Chengyijing Wang, ’23 quantitative economics, is the 2023 Social Sciences Outstanding Honors Thesis Award winner. The honor, which includes a $300 prize, recognizes Wang for her outstanding undergraduate honors thesis on the American housing market and price prediction. Below, the new graduate and semiprofessional chess player shares her award-winning work and what she values most from her time as an Anteater.
What drew you to UCI and the quantitative economics major in particular? What interests you most about your work?
I was drawn to my current field of study, particularly focusing on American home price prediction, due to the significant role housing plays in wealth accumulation for the middle class and its impact on the overall economy. Housing, accounting for nearly 17 percent of GDP, serves as a crucial driver of the U.S. economy. Moreover, the trend of housing prices has long been an essential indicator for assessing economic trends. In recent years, macroeconomic policies have influenced the housing market, leading to imbalances in housing supply and household demand. Accurate housing price prediction enables a better understanding of market dynamics and serves as a vital consideration in formulating strategic planning and policies for housing. This aspect of my research captivates me the most as it allows me to contribute to shaping housing strategies and policymaking through data-driven insights.
When do you plan to finish your degree and what are your plans thereafter?
I completed the degree requirements for a bachelor of arts in quantitative economics in the winter 2023 term. Following my undergraduate studies, I have set my sights on pursuing a master of science in business analytics at Columbia University. This program aligns with my career goals and will provide me with the necessary knowledge and case study experience in the rapidly evolving field of business analysis. I believe that this advanced degree will not only enhance my business acumen but also equip me with the skills to make significant contributions in research and innovation within my future company. I am excited to further enrich my expertise and make a positive impact in the field of Business Analytics.
In addition to your regular coursework, what other campus activities have you been involved in at UCI?
While pursuing economic and finance-related courses, I have actively engaged in activities that allow me to apply and strengthen my professional knowledge and skills. As a core member of UCI's International Equity Application Investment Research Group, I faced significant challenges during a period of high market volatility last year. However, our team successfully developed a defensive overall portfolio strategy. In our stock selection process, we focused on undervalued stocks, resulting in the creation of an efficient investment portfolio that generated excess returns. I take pride in the fact that our portfolio outperformed exponential growth. Notably, I made a successful investment in Yonghui Superstore, which greatly offset losses from other stocks. This experience opened my eyes to the effectiveness of top-down investment logic and quantitative tools. Beyond the sense of accomplishment, this involvement has provided valuable insights and guided my future career aspirations to become a proficient quantitative analyst.
Tell us about your research.
During the 2022-2023 academic year, I participated in the honors program in economics where I focused on conducting research projects and writing an honors thesis. My research involved analyzing the American housing market by collecting and analyzing a vast dataset of 27,344 housing price records from sources such as Zillow and Fred, spanning from January 2000 to November 2022. Through the application of statistical techniques, such as Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) regression, I identified seasonal variables by observing trend charts and subsequently deseasonalized them to reduce autocorrelation. Additionally, I compared the predictions generated by machine learning algorithms with those of a time series SARIMA model to evaluate its effectiveness in analyzing and predicting housing price trends. The findings of this study hold implications for state-level interventions aimed at balancing the supply and demand dynamics of urban housing markets.
Who has played an important mentorship role during your time at UCI?
I am deeply grateful to the professors who have played pivotal mentorship roles in my academic journey, particularly Anna Ma, Brain Jenkins, and Eric Swanson, during my time at UCI.
Professor Anna Ma's unwavering commitment to delivering clear explanations of complex probability concepts through detailed annotations was truly remarkable, especially amidst the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. She created a conducive learning environment that fostered effective communication and collaboration among students. Professor Ma's availability during office hours, even for unrelated inquiries, emphasized the value of active classroom participation and its practical applications. Through engaging discussions, I gained a profound understanding of probability, which has provided valuable insights into various aspects of life and human behavior.
Another influential mentor for me was Professor Brain Jenkins. His unique blend of humor and seriousness made learning enjoyable as he guided us in utilizing Python's computational methods to solve and simulate macroeconomic models related to economic growth and business cycles. Under his mentorship, I not only acquired essential programming skills but also developed a deeper appreciation for the work of macroeconomic researchers. His constructive suggestions as the advisor for my research paper significantly enhanced its quality and impact.
Professor Eric Swanson also played a crucial role in my academic journey. Beyond elucidating the logic and concepts underlying various models and schools of thought, he skillfully linked these economic theories to real-world stories and implications. Additionally, he connected economic policy changes to current events and political landscapes, allowing for a more comprehensive understanding. Through extracurricular reading, I discovered the practical application of macroeconomics, particularly in analyzing macro indicators for my research paper.
I am grateful for the mentorship and guidance provided by these professors, as they have contributed immensely to my academic growth and have shaped my passion for their respective fields.
Tell us about a challenging experience you’ve encountered and what you learned from it.
Based on the personal information provided by credit card applicants and their credit statuses within the dataset, I took the lead in utilizing machine learning models to predict future loan defaults and credit card loans. Throughout this process, numerous challenges arose. To achieve more accurate results, we implemented a group decision-making approach that combined logistic regression, decision trees, and neural networks. The final outcome was determined through a group voting mechanism, effectively reducing the potential bias and interference associated with individual algorithms.
By employing the group decision method, we observed an improvement in credit card prediction accuracy by 0.3%, 0.4%, and 1.4% respectively, as compared to the performance of individual models. This successful outcome validated the effectiveness of the group decision method. I consider this research experience to be immensely gratifying, as it propelled me further in exploring the practical application of data analysis within specific domains. It has reinforced my understanding of the power and potential of data-driven approaches in making informed decisions.
Where can you most often be found on campus?
I can often be found at Langson, as I find the library to be an ideal learning environment. Whether it's a quiet corner or a cozy spot in Starbucks, I appreciate the simplicity and tranquility that such places offer. The serene atmosphere allows me to detach from the outside world temporarily, enabling me to focus solely on my research or studies. The presence of others diligently working alongside me in Langson, especially during the final week, instills a sense of camaraderie and motivation within me. It fuels me with a feeling of determination and energy, as if I can conquer any challenge that comes my way. Ultimately, a simple library or a peaceful coffee shop provides me with the necessary space to alleviate study pressure and excel in my academic endeavors.
What’s your best memory thus far from your undergraduate experience at UCI?
I consider my undergraduate experience at the University of California, Irvine, to be an immensely rewarding journey. During my studies, courses such as Calculus, Intro Linear Algebra, and Probability provided me with a profound understanding of mathematical and statistical principles. Through my exploration of Stochastic Process, I honed my ability to calculate stock returns. Additionally, my exposure to economics and finance-related subjects equipped me with a comprehensive understanding of asset allocation strategies at both macro and micro levels.
To be honest, I feel incredibly fortunate and blessed. Throughout my time at UC Irvine, I had the privilege of learning from patient and knowledgeable professors, receiving assistance from kind and supportive teaching assistants and advisors, and forming strong bonds with diligent classmates who shared my dedication. This nurturing and positive environment played a crucial role in helping me overcome various challenges and grow into the person I am today. I am sincerely grateful to the remarkable individuals who have supported and guided me on this journey. Thank you!
Any other interesting tidbits you would like to share?
I am a semiprofessional athlete of chess. Chess has been an integral part of my life since childhood, captivating me with its strategic intricacies. The careful thought and imaginative moves required to manipulate each chess piece have always enthralled me. I find immense fascination in the dynamic nature of attacking and defensive strategies within the game. Chess has not only shaped my competitive spirit but has also positively influenced my academic pursuits, instilling in me a strong motivation to approach mathematical problems with proactive thinking and a willingness to explore new avenues. This enduring passion for chess has not only honed my intellectual abilities but has also played a pivotal role in nurturing my character.