ExploreEcon celebrates best of student research at 8th Annual Conference

ExploreEcon, the annual undergraduate research conference, celebrated its eighth successful event. The conference, co-organised by CTaLE and the UCL Department of Economics, showcases the best research of UCL Economics students through a variety of competitions, papers, and posters that cover activity both inside and outside the curriculum.

We reflect on the extraordinary event that has been praised for its blended approach. Students were able to choose from different modes of participation that included a video entry for best paper and/or poster, submitting a photo and abstract as part of the EconFrame competition, or apply to present on the Ignite session alongside researchers.

Professor Kathleen Armour, Vice Provost (Education and Student Experience) kicked off the conference with an opening address before giving way to the first session for best paper presentation. Dr Ramin Nassehi enthusiastically hosted the event which included a showcase of the Explore Econ website, a second session for best poster presentations, which lead into the Ignite session, a student-staff panel discussion on Education and Inequalities chaired by Prof Marc Stears (UCL Policy Lab).

Students as active participants in their educational experience

The distinguishing feature of the ExploreEcon conference is its integration of the student perspective from conception to completion. For example, UCL Economics students Ariana Floropoulou and Malini Banerjee were members of the Executive Planning Committee, allowing them to contribute to the organisation of the event. Likewise, the Ignite Session gave UCL Economics Students, Arshiya Sawhney and Benjamin Hentschel, a unique opportunity to present their research alongside leading researchers such as Asma Benhenda (Research Fellow, Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities, IoE) and Sarah Cattan (Associate Director in the Education and Skills sector, IFS). Moreover, the Popular Paper and Popular Poster categories provided peer to peer recognition by encouraging current students to vote for their favourite paper and poster. ExploreEcon organiser, Dr Ramin Nassehi commented:

I was so excited to see a room full of eager students. What made this year’s conference even more special to me was that the students were involved in every stage of its organisation: idea generation, planning, promotion, peer review of submissions and running the live event. We are proudly making Explore Econ a fully student-led conference. I believe Explore Econ’s innovative blended format opens new doors for promoting research-based education, building student-staff relations and empowering students by giving them new modes of expression and presence.

Dr Ramin Nassehi, ExploreEcon Organiser

This year’s prize winners spoke highly of the connection the conference enabled between staff and students beyond the classroom:

Winning the Best Research Poster Award felt amazing. I began this project because I knew so little about economics, and I wanted to learn it on my own terms and in my own way. ExploreEcon facilitates that; a student-centred event where competitors who, like me, are taking their own approach to economics, are celebrated for that. Without that connection between teaching staff and students, I feel like the course and university in general would feel a lot more cold and unwelcoming, with students not being inspired to do things their own way. I’m so grateful that UCL and CTaLE have created the polar opposite atmosphere, and winning this award at the end of the day wasn’t even the main goal. I was just happy to present what I’d done and listen to what others have done and feel inspired to do more. And I will do more – I’ve already got ideas for next year.

Neil Majithia, Winner: Best Poster

They would also encourage future students to take part too:

For me, learning economics is, above all, about developing frameworks and theories that allow answering questions about social interactions in a structured manner. This process involves studying existing models and inventing new ones since many social science questions remain unanswered. Explore Econ is an excellent opportunity to do the latter, and I highly encourage everyone to take advantage of that.

Jakub Terlikowski, Winner: Best Research Paper

Celebrating the year’s work

The event ended with a Reception and Prize-giving by Prof Jennifer Hudson (SHS Dean). Students were able to mingle with other guests over drinks and food. Following the event, CTaLE Director, Professor Parama Chaudhury said:

CTaLE (specifically, our Associate Director, Prof Cloda Jenkins now at Imperial) started Explore Econ in 2015 as a way to encourage students to complement their degree programme with co-curricular research on topics which caught their fancy. Since then, UCL (and Economics) have rolled out a research-based education initiative with independent inquiry built into our programmes. Meanwhile Explore Econ has gone from strength to strength to complement this initiative. This year, we introduced a blended format with an initial online competition and showcase, and an in-person culmination on June 8th. As every year, the topics covered a broad range from effects of migration on the labour market, vaccine distribution, the effect of VAT and intellectual property rights plus an innovative simulator to help students learn the macroeconomic 3-equation model. It was inspiring to see our students expand their horizons, engage with the hot topics of the day and present to an audience of peers and academics – the future of economics is bright!

CTaLE Director, Professor Parama Chaudhury

Full List of winners and Runners Up

Best Research Paper:  

  • Winner: Jakub Terlikowski, Optimal vaccine allocation: modelling population interaction and administrative constraints 
  • Runner-up: Guillaume Marder, What is the potential impact of a uniform VAT rate in Spain, if implemented in a revenue neutral way? (Watch the presentation on YouTube) 

Best Research Poster 

  • Winner: Neil Majithia Neil, The Macroeconomic Simulator with a 3 Equation Model Maker 
  • Runner-up: Adam Horne, For the poster Intellectual Property Rights and Economic Growth: A Complicated Relationship (Watch the YouTube video) 

Popular Paper 

  • Winner: Xingzuo Zhou, Yiang Li, Tianning Zhu, and Xiaoyo Guo, Racial Hate Crime and COVID-19: A Multinomial-choice Study in the US 

Popular Poster 

  • Winner: Gloria Guo and Xueyuan Wang, Does the emerging social media platform promote economic growth in the UK? 

Stone Centre Prize 

  • Winner: Gaurav Khatri, The Effects of Rohingya Refugees from Myanmar on Low-Skilled Wages in the Chittagong Division of Bangladesh 

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