This summer, Ruilin Zhong is finding that her interests in economics and statistics are taking her to very disparate fields of study.
The junior from Beijing, China, is exploring how investment firms use decision science to manage their portfolios of investments. Investment companies make decisions to buy, sell or hold onto financial assets every day -- working to maximize profit and minimize risk to investors. Working with Mike West, professor of statistics and decision sciences, Zhong is applying different statistical models to stock prices and portfolio management scenarios.
She is planning on using it to do a senior thesis. "My focus is mostly going to be used in portfolio decisions and forecasting the movement for foreign currencies and commodities like oil and gold," Zhong said.
But in a second project later in the summer, Zhong will seek to understand how advertising is aimed as a specific group of people. This work, supported by a Davies Fellowship for independent undergraduate economics research, relies heavily on consumer behavior research, psychology and leverages the skills she gained from her statistics and math courses. She is working to characterize advertisements that are most appealing to consumers born between 1986 and 1995.
"My economics project is trying to figure out what kind of advertising design characteristics will be most appealing to the U.S. consumers [in this cohort]," Zhong said.
She will tease out the common needs and priorities of people in this age and gender demographic, and then identify the marketing strategy that is effective in getting such individuals to make purchases.
Ultimately, she wants to make judgments about the branding activities, amount of surprise and amount of joy consumers receive from advertisements. Her research will help advertisers make more effective advertisements.
Aside from her research, Zhong plays the violin for the Duke Symphony Orchestra and serves as vice president of the Duke Economics Student Union. She has also participated in several Duke service trips and, through DukeEngage, provided consulting services for local businesses and entrepreneurs in Guatemala.