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Student Spotlight

We are pleased to highlight two of our outstanding students Kevin Bloodworth and Justin Marquez-Talavera. Kevin is a research assistant for Dr. BenYishay and Justin is a research assistant for Dr. Baldomero Quintana.


Hi, I'm Kevin,

I am a senior from Woodbridge, VA. I am majoring in Economics and I am involved with the National Pan-Hellenic Council and Alpha Phi Alpha.

What are the research projects or activities you have been involved? For the honors thesis, I am looking at how foreign direct investment impacts the environment in Cambodia. Currently, I am also a research assistant at the Global Research Institute and a research fellow for PIPS. In the past two summers, I interned at the FED St Louis and the Council of Foreign Relations.

What are the things about undergraduate research you like? What things do you find challenging? I liked the idea of exploring a topic I am deeply invested in. When you are taking courses, you are being fed and taught knowledge, when doing research, you're kind of "creating knowledge" and that in itself is really interesting to me. The challenging part about it is coming up with different creative ideas. It's always frustrating when you think of an idea, and find out it was published already.

Fun fact about yourself. In my free time, I like to play guitar, I've been studying jazz-style arrangements for the past two years

What advice would you give a student if they want to be interested in undergraduate research? Literally just ask, Professors and Researchers on campus are always looking for help. If they aren't looking for someone themselves, they absolutely know someone who is looking. It never hurts to reach out and ask!


Hi, I'm Justin, 

I am from Woodbridge, Virginia while my family is from Nicaragua, and I am a current senior majoring in economics. My extra-curricular activities on campus involve social dancing and astronomy and outside of clubs, I like to play soccer and to weightlift. 

What are the research projects or activities you have been involved? I am a research assistant for Professor Baldomero-Quintana in the Economics department. My general work so far has been working with data, maps, and literature reviews. I have worked on three main projects so far. These projects are code-intensive and very detail oriented, so I must be organized and meticulous in my work. 

What are the things about undergraduate research you like? What things do you find challenging? I like undergraduate research because it gives you the ability to see how the concepts you learn in class are applied in real life. Being able to see how the theories we’ve learned hold up with the raw data is astounding. What I find challenging are the setbacks with real-world data because as students, we use clean, nice data and scenarios that are simple to work with. Very rarely we encounter problems. Meanwhile, with real data, there can be problems or roadblocks before being able to use it, which can be frustrating at times but it is very rewarding to be able to overcome them. 

Fun fact abut yourself. I have been on an active volcano before while visiting Nicaragua.

One piece advice I have for a student interested in undergraduate research. Jump into it as soon as you can! You should look for a Professor who works in a field of their interest and ask them about their research and see if they can help or be involved with it in some way. I think the most challenging part about research is finding a starting point since it can be intimidating to approach a Professor for advice but most of them are very approachable and kind, and are willing to help students find suitable research projects to take on.