Todd Lensman is a junior from North Canton, Ohio and has served as an undergraduate research assistant (URA) for Assistant Professor Maxim Troshkin since spring 2016. As a double major in mathematics and economics, Todd was exposed to the academic disciplines at a young age through his parents’ financial management business. He became naturally interested in economics and decision-making. “I found that my interests in math were in topics like optimization and control theory, and since these can be applied in interesting ways to economics, I had a pretty easy time choosing my majors,” he adds.
Through the Economics Department’s Undergraduate Research program, Todd applied for a research opportunity and was hired by Professor Troshkin. At the time Professor Troshkin was working on several discussion papers about the robustness of tax policies and social contracts. Lensman developed supporting materials, and his URA duties included reading relevant literature, summarizing theoretical results, and working out examples.
After working with Todd on this project, Professor Troshkin said, “It became quickly obvious I could simply ask Todd to verify conjectures or find counterexamples almost independently. So I asked Todd if he was interested in helping me with related projects I was working on. Those were about the robustness of the role of government as a provider of social insurance, especially when uncertainty is interpreted more broadly than in conventional public finance models.”
Reading academic papers about social insurance, mechanism design, and contract theory helped Lensman gain familiarity with topics that are not typically part of an undergraduate curriculum. “This had a large influence my economic interests,” he said, “Actually working on a research project with a professor has proven to be an invaluable experience . . . Professor Troshkin has done quite a bit to explain the process of doing economic research and communicating results. I’m sure that his mentorship and advice will serve me well in my future studies and in my career.”
During his senior year, Todd plans to work on a thesis and apply for graduate school. He hopes to enroll in a Ph.D. program in economics and pursue work as a professor. Lensman adds, “I enjoy working on economic research, and it would be really gratifying to turn that passion into a career.”
In his advice for future economics majors, Todd suggests taking a broad assortment of courses. “Cornell offers a wide variety of classes, so you should really make an effort to find ones that interest you,” he said. “It can be exceptionally fun to study a topic you’re passionate about with people who share your interests, so I think all incoming students should try to discover theirs.”
Todd Lensman is junior majoring in mathematics and economics. He’s involved with the Cornell Economics Society (CES) and is the current Editor-in-Chief of CES’s undergraduate research journal, the Cornell Undergraduate Economic Review. He enjoys hanging out in between classes in the Undergraduate Economics Lounge and grabbing a meal with friends at Terrace Dining Hall. On the weekends you can find him playing guitar, exploring the Ithaca Commons, and getting coffee at the Ithaca Coffee Company.
Maxim Troshkin is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics. His research interests include public finance, public economics, and macroeconomics. He is currently teaching ECON 3030 Intermediate Macroeconomic Theory and ECON 7390 Public Finance: Advanced Topics. To learn more about Professor Troshkin, visit his faculty profile page here.