Melanie Yelle

This summer, I had the opportunity to perform undergraduate research through the Research Experience and Apprenticeship Program (REAP) offered by UNH’s Hamel Center for Undergraduate Research. My project consisted of an analysis of the recent collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, looking at the history of the bank and collapse, comparing them to competitor banks and their financials, and making recommendations on how to avoid similar collapses in the future. This project aligns with my major as I will be a sophomore business administration major with options in finance, and information systems and business analytics, this coming semester. My project was unique in the fact that I was able to perform my research remotely and I had two mentors. After some initial challenges in the application process, my remote summer research has allowed me to get ahead in exploring my specialized interests. 

Application Troubles 

The hardest part of my research was actually before the project even started—it was the process of trying to find a mentor. I knew I wanted to do finance research since that was going to be one of my major options but had difficulty finding a mentor. Business administration majors in Paul College do not start taking their option classes until at least the spring of our sophomore year, so I haven’t taken any finance classes or made any connections with finance professors. I almost did not apply, but the people in the Hamel Center would not take my inability to find a mentor as a reason to not apply. With just ten days before the application was due (over spring break might I add), I not only found one mentor, but I found two! Shout out to Dr. Tsang at the Hamel Center for his persistence in helping me find a mentor because I would not have applied without his help.   

Remote Research is Still Research 

In terms of my project, it was a little different than most because my work was done remotely, and I had two mentors. I live in Easton, Massachusetts, about two hours from UNH, so just far enough where commuting for my project would be more of a task than I was willing to take on. With that being said, I was still able to communicate with my mentors and get the full experience remotely as I would if I had been in person. Also, finance research is a little different than STEM research, or at least people’s general perception of STEM research, as I did not spend time in labs or use science-y procedures that I cannot even begin to explain. My research came from news articles from places like The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times as well as financial databases such as Compustat and CRSP where I was able to both write the story of the beginnings of the bank to the collapse and centralize financial data from SVB and its competitor’s annual reports. I made tables, graphs, and performed an event study that highlighted trends and helped to generate explanations as to why Silicon Valley Bank collapsed and not the other vulnerable firms. For that reason, I was able to perform my project remotely. 

My two mentors, Professors Stephen Ciccone and Steve Irlbeck, were instrumental in the execution of my project. Both mentors specialized in different aspects of my project, Professor Ciccone more in the history and analysis and Professor Irlbeck more on the empirical side, so both of their expertise’s made the mentorship experience very well rounded. I met with both weekly via Zoom where we discussed my progress and introduced the next week’s tasks. In the meetings, I learned about many financial databases and Stata, a platform used widely in academic research that I was granted from my expense award. Both my mentors made it clear that they were available to answer questions and give me resources on new concepts which was extremely helpful since I haven’t taken my option classes yet. Lots of the information I worked with will be elaborated on in my option classes, but for now I got a jumpstart on my peers! 

My research experience has enriched my education at UNH and Paul College and thus has been nothing short of insightful, thought provoking, and a million other positive adjectives. I am immensely grateful to have had this opportunity and to explore something that truly interests me- that’s what college is about, right?! My biggest take away from this whole experience is to never give up, which sounds cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason…and of course I recommend this experience to anyone willing to put in the work for a more than rewarding result. Just last summer I never would have thought I would be where I am today. I am so happy that I attend a school where opportunities like this are made available to me!