When you were a child, what was your response to this question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
A professional gamer. Video games have always been an integral part of my life, enhancing my ability to think quickly and in the abstract. I was the youngest and only girl in my family, and my older cousins would always brought me to video game cafes in China. I still play if I have time.
Describe your research in five words.
“Doctors = good. No doctors = bad.”
Share the pivotal moment in your life that helped you choose your field of study.
When I was a freshman in college, I was set on becoming the next great classicist like Robert Fagles. But that all changed when I took an economics class in my second semester to fulfill a mandatory foundation course. The teacher assigned a murder mystery called “The Fatal Equilibrium.” It was filled with basic economic principles — and it was amazing! From that moment on, I knew I was going to become an economist.
Tell us about a time you encountered a tricky problem. How did you handle it and what did you learn from it?
As an economist, especially an applied microeconomist, our bread-and-butter is data, and not getting the data is always a great issue. During the second year of my PhD, I was in search of patient data to study the effect of access to physicians on patient welfare. I applied for data from North Carolina hospitals, but they put me on hold for more than a year before telling me the data would cost me and my adviser thousands of dollars, as well as longer wait time, which was unrealistic given my resources and time constraint. During this process, I gained a comprehensive understanding of the available healthcare data and the application process. So, although my first project fell apart, I learned to not let a setback prevent me from using the knowledge and skills I already had.
What are your passions outside science?
I always loved drawing and painting because it is important for me to create something outside of work. It is a great stress-reliever that allows me to recharge my battery so I can go back to work refreshed. It is also a great social event! I host paint nights at my place, where I teach my friends to paint.