Zoe VanDerPloeg ('14, Economics)

Photo of Zoe VanderPloegWhat do you do for your undergraduate research?

I am double majoring in Economics and Film Studies, so I am researching entertainment economics with Dr. Treme in the Economics and Finance department. I have previously looked at the influence social media has on box office revenues in the US film industry. Specifically, my research focused on discovering if movie reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and actors' popularity on Twitter affect how much money a movies makes. This year, I am developing an Honors Project that will test this notion of actor popularity and "star power" using a variety of different factors over the past thirty years or so.

What made you want to pursue an undergraduate research project?

Undergraduate research is a way to go beyond just passively absorbing the things I'm taught in class and actually use them to create something of my own. It's a very cool feeling to apply what I've learned to find out something important about the world.

How did you start your research project?

I took an introductory microeconomics course with my mentor, Dr. Treme, my first semester of freshman year. I loved the class so much that I decided to make it my major. Dr. Treme and I kept in touch, and when I took more of her classes my sophomore year she invited me to start research with her.

Was doing your own research fun? Be Honest.

Overall, I am incredibly glad that I'm doing research - it is one of the most important choices I've made at UNCW. But I am not sure if "fun" is always the right word to describe it. Make sure that you are researching a topic that you would be interested in on your own. Trust meā€¦even if you are totally in love with whatever you are doing, you will have to work on it so much that you are completely sick of it by the end. But then when you finish, you think, "Wow! It's so cool that I did that!" and it makes everything completely worth it.

It isn't required to do research as an undergrad, so what advantages do you think this experience has provided you?

One of the best things I've gotten out of researching is a great relationship with my mentor professor, Dr. Treme. It is so valuable to have a strong connection with an expert in your field. I will probably invite her to my wedding. Also, researching has given me a better grasp on how Economics works in the "real world", and of course this is a great experience to put on my resume.

What recognition and/or grants did you receive for your research?

I was awarded the Ann Sherman Skiba Undergraduate Fellowship for 2012-2013, which I applied for through CSURF's UNCW Fellowship Competition. CSURF also gave me a travel grant in 2012 to travel to Boston, MA to present my research at the Eastern Economic Association Annual Conference. Although not directly related to the research I've done with Dr. Treme, I wrote an article for the Film Studies department about economics and classical Hollywood. That will be published this fall in Film Matters magazine.

What are your plans after you receive your degree from UNCW?

I plan to either go to graduate school for Economics or find a job in the entertainment industry. I hope to travel, too!

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