What It's Like Working as a Research Assistant at the Growth Lab

CID's Growth Lab is a bustling hub of faculty, fellows and staff working to understand the dynamics of economic growth and uncover how countries, regions, and cities can move into more productive activities.

Led by Ricardo Hausmann and a diverse, interdisciplinary team of research fellows, our work takes us around the world. Current projects include Albania, Ethiopia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, and Venezuela.   

Research Assistants also play a fundamental role on our team. Not only do they provide research support by analyzing and managing datasets, they also collaborate with our high-level counterparts, offering comparative analysis of policies.

Three current RAs Sehar NoorBruno Zuccolo, and Ana Grisanti share their perspectives on what makes the position unique. 

What led you to CID’s Growth Lab? Why did you want to work here?

Sehar Noor: CID is really at the frontier of a lot of the topics that I was interested in as an Economics major in undergrad. Everything from growth diagnostics to complexity work, it’s looking at diversification from a unique perspective, and I was drawn to both the faculty and the research that is produced by the fellows here.

Bruno Zuccolo: What I really liked about the Growth Lab was the intersection of researchers working on the very academic side of learning about growth, but also a very dedicated team of fellows and research assistants applying that research in country projects. The country projects are varied and work through very different economies; when I first joined I was working on projects in Albania and Argentina, and I was working on issues of growth in all those countries. I think this was a fantastic opportunity to learn about countries that I didn’t know that much about and to be able to apply rigorous methodology and statistical analysis. 

What stands out about the Research Assistant role at the Growth Lab?

Ana Grisanti: I have many responsibilities, ranging from data cleaning and the visualization of the data, to finding out who we want to interview in the field and going into the field and engaging in interviews with counterparts. One of the states within Mexico that we were working on was Baja, California, and we were doing a growth diagnostics and complexity analysis in the state. The second time I traveled to Baja, I had the opportunity to present our findings to our counterparts, which was a thrilling experience for me. I think that’s unique for the RA position at CID and one I would not have at any other center.

BZ: What I like about being an RA at CID's Growth Lab is that you’re working on multiple projects at once, and that means you get to explore a lot of issues specific to each country. So in Albania, where I’ve worked for the past year, we work on issues of agriculture, macro growth, trade, and tourism, and as an RA you don’t always get the opportunity to delve into as many issues as this. The other thing about being an RA that's fantastic is going to the field. At CID, the RAs really travel and represent the whole of CID in meetings with high level government officials. I remember during my second trip to Albania, we met with several of the Ministers, and I had one-on-one meetings with high level officials in the Ministry of Finance, and that’s just a unique opportunity that I couldn’t imagine having anywhere else.

What is your favorite part about working at CID's Growth Lab?

SN: I think my favorite part is definitely the people. You have postdocs, fellows, and developers who are experts in their fields and so generous with their time. They make sure that I’m not just getting my work done, but that I’m also building skills that I can use in my future. I think it’s a place where people invest in you, and it’s not just for that deadline or for that project, but in the long run.

BZ: What I’ve most enjoyed about working at CID is how much I’ve learned while applying all of it to concrete policies in the countries we work in. I’ve learned numerous statistical methods, I’ve learned how to code in computer languages, I’ve learned how to work with the counterparts. 

AG: This can be a cliché, but my favorite part about working at CID is the people and the attitude that everyone has toward the work. Everyone is willing to help when you have questions or ideas that you think are worth exploring. I can confidently say that I’ve made a lot of great friends here.

Email us at cid_recruiting@harvard.edu if you're interested in becoming a Research Assistant at the Growth Lab and visit our Jobs page for a list of available opportunities.

This Q&A was edited for clarity and brevity.