Breaking the Code: Asian Studies student discovers unexpected love of research

Author: Alaina Reed

Eva Dziadula And Angel Lai By Matt Cashore University Of Notre Dame 2023

To be honest, Angel Lai, a junior earning a major in economics and a minor in Asian Studies, initially wondered how much she might enjoy working as a research assistant for an economics project. “I knew nothing about coding and held the stereotype that ‘coding is boring,’” she admits.

It turned out that Angel not only likes to code, but she is also so skilled that she was recognized in the recently published journal article, “The Value of a Green Card in the U.S. Marriage Market: A Tale of Chain Migration?” in the China Economic Review by economics professor Eva Dziadula.

Angel connected with Dziadula, a Liu Institute faculty fellow, at the end of freshman year and worked on the project for about 6 months.

Here, Angel answers a few questions from Liu Institute student assistant Alaina Reed about her research experience.

What was the best part about working with Professor Dziadula?

Professor D is very patient with me and cares about my life outside of work. I make mistakes from time to time, but she’s always friendly and tells me not to panic. We bond well, too. She invited me to her house over breaks and cooked really delicious food!

What was the biggest learning moment?

Definitely getting to code. I knew nothing about coding and had the stereotype that “coding is boring” before. But working with Professor D and learning to analyze data using those cool codes that I used to hate was definitely an aha-moment! Yes, it’s a sharp learning curve, but I felt awesome afterwards.

What did you learn about the subject matter?

Research is complicated. I genuinely realized that there are so many things that economists need to take into consideration in order to produce a research paper, and they may even need to change everything completely. “You have to put the big girl pants on,” as Professor D always says.

How did this experience connect with your Asian Studies minor?

This project enables me to learn more about the history of immigration from China to the US as well as the potential mechanisms behind it from an economic approach, which is a really nice complement to classes I’m taking that focus more on domestic issues in Asia.

Do you recommend that other students seek out opportunities to engage in research?

I would definitely recommend people try out these research opportunities—the experience gives you much more than just something to write on the resume! I got to know much more about how research is conducted and how scholars approach social problems, which undoubtedly will help me discern my future career plans. It’s always more promising to make decisions based on first-hand experience. Additionally, Notre Dame has a great faculty team, and all the professors I met in research projects are so supportive–I may get connected to 10 other people just by talking to one professor.