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Washington and Lee University

Washington and Lee University
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John Bovay ('07)

John is pursuing a PhD in agricultural and resource economics at UC Davis.

John decided to become a math major after taking Linear Algebra and Math 301 his first year at W&L.  Before he graduated, however, his coursework outside the department, summer internships, and travel in Central and South America had convinced him to become an economist, in order to apply his math skills and intuition toward the human problems of the safety and availability of food and water in developing countries, and environmental protection.  To prepare himself for a career in this field, he added a major in Politics and a concentration in Environmental Studies.

Upon completion of a summer internship near Lexington following his graduation, John took a position with Abt Associates, a government consulting firm in DC and Boston, which hired John because they knew his math background would enable him to quickly learn the intricacies of economic analysis.  He mainly conducted cost-benefit analyses of EPA regulations on oil storage, chemical manufacturing, and pesticides.  After two years with Abt Associates, John entered the Ph.D. program of UC Davis's Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics. The main difference between this department and a typical economics department is that all students and faculty focus on topics in agricultural, environmental, natural-resource, or development economics.

The core Ph.D. courses for all economics students -- econometrics and microeconomic theory -- deal with applying statistics to problems of causality and building an axiomatic system for understanding consumer and firm behavior, respectively.  John feels that his math courses at W&L, especially the classes he took his first year and Real Analysis, have given him a comparative advantage in dealing with the formalism of economic theory.  

In the summer of 2010, John began a research project on the economic impacts of U.S. food safety policies for fruit, vegetables, and tree nuts, with a particular focus on their impact on trade with developing countries. He hopes to extend his research to explore the same issues within developing countries, particularly the effects on small growers, and to examine the effects of food and water safety on nutrition for the rural poor.  He loves his work because is able to use mathematical thinking to try to answer these important questions, which rarely have simple solutions.  He can be reached at: jcbovay@ucdavis.edu .