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Carnegie vacation scholarship puts Economics in the news

By Ben Cooper - Posted on 25 October 2018

Undergraduate Economics student Ben Cooper undertook independent research this summer thanks to the Carnegie Trust. Here he explains the opportunities this opened up.

This summer, I was given the opportunity by the Carnegie Trust to be a research intern within The Fraser of Allander Institute.

The Carnegie Trust Vacation Scholarship aims to provide students with an insight into academia and independent researching. My research project entailed an evaluation of the 2014 blood alcohol content reduction whilst driving in Scotland and its effectiveness in reducing road accidents and fatalities.

For someone considering post graduate study, this internship is the perfect way to help you make up your mind.

It began around February time with a talk by the Fraser of Allander Institute on what the internship would entail. For me, the thought of a career in academia was something I'd considered so I opted to embrace this opportunity and see if it was for me.

After speaking to the appropriate people, I was assigned two supervisors. I was required to produce a two-page brief of my project detailing my proposal as well as supporting questions. Decisions on the internship were communicated in May and I found out I was lucky enough to be selected. The project began at the start of June and ran to the end of July.

I was based within the Fraser of Allander Institute and Strathclyde Business School Economics Department, working alongside my two supervisors as well as all the other academics within the department.

The first thing to note about this internship is that it gives you the opportunity to understand the role of an academic – you get used to seeing your lecturers teaching a class or during an office hour – but not in the thick of their research, or their interacting with colleagues. The internship allows you to understand the role of a lecturer and the research they undertake.

My project required me to clean police data on car accidents and car crash fatalities and then, using regressions, to determine whether this policy was effective. Before conducting the research I was apprehensive as it was a big leap. However, it is an opportunity that allows you to advance your knowledge of the subject field, as well as gain experience with programmes and techniques.

As a Carnegie intern, you operate both under the Vacation Scholarship programme and the university’s RI@S (Research Intern @ Strathclyde) Programme. Through this you are given the opportunity to attend RI@S research development programme sessions, which give you advice and insight into how to make yourself a better academic. Both programmes have a poster and presentation session at the end; the Carnegie event took place at Edinburgh Zoo and involved a small presentation and opportunity to answer any questions – it also offers the chance to network with like-minded research interns from universities across Scotland as well as some free time to explore the zoo after the event. The RI@S event again is similar and gives you the opportunity to network with the research interns from across the university. I was lucky enough to be awarded second place at the Carnegie event and went on to win the RI@S poster competition, achievements that I could only have dreamed of at the start of my internship.

For me, this internship had a huge impact on my life, due to it carving my career path. Before undertaking the project, I had no concrete decisions on where I wanted my life to go – now, four months later, I am about to begin funding applications for masters and even PhDs – something I never thought I would be doing before starting the internship.

As well as this, I now have a published discussion paper titled ‘Drink, Death and Driving: Do BAC reductions make roads safer’ which attracted huge mainstream news coverage, with outlets such as BBC Scotland, The Scotsman and The Sunday Post publishing articles based on our research. An undergraduate research project, when compared to the masses of economic research being done in institutions across the UK, seems miniscule but to be recognised and talked about on a national level is by far the best thing to come from this internship.

I am eternally grateful to both of my supervisors Markus Gehrsitz and Stuart McIntyre; my office colleague Lauren McInally; Graeme Roy, director of the Fraser of Allander Institute and all the members of staff within the Economics department for their constant support and advice.



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