Meet the 2015 PwC Scholars
May 07, 2015
Shane Murphy, C’17, is originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His interest in public policy stems from his broader interest in issues of social equity and social welfare, and he has always been interested in how economics and public policy can be used to maximize welfare for as many people as possible. Looking for an opportunity to do hands-on public policy research he was able to pursue a Research Assistant position with Professor Cary Coglianese of Penn Law with the assistance of Wharton PPI.
The project explored whether regulatory policy has a significant correlation with the widening income disparity seen in the U.S. over the past 40 years. Shane’s specific contribution to the research was to take a look at data compiled by the Office of Management and Budget about the costs and benefits of regulations and to apply different theoretical distributions to that data. He sought insight into questions of disparity. For example, if all of the costs were born by those in the lower income quintiles and all the benefits were accrued to the top quintile, how could that affect the distribution of wealth and income?
Going forward, Shane would like to continue doing public policy research and will be interning this summer at the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Economic and Risk Analysis in the agency’s corporate finance office. This plays perfectly into his goal of working in economics and public policy after graduation. In addition to this internship, he plans to continue his work with Wonk Tank, the Wharton PPI student association for which he oversees the fiscal and monetary policy team.
Steven Knauer, C’16, originally from Glen Rock, New Jersey, is studying math and computer science with a minor in economics. During his sophomore year, he took several economics courses, including microeconomics, statistics, and econometrics, in which he gained a theoretical understanding of the relationship between policy decisions and the economy. After this high-level overview, he was eager to take a deeper dive into a public policy research topic.
Steven assisted Professor Jonathan Kolstad in the Health Care Management Department at Wharton. The question they were studying pertained to the role that uncertainty plays in a physician’s decision to perform a Caesarean section. Steven was responsible for analyzing data using R, a statistical programming language. Through his work with Professor Kolstad, he acquired new research and programming skills, including various machine learning techniques, such as clustering, random forest, and boosting used in R to analyze data.
Biruk Bekele, C’15, was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and moved to Rockville, Maryland, when he was 6 years old. Biruk entered Penn as a pre-med student, interested in health care and drawn to the field by the potential impact he could have on people’s lives. His experiences at Penn informed his understanding of the health care industry and he realized that he wanted to branch out and explore other aspects of medicine. After working in the biology lab for his first two years at Penn, he decided to apply his economics major to the health care field and engage with public policy research.
Biruk worked with Professors Ashley Swanson and Matthew Grennan on a study looking at whether introducing price transparency for hospitals in the medical device and supply space would help them improve their negotiating power and save costs. Congress has been considering provisions to help hospitals by forcing medical device companies to be more transparent in their product pricing, and this policy debate established the need for additional research. Swanson and Grennan are conducting the first empirical study on the topic.
Next year, Biruk will be working as a consultant at Avalere Health, a health care consulting firm, located in Washington, DC. The experience and skills he gained through the research position have helped to prepare him for this role.