Computer Programming for Economic Experiments

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Kent Messer

Graduate Student Mentor:

Professional Staff Mentor: Dr. Olesya Savchenko


Research Description:

Computer programming is a key tool for experimental economics in order to efficiently collect data about human behavior. A computer programming intern will assist a number of researchers on multiple research projects to create, maintain, and support experimental economic platforms to understand individual and group decision making. This intern will be involved in developing the experimental platform for research subjects to interact with and ensuring that there are multiple backup systems in place to ensure data are properly recorded. Programs will be developed using a variety of different languages, including Python, HTML, PHP and SQL.

Students will work primarily with Dr. Olesya Savchenko, but collaborate extensively with multiple faculty and graduate student researchers involved in the Social Dimensions research of Project WiCCED ( and the UD Center for Experimental & Applied Economics.

Research Questions:

  1. How can computer programming and computer science inform the way experimental economists approach data collection?
  2. How can one integrate multiple programming languages to develop a robust and appealing experiment that analyzes individual and/or group decision making?
  3. How can mobile apps and other decision support tools be developed and administered to advance data collection in experimental economics?

Research Interns will be engaged primarily with the research project described above, but interns will have opportunities to be involved in other projects that are part of the Social Dimensions research for Project WiCCED (; See Internship Descriptions for the following projects to learn about other Social Dimensions research opportunities:

  • Enhancing Farmers’ Adoption of Decision Support Tools to Improve Irrigation Management in Delaware
  • Evaluating How NYC “Wait” Pilot Program Inspires and Induces Behavioral Change
  • Social Networks and Oyster Consumption
  • Experimental economics study of groundwater management

 Student Learning Objectives:  Professional and Research Skills

This internship focuses on the development of the following professional and scientific skills.


Broad Professional Skills

Specific Skills

Planning and time management

Ability to set and complete specific foals of varying scope

Express ideas in writing

Write descriptions of research procedures, create a poster of your research, communicate via email professionally and in a timely and consistent fashion

Express ideas verbally

Discuss research activity in lab meetings, present poster at symposium

Work independently

Independent work ethic – work independently or with peers to problem solve

Develop professional network

Work with lab team and broader Social Dimensions and Project WiCCED team to develop professional network, and utilize peer-groups to problem solve.

Maintain professional attitude and work principles (i.e. integrity, responsibility, diligence, following ethical standards)

Be on time, learn procedures, ask questions if unsure, respect everyone you work with, complete and maintain Institutional Review Board (IRB) Certification to work with human subjects in research


Broad Scientific Research Skills

Specific Skills

Understand scientific terms

Behavioral, experimental and environmental economics

Locate scientific articles and resources

Conduct searches for literature on environmental valuation

Understand research questions


Read and understand research articles


Apply research tools and techniques in research experiments

Participate in the development of and data collection for economic experiments.

Understand, apply, and explain scientific concepts and theories

In lab meetings, with lab personnel, and during research symposium


None, but introductory experience with computer science and programming is preferred. Experience with Python, HTML, PHP and SQL is strongly preferred.

Work Environment and Expectations:

Office/economics laboratory environment:  Work will primarily take place in 025 Townsend Hall. Hours are flexibly determined between student and mentor. Students will work part time during the fall and spring semesters, and full-time during UD Winter Session, January 7-February 8, 2019. Students will also participate in a retreat, communications workshop, and end-of-internship spring symposium.