Alumni Spotlight: Rohen Shah

At the BIP Lab, our main goal is to understand parental decision-making. If information is power, we believe that learning about someone else’s personal experience can be particularly helpful when making decisions for your career, too. That’s why we wanted to introduce a new interview series, “Alumni Spotlight,” where we sit down with former students to learn what drives them, what they liked about working at the BIP lab, and where they are now.

Although we usually spotlight our alumni, in this interview we are spotlighting one of our current students, Rohen Shah, who has worked in the lab in many capacities, first as an MACRM student and now as a Ph.D. student. Rohen shares with us his professional journey, fondest BIP Lab memories, and more.

BIP Lab: How did you become interested in your field?

Shah: In college, I worked at a tutoring company (which I eventually managed) and noticed myself applying both psychology (in the instruction aspect) and economics (in the management aspect). When I learned that there was a field that combines the two (Behavioral Economics), I was hooked!

BIP Lab: What drew you to work at the BIP Lab?

Shah: I had always been interested in behavioral economics and education policy — so I was immediately attracted to the great and interesting work the Lab does. I began working in the summer of 2018 analyzing data for the Big Word Club (BWC) Evaluation, shortly before starting my Master’s at Harris.

BIP Lab: What is one of your favorite memories of the BIP Lab, and how does your experience reveal what the BIP Lab is all about?

Shah: There are so many good ones I’m sure; one that comes to mind is at a lab meeting when we noticed the preliminary results from a study showed that there wasn’t much of a treatment effect, we immediately started brainstorming why that might be. Instead of either giving up on the intervention or trying to hang on to the one weak interpretation where there was “some” effect, we decided to start a second round “booster” treatment where we collected the best ideas and implemented an amped-up version of the treatment to the next cohort. This really reflects the ultimate goal of what the BIP Lab is all about: we want to try to find ways to help people.

BIP Lab: What are you doing now?

Shah: I am a Ph.D. student at Harris and a doctoral research fellow at the BIP Lab. My areas of specialty are behavioral economics and experimental methods.

BIP Lab: What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?

Shah: Developing an adaptive online learning platform to help thousands of students across the country with math.

BIP Lab: What advice would you give to other students who aspire to follow a similar career path?

Shah: Have a daily routine where you spend at least 1 hour a day reading or skimming new research papers that seem interesting to you and keep a running list of research ideas that you update regularly. You have to have at least 40 or 50 ideas written out before you’ll find one that is feasible to implement and interesting enough, and unfortunately, graduate school only teaches technical skills – not how to generate research ideas or carry out empirical projects. Constantly develop those skills on your own — and never stop learning!

BIP Lab: What do you enjoy doing with your free time?

Shah: Mostly watching Netflix! (pre-pandemic, I enjoyed traveling a lot)