Steinmetz Spotlight: Alison Sommers ‘22

Zahra Khan, World/Business Editor

This week’s Steinmetz spotlight is Alison Sommers. Sommers is a senior economics major and a psychology minor from Newbury, Massachusetts. Prior to starting her research, Sommers found her seminar class with Professor Motahar led her to discover her interest in the economy during COVID-19 and sentiment. Sommers recalls learning about the 2008 stock market crash during the beginning of the pandemic. Sommers expresses she was “very active in the stock market during 2020 and witnessed the unexplainable market movements. I wanted to look for reasons why such movements occurred so I turned to Psychology.” Her research focuses on the influence of non-fundamental factors on US financial markets during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Sommers specifically focuses on sentiment and bias that are explained by various psychological principles. She finds the stock market reacted differently than the bond market during the pandemic. For instance, Sommers uncovered during the pandemic, emotions were portrayed and elevated through the usage of media which is how Alison measured sentiment. She finds that “Media and sentiment are important to investors’ decisions and should be considered when pricing financial markets.” 

One of the challenges Sommers faced during her research project was creating a model that showcased results, but at the same time was captivating for others. She describes the process as being tedious, as she had to press herself forward over a large learning curve. 

Sommers recalls the most rewarding process during her research journey was being able to discuss and communicate with her professors. Looking back, she is proud “to educate even one person on behavioral economics and how it has affected markets during the pandemic.” She also says being able to teach her professors and other students on the Union College campus about the research she has done and to “see people so curious in work that I have done.”