Placement: PhD Economics, University of Wisconsin

Despite being from Houston, Texas, the so-called ‘energy capital of America,’ Andrew Smith hadn’t been all that interested in energy—or economics, for that matter. Smith, who worked for Harris Public Policy Assistant Professor Koichiro Ito, chose economics for a major “on a whim” before enrolling at Texas A&M University.

“Eventually, I realized that whim turned into something great,” Smith said, as he realized that economics is his true calling. He plans to pursue a PhD in economics and would like to become a professor.

“There’s a social [policy] aspect to it that you can answer in a pretty mathematical way,” Smith said. “There are ways to actually measure how people react to certain policies – to actually sniff that out and figure out why things happen in the framework that is economics is pretty cool.”

Before deciding he wanted to go all-in on economics, Smith had to be cajoled by a friend into taking an internship at the Council of Economic Advisors (CEA), a research body within the Executive Office of the President that reports directly to the president. He said that after a couple of interviews he realized the opportunity in front of him, and took the spring semester of his junior year off from school to conduct research at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, adjacent to the West Wing.

Within economics, Smith’s primary areas of interest are in labor and education, which he focused on at CEA. Upon returning to Texas A&M for his senior year, he decided to pursue research assistant opportunities, and his economics professors steered him toward EPIC.

“I didn’t really touch energy because I didn’t really know anything about it,” Smith said. “I still have a lot to learn, but I definitely have a greater appreciation for it now that I work here.”

Smith researched how consumers respond to price changes in energy markets for Ito. Smith said the irony of finally beginning to research energy at UChicago after attending the same university that trained the late hydraulic fracturing pioneer George Mitchell is not lost on him.

“The amount of care and rigor associated with this research makes me, one, appreciate what I’m going to eventually become part of,” Smith said. “Two, something I wasn’t originally interested in, energy economics, is definitely now a possibility for me as I go into graduate school.”