sound, but difficult to incorporate into the model in practice.
Q: What was the best part about being involved with the Economics Society?
A: Meeting new people! Econ Soc is an excellent way to expand your network and making new friends. Whether you’re going into academia or industry, having strong connections will be a great benefit to your career. Also, the free food at events was nice LOL.
Q: Do you have any special or interesting talents?
A: Not a talent but I’ve had three versions of the WATCARD including the old one with a picture of SLC on it, the 2013 redesign, and the one with the built-in chip.
Q: What would be the best piece of advice you would give to students?
A: If you want to be successful in grad school, its important that you take courses in both calculus and linear algebra. Also, being able to code is a necessity (even in the industry!) and I’d personally suggest learning R and MATLAB.