PhD Program in Methods and Models for Economic Decisions
A significant part of economic analysis is about the processes of decision making. Consumers and producers, workers and firms, banks and managers, households and policy makers continuously make economically relevant decisions. Economists and management theorists are interested in understanding, predicting, or modifying the processes underlying these decisions.
The analysis of decisions relies on methods and models that differ significantly according to the different fields of research. For instance, classical decision theory is largely based on abstract mathematical modelling, while more recent research in behavioural decision theory significantly relies on experimental methods. Econometric models are used to investigate the determinants of specific decisions, such as those concerning labour, transports, or health. Computational methods are used to simulate how artificial agents interact, and to investigate the effects of their interaction.
The PhD program in Methods and Models for Economic Decisions trains young researchers to master the variety of theoretical and applied approaches that are used in economics and management theory for analysing decision-making processes. The students will acquire a broad set of research skills in model construction and data analysis, and thus become capable of understanding the complex phenomena related to decision making in a multidisciplinary perspective. PhD students will then focus on a specific field of analysis and develop their own research program under the supervision of a faculty member.
The courses are taught in English, and the program lasts three years. At the end of the third year students submit their PhD dissertation, which is usually made of three research papers.
In the first year, students attend the Program’s courses at the Department of Economics of Insubria University, which is located in Varese. These are not the standard first-year courses in quantitative methods, microeconomics, macroeconomics, and econometrics, but cover the specific and more advanced topics in decision theory addressed by the PhD program. Tailor-made solutions for students necessitating to improve their knowledge of quantitative methods, microeconomics, macroeconomics, and econometrics will be identified.
Each first-year course consists of 10 classes (or 20 academic hours). Courses may be either lectures or seminars, depending on the topic, and are divided into two main groups, namely “Theory and tools” and “Empirical applications”.
Theory and tools: In these courses the PhD students learn the main theoretical approaches to decision analysis, and also study their historical evolution and methodological aspects. Students are also trained to use the quantitative tools necessary to understand and construct decision models. The “Theory and tools” courses include:
- Mathematical Methods for Decision Making (Giovanni Paolo Crespi)
- Economic Theories of Decision Making: Orthodoxy and Beyond (Ivan Moscati)
- Advanced Econometrics for Decision Making (Raffaello Seri)
- Decision Making in Economic-Historical Perspective (Carlo Brambilla)
- Multiobjective Optimisation (Matteo Rocca)
- Mathematical Methods for Data Analysis in Economics (Marco Papi)
- History and Methodology of Science (Angelo Guerraggio)
- Research methods (Paola Tubaro)
Empirical applications: These courses familiarise students with a number of specific empirical applications of decision theory, such as the analysis of decisions concerning labor supply, transports and health. The courses concerning the empirical application of decision analysis include:
- Taxation, Income Distribution and Individual Decisions (Francesco Figari)
- Transport Decision Making: Theory and Practice (Elena Maggi)
- Applied Health Economics (Silvana Robone)
- Contemporary Entrepreneurship and Family Business Research ( Sari Savolainen – Daniela Montemerlo)
- Family Business Research Module
- Entrepreneurship Research Today and Tomorrow Module
- Law and Decision Making (Alba Fondrieschi– Sergio Patriarca – Maria Pierro – Vincenzo Salvatore )
In the first year, students also identify the broad topic of their PhD dissertation and the member of the PhD board who will serve as their supervisor. Finally, they pin down the topic for their first research paper.
The second and third years are entirely dedicated to research. Students work on their research papers and progressively define theme and structure of their PhD dissertation. Students are expected to attend seminars and other training events held at the Department of Economics.
In addition, students are strongly encouraged to spend part of the second and third years in foreign universities and research institutions. They can choose among universities having exchange programs with Insubria University (e.g. the University of Jena) or institutions particularly active in their field of research.
During the second and the third year, students are also encouraged to present their research papers at internal seminars and international conferences, and then submit them to international journals.
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