Undergraduate Research Spotlight: Gabe Englander
Gabe Englander, a fourth-year a honors economics major from Cincinnati, Ohio, has a very promising future in research. In fact, he has been awarded three separate grants, totaling $23,000, for his current research project on decision-making in the face of uncertainty. This work has applications that range from financial decision-making to cancer research.
Englander decided to pursue economics after a trip in 2012 to the Galapagos Islands. He says the islands provided a compelling example of the power of financial incentives to promote environmental welfare; 97 percent of the islands are closed to human settlement, and environmental laws are effectively enforced.
“In large part, tourism dollars provide the funding and incentive for this admirable level of protection,” said Englander.
He recognized intuitively a key precept of economics: manipulation of incentives can help lead to environmentally and socially beneficial outcomes.
Englander changed his major from English to economics and added minors in mathematics and statistics. These quantitative skills help him do research as an undergraduate and prepare him to succeed in an economics PhD program.
Englander is nothing if not enterprising: he was interested in cap and trade programs, so he googled “cap and trade at OSU.” This led him to Professpr Noah Dormady in the John Glenn School of Public Affairs. They began collaborating on a research project, and in September 2012 they co-authored a paper on the factors influencing demand for carbon offsets in cap and trade programs. Their paper is on track to be published in Journal of Public Policy, a respected peer-reviewed journal.
In fall 2013, Economics Honors Advisor PJ Healy recommended Englander for a new, year-long research-intensive experimental economics course co-taught by Assistant Professors Katherine Coffman and Lucas Coffman. In the course, Englander was paired with Anthony Bradfield, a fourth-year PhD student, to collaborate on the development, design and implementation of an economics experiment over the course of the year.
Bradfield and Englander decided to study the effect of a “grand gesture” --an action that is costly for the sender but beneficial for the receiver-- on improving cooperation, forgiveness and leniency in a buyer-seller game. Over the course of the year, Englander helped develop the experimental design, program the experiment, obtain IRB approval, funding for subject payments from Ohio State’s Behavioral Decision Making Group and run experimental sessions. He is continuing to work with Bradfield and they will be submitting a paper for publication.
For his honors senior thesis, Englander wanted to design an experiment that would use the experimental economics approach to shed light on a real-world environmental decision-making problem. With the help of his thesis advisors, Healy and Katherine Coffman, Englander decided to study how uncertainty about the risks of environmental damage affects the willingness of governments and individuals to spend resources on mitigation and adaptation activities.
After starting to work on the project he realized that the approach could be applied to a decision problem in a completely different domain: how uncertainty about cancer risk affects willingness to pay for cancer research and willingness of individuals to alter their behavior in order to reduce cancer risk. This project garnered $23,000 in grant funding, including a 2014-15 Peletonia Undergraduate Fellowship in the amount of $12,000. He plans to present his thesis research at the Denman Undergraduate Research Forum and submit it for publication.
Englander was drawn to Ohio State by the offer of a four-year full tuition scholarship. His non-academic activities include serving as a mentor in the local Big Brothers Big Sisters program and leading a Zen meditation group at the university. He expects to graduate from Ohio State in spring 2015 with a BS in economics and minors in math and statistics. He plans to pursue a PhD in economics with the goal of becoming a professor of economics.