Congratulations to the winners of the Spring 2017 Research Paper Competition!

Graduate Student Winners:

First Place: Jeffrey Tseng
“Can Medical Students Improve Standardized USMLE Test Scores by Attending and Studying for Class?”
Abstract: The United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1 exam is a high stakes licensing exam, one of several requirements to practice medicine independently in the United States. Students often have high test anxiety and have differing expectations on how to pass the exam and attain high scores. I surveyed 40 medical students to determine their study habits and academic characteristics. Using regression analysis, I found that attending class and studying for class were not correlated with USMLE Step 1 exams scores. Overall, USMLE scores were correlated with student ability and not student effort. Based on the results, student and medical schools should not solely rely on increasing class attendance and studying longer when determining medical school policy for students at-risk of failing the USMLE or for students who actually fail the USMLE. Offering review classes or other methods that increase a student’s study time are not likely to significantly improve scores.

Second Place: Veronica Jimenez
“Can Anarchy and the State Coexist? An Analysis of Mexico”
Abstract: This paper examines how heterogeneous groups that operate under different
formal and informal systems of governance within Mexico are able to trade, enforce law,
and assign property rights. This observation is contrary to what most literature says about
the state; specifically, the literature states that it is unlikely that different governing
bodies can exist simultaneously over time and space. Therefore, over time you will see
one formal centralized state of governance. The goal of this paper is to examine whether
the literature matches the reality of the Mexican state. I will make a case that Mexico
contradicts what theory or doctrine tells us. I also make a case for why I believe that both a State and anarchic communities exist simultaneously in present-day Mexico.

Third Place: Randy Avalos
“NYISO Transmission Congestion Contract Abnormal Returns: Symptoms of Inefficient Market Design”
Abstract: The monthly Transmission Congestion Contract (TCC) market setup by the NYISO is an inefficient market that produces harm upon rate-payers who live under the NYISO’s grid. The market was setup as a means to allow wholesale suppliers of energy to hedge the congestion risks of their contracts within the wholesale energy market. This regulated market has cost New York rate payers over $105 million between 2010 and 2016. In an efficiently functioning market the average TCC returns would equal the average market returns plus a risk premium. However, abnormal rates of return are found present in the NYISO monthly TCC market. 40% of the monthly TCC paths, 1,431, returns are measured with GARCH models to control conditional volatility. On average the returns are positive. The abnormal rates of return are indicative of systemic problems with the market structure.

Undergraduate Student Winners:

First Place: Amar Pal
“Should Downtown San Francisco Implement a Congestion Pricing System Similar to London’s?”
Abstract: In this paper, I analyze the results of congestion pricing in London and determine if a similar system could apply to a city such as San Francisco in the downtown region, which like London, has a very dense population near the city center. Through a case study format, I evaluate if the congestion pricing systems that London implemented had a significant role in averting their issues of congestion and examine if San Francisco can benefit from a similar system. To answer the research question, San Francisco should implement a congestion pricing system, but it should not be similar to that of London’s. It should take the key aspects from London’s, such as the exemptions for certain groups – like taxi drivers, local residents or disabled people – to solve the question for those wondering about the normative economics of the issue. But when it comes to pricing, it should be more like Singapore where drivers are not charged a flat fee, but instead charged by the type of vehicle driven.

Second Place: Cassandra Denis
“The Correlation between the Rate of Unemployment and the Rate of Total Crime”
Abstract: The purpose of this analysis is to test if there is a correlation between unemployment rates and crime rates in a given county. The hypothesis being tested is based on the assumption that there is a correlation between unemployment rates and crime rates. The rationale for this assumption is that unemployment may eventually cause a person to not be able to sustain a living. Therefore, a sudden loss in income will probably drive a person to commit crime in order to survive. The regression analysis is measured using the method of panel data with fixed-effect models to determine the relationship between increasing unemployment rates and the rate of crime.

Third Place: Sherwin Vassigh and Austin Carnathan
“Regression Analysis of Team Success in Basebal: The Impact of Salary Expenditures on Measures of Team Success”
Abstract: In this paper, we aim to clarify the relationship between certain individual and team statistics with the continuing success of a franchise, especially as it pertains to its expenditures on player wages. With the field being so heavily saturated with brilliant analysis, we have chosen this particular dual-pronged approach to our analysis. We aim to justify the massively inflated payroll budgets of certain teams -- historically, the NY Yankees and the LA Dodgers – by comparing team’s payroll figure to our benchmark of success.

Next deadline is October 31, 2017. For more information see our Research Opportunities page.