Explore Econ Student feature: Tien-Jen Kao

We caught up with Explore Econ 2020’s Ignite session winner, Tien-Jen Kao, to chat about her winning presentation and words of wisdom for future Ignite Session applicants.

UCL Economics Conference (Image by Kirsten Holst)

Why did you decide to apply for the Explore Econ 2020 Ignite session?

I wanted to get a better understanding of what a career in academia looked like. Explore Econ’s Ignite session provided a great opportunity to work alongside a professor and understand how they conducted research in their area of interest.


Tell us about your presentation.

I worked alongside Prof. Morten Ravn focusing on macroeconomic policies. There were so many topics to choose from. As the spirit of Ignite is to engage the audience, I went for a more “dramatic” topic – hyperinflation in Bolivia. As Ignite allows for a short and succinct presentation, I didn’t go too deep into the topic but did cover the background on why hyperinflation occurred and how good macro policy can affect society.


What was your experience like working on your research and then presenting at the conference?

It was a fun experience overall especially being able to talk to Morten about his own career journey, his experience in macro policy and how it is an important building block in society. As for presenting at Ignite, it wasn’t like a traditional serious presentation so there were a lot of things I could try out like including bits of humour, which really made the preparation enjoyable. I was initially worried about introducing a topic to attendees who work in macro policy but in the end, I’m glad the audience liked the presentation.


How has participating in Explore Econ helped your studies this year?

Through Ignite, and working with Morten, I got a greater understanding of inflation and how important macro policies are. This new level of interest and understanding helped during the macro course I took this year.


Any tips for fellow students thinking about taking part in Ignite Session this year?

Prepare beforehand – when I got on stage, I was nervous but went into autopilot mode thanks to all the practice. Try to be creative and enjoy the process. Good luck!

Explore Econ 2020 winner, Shivam Gujral, also provides insight into the conference, and his winning poster titled “Direct Benefit Transfers: a way forward to transform the Indian Education system?” in this UCL Economics feature.


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