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Tamar Oostrom – National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship

Name: Tamar Oostrom

Class Year: 2013

Hometown: Richland, WA

Major(s): Biochemistry, Mathematics

Opportunity and Year: National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, 2015

Project Summary: In my research statement, I proposed studying spillovers of health insurance provision on children’s educational outcomes using variation in Medicaid Expansion under the Affordable Care Act along with school-district disparities in the percent of children who receive free lunch.

How did W&L prepare you for this opportunity? The support and enthusiasm of W&L’s professors was critical. Whenever I wanted to try something crazy and new, be it traveling to the Himalayas (Prof Bourdon), or trying economics research (Prof Guse), they would take hours of their time to work with me and make it possible.

For example, I took my first real economics course spring term my junior year. At a large research university, that’s simply too late to build the connections and take the classes you need. At W&L, I felt like the whole department was behind me, helping me overload classes, waive pre-requisites, get recommendations for post-grad opportunities, and finally, apply for graduate school.

Why did you apply for this opportunity? Everybody applying for graduate school in an NSF-supported field should apply for the NSF GRFP. It helps you focus your interests early and define research ideas you can pursue and discuss, and it provides a chance at additional graduate school funding.

Post-graduation Plans: I’ll be spending the next five years getting my PhD in economics from MIT. After that, I’d like to be a college professor.

How will this opportunity help you achieve your goals? The NSF GRFP will allow me to focus completely on research and learning during my first three years in graduate school. I’ll also get access to NSF servers, speeding up large data jobs.

Extracurricular Involvement:

  • OnPoverty.org
  • Equestrian Team
  • Peer Tutor

Off-campus Experience:

I received a Johnson Opportunity Grant to support and shadow a team of doctors providing health care services in Ladakh, a remote area of the Indian Himalayas.

Research Experience:

My first two summers at W&L were spent analyzing anaerobic metal-reducing bacteria with the microbiology group at Pacific Northwest National Lab. After my junior year, I was a research fellow at Carnegie Mellon’s Applied Mathematics Institute, modeling interdependence in stock pairs. Finally, I’ve spent two years after graduation as a research assistant at the National Bureau of Economic Research, working on understanding determinants of health care cost with an MIT economics professor.

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