BFI NewsJun 22, 2023

Three BFI Researchers Recognized by National Science Foundation

The Becker Friedman Institute for Economics (BFI) at The University of Chicago is pleased to announce that three pre-doctoral researchers have been recognized through the prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP). Dylan Baker was selected to receive the full award, and Terry II Culpepper and Uditi Karna were accorded Honorable Mention.

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based Master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited US institutions.
Baker, Culpepper, and Karna were recognized from among over 12,000 applicants.

Baker was supervised during his pre-doc by Joshua Gottlieb, and beginning this fall he will pursue his PhD in Economics from The University of Chicago’s Department of Economics, along with Juris Doctor from The University of Chicago Law School. Baker’s combined interest in law and economics directly informs his research agenda, and his winning proposal to NSF focused on applying a quantitative lens to policing.

“A person should feel safe in their community, that feels like a very foundational right,” Baker said of his plans to measure the impact of private police training on use of excessive force. “But then there is the difficulty where in trying to go fundamental, you can be a little bit abstract. And I think that I value projects where there is some really actionable conclusion at the end, which is part of what I did like about this idea.”

As a fellow, Baker will benefit from a three-year annual stipend of $37,000 along with a $12,000 cost of education allowance for tuition and fees, opportunities for international research and professional development, and the freedom to conduct his own research at any accredited US institution of graduate education (in Baker’s case, UChicago).

As the oldest graduate fellowship of its kind, GRFP has a long history of selecting recipients who achieve high levels of success in their future academic and professional careers. The reputation of the GRFP follows recipients and often helps them become life-long leaders that contribute significantly to both scientific innovation and teaching.

The NSF awards Honorable Mention to meritorious applicants who do not receive Fellowship awards. Considered a significant national academic achievement, recipients of Honorable Mention join NSF’s lifelong learning community and as well as enjoy access to cyberinfrastructure resources.

Terry II Culpepper was supervised by Ali Hortaçsu, an experience, Culpepper said, that had a transformative impact on his research trajectory. “Ali has been so good at helping me cultivate my interests. I’m actually helping him write a couple of textbooks, which means that I’m reading a lot of literature. It’s really given me a lot of exposure and helped me see what things I might be interested in my future career.” As for his future plans, Culpepper will begin his PhD in Business Economics at Harvard University Business School in the fall, where he hopes to use data from dating apps to study preferences for marriage partners.

Uditi Karna, another Honorable Mention recipient, was supervised in her pre-doctoral position by John List. As a second-generation immigrant from Nepal, Karna hopes to run a field experiment in Nepal in which she will test whether changing parents’ attitudes about gender helps boost girls’ educational and career attainment. “I’ve learned an unfathomable amount during my three years as a pre-doc,” Karna, who will begin her PhD in Economics at Columbia University this fall, said of her time at BFI. “There could be no better preparation for a PhD student, and it’s all thanks to John and the team.”

Baker, Culpepper, and Karna are part of the BFI Predoctoral Research in Economics Program, which serves as a bridge between college and graduate school for students interested in empirical economics. The program offers unique research and professional training opportunities at The University of Chicago. In addition to working closely with faculty as research assistants, predoctoral research professionals typically attend classes and seminars at BFI and affiliate institutions. The program also supports researchers in their career development with individual mentorship.

For more information and current Predoctoral Research in Economics Program opportunities, click here.