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constrainedoptimizer
11-18-2007, 11:55 AM
Hello Everyone. This is my first post and I would like to echo the ongoing sentiments that "I wish I found this site earlier."

I've been lurking a while around until I had my account registered under an email server that was recognized.

I am fairly new to the game. My BA is in Geology and my brand new MA is in economics (with a monetary option), both from a California state college. I am in the pre-PhD preparation stage which is entailing me retaking all of my math for higher grades at UC Berkeley (my undergrad career is definitely nothing to write home about, but I graduated top of my economics graduate class as evidenced by my receipt of my departments only award).
My preparation currently involves:

-Calculus I
-Calculus II
-Muti-variable Calculus
-Linear Algebra and Differential Equations
-Proof Writing (prep class for Real Analysis)
-Real Analysis
-Mathematical Methods for Optimization (constrained & unconstrained optimization

-Intro to Probability
-Intro to Statistical Inference

My current hopeful destinations for graduate study are:

UC Davis (#1 choice)
UC Irvine
UC Santa Barbara

My probably areas of specialization include:

Monetary Economics
Econometrics
Financial Economics

I would like to combine all of these tools along with my undergrad studies in Geology into my goal of doing research in the area of Petroleum Economics, specifically in Petroleum Infrastructure Feasibility.

I look forward to interacting with all of you.

Chicunomics
11-18-2007, 12:13 PM
I don't know how low your undergrad grades were, but if you finished top of your class in economics, and are taking maths classes at UC Berkeley -- assuming you do well of course -- why don't you apply to UC Berkeley, SD, or LA?? You'd definitely have a shot, at least at the latter two, and if I were in your position I wouldn't want to die wondering about Berkeley!

I'm going of course on the assumption here that you don't particularly want to leave the state of California...or the UC system ;)

constrainedoptimizer
11-18-2007, 01:29 PM
I don't know how low your undergrad grades were, but if you finished top of your class in economics, and are taking maths classes at UC Berkeley -- assuming you do well of course -- why don't you apply to UC Berkeley, SD, or LA?? You'd definitely have a shot, at least at the latter two, and if I were in your position I wouldn't want to die wondering about Berkeley!

I'm going of course on the assumption here that you don't particularly want to leave the state of California...or the UC system ;)

You know Chic, you are spot on with me not wanting to leave California. I am a native, and in that sense, have been "spoiled" by the weather and surroundings, and I just can't see myself thriving somewhere for 4-5 years of my life outside of this paradise. As far as SD, LA and Berkeley, those would be pipe dreams. I am fairly realistic with my background and thus take responsibility for my shortcomings there. I just don't think schools of that caliber would completely negate my undergrad record because of my stellar grad record, even if I ace all of my quantitative classes at Cal.

I can tell you I had some sort of epiphany between my undergrad career and grad career (I can probably save that story for another thread), but from the perspective of an adcom, my undergrad grades would probably discount any effect my grad career has had. The difference is so vast, they would probably think that grad studies in econ at my alma mater are a cake walk!

I think one of the shortcomings of our craft is this specific gateway. We have to somehow send a maximized signal out of what type of human capital we're capable of taking on, through an electronic media like an online application, gre scores, and letters of recommendation. Ironically, this is probably our first real lesson in applied economics: information asymmetry.

I guess I can just add those schools as my "reaches"...

ImProcrastinating
11-18-2007, 06:06 PM
I don't think you should worry so much about your undergrad record. Adcoms will care much more about your Master's econ courses and your math courses at UC Berkeley than they will about undergrad geology. UCSD, Berkeley, and UCLA are all very strong schools, but they're still worth a shot.

Olm
11-18-2007, 06:37 PM
I am in the same situation. Hey, more power to you if you don't apply to those good schools, because then it makes it easier for guys like me to get in :) Seriously now, your grad performance is what counts the most. The adcoms want people that can succeed in getting a PhD and become successful researchers; they are not there to perform academic justice. If your math grades are good, you should go ahead and apply to all of the top California schools as well as your backups.

Dannyb19
11-18-2007, 06:39 PM
Berkeley is one of the top math departments in the world, as well as one of the top undergrad institutions in the country, I agree with everything said above that if you perform well (think A- average) at Berkeley, you will have a shot at UCLA or UCSD, at least enough of one to justify applying.

Remember, admissions are about signaling, and more recent information is more valuable, at least from a standard bayesian perspective. At Hopkins, we have a guy who was an undergrad engineering major at an IVY league school, and had like a 2.5 GPA trhough his first two years of engineering. But then he switched majors to public policy, had a 3.7 GPA in his final two years, did some RA work for a year after graduation, and aced his GRE's (800Q, 750V, 6.0AWA) and he has one of top funding packages of our year.

Also, if you could get a GOOD LOR from a Berkeley math professor, that would be huge. Good luck!

can_econ
11-18-2007, 06:53 PM
My probably areas of specialization include:

Monetary Economics
Econometrics
Financial Economics

I would like to combine all of these tools along with my undergrad studies in Geology into my goal of doing research in the area of Petroleum Economics, specifically in Petroleum Infrastructure Feasibility.

I look forward to interacting with all of you.

Petroleum infrastructure feasibility? Not sure exactly what you mean. However, it seems pretty different from the main research areas in the areas you listed (finance, monetary, metrics), maybe I'm just misunderstanding the field. It sounds like something better suited to study in an engineering department or business school with appropriate specializations - options to check out. (Stanford has an economics/management/engineering department, can't quite remember its name, but it sounds like a closer fit). Since you have a MA in econ I assume you know your way around the fields you listed, but it's worth mentioning that you should really check out research interests at schools you're interested in since your interests seem a bit off the beaten track.

Anyways, if you still think the PhD in econ is right for you, I'm inclined to say that you'd be better off taking more advanced math/stats courses than retaking the basic ones again, unless you did really badly in real analysis; I definitely wouldn't retake calc 1/2.

constrainedoptimizer
11-19-2007, 02:03 AM
Thanks for all of the encouragement, everyone.

Olm: Don't count me out yet, buddy. It's on!!!

Danny: I never thought of it that way. I always assumed they looked at the whole package equillaterally, and it never occurred to me to secure an LOR from a math professor from Cal. I have two LOR's coming as of now: one from my department chair (no-name published labor economist) and one from my graduate advisor (highly published sports economist), both of which will be strong. Since I'm probably going to be facing a different instructor for each class, how should I go about trying to get one to write an LOR for me? I'm assuming that I would have to build some sort of relationship with the instructor. But how would I even approach the instructor with such a proposal? Hey, you need some lowly post-bacc to pick up your coffee for you every morning?

Can-econ: Petroleum economics is a fairly fledgling field. I looked and there is like one program in the US at the university of Colorado School of Mines, I think, and it's still just an MA. The bulk of these PhD specialities are in countries like Norway and Iceland. It's fairly looked over, which I take as an opportunity to exploit and do future research in. I can give you an example: Let's say that a country like Australia has discovered proven reserves of crude within its geology. It has been importing this resource throughout it's history. It would then bring in geologists to estimate the proven reserves and petroleum engineers to estimate the costs of extracting it out of the ground and commencing production (implementing the infrastructure), with a bunch of quant-jocks (economists) to inform the minster of energy, or whatever, if the whole thing is going to be worth it or not.

So, I would pretty much like to do research and possibly build models in transcending the whole process, capitalizing on the economies of scale.
Being that this can be seen as one big project feasibility analysis, the specialties I mentioned would definitely help in framing the project within something large-scale, like a nation-state.

**By the way, this is all here-say and out of my rear...I would be just as happy doing research in the area of transactions demand for cash a la Clower-Howitt/Baumol-Tobin. I'm retaking my math because my undergrad grades in Calculus I, II, & III are heinous, and I pretty much forgot all of it. I have never had Real Analysis, but from what I've heard, the tools you learn really help out in the core econ sequence. The two stats classes are actually upper-division and a tick less rigorous than the PhD stat core.

I welcome any and all criticisms/suggestions.

Olm
11-19-2007, 02:30 AM
Yeah Real Analysis is completely different from any math you have ever seen.

Good luck with your second attempt at math. I know I may probably be heading the same direction.

Dannyb19
11-19-2007, 03:07 AM
ConstrainedOptimizer: Regarding the letter of rec from a Berkeley math professor, I got a letter from my graduate level real analysis professor even though that was the only class I had with him. I just went to a few of his office hours, talked to him about some interesting topics, and he was happy to write me one. Granted, it was not at Berkeley, so the professor was not nearly as prestigous as a professor at Berkeley will be, but I'm sure he/she would still be quite willing to help you out.

I think that letter probably helped my application as much, if not more, than my two other econ letters.

constrainedoptimizer
11-19-2007, 03:54 AM
I won't have R.A. under my belt with a grade before my apps go out. I'm already seeing this as a problem. The way my prep is going, the last class I'll have completed by the end of the Fall semester '08 is Linear Algebra and Differential Equations (and both of my stat classes) and Proof Writing. I was planning on sending out apps during December '08, then taking R.A. and Optimization in the Spring '09 and commencing graduate work in the Fall '09. I'm not sure I want to wait another year, because I'm an older guy, but at the same time, I've talked to a lot of burnt out professors who keep telling me to take my time and make sure I "do it right the first time", as you only get one go-through with your PhD. I know somewhere in the UC apps they have a section which lists courses you are planning to take, so I could mention R.A. and Optimization there, I suppose. I'll probably have to bribe my Linear Algebra professor for a LOR with Starbucks coffee, or something.

Thanks for all of your suggestions, I feel better about this already!

signal08
11-19-2007, 07:28 AM
I'll probably have to bribe my Linear Algebra professor for a LOR with Starbucks coffee, or something.


just out of curiosity... are you referring to Professor Ribet?

Chicunomics
11-19-2007, 07:47 AM
I won't have R.A. under my belt with a grade before my apps go out. I'm already seeing this as a problem.

I get this feeling that people on these boards put sliiiiightly too much emphasis on real analysis being on your transcript. I say this only because I know a guy in his 3rd year at NYU who came from my university who had only audited the subject. He also got into LSE and U Penn. More than that - he had NO formal math on his transcript, just a collection of grad level economics (and auditing a few classes, as I said). Naturally, his application was strong in other ways, but that's neither here or there.

I'm not trying it isn't valuable -- but I AM trying to say that it's not the end of the world. I won't have it on my transcript either (completing it semester before the PhD starts), and I'm not really stressed...

constrainedoptimizer
11-19-2007, 10:30 AM
just out of curiosity... are you referring to Professor Ribet?

Paul Voijta. But I'll be taking V. Jones next semester, and he's got a Field Medal, and I'm thinking an LOR from him might be the knockout punch my app needs.

signal08
11-20-2007, 03:29 AM
But I'll be taking V. Jones next semester, and he's got a Field Medal, and I'm thinking an LOR from him might be the knockout punch my app needs.

you're taking math IB? isn't that calc II?
(i'm not being pompous here; just from my experience, math iB is a HUGE lecture class- you'll have to really stand out to get a LOR, especially a credible one)

constrainedoptimizer
11-20-2007, 04:33 AM
you're taking math IB? isn't that calc II?
(i'm not being pompous here; just from my experience, math iB is a HUGE lecture class- you'll have to really stand out to get a LOR, especially a credible one)

Funny you should say that. I just talked to Voijta today after lecture and brought up this exact concern.

I said, "how would it be possible enough to differentiate myself from all of the students, so as to legitimize any effort for a prof to write me a letter of recommendation?" I even offered to write a paper of some sort or come into office hours, or whatever.

His exact response was:

"I know this is a big class, but believe it or not, I have gotten to know you, as you have asked many intelligent questions. If you want a letter, let me know, and I'll have a talk with your GSI, we'll look over your work, just to make sure you're not a "struggling" student, and I'll write you up the letter."

This is just one professor, but for some reason, I got the impression that not many people ask this professor for letters of recommendation. But , nonetheless, at least I know he'll write me up a letter.

signal08
11-20-2007, 04:49 AM
Funny you should say that. I just talked to Voijta today after lecture and brought up this exact concern.

I said, "how would it be possible enough to differentiate myself from all of the students, so as to legitimize any effort for a prof to write me a letter of recommendation?" I even offered to write a paper of some sort or come into office hours, or whatever.

His exact response was:

"I know this is a big class, but believe it or not, I have gotten to know you, as you have asked many intelligent questions. If you want a letter, let me know, and I'll have a talk with your GSI, we'll look over your work, just to make sure you're not a "struggling" student, and I'll write you up the letter."

This is just one professor, but for some reason, I got the impression that not many people ask this professor for letters of recommendation. But , nonetheless, at least I know he'll write me up a letter.

good- then more power to ya :)

i only asked because i know how difficult it is to differentiate oneself in large lecture classes (esp. in math 1b, which when i took it was over 400 students). i also find it MUCH easier to get to know professors in upper-division math/stat/econ courses here at Berkeley. since classes are smaller, the student-professor relationship is much more, dare i say, intimate. ... since you're here at Berkeley, why don't you try taking some upper-div or grad-level econ courses? the professors are simply fantastic here (and also incredibly well-known and respected).

Mr.Keen
11-21-2007, 02:40 AM
Oh dear Lord!

constrainedoptimizer
11-21-2007, 07:32 AM
Oh dear Lord!

You alright?