Lorry Wu, W’23, is concentrating in statistics and finance, and minoring in mathematics. He did the Wharton Summer Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR) virtually from his hometown of Nanjing, China.
Why did you decide to do a research program? What drew you to this particular research topic?
I heard of SPUR when I was a freshman. I have always been eager to explore my research interests and get a taste of life as a graduate student. I did this econometrics project with my advisor Professor Paul Shaman, with whom I have taken two statistics classes, STAT 520 and STAT 521. My research was in fact inspired by a paper we read in STAT 521. The applied econometrics classes introduced me to the thorough methodologies of statistics research. In my project, I use longitudinal and cross-sectional data in the U.S. of 30 years to analyze the factors driving the wage difference across demographics and geography. I also build up a probabilistic model to predict what individuals would seek to search for a new job.
What did you do when you weren’t working on research?
I was abroad when I conducted SPUR during the summer due to COVID-19. I visited many historic sites of China in Nanjing and Suzhou with friends. When I am thinking about research ideas, I usually just sit at a coffee shop for an afternoon.
Why should others do research as undergraduate students?
I feel that undergraduate research in general tends to have a short timespan, which means that it’s more important to wisely narrow down the focus of research. That will allow us to produce some good results within time limits, and we will also be more capable of using the methodologies needed.
What was the most challenging aspect?
SPUR is a serious research opportunity, and I wanted to use long-term data sets from studies run by institutions. Identifying the research focus and selecting appropriate raw data sets for the research was the most challenging part. Choosing and getting around with data sets is very difficult because we no longer have our professors to clean the data set for us in the first place. In a quantitative research setting, sometimes it was important to not just think about what my goal was in the first place. It is also important to think about what I can do with the data set, or what questions I discover along with my work.
What advice would you give others who are thinking about doing a research program?
SPUR is a good full-time commitment for the summer. If you like the possibility of pursuing graduate studies after college, this is a terrific opportunity. A bit of a downside is that for the summer you do SPUR (my sophomore summer), you wouldn’t be able to do any full-time internships. However, I think this intellectual research experience is definitely worth it overall.