Your background?

“One needs to constantly challenge oneself beyond what seems possible.” This is the motto by which UCIrvine’s doctoral candidate Payel Chowdhury lives.  As an Economics major in the School of Social Sciences and president of UCI’s Associate Graduate Students (AGS), Payel has managed to find a balance between academics, leadership, family and friends. The trick she says is “learning to prioritize and remembering to take the time to focus on the positive as much possible.”

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What did you study?

Payal did her Bachelors and Masters degree in Economics and PhD in Economics, applied econometrics, development economics, industrial organization and labor economics.

Payel came to the United States from India in 2007, and recently completed an M.S. degree in statistics from the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Science (ICS). She hopes to complete her doctoral studies in 2012. It also helps that her husband is obtaining a doctoral degree in Computer Science. “We balance each other on those moments when things get a bit challenging,” she notes.

How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and uncommon career?

Combining her love of economics and statistics, Payel is working to understand how various local factors affect firm survival and corporate investment in R&D in developing countries. Specifically, she builds statistical models to understand how investment is affected by local factors such as property rights, corruption, access to finance and ownership structure. In her last dissertation chapter, she intends to focus on the relationship between womens’ ownership and company performance in the context of informal companies across developing countries. She is working with several World Bank Survey Datasets for Asian and Latin American countries across both formal and informal companies.

Why did you choose UCI? 

“The decision to join UCI’s Department of Economics was primarily based on a strong match with the department’s faculty research interests,” she says. “I was given some great advice while obtaining my Master’s in Philosophy at the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research in India. It was my advisors who encouraged me to look to the U.S. for a community that would challenge me – and at the same time provide me room to grow and assimilate.”

Payel believes it is very important to choose an area of research that one enjoys. “For me, I have a passion for applied statistics and development economics.  Finding a passion, taking good courses and working with good faculty members- it makes all the difference and my experience here at UCI has been rewarding.”