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Nadia Lucas entered Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) intending to earn an engineering degree. Late in her undergraduate career, she realized that economics is what she really wanted to do.

A member of the cross-country team and, later, the crew team at MIT, Lucas did a summer research internship at the National Bureau for Economic Research before her senior year. That fall and through the academic year, she worked for a labor economist at MIT, examining poverty rates for seniors and household financial decision-making.

Lucas, who eventually plans to get a PhD in economics, said she was attracted to EPIC because of its research reputation.

“I didn’t necessarily come from an energy background, but EPIC stood out to me as a lab that does a lot of really awesome research,” she said.

After graduating from MIT in spring 2017 with bachelor’s degrees in computer science and mathematical economics, Lucas accepted a pre-doctoral fellowship under Ryan Kellogg, a professor at the Harris School of Public Policy. Lucas is currently examining how land lease contracts affect oil companies’ decision-making on when to drill in shale fields, and thus, how such contracts distort oil markets.

The modeling Lucas did on optimal savings rates for seniors as an undergraduate comes in handy for this analysis. Kellogg had Lucas use a similar approach to determine a firm’s optimal time to drill and build upon that model to capture other aspects of firm decision-making.

“I’ve learned to take a much closer look at the industry,” Lucas said. “There are so many institutional factors you need to take a closer look at when examining the price of oil. This job has really opened my eyes to the need to take a deep dive into any industry you do research in.”

Regardless of what she ends up doing, Lucas said EPIC’s approach to research will serve her well.

“I think being at EPIC has taught me that I don’t have to live in an ivory tower when I do research, and I think I’m definitely going to be trying to do some sort of research that has a broader policy impact in whatever field I end up going into,” Lucas said. “I think EPIC is amazing at exposing you to that side of economics.”

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