BIG Lab RA Alums Talk About Their Experience

Author: Michele Davies

Gina Savi1

Gina and Savita started as BIG Lab Research Associates in June, 2021. Gina graduated from Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio in May, with a Bachelor's degree in Mathematics and Chemistry, while Savita had finished at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts after studying Economics and Politics. While Gina and Savita were the first BIG Lab RAs, the idea going forward is to grow our RA program and continue with RAs on two-year cycles. This allows RAs to gain research experience, forge relationships with faculty and research partners, have meaningful impact on projects, and decide on potential next steps for graduate school. Both Gina and Savita will start PhD programs in the fall of 2023; Gina will be studying Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics (ACMS) at Notre Dame on a prestigious Notebaert Premier Fellowship, while Savita will be studying Economics at Yale University.


Gina Savi2

Savita and Gina mainly supported Professors Joseph Kaboski and Taryn Dinkelman, but they also worked with Professors Alejandro Estefan, Viva Bartkus, Paul Winters, and Lakshmi Iyer, across Economics, the Keough School of Global Affairs, and Mendoza College of Business. The RAs assist faculty with grant applications, project development, survey design, field work, data cleaning, analysis, writing, and journal submission. They have also helped in organizing research conferences in the Midwest and in Italy.


Gina worked on several different projects with Professors Kaboski and Dinkelman, which recently focused on electrification and technology adoption in South Africa, land markets and poverty traps in rural Uganda, and modeling the process of structural change in multiple countries.

When asked about her time as an RA, Gina emphasized the way BIG Lab research opens opportunities both within the lab and throughout the world.

"I was initially drawn to the BIG lab because I recognized it was an environment where I could strengthen my research skills while addressing topics that impact millions of people around the world. Throughout my time here, I have enjoyed working on a variety of projects for different faculty members and have appreciated the many opportunities for professional development and community within the BIG lab"

Meanwhile, Savita completed the majority of her work with Professors Estefan and Dinkelman. Most recently, her work centered around Professor Dinkelman's research on free primary education, labor markets, and political engagement in African countries. Savita also mentioned the support and opportunities she has seen from the Lab and the University.

"At the BIG Lab, I have had the opportunity to be involved in and learn about every step of the research process. Throughout the work, the Notre Dame mission of respect, dignity, and inquiry is central, both in internal research teams and in regards to external work on international poverty alleviation. This humanity-driven approach to development research was an important aspect of drawing me to the BIG Lab. Beyond research, I have greatly appreciated that faculty members take real and personal interest in my growth and goals."

Beyond research and analysis support, Gina and Savita were also part of the Structural Transformation and Economic Growth (STEG) team, where they assist the United Kingdom Center for Economic and Policy Research with identifying research projects and scholars in developing countries, that align with the STEG mission of promoting structural change and inclusive growth research.Gina Savifootballgame

Outside of work, Gina and Savita took the time to explore the surrounding areas and get involved in the community. Gina had visited Notre Dame as a child and was excited at the opportunity to move to the area.

"Living in South Bend has been a lot of fun! Between local events like the South Bend Cubs baseball games, exploring coffee shops, and First Fridays, I feel like there is always something to do. I enjoy talking with people around the department about fun new spots they have found. The community at Notre Dame and in the Economics Department have been a huge part of what makes South Bend so special."

Savita had never been to Indiana before making the move from Massachuestts to become a BIG Lab RA.

"I was pleasantly surprised by South Bend! I love the farmer's market and the downtown public library, and it's been really fun to go to Lake Michigan for beach days or to watch the sunset. I've become a much bigger sports fan (go Irish!) and I feel at home in the community built around the Economics Department. I always stop by the Economics tailgates on football game-days for great food and the piñata."

The BIG Lab is grateful for the hard work Gina and Savita have put in over the last two years and while we are sad to see them go, we wish them both the very best in their graduate pursuits.