Isabella Carlsson ’18
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My Story

Isabella began her studies at Northeastern University having taken only one philosophy class previously at her high school in Miami. While she enjoyed that class very much, she did not know what other philosophy classes might be like at the college level. Entering as an undeclared major her first semester at Northeastern, she decided to take PHIL 1115 “Introduction to Logic.” This course opened the door to the rest of the discipline for her. Isabella also had an interest in economics and it is her interest in economics that drove her interest in philosophy and her decision to pursue a B.S. in philosophy and economics with a minor in computer science.

Here is Isabella’s story…



My Path
Why Philosophy/Economics?

Isabella chose philosophy because it teaches students to think about problems critically and analytically. She chose to apply these skills to the study of economics and believes that the two majors complement one another.

“The skills you learn doing philosophy apply to so many other fields. The faculty members at Northeastern are brilliant and bring out the best in their students. They are part of the reason I chose to do philosophy. I could not have come this far without their guidance.”

Isabella on her co-op at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh
Why a combined major?

“My interests in economics drive my interests in philosophy (as well as those in computer science). I have shaped my academic path so that it encompasses different aspects of decision-making. While economics studies decision making under scarce resources and uncertainty, philosophy has helped me understand what uncertainty might mean and how it can be represented formally in the context of decision making. Philosophy has shown me that economics uses only one school of thought when it comes to representing beliefs, and that the use of this school of thought is contentious in the field of philosophy.”

Transformative Coursework

PHIL 4515 “Advanced Logic” and PHIL 2001 “Ethics and Evolutionary Games” both with Professor Rory Smead really helped Isabella with her coursework—both in and outside of the major.

“”Advanced Logic” taught me how to approach problems related to logic in my computer science courses, while “Ethics and Evolutionary Games” equipped me with tools that I used in my economics courses. Both of these courses inspired me to learn more about formal philosophy in general on my second global experience.”

In Isabella’s economic interest she found that ECON 4681 “Information Economics and Game Theory” was a class that really connected economics and philosophy.

“This class tied together what I had learned on campus about economics (especially microeconomic theory) with the decision theory I was exposed to on co-op at the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy. This class showed me how the concepts I’ve learned through philosophy are applied in the real world and in markets.”

Isabella also believed that ECON 3520 “History of Economic Thought” with professor Alan Dyer was a beneficial class to her studies.

“In this class, students study the concept of money and its origins as a means for exchange. I found it very enjoyable, because it approaches economic concepts from a more philosophical perspective, understanding the different ways money can be understood and used.”

University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England
Experiential Learning

After Isabella’s freshman year, she participated in the Pembroke-King’s Programme at the University of Cambridge. While there, Isabella took classes with students from around the world and learned from faculty of the Cambridge tradition. This experience tied her formal training to other topics in philosophy such as metaphysics and truth, which in turn enriched her understanding of what formal frameworks might represent.

Creating her own co-op experience

In 2016, Isabella helped create a co-op at the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy. Her time in Munich solidified her interests in formal philosophy through independent research, conferences, and graduate coursework. Isabella later presented the research she completed on this co-op at Northeastern University’s CSSH Undergraduate Research Forum and at a conference at Eastern Michigan University. The co-op confirmed Isabella’s interest in philosophy and motivated her to apply to graduate school for philosophy.

Isabella and Professor Fitelson enjoying ice cream during her co-op
Experience as a Visiting Scholar

In the fall of 2017, Isabella was on a co-op at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh under the supervision of Northeastern University Professor Branden Fitelson. Isabella’s typical week consisted of going to classes, doing independent research, and meeting one-on-one with professors. The formal methods classes were helpful because they taught her the basics of decision theory and exposed her to formal notation that she had not seen before in her undergraduate coursework. Isabella ended up presenting a paper on “The Problem of Unconceived Alternatives within a Bayesian Framework” at the Northern New England Philosophical Association’s Annual Meeting halfway through the co-op.  The paper explored scientific antirealism to determine if this philosophical perspective could be formalized.

Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy, Germany

“Working on several projects was stressful at times but proved to be a very valuable experience – it taught me that the life of an academic is not easy but can be very rewarding.”

Isabella presenting at the Northern New England Philosophical Association conference.
Next Steps

Isabella graduated in the spring of 2018. She applied to several colleges and universities for a graduate program in philosophy and accepted an offer to pursue her PhD at the University of California Berkeley. Isabella may encounter themes from economics on her journey, as she will be investigating decision theory and game theory further.

Matthew Modoono/ Northeastern University
This was Isabella's Northeastern Pathway...Where will yours lead?