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Evan Abramsky

Alumni Profile

Graduation year and major

2016, Political Science

If you attended graduate school after attending ISU, please indicate where you went, area of study and graduation year:

University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy,
MA in Public Policy, 2021

Where do you currently work, and what is your position?

Jane Street Capital, Trading
Desk Operations Engineer

Why did you choose to attend Iowa State?

I chose Iowa State for entirely practical reasons. My family lived in the Dubuque area, so I limited my applications to nearby public, four-year universities. Among the schools to which I was accepted, ISU offered me the most generous financial support.

Why did you choose to major in political science?

For much the same reason as many other PoliSci majors, I suspect: I was motivated to understand why the world appeared so unjust and find ways to make it better. In the end, I found I was particularly interested in studying the former, while many classmates were more interested in the latter. The great thing about an education in PoliSci is that you can explore both.

What did you enjoy most about being a political science major?

I most enjoyed the frequent conversations with professors and peers in and beyond the classroom about public policy and current events. There were always opportunities to put the analytical tools we were studying into practice (at least rhetorically).

Is there a political science class that you particularly enjoyed?

There were 2 courses that have had the greatest impact on me both philosophically and in my career: “Introduction to International Politics” with Dr. Urbatsch and Introduction to “Introduction to Empirical Political Science Research” with Dr. Peterson. In “International Politics,” I was introduced to the basics of game theory analysis. In the competitive world of high-frequency trading, an intuition for such modeling is essential. In “Empirical Political Science Research,” I was introduced to the application of statistical modeling to social science research in order to test theories and distinguish meaningful signals from noise in quantitative data. Similar forms of econometric modeling are used every day on Wall Street to identify reliable trading strategies and improve market efficiency

Did any faculty members or staff in the Department of Political Science inspire or support you when you were at Iowa State? How?

I felt supported by many members of the PoliSci faculty during my time ISU—among them Dr. Chrystal, Dr. Urbatsch, Dr. Peterson, and Dr. Mansbach. I took something from each of them, and I would not be where I am today without their patience and support.

How has your political science degree supported your career aspirations?

Upon finishing my degree, I was eager to pursue a career at a research-focused institution, such as a university or think tank. Between 2016 and 2021, I did just that—working at the National Endowment for Democracy, Harvard Kennedy School, and American Enterprise Institute. There is no doubt that I would not have been able to achieve my career goals without the skills and knowledge I’d gained at ISU.

What would you tell students who are considering a political science degree at Iowa State?

It is imperative to keep an open mind, and not just when it comes to other students’ views and opinions. I also think students should be open to more rigorously analyzing their own beliefs about the world.  Becoming more epistemologically modest is a liberating experience and can help make your thinking clearer and less wrong (though probably never “right”)

How well did your Iowa State political science major prepare you for graduate school?

My political science major combined with my work experience in quantitative social science research provided me with a solid conceptual foundation that gave me a significant leg-up among my classmates at UChicago.

What advice do you have for political science students who are considering graduate school?

Go to work first. At the end of the day, you should only pursue a graduate degree if and when it is necessary to move ahead in your career. Graduate degrees are expensive, and the coursework will be more challenging. Given the intensity of the commitment, you should be sure that the career you think you want after you graduate is one that actually makes you happy.

What is your fondest memory of being a political science major at Iowa State?

My fondest memories are the ones I made with my peers in the political science department. I am still close with several alumni from my graduating class, and I think that speaks to the depth of the conversations and experiences we shared in the classroom and extracurricular activities.

What advice to you have for current or future Iowa State political science majors?

Getting a degree in political science does not restrict you to careers in public affairs. There are plenty of those available but the skills you will learn in theoretical and applied analysis can be used in a wide range of careers if you so choose. Don’t be afraid to try new things and remember to keep an open mind.