A recipe for inspiration

DSC_0198Take one ambitious and curious junior researcher. Give him three months in a city that is home to some of the world’s top learning institutions. Offer him the chance to test his ideas with thought leaders in his field. What happened? We asked Vojta Bartos.

Vojta specialises in development and behavioral economics. He is currently investigating how extreme and seasonal shocks impact the enforcement of social norms, focusing on agricultural communities in Afghanistan. He spent the fall semester of 2014 at New York University. Now back in Prague, he shared his recent experience with us.

“I was really keen to get to New York for my mobility stay, because there are so many top institutions there. Thanks to my supervisor, Michal Bauer, I was invited to NYU as a Doctoral Fellow and sponsored by Jonathan Morduch, one of the gurus in my field. I had full access to the university and my own office for the time I was there.

The semester turned out better than I could possibly have hoped! Although I hadn’t planned on taking any classes, once I was there, I realized there was such a huge range of seminars that I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Almost every day I would attend some seminar – econometrics, microeconomics, development economics, experimental economics…many delivered by leaders in their field.

Throughout my time at NYU, I had ready access to some of today’s greatest economic minds. For instance, I attended what I thought was a one-off lecture by Ernst Fehr from the University of Zurich. I realized it was actually part of a series he was presenting and as a result of attending, I got a consultation with him. I was also able to attend a course that William Easterly was running on Development Economics. I also obtained a consultation at Princeton and with several top professors at CUNY.

At first, I found it quite awkward to talk about my work, but I found the environment to be so supportive that I soon got over this. During the semester, I had the chance to present my research not just at NYU, but also at Columbia and Rutgers. The feedback I got was invaluable and I really felt that I was treated as an equal.”

There’s no question that, for Vojta, his semester at NYU was an intense and powerful experience and one he would urge all students to pursue. His advice? “Don’t be shy to ask!”

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