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The power of econometrics: Convocation Medalist, Dr. Xiaolin Sun, researches the effectiveness of social programs

May 31, 2023

Exceptional economics graduate Xiaolin Sun is one of ten graduate students being recognized with the Simon Fraser University (SFU) Dean of Graduate Studies Convocation Medal.

Xiaolin Sun began and ended her graduate career at SFU with recognition. She received a Graduate Dean’s Entrance Scholarship, earned the Terry Heaps Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award in 2021, and now adds the Dean of Graduate Studies Convocation medal to her list. 

Economics Graduate Chair and Sun’s thesis supervisor, Bertille Antoine, nominated Sun for the medal. “Through her hard work, dedication, and determination, Xiaolin has emerged as a talented young scholar with several promising research papers in theoretical and applied econometrics,” says Antoine.

Sun’s PhD thesis focused on developing new econometric methods to analyze data to help us better understand the effectiveness of social programs. She explored the effects of electricity grids on employment, healthcare programs on expenditure, and more.

Sun says her research demonstrates the power of econometrics to provide insights into complex systems. Understanding the effectiveness of programs can help inform the design of better policies, lead to engagement in data-driven decision-making and foster collaboration between stakeholders and researchers.  

Her research focus was inspired by the papers she read in a directed reading course with Antoine. To further refine her research subject, Sun conducted extensive literature reviews and engaged in discussions with her supervisor. This process allowed her to identify existing gaps in knowledge, areas that required further exploration, and potential avenues for making a meaningful contribution to the field.

While personal interest played a role, Sun also credits Antoine. “Her insights and feedback helped me strike a balance between my passion for the topic and the scholarly rigor necessary for conducting rigorous research,” Sun says.

For Sun, winning the Dean’s Convocation Medal represents a recognition of all her hard work and a validation from the academic community. “This medal serves as a source of immense joy and satisfaction,” she says. “It instills in me a sense of pride, not only in my own accomplishments but also in the supportive network of advisors, mentors, and peers who have guided and inspired me along the way.”

Acknowledging those who played a key role in her success, Sun says, “I would like to express my enormous gratitude for my supervisor, professor Bertille Antoine. Her unwavering commitment to my growth as a researcher has been truly remarkable.” 

Sun is profoundly appreciative of her parents for their steadfast support and belief in her during her Ph.D. journey. Additionally, Sun thanks her committee members Dongwoo Kim, Krishna Pendakur, and Xiaoting Sun, whose “expertise and critical insights have significantly strengthened the quality of my work.”    

Sun is grateful for the comments and help from Chris Bidner, Irene Botosaru, Minjie Deng, Brian Krauth, Chris Muris, Kevin Schnepel, Hitoshi Shigeoka, Simon Woodcock, and all her professors at SFU. 

Her supervisor couldn’t be prouder. “There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Xiaolin is doing all the right things to become a formidable researcher,” says Antoine.    

Sun continues her research as a postdoctoral fellow at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia where she remains committed to advancing our understanding of important social issues.