Preetul Sen ’22

Williams College, Department of Economics, Williamstown, MA

This summer, I worked as a research assistant for Dr. Quamrul Ashraf, Professor of Economics at Williams. I was looking for research opportunities that would help me familiarize myself with statistical and econometric tools and gain hands-on research experience in the field of economics. For many undergraduate students like me, the transition from classwork to research is crucial because it gives a more accurate picture of what a career in research looks like and a better direction of all the different paths we can take in our professional endeavors and graduate school. When I discussed my interests and career goals with Professor Ashraf, he recommended that I work with him over the summer for his undergraduate textbook on economic growth. I have a great relationship with Professor Ashraf and he is very familiar with my previous coursework and professional goals and knew exactly what I wanted out of this remote research assistantship position.

I was initially tasked with updating and revising various parts of the internationally recognized undergraduate textbook Economic Growth, which was originally authored by David N. Weil. Professor Ashraf is a co-author for the next edition which will be released for textbook adoptions for the fall semester of 2021. I updated the discussion in various chapters of the textbook to reflect recent developments in the literature on economic growth, comparative development and inequality. I also updated the data presented in numerous charts and scatter plots with the latest available information from various standardized data sets, relevant for illustrating how differences across countries in factor accumulation (physical capital, human capital and natural resources) and technological progress and technology adoption contribute to economic growth.

During the first part of my research assistantship, I worked on mining data on the production of coal and iron in the U.S. and Britain during the Industrial Revolution. I used open data sources to produce time series charts illustrating the rapid increase in coal and iron production in the U.S. and Britain to examine the isomorphic increase in production in both countries. Then, I worked on producing graphs and updated discussions to illustrate the changes to productivity and economic growth for both these countries during and after the Revolution. While looking at technological progress, I also updated discussions on Moore’s law and carried out calculations to check whether Moore’s predictions hold to this day. Next, I worked on chapters on growth accounting and looked at the contributions of factor accumulation and productivity growth on economic growth, and examined real time data to provide insights on which countries rely more heavily on one compared to the other.

I genuinely enjoyed the process of conducting research because it allowed me to think more critically and creatively about the things I learned in a lecture hall. The process of collaborative problem solving really helped me improve my communication and interpersonal skills. I am very grateful for this opportunity and it would not have been possible without the extreme generosity of the Class of 1966 and the ’68 Center for Career Exploration. Because of your kindness, I am one step closer to fulfilling my goal of working as a research professional after graduation!