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Econ Major to spend Summer at Princeton

April 11, 2008

Econ Major to spend Summer at Princeton

For many undergraduates, summer vacation means sleeping late, reconnecting with friends from high school and lazy afternoons by the pool.

But seven weeks of statistics, economics and policy analysis? That’s what UC Merced junior Amanda Camelo has in store for herself this summer, and she couldn’t be happier.

Camelo, a Brazil-born
economics major, will undergo the grueling academic regimen through Princeton University’s prestigious Public Policy and International Affairs Junior Summer Institute. Held at Princeton and four other locations, the institute helps prepare college juniors for careers in public policy and public service.

I’m really excited about getting into this program, said Camelo, 21. I’ve always been interested in international relations but I am not quite sure if I want to go into economic development, international political economy, or something else. I think this will help me get a grip on what exactly I want to do.

Competition for the all-expenses-paid institute is fierce. Only about 120 slots are available, and three or four times as many college juniors apply each year, said Chris Matias, executive director of the institute, known as the PPIA.

Camelo, 21, was selected on the basis of a 3.98 grade-point average, recommendations from UC Merced professors, extracurricular work and a longtime interest in international affairs.

She’s a great student, and I think she has unlimited potential, said
Rudy Ortiz,a UC Merced assistant professor of
natural scienceswho was Camelo’s instructor in a nutrition course at UC Merced.

Camelo and three classmates in Ortiz’s class undertook a research project in which they surveyed the dietary fiber intake in a small population of 10- to 13-year-olds. The quartet of researchers fanned out to various locations - two middle schools, a food court at a mall and a picnic area at a park - to find out whether their sample population was getting the recommended daily allowance of dietary fiber in lunchtime meals. Fiber intake is important, because studies show it can protect against obesity.

The UC Merced students figured that the sample group consumed only about 50 percent of the fiber recommended for children that age. Ortiz was so impressed with the findings that he may seek grant funding for a more thorough examination of fiber intake in children.

Camelo’s work in Ortiz’s course introduced her to the type of quantitative analysis that she’ll study on a more profound level at this summer’s institute.

She’s lucky to have a head start. The full-time curriculum involves exceptionally intense, graduate-level work, Matias noted. But if you’re going to pursue public policy work, or another public-serving career, it’s important if not essential to have this kind of background.

Camelo should leave the summer institute in a much better position to win admission to a top graduate program.

We have a consortium of graduate schools that are affiliated with the PPIA, and they aggressively recruit our fellows because they know what kind of training they get, Matias said.

The oldest of three children, Camelo left Brazil for California as a senior in high school, when her father, Inaldo, a Baptist minister, was assigned to a congregation in the Bay Area. She comes by her interest in healthy eating from her mom, Claudia, a nutritionist and psychologist. In addition to working in Ortiz’s lab, Camelo is a research assistant in the lab of
Professor Katie Winder,who studies labor economics, and is an associate justice for
Associated Students of University of California, Merced,court.

Camelo won’t be the only UC student at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs this summer. Joining her will be four students from Berkeley and one from Irvine.