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Alumni Interview : Henry Bernard, Predoctoral Researcher at UB

Alumni experience



This interview was published and carried out by the TSEconomist.

1. What is your position today, and what are you working on?

I  am  currently  a  Professor  of  Industrial  Organisation  at  the  University of Barcelona (UB). My PhD in Economics duties involve teaching activities, as part of the PhD contract signed with UB. My PhD in Economics research is focused on development economics,  industrial  organisation  and  regulation.  My  first  paper,  which  is  in  draft  version,  consists  of  a  natural  field  experiment  in Ecuador, in which I estimate a causal effect between pesticides and newborns’ birth weights. For this, the GIS software has been very  useful,  and  so  far  results  are  going  as  expected.  The  TSE  Master  in  Public  Policy  and  Development  programme  gave  me  the  most  complete  tools  to  think  objectively  on  identification  strategies,  self-selection  problems,  and  many  other  obstacles  one  can  face  while  doing  econometrics.  At  the  University  of  Barcelona,  these  skills  were  improved  thanks  to  my  advisor,  J.  Calzada. Despite the several challenges this paper initially faced, we  managed  to  get  important  results  with  policy  implications.  My ongoing work now involves a model on industrial organisation and development economics.

2. What was your path from your Master’s graduation to this current  post,  and  what  are  the  key  elements  that  helped  you  make  your choice?

Doing   the   M2   PPD   reinforced   my   vision   to   become   a   Development Economist, and this Master’s programme allowed me to discover the main problems that still need solving and how to  do  it.  In  the  last  term  of  my  Master’s,  I  was  looking  for  universities  whose  research  areas  include  development  economics.  The options were too few, and the PhD posts were highly competitive. Eventually, I got to contact the University of Barcelona, through a forwarded email from a close friend. The application process ended with a successful PhD acceptance with contract. I would highlight three elements as very crucial for making the correct  choice.  First,  talk  and  listen  to  your  professors.  A  short  talk  with  them  can  represent  a  life  decision  for  you,  and  they  can give you advice. Second, talk to your colleagues: they usually help  with  ideas  and,  as  in  my  case,  they  can  show  you  options  you had not thought of before. Third, stick to your research (or professional) ideals. If you pursue what you truly want, anywhere can be a perfect place to enhance your career.

3. According to your professional experience, what are the most useful skills you obtained during your degree?

From  an  academia  point  of  view,  the  skill  I  have  exploited  the  most so far is social interaction. Doing research involves 80% of self-training and your potential advisor’s guidance. The remaining 20% consists of  crucial interaction with your PhD colleagues, who  have  more  experience  and/or  ideas,  and  you  can  get  huge  help from them as well.From  a  professional  point  of  view,  after  working  three  years  in  Deloitte & Touche Ecuador, I might say that being objective is the main issue. You must present high quality results (and analysis) in  the  shortest  time  possible.  Identify  your  priorities:  all  clients  matter, but you should keep a balance among your duties to succeed. And again, social interaction with the senior, the manager, and  even  the  partner  is  important.  The  minimum  opportunity  to exchange qualified opinions can result in good considerations and promotion.

4. What advice would you like to give to the TSE students, or to the school?

“Don’t worry, be happy”, as Professor J.P. Azam told me once. “Try to look for an active advisor for your PhD career”, as Professor E. Auriol suggested to me. And “be curious, open your mind into different fields and try to set your goals to a potential contribution”, as Professor S. Straub advised me. My own advice: do not limit yourself to your strengths or weaknesses in Economics, find what you would like to do for society and/or for your own life, and choose your sacrifices today wisely to enjoy the results tomorrow!  

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