Dual Passions for Economics and Math: Alina and Janeta Marinova ’06
in the Bardian
From left: Janeta Marinova, mathematics faculty Lauren Rose and Ethan Bloch,
Alina Marinova at Commencement 2006.
Photo Courtesy of Ethan Bloch
Depending on one’s viewpoint, it would seem either incongruous or quite likely that twins would study the same subjects at the same college. But for Alina and Janeta Marinova ’06, a double major in economics and mathematics at Bard was simply something both of them wanted to pursue. “It never felt weird that we both liked mathematics and other technical subjects, or wondered whether it was expected that, as twins, we would study the same things; we just did what felt natural to us,” Alina says. The sisters came to Bard in 2002 from Bulgaria. Janeta was interested in mathematical economics, while Alina was eager to apply mathematical knowledge to the social sciences. Both have gone on to do just that, in remarkable fashion.
Bulgaria’s best high schools provide intensive curricula in a given subject while maintaining a strong workload in other subjects, including English. The Marinova sisters attended a specialized mathematics high school; while there, they heard about liberal arts colleges in the United States. The girls immersed themselves in American textbooks; they took SATs through Bulgaria’s Fulbright Program office. “We only looked at liberal arts colleges with strong science programs,” Alina recalls. “We read about the Distinguished Scientist Scholars Program at Bard, and we perceived it as a sign of a strong institution that values science.” Adds Janeta, “I came to Bard determined to pursue my mathematics interests while taking the opportunity to explore other disciplines, including economics.” Both received the Distinguished Scientist Scholarship, which provides up to full tuition for outstanding students in the sciences.
The sisters vividly recollect a formative experience at Bard: participation during their senior year in the College Fed Challenge, an academic competition designed by, and held at, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The competition involved “proposing Fed monetary policy and defending our choice,” says Alina, to which Janeta adds, “It was the first year that Bard participated in the competition and we came in second in our division. The time and effort we spent preparing for it provided ‘close-to-real-life’ applications of macroeconomic theory to monetary policy making and enhanced our analytical thinking and presentation skills.” Janeta used this background to offer an analysis of the world financial situation in a job interview for her current position (at international credit report and information services company Experian).
Professor of Mathematics Ethan Bloch was Senior Project adviser for both sisters’ mathematics projects as well as their teacher in Calculus II, Proofs and Fundamentals, and Point Set Topology (an upper-level theory class). Bloch found the Marinovas adept at math—they completed their math Senior Projects in their junior year and economics projects in their senior year. “Needless to say, I had them work on completely unrelated Senior Project topics,” says Bloch, himself a twin. “What is striking, however, is that, in spite of their similar paths at Bard, they were really quite different in both personality and appearance.”
After graduating, Janeta became a research assistant at Harvard Business School in the finance unit, then was a teaching assistant at the University of Virginia before returning to Bulgaria in 2009. Alina earned a master’s degree in economics from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh in 2008.
Since earning her master’s degree, Alina has worked in economic consulting for antitrust litigation, first in Chicago, and now in Los Angeles; her clients for the Law and Economic Consulting Group in Chicago included the European Commission. Now, as a senior analyst for Econ One Research in Los Angeles, she is part of a team that performs economic analyses for antitrust cases. Her job involves identifying anticompetitive activity, and quantifying its effects on the marketplace, for government offices and Fortune 500 companies in software, telecommunications, online media, and financial services. “Most lawyers don’t have an economics background, so they hire us for these analyses,” she says. “The antitrust cases all call for a direct application of the principles of the industrial organization class I took at Bard.” But, she adds, “I have an advantage having a math degree over those with just an economics degree. I can solve problems quickly and correctly.”
Her pretrial computations are important, Alina notes: “We determine whether there was an economic impact, and if so, how much. We actually help keep the market competitive in the long run.” While at Bard, her exposure to the work of the Levy Economics Institute and her economics Senior Project adviser Dimitri B. Papadimitriou—president of the Levy Institute and Jerome Levy Professor of Economics, as well as executive vice president of the College—was essential in helping her form “a bigger picture of the public policy perspective.”
She is also involved in antitrust analyses involving cartels. “Purely competitive markets are only a textbook example; we actually live in a monopolistic competitive economy,” Alina says. “Sanjaya [DeSilva, associate professor of economics] said that unleashed profit-driven markets eventually lead to agglomeration and monopoly; that’s why we have regulation.”
Given their different personalities, perhaps it’s not surprising that despite their identical majors, Janeta and Alina now conduct analyses of diametrically different sorts: while Alina scrutinizes past economic conduct, Janeta evaluates future activities. “Analytics predict behavior so that lenders can identify the quality of applicants and screen out those who don’t match risk criteria,” Janeta writes from Sofia. She calls her work “just the right junction between the two fields of economics and mathematics that I have always wanted to develop.” Her duties include supervising a team of up to 10 analysts who deliver statistical and financial evaluations in the field of credit-risk management. “I have opportunities to acquire knowledge of new methodologies,” she says. “The work also has a multinational touch: our projects are for companies from Europe, the Middle East, India, and South Africa.”
Her Bard studies provided solid training for her career. “Having worked in both in academia and business on two continents, I find myself very well prepared,” Janeta says. “Bard’s Mathematics Program and Economics Program provide rigorous curricula that prepare their alumni/ae to be very competitive. Moderation and Senior Project—the experiences with the highest return, so to speak—also provide Bard students with the ability to start looking at the big picture and take opportunities from all possible situations.”
The sisters communicate through Skype, and Alina and her Canadian husband visit Bulgaria every two years or so. Alina continues flamenco dancing, which she began at Bard with Aileen Passloff, L. May Hawver and Wallace Benjamin Flint Professor of Dance (now emerita). “We were always encouraged to be curious, to overachieve, and to value education,” Alina says of the twins’ parents, who are nuclear engineers. “We have certainly accomplished those things.”Read the spring 2013 issue of the Bardian: