Caroline Mak | 2017 | Interns

Caroline Mak

Caroline Mak (’18)

Berwyn, PA

Economics Major

The US Census

This summer my idea of working for the federal government was completely transformed. I was at the U.S. Census Bureau and being able to do research-esque work while contributing to a part of a bigger mission was an entirely new experience. Despite being 2017 work is well underway for the 2020 Decennial. In fact the Census helps facilitate the public release of hundreds of data-sets that once released, are considered universal public-use. I was part of the team that ensured that for each of these data sets no matter how seemingly trivial of "teachers that have x amount of kids in the classroom in kindergarten" to the high-level broad reach of income, race, and household information, they did not risk de-anonymizing the original individual. During this time I researched their legacy methods of securing data from swapping info about various households within the same geography and keeping others constant to their new methods involving synthetic data and differential privacy- a way of completely ensuring anonymity while maximizing data published.

Without this program it is very unlikely I would have come across this opportunity. USAJobs is a complicated site to navigated and securing a federal position, even as a "volunteer" since MIT paid the stipend, is a long process. I was able to have a unique insight into the power at play given the political pressure around appropriation and Census budget given the current administration and was only met with enthusiasm and support by civil servants at all levels including the head of the Bureau of Economic Analysis next door. Even if you have no idea what a federal position is like let alone considered it as a valid career option, I wholeheartedly recommend this experience to anyone interested in getting out of their comfort zone and understanding how exceptionally passionate seemingly average individuals can be at their charge.