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School of Economics and Finance

Eugenio Filipe

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Could you tell us a bit about your current research? What made you want to go into this field?

I am currently doing my PhD in Economics with the School of Economics and Finance at Queen Mary University of London. My research is at the intersection of Applied Microeconomics and Econometrics. At the beginning of my PhD I was invited by one of the faculty at the school to join a multidisciplinary project led by Barts Health NHS Trust but with the support of the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science, and the School of Economics and Finance at Queen Mary University of London. This programme is called OSIRIS, and it is about optimising shared decision-making for high-risk patients. It’s a very broad programme in which there are people from different backgrounds, including economics, health-related fields, computer science, and psychology. From the point of view of economics, we are helping them understand the decision process of these high risk patients. More generally, my research is in Applied Microeconomics and Econometrics, where I use statistical methods to find causal relationships in areas like health, education, and development economics, among others.

My passion is econometrics, which, broadly speaking, is the application of statistical methods to economic and finance. When I was invited to take part in OSIRIS, the idea was to use economic theory and econometrics to understand how high-risk patients make decisions around major surgery. The idea of using large amounts of data and economics theory to design policies and interventions that might help others is what drew my attention.

Why did you choose to study at Queen Mary?

When I was looking at doing my PhD, you have to apply to a really broad range of institutions across a range of countries, including the USA and across Europe. Then you get offers from some of these universities and you have to decide where you want to go. Queen Mary had a mix of an amazing city which would allow me to get exposure to a broad range of people and research, top universities, and the opportunity of a good offer (a fully funded PhD). That offer combined with the opportunity to be in London, and therefore belong to this network of globally important universities, I thought that it was a good idea.

What were you doing before?

I did my degree in Economics and an MSc in Economic Theory in Colombia. When I finished, I started working, mainly for the Ministry of Education in Colombia, where I worked on a joint project with the World Bank. At that time, the World Bank was financing education policies in Colombia, and they needed to support these public interventions with data-driven evidence that these policies were going to be useful. So this is what I was working on, what’s sometimes called impact evaluation for public policy. Again the same idea, using statistical methods and economic theory to learn about policies interventions.

The rugosity and standards of these analyses were highly demanding in terms of quality and quantitative methods. So I realised that I needed more than just an MSc to work on this kind of projects, so I decided to pursue a PhD.

Why do you think the new MSc in Mental Health Economics is so important?

I have recently read about research that points out that most of the health-related symptoms we get in life nowadays are related to mental health issues such as stress and anxiety. If you think about the causes of headaches, insomnia, tiredness in everyday life, it seems that many of them are not related to physical conditions but are from mental health problems. The fact is that mental health affects us in many ways, it is part of our life, and we are becoming more aware of that right now. This new programme is about bringing different fields to contribute to this idea—for example, using economic tools to learn about mental health and study those problems by applying new computer science and statistical methods and working simultaneously with experts in the medical field. I think the fact that it’s a truly multidisciplinary programme makes it more interesting and promising.

What advice would you give a current student or recent graduate considering undertaking a PhD?

I would try to look at the new things that are out there. Where are fields expanding or moving towards? So one of the reasons I decided to join the OSIRIS programme with the School of Medicine was that one of the project's main goals is to develop a decision support tool, using Bayesian Networks to predict outcomes that ultimately would improve decision making. But before joining this programme, I realised that there was (and still is) this ''boom'' of using algorithmic modelling and machine learning for policy research. I saw it as a field that was expanding, so I decided to learn more about it.

I would recommend looking for what is new, relevant, innovative, and then joining these programmes that might be very useful in the long run. Innovative programmes like this one might put students in a better position in a couple of years in the job market.

What has been your best experience at Queen Mary so far?

I think the fact of being in London, exposed to a broad range of universities, those in London, as well as near London, like Oxford or Cambridge. This network of institutions that are surrounding your research or programmes. It is fantastic from a learning point of view. The other thing is the broad range of backgrounds at Queen Mary – I met students when I was doing my Master of Research from so many different backgrounds and I learnt from each of them - about their countries, their cultures and their research as well. I think this is useful, to be exposed to a broad range of faculty and students from a range of backgrounds. In the end, they’re going to input or feedback to your research in many ways. It was that mix that I really enjoyed during this process.

Were there any big surprises between living and working in Colombia to studying in the UK?

I think for me it went pretty smoothly. When I first moved here and was just trying to improve my English, it was a bit of a shock, but after a couple of months of being here, I started to feel more comfortable. In my circle, people are very friendly, in academia people tend to be very welcoming, they invite you to join, to interact, and this helped me to enjoy the whole experience.

What are your plans for after your PhD?

I’ve been working on building a solid background in economic theory and statistical methods for the past couple of years. Now, I feel that I can join the traditional path through academia by joining a university as a professor; however, I am also open to paths outside academia. For example, consulting, policy research, or working in multilateral organisations such as the World Bank. I am very open to these two paths but always keen to use strong and robust tools to support decision making and policy research.


This profile was conducted by Alumni Engagement Coordinator, Hannah. If you would like to get in touch with Eugenio or engage him in your work, please contact Hannah Dormor.

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