Each year, faculty in the Economics Department nominate students for various departmental awards. One such accolade is the Henry Carter Adams Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Writing, established in 2019 as tribute to its namesake, professor and long-time chair of Economics at Michigan, Henry Carter Adams. Joining the U-M Economics faculty in 1881 and retiring in 1921, Adams was also the fourth president of the American Economic Association, the principal organization of professional economists in the United States, from 1896 to 1897.  

The Henry Carter Adams Prize is awarded to the writer(s) of the “best undergraduate paper in economics,” written during the relevant semester. Work can come from any undergraduate student enrolled in an economics course but must have a consistent and engaging voice presenting clear and original arguments supported by credible sources.

This Fall 2020, three graduating students, Jianmeng Lyu, Daniel Motoc, and Vanessa Wu, were recognized with the Henry Carter Adams Prize for their excellence in writing.

Originally written for his Econ 495 course before being drafted into his honors thesis, Jianmeng Lyu’s paper, “Business Cycle Transmission through Global Value Chains During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Heterogenous Performances of U.S. Sectors with Different Degrees of Reliance on Chinese Inputs,” studies how U.S. sectors with different degrees of reliance on Chinese inputs have performed differently during the COVID-19 pandemic, and demonstrates the dual role of global value chains (GVCs) at a sector level during an international crisis: GVCs can transmit foreign shocks to the domestic economy, but they can also serve as buffers against domestic economic disruptions. Jianmeng will work as a pre-doctoral research assistant at MIT Sloan after graduating this spring from the economics program with a minor in Mathematics.

Daniel Motoc’s senior thesis, entitled “The Bilateral Trade Problem: The Case of Correlated Values,” explores what happens when buyer's and seller's values for a good are correlated. This may arise when both the buyer and seller have private information about the good being transacted, and both agents try to infer the other's information in order to understand more about the good.Looking at two mechanisms - a fixed price, and a price floor - and at several distributions of the agents' information, Daniel aims to understand what mechanism, or according to what "rules", should a buyer and seller adhere to in order to promote efficient trade. Daniel, who plans to pursue graduate school for economics or finance in the future, will join JP Morgan as an Equity Solutions Analyst upon graduation.

In Econ 490, Experimental Economics, Vanessa Wu designed an experiment to study the effect of physical attractiveness on STEM researchers for her term paper “Does Beauty Matter for STEM Researchers?” Employing the correspondence method to isolate the effect of physical attractiveness, Vanessa designed an online survey in which participants chose to admit to a STEM Ph.D. program one of two fictitious applicants who had comparable traits but strikingly different appearances. To her surprise, Vanessa found that beauty did not appear to have an effect on STEM researchers, at least at the Ph.D. program admissions level. After graduating this April, Vanessa will work as a female entrepreneurship counselor at Grameen China, a social enterprise specializing in microfinance founded by Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus.

The recognition for their research and writing has humbled each recipient this year. As they look forward to their different careers, Jianmeng, Daniel, and Vanessa are not only honored but also encouraged by a renewed confidence in their work in economics, recognizing the field’s value in its ability to explain and improve the world around us.