Empathy and Analytics Studies Highlighted in recent research

Upon a friend’s suggestion from his soccer team, James Simon registered for 14.73 (The Challenge of World Poverty) as a freshman to meet a humanities requirement. Transitioning from a state of unfamiliarity with economics, he delved into the subject under the tutelage of esteemed Nobel laureates.

Professors Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee’s teachings unveiled an innovative approach for Simon to apply science in aiding humanity. An example project introduced to him in the class involved assessing a region in India with low vaccination rates through a randomized, controlled trial aimed at identifying optimal solutions.

“The class delved into significant global issues such as poverty, hunger, and inadequate vaccinations, illustrating how to dissect them through experiments and quantify the most effective remedies,” Simon remarked.

Inspired by his academic journey, Simon engaged in a research project within the economics department, pursuing a combined major in computer science, economics, and data. Collaborating with Senior Lecturer Sara Ellison in 2021, he contributed to multiple research publications, particularly focusing on developmental economic challenges. Noteworthy was a project examining the impact of internet access on bridging economic disparities between countries, resulting in a paper published in Competition Policy International in 2021.

Extending his economic insights to practical initiatives, Simon took part in Project Somos, a Guatemalan charity dedicated to combating poverty through food and education access. Through MIT’s Global Research and Consulting Group, he oversaw a team analyzing the charity’s data, gauging its community impact, and providing data analytics support. Simon’s dedication to Project Somos led to his involvement in their board of directors.

Simon aims to quantify the most effective solutions for the communities he supports. Citing his charity’s motto, “Use your head and your heart,” Simon advocates for a blend of empathy and analytics in addressing global challenges.

Simon’s commitment to social impact resonates across his activities at MIT, where he is an integral member of the varsity soccer team, Phi Beta Epsilon fraternity, and the MIT Little Beavers Special Needs Running Club.

On the field, court, and trail

Sports form a vital aspect of Simon’s life, spanning year-round engagements. Soccer holds a significant place, with Simon joining the varsity team during his freshman year. His academic achievements were acknowledged with an Academic All-American title in his second year, further earning the NEWMAC First Team All-Conference honor in 2021.

Despite the demanding training sessions, Simon finds solace in game seasons, describing it as a competitive yet enjoyable escape. He emphasizes the camaraderie and mutual pursuit of victory among teammates within a focused sports environment.

Simon diversified his sports involvement at MIT, venturing into wrestling in winter 2023 and later joining the MIT basketball team as a walk-on in senior year. Delving into new sports proved rewarding as Simon discovered a passion for wrestling upon joining the camaraderie-filled club.

Beyond competitive sports, Simon finds joy in hiking, recalling a memorable expedition to Yosemite National Park. Regular hikes in New Hampshire and Acadia National Park with friends add to his outdoor adventures.

Social impact

Philanthropic endeavors remain pivotal in Simon’s MIT journey. Through the MIT Global Research and Consulting Group, he has fostered connections with humanitarian organizations globally, contributing to impactful projects in Guatemala and South Africa.

Known for fostering social bonds, Simon collaborates actively within his school and wider community. Bonding with the Little Beavers Running Team, he supports children on the autism spectrum, witnessing their growth in confidence and social skills. Additionally, his affiliation with the Phi Beta Epsilon fraternity has enriched his college experience, emphasizing strong camaraderie and personal growth.

Technical projects and aiding others

In his future endeavors, Simon plans to pursue a master’s degree in economics at MIT before transitioning to a finance role in New York. His internship at BlackRock in 2023 exposed him to leveraging academic knowledge for expanding retirement funding impacts, aligning with his goal of driving positive change through financial initiatives.

Reflecting on past internships, Simon highlights his work at Surge Employment Solutions, aiding formerly incarcerated individuals in job placements. By quantifying the social impact of his endeavors, Simon underscores the importance of leveraging skills to enhance lives and offer tangible benefits to society.

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