It was a challenge to move to the UK because I previously lived in Switzerland, but I don’t regret my choice. I did my Masters and PhD in Switzerland so I was there seven years in total. In the beginning I was in Zurich, the German-speaking part, and then I moved to Luzern, the French-speaking part. I speak a bit of German but not really French. When I arrived in the UK It was a sunny day and I was prepared for the worst. I had a raincoat with me and it was February but it was nice and sunny. After my interview I spent a day in London sightseeing and I went to Chinatown and I really liked it in the UK.
The research I’m doing at the moment is mainly in behavioural economics and applied microeconomics. Currently I’m working on projects related to peer effects, social interaction and social networks. For one of my projects we look at pro-social motivation, so we took blood donation for example which is a text book example. We looked at how does the motivation to donate spread from one person to another, so we look at the residence network and colleague social network and how this spreads out. I’m closing my PhD project and now I’m revising my job market paper, it’s now revised for the economics journal and now I’m about to start a new project also about peer effects.
My job market paper was a bit risky because it’s not mainstream economics and is more from my own hobby. It’s how the presence of your peer/teammate affects your performance. I looked at swimming data for the world championship. For each country you can qualify two athletes per event and I wanted to look at people who come with a teammate versus if you come alone. For example, if two British swimmers were in the final compared to one Chinese swimmer in the final, what would happen? However there are some identification problems, because you cannot simply compare two British with one Chinese because by construction if you’re from a strong country you’re more likely to qualify two athletes, whereas if you’re from a weaker team or weaker country you’re less likely to qualify two. So I used regression discontinuity as an identification strategy so I compare something like two Chinese and two British athletes at the semi-final. Both want to qualify for the final, but say the Chinese had a teammate who barely qualified. Whereas both the British teammates both barely qualified, by barely I mean the top 8 can qualify, so say you’re 7 and you’re 8 whilst my team mate is number 9 so the ability is close to each other. But due to the cut off, you qualified and my teammate doesn’t qualify. So you kept your teammate and I didn’t so I’m looking at how this affects final performance. I found that there is a gender difference, so if you’re female you perform better if you’re with your teammate. But, if you’re male it doesn’t matter. Maybe women are more sensitive to this environment or we are used to being together, we go shopping and even to the bathroom together so it could be that. But this difference is present in even high-level elite competition.
Economics, generally speaking, helps you to think logically. It’s the logic and reasoning part I like most. The technical parts of it you do some maths and programming but the reasoning part and the part where you tell a story makes it very comprehensive. It’s a skill that you won’t learn from other subjects.