You know that a giant SUV isn’t practical and costs too much to drive, but you buy it anyway. Putting funds into your retirement plan is the smart thing to do. . . but you decide to buy a failing small business instead.
Why people make these kinds of unpredictable decisions is the basis for the popularity of a relatively recent sub-discipline of economics. Behavioral economics is the study of how real people actually make choices and draws on insights from both psychology and economics.
UF senior Nathaneal Mol is smitten with this robust, burgeoning sector in mainstream economics and is using his combined majors of economics and math to propel him into graduate school and, ultimately, a fascinating career.
“I actually became interested in economics during a history class,” Mol recalled. He began his college career majoring in aerospace engineering at a university in Florida. He loved math, but wasn’t crazy about engineering. With his family still residing in his hometown of Brunswick, Ohio, Mol decided to transfer back to the Midwest after his freshman year.
Mol chose to double-major because he needed the math skills to build models necessary to prove economic theories. “I do math so that I can do economics,” he laughed. Still, he works closely with Pam Warton, Ph.D., mathematics program chair, and is president of UF’s Euler Math Club. He also serves as the president of UF’s Delta Mu Delta (DMD) Honors Society, and the Pi Mu Epsilon (PME) National Mathematics Honors Society.
Preparing for Grad School
Currently Mol and Greg Arburn, Ph.D., assistant professor of economics and finance, are involved in writing a paper on the global natural gas market for the Midwest Economics Association. He will also submit the paper along with his applications to several graduate schools.
“I’m looking at graduate schools mostly in the southwest,” Mol added. “I’ve never traveled that area of the U.S. and there are some great graduate schools there with specialties in behavioral economics. I think presenting a paper as an undergraduate would look very good on my applications.”
In addition to his studies, research and extracurricular activities, Mol has worked as student assistant to Maria Gamba, associate professor of business, for the past two years.
Last summer, Mol experienced a “baptism by fire” in the banking world when he landed an internship at the headquarters of KeyBank, Cleveland. He was immediately thrown in to the market risk area.
“There were a lot of regulations due that made for pretty tight deadlines,” he said. “I was very busy the entire time.” KeyBank encouraged him to return after graduate school; something he might consider.
“I’d really like to do something in the tech industry,” he added. “Amazon is hiring behavioral economists as are a lot of newer companies. It’s hard to predict the job market because behavioral economics is so new. I think that anyone with a strong numbers background can find a job, though.”
During his internship, Mol witnessed the visibility of The University of Findlay in the financial industry. Alum Mark Hingson, with KeyBank in Cincinnati, is on the UF Economics & Finance Advisory Board and helped arrange Mol’s internship. When he attended his orientation, Mol also met UF alum Andrew Dehnhoff, with KeyBank in Brooklyn, Ohio.
When he looks into the future, does Mol see economic prosperity or a slowdown for the U.S.?
“We’re in a situation we really haven’t had before,” he mused. “On the surface, things look O.K., but businesses aren’t investing. Everyone seems to agree, we really don’t know what’s going to happen.