Dispatch from the RA Office: Carlos Albuja Jijon

Author: Michele Davies

Carlos Albuja

My name is Carlos Albuja and I have been a Research Associate (RA) at Notre Dame’s Building Inclusive Growth (BIG Lab) since September 2023. I grew up in Quito, Ecuador, and I was exposed from a very young age to the deep structural inequalities in Latin America. Since I was young, I always knew I wanted to build a career in development, ideally focused on poverty alleviation. My story, although a bit unorthodox, shows that it is never too late to recenter your career towards your passion.

After graduating from Vassar College in 2015, I accepted a job at J.P. Morgan in New York. I was curious about the role of financial markets in shaping the world we live on. Candidly, I also accepted this job to pay back my student loans and to save money for grad school. I ended up working 7 years for J.P. Morgan in New York, Mexico City and Miami. Although I ended up learning a lot about the mechanics of Wall Street, I always knew I wanted to recenter my career towards economic policy and development practices. In 2022 I enrolled in a master’s program at Columbia University, focused on economic policy management. My program at Columbia was highly rigorous and focused on quantitative methods to better understand economic outcomes. At Columbia I attained a high level of training in macroeconomics, microeconomics and econometric methods. I also ended up working as an RA for Prof. Guillermo Calvo, who is an economist I had always admired.

After Columbia, I searched for research opportunities to help me better prepare for the next step in my career: pursuing a PhD in Economics. The opportunity to work at Notre Dame’s BIG Lab was an amazing fit for my career aspirations, as it combined my passion for development with my interest in economic research. Working alongside fantastic professors at Notre Dame has helped me shape my research interests, which I intend to pursue during my PhD. From a personal side, although South Bend is not New York, there is plenty of things to do and I have never been bored during the weekends. I definitely recommend experiencing Notre Dame’s tailgates during ‘football weekends’ and also catching a train to Chicago every now and then (Chicago is less than 3 hours away by train!).

Being an RA at Notre Dame’s BIG Lab has been a fantastic opportunity that has given me skills and research experience that will be very useful in the future. Working with accomplished professors in a top-tier university has showed me that it is never too late to take control of your career. Most importantly, working at Notre Dame’s BIG Lab has helped me confirm my passion for the study of development economics, which is something I will always be grateful for.