Payel Chowdhury

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Spotlight On: Payel Chowdhury  

“One needs to constantly challenge oneself beyond what seems possible.” This is the motto by which UCIrvine’s doctoral candidate Payel Chowdhury lives.  As an Economics major in the School of Social Sciences and president of UCI’s Associate Graduate Students (AGS), Payel has managed to find a balance between academics, leadership, family and friends. The trick she says is “learning to prioritize and remembering to take the time to focus on the positive as much possible.”  

Payel came to the United States from India in 2007, and recently completed an M.S. degree in statistics from the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Science (ICS). She hopes to complete her doctoral studies in 2012. It also helps that her husband is obtaining a doctoral degree in Computer Science. “We balance each other on those moments when things get a bit challenging,” she notes.

Combining her love of economics and statistics, Payel is working to understand how various local factors affect firm survival and corporate investment in R&D in developing countries. Specifically, she builds statistical models to understand how investment is affected by local factors such as property rights, corruption, access to finance and ownership structure. In her last dissertation chapter, she intends to focus on the relationship between womens’ ownership and company performance in the context of informal companies across developing countries. She is working with several World Bank Survey Datasets for Asian and Latin American countries across both formal and informal companies. 

Why did she choose UCI?  “The decision to join UCI’s Department of Economics was primarily based on a strong match with the department’s faculty research interests,” she says. “I was given some great advice while obtaining my Master’s in Philosophy at the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research in India. It was my advisors who encouraged me to look to the U.S. for a community that would challenge me - and at the same time provide me room to grow and assimilate.”

Payel believes it is very important to choose an area of research that one enjoys. “For me, I have a passion for applied statistics and development economics.  Finding a passion, taking good courses and working with good faculty members- it makes all the difference and my experience here at UCI has been rewarding.”

Just how did she get involved with AGS?  “You could say I sort of stumbled into AGS,” Chowdhury says.  Having signed up for a Dean’s luncheon for social sciences in fall 2007, she received an email from an AGS Executive encouraging her to join the AGS council.  She attended her first council meeting in January 2008, and there was no looking back. She served as an AGS Council member (2008-2011), the Vice President of External Affairs (2009-2011), a member of the Student Fee Advisory Committee (2008-2011) and the Vice Chair of the Graduate and Professional Committee for the UC Student Association (2009-2011).

As president of AGS, Payel is working on strengthening AGS Communications with the campus administration and graduate student community. Additionally, she is working with campus administration on housing, parking and mental health needs of graduate and professional students.  

“Being the first international student to be the AGS President, I want to use this unique opportunity to engage the International graduate community,” she says.   She worked closely with the UCI Graduate Division on the recent Graduate Interconnect program for new international students and is confident that, with continued efforts, many of the 5,000 master’s and doctoral students will learn to get involved.

“We are a community of 5,000 voices and we have so much in common- and so much to learn from each other. The world may be large, but here at UCI, we really are a global village.”