In this occasional series, we will feature members of our faculty, answering questions about their research and teaching.
February 2016: Pedro Sant'Anna
Professor Sant'Anna is new to the Economics Department, having started his career here as an Assistant Professor in Fall 2015. He earned his Ph.D. from the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (Spain) and his B.A. from Ibmec-MG in his home country of Brazil. So far at Vanderbilt, he has taught Econ 1510 (Intensive Economic Statistics, an undergraduate course), and Econ 8310 (Econometrics I, for Ph.D. students) . His research interests include econometric theory, microeconometrics, applied economics, and semi- and nonparametric methods.
1. What attracted you to economics?
Without a doubt, it was the set of tools that economics provides to tackle different problems. Unlike in other fields, economists are not constrained to study a particular type of question, or to do "the same thing" over and over. Instead, by combining economic theory with the set of mathematical, statistical, and computational tools that economics provides, you are able to extract from the data useful information about a wide range of topics. The fact that these tools can be applied not only to guide public policy, but also to learn about everyday human behavior, keeps fascinating me.
2. Who is your most important mentor, and why?
While earning my Ph.D., I was fortunate enough to work under Professor Miguel A. Delgado's supervision, and he has certainly been the most important academic mentor I have had. Professor Delgado encouraged me to learn about different statistical and econometrics tools that would provide the technical background needed to become an econometrician. By meeting with me every week, and providing written feedback on all versions of my papers, Professor Delgado showed me the importance of being formal and clear when expressing your ideas. Overall, Professor Delgado is my model of what an ideal mentor should be.
3. What projects are you working on right now?
The focus of my research is on developing new tools for different applied economics problems, using semi- and nonparametric methods. Right now, I am working on developing new policy evaluation tools that are suitable for cases where the outcome of interest, typically a duration variable, is right-censored. What I like about this project is that one can use these policy evaluation tools in relevant empirical settings, including the evaluation of labor market programs on the length of unemployment, of correctional programs on recidivism of criminal activities, and on how alternative clinical therapies may affect the time until patients' full recovery. I am now working on implementing these tools in different types of software so practitioners will be able to use them without much trouble. Hope they find this as cool and useful as I do!
4. What do you enjoy most about teaching?
What really gets me going about teaching is watching students overcome their fears and anxiety about the subject I am teaching, watching them working hard to master the necessary skills to succeed, and providing the conditions that enable students to walk with their own feet. I enjoy sharing my enthusiasm with them. Another aspect of teaching that I really like is that it is always a two-way process. Every single class provides you the opportunity to learn from your students: from their interactions, their questions, and their aspirations. Finally, I really love when students get interested in my research, which is how I got started on this path. I try to give back as much as I can.