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We Are Central: Meet Si Chen

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

At the St. Louis Fed, new chapters are being written in our story every day by employees in every division, department and unit. Our We Are Central profile series introduces you to people who help make the Bank central to the nation’s economy.

By Laura Hopper, Coordinator

Woman with dark hair wearing a pink shirt

Si Chen, principal data scientist in the Do Not Pay program in the St. Louis Fed’s Treasury Support Division.

Si Chen joined the St. Louis Fed in 2015 and has been working in analytics in the Do Not Pay program in the Bank’s Treasury Support Division ever since. The division supports the U.S. Department of the Treasury, primarily the Bureau of the Fiscal Service and the Office of the Fiscal Assistant Secretary, in their efforts to promote financial integrity and operational efficiency in the federal government.

Prior to coming to the Fed, Si taught managerial decision-making at Murray State University in Murray, Ky., for eight years.

In addition to her duties as a principal data scientist, Chen is an active member of the Asian Employee Resource Group, which fosters professional, social and cultural opportunities for the Asian community at the St. Louis Fed.

Why did you decide to work for the Federal Reserve?

I had known about the Bank for a few years before joining. I used to attend the Bank’s annual Professors Conference in my capacity as a professor at Murray State University. I had also been to a few Dialogue with the Fed events. All in all, the Bank made a great impression on me with its elegant building, intellectual prowess and friendly professionalism. I had been thinking about moving to a bigger city after having my twins in 2014. So, when a friend told me about the data scientist opening at the Bank, I immediately applied, and the rest is history.

What are your key responsibilities at the Bank?

My key responsibility is to use data and analytics to safeguard American taxpayers’ money. We support the Bureau of Fiscal Service’s Do Not Pay (DNP) program through identifying and preventing improper payments. For example, we look at benefit payments and vendor payments from federal agencies. We make sure they meet the eligibility requirements and do not exhibit suspicious patterns. In 2020, our CARES Act related work saved taxpayers over $4 billion. Personally, I lead a data scientist team, so my two key responsibilities include figuring out ways to expand our capabilities and developing people on my team.

Recently, we received approval from the Office of Management and Budget to expand our service to federally funded state administered programs, state auditors or other state entities. The goal is to help them reduce improper payments. This expansion is in addition to the enterprise designation we received earlier to broaden our analytics work to other fiscal service areas beyond just DNP. I’m very excited about these new opportunities.

What do you enjoy most about being central in your role?

First and foremost, I really like how the Bank’s mission aligns with my personal values. I’m very proud to tell people about my job. For example, just last year, we found that one agency insured $1.9 billion in loans to ineligible recipients. This discovery is projected to save millions of dollars for the government.

I also enjoy all the learning opportunities the Bank provides. It’s a great place for employees who are intellectually promiscuous and want to grow their minds. There are lunch ’n’ learn series for St. Louis Fed employees, the Homer Jones Memorial Lecture, the Women in Economics Symposium, the Beyond the Numbers conference, and many more.

Through these events, I learned about the Bank’s Faster Payments initiative; I learned about the Dodd-Frank Act; I learned about mobile payments and international trade, as well as how our Bank’s female executives broke the glass ceiling. Every day, I feel like I’m working toward a doctoral degree in “Federal Reserve Bank,” and I love it.

What do you enjoy outside the Bank?

Before the pandemic, I loved taking my twins to various St. Louis County libraries. There are all kinds of activities, like Music and Movement, story times and movie singalongs. Since the pandemic, we have been spending a lot of time building Legos together. I have promised my kids a trip to the LEGO House in Billund, Denmark. They can’t wait to have some mashed potatoes served on a LEGO brick plate.

Laura J. Hopper 

Laura Hopper is the St. Louis Fed's employee ambassador coordinator. She works in the External Engagement and Corporate Communications Division.

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