If most of us were to look at an economic model that represents income inequality and economic growth, we might just see an incomprehensible graph.

For economists such as Lynda Khalaf, these models tell complex stories—and explain underlying factors that affect all of our lives.

“I love Economics because it’s the study of human behaviour. There’s a lot of uncertainty in it, but Economics enables us to model it with mathematical rigor,” explains Professor Khalaf. “It’s a formal way to study uncertainty, which is extremely appealing to me.”

Professor Khalaf’s expertise is in “simulation-based inference methods”, which entails using computer simulations to test out statistical uncertainties.

“Measuring uncertainty (such as the likelihood of catastrophe) is the most interesting part of statistics,” she explains. “Once you acknowledge the world is uncertain, then you are interested in understanding the margin of error.”

Professor Khalaf’s passion for mathematics began when she was 13 years old, growing up in Lebanon during that country’s civil war.

“There was uncertainty all around me, so I sought relief in pure math. Then I discovered probability theory at 16 and loved that,” she recalls. “It has the rigor of math, but models the world much more realistically.”

Professor Khalaf currently has numerous research grants to support her work. She leads a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and another from the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC). She also participates as a collaborator on three other SSHRC-funded grants held by professors at three Canadian universities.

Her grants enable her to work closely with a number of current and former graduate students.

“It takes a long time to publish in Economics, so we tend to follow our students for a long time. I still publish with students who’ve already graduated,” she explains. “That’s our discipline: we don’t lose contact with them.”

Professor Khalaf stresses that none of this research would be possible without Carleton’s Information Technology Services team and specifically Ryan Taylor and the late Sylvain Pitre.

“Other academics are jealous of the support we have here at Carleton. It’s a great place to do research.”

Wednesday, December 4, 2019 in ,
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