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Ishaana Talesara

Ishaana Talesara
Economics and Mathematics
Graduation Year:
Spring 2020
Ishaana Talesara is the winner of the 2019 Student Research Award

Major/minor: Economics and Mathematics
Year and expected graduation: Senior; spring 2020
Faculty supervisor: Professor Michael Geruso
Name of project: Inversions in US Presidential Elections: 1836-2016

Can you give a brief, simplified overview of this research project?
This project estimates the ex ante probability that a US Presidential election will result in an inversion (where the popular vote winner is not the Electoral College winner). We ask whether the four historical inversions were statistical flukes and whether inversions could happen at larger vote margins. By simulating elections, we show that, across any reasonable statistical model, the probability of inversion is about 40% in elections decided by a percentage point or less (equal to 1.3 million votes by 2016 turnout).

How did you get involved with this project?
I began working for Professor Mike Geruso as a research assistant after taking a class with him during my sophomore year. This project was in its early stages then, and I have been working on it ever since.

What went into preparing a research article for publication?
Generating our results involved developing models and running simulations of elections using historical election data, and then interpreting the distributions of simulated elections. This process gave me the opportunity to learn about election modeling and develop skills in data analysis and programming. The other important part of a project like this is communicating our findings. In particular, because we wanted to create materials for people outside of the research world, I had the opportunity to think about how to adapt communication styles to develop briefs that would be useful to the media and to policymakers.

This research is of interest to a lot of people, and it has received some attention in the media. What impact do you hope this work will have?
The topic of this project is relevant both to individuals forming their political opinions and to policymakers developing platforms. I hope to enrich the political debate around the Electoral College by arming these groups with relevant facts.

Do you see your project connecting with your plans for your future?
Definitely! I hope to pursue a PhD in economics in the future. Working on this project has been useful to decide whether I want a career in research, prepare to apply to graduate programs, and develop skills for research.