We met with Harvard student Yunseo Choi to discuss her research project, her advice to high school students, the life of a college student, and more. Enjoy!
Yunseo Choi is a winner of the Regeneron Science Talent Search, alumni of the Research Science Institute, and a current student at Harvard University. Her research project models date matches with an infinite set of men and women. This theoretical “tinder” looks at which properties of matching are the same in infinite and finite sets of people. As a freshman in college, Yunseo offers advice to high school students and gives insight into the life of a college student at Harvard.
Just living in the dorm is nice just to be around new people, occasional like games.” – Yunseo Choi
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(Editor’s Note: The following transcript has been lightly edited to improve clarity.)
Karina Macosko: Hi, I’m Karina Macosko from Academic Influence, and I’m here with Yunseo who is the winner of the Regeneron Science Talent Search. And this is a super exciting interview because we have interviewed academics, but this is the first time that it is somebody close to my age. So we are super excited. Tell us…
Usually, we ask how you got into your field, but since you aren’t in the field yet. How did you get into STEM? And how did you get interested in this talent search?
Yunseo Choi: Yeah. So I completed my project at the Research Science Institute, which is a camp for high school juniors, at usually MIT. But for me, it was because of COVID. It was virtual, but I was matched through that program with the professor here at Harvard. So, yeah, that’s when I completed my economics project, and I entered that project into the Science Talent Search, as did so many other students at the camp. And so, yeah, that’s how I got into Science Talent Search.
Karina: And can you tell us a little bit about your project?
Yunseo: Yeah, of course. So my project is in Theoretical Economics and so that… If you think about economics, you can maybe think of taking a lot of derivatives, like actually working with data. But theoretical economics is a little different than that in… It’s a little different in that it is purely based on a model. It’s basically all pure math tools. And my project specifically was on matching, so it’s about matching instead of… The basic problem instead of matching is the problem of matching a set of men with a set of women. And given their preferences, how do we most optimally match these two? And so this is a very classical problem in economics. And so what I studied was instead of having some finite set of men and some finite set of women, what happens if there is an infinite set of men and an infinite set of women? So that was the question that I studied.
Karina: Wow, so this is kind of like a theoretical Tinder? So to speak.
Karina: Okay. And so can you tell us…
…how did you go about finding these matches between men and women?
Yunseo: Yeah, so I studied… So the question… The same question in the finite matching market, when there’s a finite number of men and a finite number of women that’s very well studied. And so my project was about, out of those properties which one carry over, which one still holds true when there’s an infinite number of men and an infinite number of women? And so one of the tools that I used was Mathematical Logic. And so you can express the conditions in logic with… Sorry, the conditions of a good matching in logical statements using like and, or, not, all these logical statements. And so you can basically characterize matching in that way. And so because that statement itself… There’s a very nice tool to extend that to infinite markets. And so that was one of the building blocks of my project.
Karina: Awesome, and a lot of the people who watch these interviews are around our age, so, coming from somebody who is now in college and you just recently went through the whole application process.
What advice do you have for people just going through this or people who are maybe freshman in college like you or anybody?
Yunseo: Yeah. I actually only applied to one school where I am right now. [chuckle]
Yunseo: So I really can’t speak about applying to all these different schools and I don’t know what strategies you might wanna have, but I think just understand yourself.
Yunseo: You have your own… Yeah, have your own story. Just know your strength.
Karina: And obviously, your freshman year has been a little different because of COVID.
Karina: But what do you think people have to look forward to in their freshman year of college?
Yunseo: Oh, yeah, we do have a lot of testing, and we obviously have to wear masks in indoor spaces, but besides that, I think a lot of activities have resumed this year. So look forward to… I think, just living in the dorm is nice just to be around new people, the occasional games, there’s like a big game… A lot of people go to games here. [chuckle] So Yeah, sports games are fun.
Karina: That’s awesome.
And obviously, you have a very bright future. So what do you… What are your plans? Are you thinking about majoring in economics in college or what are your plans going forward?
Yunseo: Yeah, I think I want to if I can pursue a career in academia, I don’t know which specific field I think in college I’m gonna major in math and take other classes to see what I really like. But probably math adjacent. Academia is my goal.
Karina: Wow. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me. It’s really interesting. And again, you’re one of the first people we’ve interviewed who is close to my age, so it’s fun to talk to somebody who is around the same point in life as I am.
Yunseo: Yeah, of course, thanks for having me.
Karina: Thank you so much.