Dr. Margherita Negri is a lecturer at the School of Economics and Finance. She began teaching at St Andrews in September of 2014, right after completing her PhD at the Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE) in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium. Dr. Negri received her B.A. in Economics from Bocconi University in Italy and completed a joint masters from Bocconi and Université Catholique de Louvain. Interested in learning more about her research and interests, The Saint sat down with Dr. Negri for an interview.
TS: What do you enjoy most about teaching political economics and microeconomics?
MN: I like microeconomics in general because I find it very powerfully captures some parts of human behaviour. From a teaching point of view, I like that when my students go to honours, they’ll be able to use what I teach them to understand more complicated concepts. Since microeconomics is a sub-honours module, it doesn’t get very specific about any one topic, but covers the basics of what will come next. Currently I’m not teaching much political economics but I find it very interesting as it is what I conduct my research on. I believe political economics makes the link with what we call the “real world” so people can see how we actually use microeconomics to model behaviour of people.
TS: I noticed that much of your research revolves around political economics. What about this topic interests you?
MN: Within the field of political economy, I have two main interests: one is a more theoretical approach, while the other is applied political economics. What I like about the theoretical approach is the math based (or more “geeky”) part. Then there is applied political economics which doesn’t use data, but uses theory to model “real world” behaviour. I’m currently researching the political economy of immigration. There is a lot of literature about the choice of migration but not as much research on the receiving country. One of the questions that I ask is whether and how institutions (for example, electoral systems) shape the immigration policies that a country will adopt. A second related line or research is about populism. Populism has been rising in Europe and one of the main messages is against globalisation and immigration- it’s about national protection. I’m researching what the conditions are which favour the emergence of these populist parties. If we want to explain it, we can use microeconomics to explain why and when a populist party finds it profitable to start running in an election.
TS: Do you ever incorporate information from your research into your lectures?
MN: As much as possible, I do incorporate my research. It’s difficult because the tools I involve may be too difficult for undergraduate level student to understand. I’ve done work on some of the topics I discuss in my Political Economy class. For example, I’ve researched what induces politicians to adopt policies that are in the interest of voters and not in their own private interests and discussed this in a lecture.
TS: How did you begin publishing research papers? Did you conduct research during your time in university?
MN: When I was doing my masters, I started working with a professor for my dissertation on political economy. I became passionate about the topic and decided to pursue a PhD. Part of the work of an academic is publishing what you work on, so at the end of my PhD I published some chapters from my thesis.
TS: What research are you currently working on/what would you like to research in the future?
MN: We have a lot of unexplored elements of immigration, so I can see that this project on populism and immigration will last. I would like to spend more time working with immigration and researching the relationship between political situations and immigration.
TS: What has been your favorite moment in a lecture?
MN: I like when students ask good questions. Sometimes, there are moments when I’m unable to immediately answer them and have to think a bit, but it makes me very happy because it means my students are understanding what I’m teaching and are interested in the topic.
TS: What do you like to do outside of teaching?
MN: I enjoy travelling. Luckily, I’m able to travel a lot, especially when attending conferences. I’ve been to India, Korea, the United States, and I plan to attend a conference in Mexico next year. I also play sports and have done some pottery and painting.
TS: How often do you visit Italy?
MN: Quite a lot, as I’m working with some people in Bocconi. I go to Italy about twice to three times a year to see my parents and friends, but more often for work. Whenever I go, I bring back a suitcase of food (laugh)!
TS: What advice do you have for students who are passionate about economics and are interested in research?
MN: We have a research assistantship program, so you can work with one of the researchers in the school and help them with various things- data analysis, literature reviews, or looking for data. For someone who is interested in research, it’s a very good opportunity. For more general interests that are not specific to research, I believe joining the Economics society is a good option. Also, read a lot and don’t be afraid to ask questions to lecturers.