Quinlan undergraduates land Federal Reserve internships, major grant
By Travis Cornejo | Student reporter
When the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City needed help collecting data for a new data mining software for economic researchers, it turned to five undergraduate Quinlan students.
The work was so successful, Quinlan was awarded a two-year, $207,000 grant by the Arthur P. Sloan Foundation to continue the research efforts on an even larger scale. Assistant Professor Svetlozar Nestorov will serve as the principal investigator.
The team of students— Taytum Grove, Daniel Krapu, John Dwyer, Kelly Bryant, and Sabrina Minhas—was recommended for the summer project by Professor Nenad Jukić. They represented a cross section of students, from freshmen to juniors, with majors including economics, finance, and information systems.
The Technical Aspect
Earlier in 2015, the bank’s Center for the Advancement of Data and Research in Economics (CADRE) began working on timesaving software targeted to economic researchers. When fully developed, the software will create a search function with the ability to analyze economic papers and identify which datasets the research is based on.
Currently, when a researcher is interested in using any particular dataset, there’s no automated method of finding related academic publications. The new software will cut down on the time it takes researchers to search through economic papers.
“Soon, you’ll make one little query and then, ‘Boom!’ You’ve got it. And that’s a big deal for researchers,” said Jukić.
CADRE Associate Director Sandra Cannon, who previously worked with Jukić, reached out to him when she realized the project needed additional help. Her team needed interns to read through and categorize hundreds of economics papers. Their work would form the basis of the search algorithm CADRE was developing.
“The students read through employment-related academic papers and found out ‘How did it use Current Population Survey (CPS) data?’ and recorded their findings,” Jukić said. “And what they did manually, will later be done automatically. There will be a text mining-based software that can eventually perform those searches.”
Results Exceed Expectations
The students moved quickly through the papers, exceeding the Federal Reserve Bank’s expectations.
“We had originally hoped to be able to get through about 350 papers but they succeeded in creating 586 entries for 423 unique papers which gives us sufficient coverage and enough overlap to get a good start on the research work,” Cannon wrote in an email.
She said the project broke new ground in terms of subject matter (categorizing statistical methodologies), approach (applying metadata tags to research articles) and employment practices (remote internships)—making it a “great success.”
“The work done this summer will greatly advance the work done here at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s CADRE to support data-related research,” Cannon said.
And the students considered it a great success as well.
“I gained an in-depth understanding of how data, methodologies, and clear organization contribute to an excellent paper,” said Sabrina Minhas, an economics major. “I am no longer intimidated by lengthy papers or econometric techniques. Now they are a source of motivation and passion for me.”
And according to Kelly Bryant, an economics major, it was a fantastic opportunity to read articles relevant to her interests and work with people passionate about their fields of study.
A Remote Internship
While many Quinlan students spent their summers donning their best business casual for the daily 9-to-5 grind, that wasn’t quite the case for these students. After an “amazing” training session in Kansas City, John Dwyer said the group spent the next six weeks working from home.
“Once we got back, it was just a matter of getting into a rhythm,” Taytum Grove said. “And I started off slow, but then all of a sudden I was doing 10 papers a day. And if I did have questions, the [Federal Reserve] provided plenty of resources.”
Daniel Krapu, an accounting, and information system major, said that knowing the work he did would be used to create an algorithm that would later be applied to 19,000 documents, kept him motivated while working at home.
And it was exactly that sort of thinking that Jukić was banking on.
“I hand picked these five because they were quick studies and had good business fundamentals,” he said. “But I knew they also had the punctuality and attention where they could handle this.”
Grove said it helped that the five were in communication—it kept up a competitive spirit.
“If you’re slacking off, and then you hear that everyone else is way ahead of you, you’re not going to slack off,” said Grove. “Especially because I think we were all the kinds of students who want to be successful. We want to succeed and do a good job.”