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Nudged Towards Rationality: Probability Distortion with and without Expected Value

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This paper analyzes responses to a survey using a modified fourfold pattern of preference to determine if implicit information, once made explicit, is practically significant in nudging irrational decision makers towards more rational decisions. Respondents chose between two scenarios and

This paper analyzes responses to a survey using a modified fourfold pattern of preference to determine if implicit information, once made explicit, is practically significant in nudging irrational decision makers towards more rational decisions. Respondents chose between two scenarios and an option for indifference for each of the four questions from the fourfold pattern with expected value being implicit information. Then respondents were asked familiarity with expected value and given the same four questions again but with the expected value for each scenario then explicitly given. Respondents were asked to give feedback if their answers had changed and if the addition of the explicit information was the reason for that change. Results found the addition of the explicit information in the form of expected value to be practically significant with ~90% of respondents who changed their answers giving that for the reason. In the implicit section of the survey, three out of four of the questions had a response majority of lower expected value answers given compared to the alternative. In the explicit section of the survey, all four questions achieved a response majority of higher expected value answers given compared to the alternative. In moving from the implicit to the explicit section, for each question, the scenario with lower expected value experienced a decrease in percentage of responses, and the scenario with higher expected value and indifference between the scenarios both experienced an increase in percentage of responses.

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2019-05

Heterogeneous Catalysis for Organic Reactions

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This honors thesis is focused on two separate catalysis projects conducted under the mentorship of Dr. Javier Pérez-Ramírez at ETH Zürich. The first project explored ethylene oxychlorination over supported europium oxychloride catalysts. The second project investigated alkyne semihydrogenation over nickel

This honors thesis is focused on two separate catalysis projects conducted under the mentorship of Dr. Javier Pérez-Ramírez at ETH Zürich. The first project explored ethylene oxychlorination over supported europium oxychloride catalysts. The second project investigated alkyne semihydrogenation over nickel phosphide catalysts. This work is the subject of a publication of which I am a co-author, as cited below.

Project 1 Abstract: Ethylene Oxychlorination
The current two-step process for the industrial process of vinyl chloride production involves CuCl2 catalyzed ethylene oxychlorination to ethylene dichloride followed by thermal cracking of the latter to vinyl chloride. To date, no industrial application of a one-step process is available. To close this gap, this work evaluates a wide range of self-prepared supported CeO2 and EuOCl catalysts for one-step production of vinyl chloride from ethylene in a fixed-bed reactor at 623 773 K and 1 bar using feed ratios of C2H4:HCl:O2:Ar:He = 3:3 6:1.5 6:3:82 89.5. Among all studied systems, CeO2/ZrO2 and CeO2/Zeolite MS show the highest activity but suffer from severe combustion of ethylene, forming COx, while 20 wt.% EuOCl/γ-Al2O3 leads to the best vinyl chloride selectivity of 87% at 15.6% C2H4 conversion with complete suppression of CO2 formation and only 4% selectivity to CO conversion for over 100 h on stream. Characterization by XRD and EDX mapping reveals that much of the Eu is present in non-active phases such as Al2Eu or EuAl4, indicating that alternative synthesis methods could be employed to better utilize the metal. A linear relationship between conversion and metal loading is found for this catalyst, indicating that always part of the used Eu is available as EuOCl, while the rest forms inactive europium aluminate species. Zeolite-supported EuOCl slightly outperforms EuOCl/γ Al2O3 in terms of total yield, but is prone to significant coking and is unstable. Even though a lot of Eu seems locked in inactive species on EuOCl/γ Al2O3, these results indicate possible savings of nearly 16,000 USD per kg of catalyst compared to a bulk EuOCl catalyst. These very promising findings constitute a crucial step for process intensification of polyvinyl chloride production and exploring the potential of supported EuOCl catalysts in industrially-relevant reactions.

Project 2 Abstract: Alkyne Semihydrogenation
Despite strongly suffering from poor noble metal utilization and a highly toxic selectivity modifier (Pb), the archetypal catalyst applied for the three-phase alkyne semihydrogenation, the Pb-doped Pd/CaCO3 (Lindlar catalyst), is still being utilized at industrial level. Inspired by the very recent strategies involving the modification of Pd with p-block elements (i.e., S), this work extrapolates the concept by preparing crystalline metal phosphides with controlled stoichiometry. To develop an affordable and environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional hydrogenation catalysts, nickel, a metal belonging to the same group as Pd and capable of splitting molecular hydrogen has been selected. Herein, a simple two-step synthesis procedure involving nontoxic precursors was used to synthesize bulk nickel phosphides with different stoichiometries (Ni2P, Ni5P4, and Ni12P5) by controlling the P:Ni ratios. To uncover structural and surface features, this catalyst family is characterized with an array of methods including X-ray diffraction (XRD), 31P magic-angle nuclear magnetic resonance (MAS-NMR) spectroscopy, and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS). Bulk-sensitive techniques prove the successful preparation of pure phases while XPS analysis unravels the facile passivation occurring at the NixPy surface that persists even after reductive treatment. To assess the characteristic surface fingerprints of these materials, Ar sputtering was carried out at different penetration depths, reveling the presence of Ni+ and P-species. Continuous-flow three-phase hydrogenations of short-chain acetylenic compounds display that the oxidized layer covering the surface is reduced under reaction conditions, as evidenced by the induction period before reaching the steady state performance. To assess the impact of the phosphidation treatment on catalytic performance, the catalysts were benchmarked against a commercial Ni/SiO2-Al2O3 sample. While Ni/SiO2-Al2O3 presents very low selectivity to the alkene (the selectivity is about 10% at full conversion) attributed to the well-known tendency of naked nickel nanoparticles to form hydrides, the performance of nickel phosphides is highly selective and independent of P:Ni ratio. In line with previous findings on PdxS, kinetic tests indicate the occurrence of a dual-site mechanism where the alkyne and hydrogen do not compete for the same site.

This work is the subject of a publication of which I am a co-author, as cited below.

D. Albani; K. Karajovic; B. Tata; Q. Li; S. Mitchell; N. López; J. Pérez-Ramírez. Ensemble Design in Nickel Phosphide Catalysts for Alkyne Semi-Hydrogenation. ChemCatChem 2019. doi.org/10.1002/cctc.201801430

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2019-05

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Nuclear Power in the US; A Sustainability Investigation

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Is nuclear power sustainable when compared to other energy sources? A truly sustainable energy source provides an environmental benefit, minimizes costs to consumers both socially and economically, and continues to do so in both the short and the long term.

Is nuclear power sustainable when compared to other energy sources? A truly sustainable energy source provides an environmental benefit, minimizes costs to consumers both socially and economically, and continues to do so in both the short and the long term. Taking the zero-carbon nature of nuclear generation as its net environmental benefit, this paper the evaluates the economic and social costs of nuclear power to determine if nuclear power's reputation as "unsustainable" is warranted. The sustainability of nuclear power is evaluated in two main categories. The first part focuses on the economics of nuclear power. There are many preconceived notions regarding nuclear power and its associated industry. This section addresses those notions to determine their validity given recent data. The prevalent types of nuclear plants across the U.S., the economics of the stages of nuclear energy production, and its competitiveness relative to other energy sources are addressed, culminating in an evaluation of its modern economic attractiveness as well as its future economic viability. A sustainability assessment would not be complete without addressing the social costs of an energy source, as a sustainable source must be both economically and socially viable. If it can be established that nuclear power can provide energy at lower rates and at a lower cost in terms of externalities, then it would be considered truly sustainable. To investigate those externalities, the second part of the analysis focuses on the human costs associated with the various stages of nuclear energy production. Those costs are then compared to those of alternatives sources of power, and selected case studies are examined to illustrate the ultimate risks associated with nuclear power operations. By quantifying these aspects and comparing the results to alternatives in the field, a better understanding of nuclear energy technology and its potential is achieved. The reader can then ascertain whether nuclear power's reputation as being "unsustainable" is, or is not, a reputation it deserves.

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2018-05

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The Impact of the Consumer Price Index on the Insolvency of the Social Security Trust Fund

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Yearly changes in the consumer price index are used to adjust social security benefits in order to keep the purchasing power of social security beneficiaries the same. Currently, social security benefits are adjusted using a fixed-weighted price index that reflects

Yearly changes in the consumer price index are used to adjust social security benefits in order to keep the purchasing power of social security beneficiaries the same. Currently, social security benefits are adjusted using a fixed-weighted price index that reflects the purchasing patterns of workers. However, some believe that a price index that captures the spending habits of the elderly should adjust monthly social security benefits, while others argue that a chain-weighted price index is a more accurate indexation technique. This report finds that if an elderly or chain-weighted price index were implemented this year, there would not be a significant change in the projected insolvency of the social security trust fund, but there could be a substantial decrease in the social security trust fund's yearly cash-flow deficit. Therefore, changing the indexation of social security benefits should not be seen as a short-term solvency fix. Instead, adjusting monthly social security benefits should be about keeping the purchasing power of beneficiaries relatively the same.

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2017-05

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Health Insurance and Mortality Outcomes - Extending Observational Methodologies to the Publicly Insured

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Existing research into the health benefits of insurance fall into two major categories \u2014 observational and experimental. Observational studies have centered on data sets from before 2000 and focus on the mortality differences between the privately insured and the uninsured.

Existing research into the health benefits of insurance fall into two major categories \u2014 observational and experimental. Observational studies have centered on data sets from before 2000 and focus on the mortality differences between the privately insured and the uninsured. Experimental studies began with Massachusetts' 2006 health reform and continued after the passage of the Affordable Care Act. These studies measure the effects of public insurance among the coverage expansion populations. These two bodies of literature come to ambiguous and contradictory conclusions to the mortality effects and health value of insurance. This study extends the observational methodologies to the publicly insured in samples from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in both the 1988-1994 survey and the 2001-2002 survey. Using the Cox Proportional Hazard model, this study estimates the hazard ratios faced by the privately and publicly insured compared to the uninsured. This study finds the publicly insured face hazards 1.5 times those of the uninsured (p<.001), while the privately insured do not face hazards significantly different from those of the uninsured. Literature suggests that some unobserved characteristic of the publicly insured are influencing their mortality. Interacting with participants health reveals that these differences across groups shrink as health declines. Experimental literature suggests that public insurance lowers the uninsured risk from "healthcare amenable" conditions. Treatment of these conditions may explain the hazard reductions among the uninsured in non-excellent health. The high risk of the publicly insured in excellent health defies explanation.

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2018-05

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Applying the Hedonic Estimation Method to South Mountain Municipal Park

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South Mountain is the largest municipal park in the nation. It is a bundled amenity, providing a series of linked services to the surrounding communities. A dataset of 19,209 homes in 155 neighborhoods within three miles of the park was

South Mountain is the largest municipal park in the nation. It is a bundled amenity, providing a series of linked services to the surrounding communities. A dataset of 19,209 homes in 155 neighborhoods within three miles of the park was utilized in order to complete a hedonic estimation for two nearby urban villages, Ahwatukee Foothills and South Mountain Village. Measures of access include proximity to the park, trailhead access, and adjacency to the park. Two regressions were estimated, the first including lot characteristics and subdivision fixed effects and the second using the coefficients for each subdivision as the dependent variable. These estimates describe how the location of a house in a subdivision contributes to its conditional mean price. As a result they offer a direct basis for capturing amenities measured at the neighborhood scale on home values. Park proximity, trailhead access and adjacency were found to significantly influence the price of homes at the 5% confidence level in Ahwatukee, but not in South Mountain Village. The results of this study can be applied to issues of environmental justice and park access in determining which areas and attributes of the park are associated with a high premium. Though South Mountain was preserved some time ago, development and future preservation in the City of Phoenix can be informed by such studies.

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2015-05

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Trade Liberalization and Economic Degradation

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This thesis looks at the theory and empirical evidence that surrounds the debate between environmentalists and economists regarding the link between trade liberalization and environmental degradation. The main points of the theory are the scale, composition, and technique effects which,

This thesis looks at the theory and empirical evidence that surrounds the debate between environmentalists and economists regarding the link between trade liberalization and environmental degradation. The main points of the theory are the scale, composition, and technique effects which, when aggregated, are ambiguous as the harm or benefit of trade's effect on the environment. The empirical evidence studied ranges in time periods from the early 1990s to 2011 and mainly focuses on the existence or absence of an environmental Kuznets curve for certain pollutant. However, the data still proves to be inconclusive. The debate about the possible link between trade and the environment is as important as ever, especially in regards to carbon dioxide emissions. Going forward, it is extremely important that international cooperation regarding emissions targets and abatement goals increases. Trade will prove to be an invaluable tool in this endeavor as it provides a mechanism for the spread of green technology as well as can be used as a method of environmental policy enforcement.

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2016-05