Learning About Happiness

At the end of my freshman year, I received great advice on how to get involved with research. One of the most common ways is to become a research assistant for a professor whose interests align with your own. I was advised to simply look up professors, read about their areas of research, and contact them if anything aligned with my interests.  I was also told, however, that it might not be an easy task to find a professor. Students frequently hear “no” as a response from professors for different reasons, such as they’re not currently working on anything or they already have research assistants. Luckily, I was able to reach out to Professor Cassie Mogilner in the Wharton Marketing Department and secure a position as her research assistant, helping with various types of tasks over the course of the semester. This introduction to research has been very exciting thus far.

Olivia Nelson

Much of Professor Mogilner’s research focuses on happiness, time, and money. As someone who enjoys working with qualitative data more than quantitative data, I have truly enjoyed learning more about these topics. Additionally, her work focuses on how people think and, ultimately, how that plays into their actions and emotions. This is an added bonus for me, since psychology is another field that interests me. I’m grateful for the chance to learn more about all of this through the work I’ve been doing.

Mostly, I have helped Professor Mogilner sort through various online survey responses in order to categorize them. For instance, I’ve helped sort through responses to questions about happiness and the respondents’ different sources of happiness. Reading and sorting through these responses actually provides a lot of insight. It is very interesting to see the endless reasons people give for feeling happy. You can learn a lot from how people respond to these questions and it often causes you to look at things from a different viewpoint, which is always valuable.

The most exciting part of my experience thus far has been helping Professor Mogilner with a field study. I helped to collect data with another research assistant down in Center City, interacting face to face with the participants. As I mentioned, analyzing results and subjects’ responses can be very interesting, but being able to collect the data yourself is even more exciting. I hope to help Professor Mogilner with other field studies in the future to gain more experience with the data-collection processes.

Ultimately, being a research assistant has allowed me to learn outside of the classroom, which is something that is very important to me. I am lucky to have found a professor whose research interests align closely with my own interests, and I advise other students who want to get involved with research to do the same.

Hi everyone! My name is Olivia Nelson, and I am from Scotch Plains, NJ. I am a member of the Class of 2017 in Wharton, concentrating in Marketing and Finance. Aside from Wharton Ambassadors, I am a member of SPEC Concerts, SPEC-TRUM, the John Marshall Pre-Law Honor Society, Penn Colleges Against Cancer/Relay for Life, and the Joseph Wharton and Benjamin Franklin Scholars Programs. My goal is to go onto law school after college, and become a corporate lawyer. I enjoy traveling, going to concerts, and spending time with family and friends! If you have a question about Penn or Wharton, you can contact me or another student ambassador via our Ask an Ambassador form.