Merve Sariisik’s first encounter with economics was ironically the result of a strategic decision. Born and raised in Turkey where students must decide in high school between several tracks which impacts what majors they can pursue in college, Merve’s performance in math and natural sciences led her to a choice between a future in engineering or economics. Realizing the field’s wide applicability and that it would allow her to narrow her professional interests further down the line, Merve chose economics.
Merve recalls not fully grasping the definition of economics when it was first introduced to her as “the study of the allocation of scarce resources,” it was too broad. However, after years studying and encountering a variety of research agendas, she now knows that the definition was broad for a reason: Where there are humans and decisions to be made, there is need for economics! Introduced to Game Theory in her sophomore year at Bogazici University, Merve knew right away she’d made the right decision and that she wanted to pursue graduate work in the discipline. Seeing human interaction “so beautifully and systematically organized and structurally mapped” (with some simplifications and assumptions, of course) fascinated her. This is what really excited her about the field: it teaches tools to study a wide range of topics while also providing a specific mindset that allows the acquired knowledge to transcend into daily life.
After finishing her bachelors in 2012 and working at GAMES2012 (the 4th World Congress conference organized every 4 years by the Game Theory Society), Merve also completed a masters in economics at the Sabanci University in Istanbul—an experience which provided her invaluable advisors and guidance as she began applying to PhD programs. When it came time to decide where to do doctoral work, Merve was drawn immediately to U-M by the prominent faculty profile and large range of research fields/areas, as well as the atmosphere of collaboration across the various departments and schools; knowing the resources available to the curious graduate student would provide her support at any stage whether she was just discovering and narrowing research interests, or had a very specific and unique research goal.
In her research, Merve uses game theoretical modeling and behavioral/experimental economics to explore topics in labor economics including gender inequality and discrimination. Her current work focuses on controversial Salary History Bans, that prohibit employers from requesting salary history information from applicants. The main goal of this research is to look closer at the strategic information transmission “game” between workers and firms, as well as the eventual impact on the gender wage gap. This type of exploration, and economics more broadly, is important, Merve notes, because the field has great potential to influence not only the future, but everyday life through policy making. This is also why Merve finds it vital to prioritize having a diversified and inclusive base in economics to speak to the needs of everyone as the direct consequences of policy affect us all.
To those considering a future in economics, while it is important to develop strong analytical skills and explore the range of possibilities in the field by speaking to as many different people as you can, Merve stresses the value of intuition and maintaining your individuality: “We all come from vastly different backgrounds, cultures and we all have different expectations from life. Your individuality is your biggest and best contribution, make sure to take advantage of it and capitalize on your unique life experience and perspective.” Finding she is most motivated when her work contributes to leveling the playing field between different demographics, Merve intends to stay true to her own unique vision and dedicate her skills, life experiences and degree to the progression of society and future generations to come.