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Life-Changing Experience as a Research Intern at the AIER: From Wall Street Workshops to Public Choice Conferences!

Picture of Larisa Jacono

Larisa Jacono

2022 Mannkal Scholar

In a blink of an eye, my time at the American Institute for Economic Research has come to an end. It seemed like yesterday when I first arrived on the beautiful campus, mesmerised by the chandeliers, the spiral staircase, and the smell of old books. A place that was once new and unfamiliar to me has become my home. I will miss the little things – driving through the Berkshires, the soft snow, and karaoke night at the local pub… but most importantly, I will miss the amazing staff and research faculty who have made my AIER experience an unforgettable one. 

Working as a research intern was an incredibly rewarding and intellectually stimulating role. From pursuing my own research paper to assisting the research faculty with their ongoing projects, every day in the office was different. A large part of the internship involved engaging in readings and seminars on topics including public choice, the gold standard, Austrian economics, and alternative governance. I enjoyed the interesting discussions I would have with my fellow interns that always seemed to continue beyond office hours and trickle into our dinnertime conversations. In addition to seminars, we also had workshops on improving our technical skills in writing, conducting research, and using econometrics. My favourite workshop was by Pete Earle who gave an introductory session on using Bloomberg. 

Before joining AIER, Pete spent over 20 years as a trader and analyst working in various securities firms and hedge funds in New York. It was fascinating to hear about his time on Wall Street and the crazy hours, stories, and roles he took up throughout his career. During the workshop, Pete taught us tips and tricks on navigating Bloomberg, including how to access top news articles, and information on equities, corporate bonds, and futures. He also drew our attention to the flashing colours and numbers on the terminal. To Pete, seeing real-time instantaneous exchanges in the financial market is an example of how economics is brought to life. Every flash indicated that someone somewhere in the world decided to make a trade at that specific time and price – the market in full action! 

The last few weeks of my internship were also the most eventful. I completed my research paper on industrial policy in China and Taiwan’s semiconductor industry and gave a presentation on my findings to the research faculty. I finished writing my article on ‘What the US Can Learn from Taiwan’s Success in Chip Manufacturing’ and was ecstatic to be published by both AIER and CNS News. With my ‘Day in the Life of a Research Intern’ TikToks catching attention on AIER’s social media platforms, I was also tasked to give a presentation on how to make TikToks for the other interns to continue my role! After finishing off my various tasks in the office, I prepared for my flight to Seattle to attend the Harwood Graduate Colloquium on Public Choice. 

Led by Ryan Yonk from AIER and Roberta Herzberg from the Mercatus Center, the colloquium invited students from all over the world to come together and discuss public choice theory and its different schools of thought. We explored the works of economists including Buchanan, Tullock, and the Ostroms, and exchanged our insights and thoughts on their papers. Attending as an undergraduate student and hearing from masters and PhD candidates has inspired me to continue studying public choice ideas and reminded me of how much room I still have to grow! I also connected with Mannkal Alum and AIER Research Associate, Micha Sparks, during the colloquium (pictured together in Seattle above). It was great to hear about her experiences as a Mannkal Scholar and the doors that it opened up for her!


Larisa in Seattle.

The colloquium led straight into the 60th Annual Meeting of the Public Choice Society. During the meeting, I was lucky enough to chat with Peter Boettke, Professor of Economics and Philosophy at George Mason University. After giving his plenary session on the ‘Past, Present, and Future of Public Choice’, Boettke invited questions from the audience. I was interested in hearing his thoughts about engaging more young students in classical liberal ideas within their studies in economics. Boettke emphasised the importance of teaching economics as a tool for curiosity as opposed to a tool for conclusions. He expressed the importance of encouraging students to ask questions – even the ones that cannot be answered. As a teacher himself, Boettke believes that he has a moral obligation to inspire his students to stay inquisitive. Before he left, I managed to grab a quick photo and autograph. It was surreal to meet him in person knowing that I have read and cited so many of his works! 

The past two months at the AIER have been a life-changing experience. I have grown immensely in both knowledge and personal development and am so grateful to have been granted this opportunity through the Mannkal Foundation. Looking back at my experiences as a Mannkal Scholar, I sometimes still pinch myself with how lucky I am to have been given the opportunity to learn, expand my networks, and travel the world. No words can fully encapsulate how grateful I am for the memories and experiences I have gained and the life-long friendships I have cultivated through the program. From attending conferences interstate to completing a Thought Leaders’ course in London and an internship in the United States, Mannkal has broadened my horizons, stimulated my curiosity, and invigorated my love for learning. 

To the future scholars – seize every opportunity to learn. Know that every challenge you face is helping you grow and embrace the adrenaline that comes with it! Most importantly, be present, enjoy the learning journey, and take it all in… it will fly by faster than you could ever imagine. 

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