When Serena Ren presented her senior thesis on using machine learning for art appraisals last month, she hoped to see her friend, Joyce Luo, present her thesis on fighting opioid addiction. But since all students in the Department of Operations Research and Financial Engineering present their theses in parallel sessions, this was impossible.
But on May 4, Ren and Luo finally got to see each other’s presentations in a classroom in Sherrerd Hall, thanks to the department’s first-ever event in which selected students present their thesis work to the whole department.
Faculty chose eight ORFE students to highlight based on features including creativity, mathematical depth and data analysis.
“I’ve been wanting to do this for about 22 years,” department Chair Ronnie Sircar said, noting that the university valedictorians for the classes of 2020 (Nicholas Johnson) and 2021 (Taishi Nakase) were ORFE majors — thesis presentations that many of the faculty had to miss. “I’ve always regretted not getting to see their senior thesis presentations.”
Indeed, faculty from the department were well represented at the event, eagerly asking follow-up questions at the conclusion of each presentation.
Isabelle Grosgogeat, a student of Assistant Professor Ludovic Tangpi, presented her thesis about the challenges experienced by businesses owned by women and underrepresented minorities. According to her research, these businesses tended to set lower fundraising goals than their peers, but then tended to achieve those goals at the same rate as their peers.
Her research showed the “implicit and structural biases from their investors,” Grosgogeat said. Although woman-and-minority-owned firms have access to startup capital from emerging-owner programs, when their business reaches a certain size, they are competing with everyone else for the same financial backing, she said.
And investors, unfortunately, tend to see these businesses as riskier investments, she said, saying their mindset is, “I want to invest in what I know. And what I know is a white firm that I’ve seen succeed in the past.”
Caroline Noonan, a student of Rene Carmona, the Paul M. Wythes ’55 Professor of Engineering and Finance, spoke about her thesis on the impact of carbon pricing on greenhouse gas emissions. She studied the effects of a 2014 cap-and-trade program on emissions in California.
Her research found that as the price of carbon increases, emissions tend to fall, but only up to a certain point. After that, despite the added cost of carbon, emissions stop dropping, she said.
Other presenters on Wednesday included Mitchell Stroebel, who studied advanced basketball statistics; Jack Woll, who studied pairs trading and volatility; Andre Yin, who studied equity trading strategies based on analyzing macroeconomic events; and Hari Ramakrishnan, whose thesis was entitled, “Lighting up dark pools.”