Dawn Chinagorom-Abiakalam ’24 did not arrive at Clark with a passion for mathematics — far from it. “I was a high school student who hated doing math,” she says with a laugh. But she took a calculus course in her first year, then another. Something clicked, and she found satisfaction, even joy, in uncovering the logic within the numbers and formulas. She eventually decided to major not only in math but economics as well, expanding her opportunities to do the kind of analytical research that challenges and fascinates her, and that now has lit her career path.
This summer, Chinagorom-Abiakalam is interning at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, where she’s worked with economists on projects involving a broad range of topics, from worldwide auto production to personal-spending patterns in different areas of the United States. Most of the work involves data collection and analysis, she says.
Chinagorom-Abiakalam is gaining experience working with multiple data sources, adding to and refining her knowledge of coding languages, and synthesizing the perspectives of a variety of economists.
“I talk to economists on a daily basis and sit in on their meetings. When I present my findings, they’ll ask me what I think about the methodology, and they want to know why I’ve done my research a certain way. It’s a very involved and challenging process. But when those challenges come, I’m able to learn from them.”
A native of Nigeria, Chinagorom-Abiakalam attended a high school in Ghana with a history of sending students to Clark University. As she learned about Clark from some of those students, Chinagorom-Abiakalam found herself attracted to the University “as a place that is intimate enough to allow me to explore different things on my terms, but with enough research resources to allow me to grow.”
Chinagorom-Abiakalam credits the Economics Department with exposing her to a variety of research methods and topics. “I’ve been privileged to work with many of them on research projects,” she notes. “I’ll also be starting my thesis projects in both econ and math as I start my senior year this fall, and I’m super excited to do original research on topics I’m really interested in.”
It was at the suggestion of David Cuberes, professor of economics, that Chinagorom-Abiakalam did a fellowship last summer at the University of Chicago’s Becker Friedman Institute for Research in Economics. During the fellowship, she learned about research opportunities at the Federal Reserve Bank, applied, and secured her current internship.
After graduation, Chinagorom-Abiakalam plans to take a year or two to do research at a predoctoral program, perhaps at a think tank or a university, before pursuing a doctorate in economics Her goal is a career as an economist, where perhaps she will one day be quizzing an intern about their research methodologies.