‘At HSE University, We Receive Substantial Support for Our Research’
Wenrui Zhang, from China, is a recent graduate of the Master’s in Economics and Economic Policy at the HSE University Faculty of Economic Sciences. Having successfully defended his master’s thesis on the impact of COVID-19 on the incomes of vulnerable groups, Wenrui has set his sights on publishing his research and enrolling in a doctoral programme at the university. The HSE News Service interviewed Wenrui about his achievements so far and his goals for the future, and also spoke to Prof. Elena Kotyrlo, his academic supervisor.
— How did you choose your research topic?
— One of the things that makes the Master's programme at HSE University stand out is that it is more academic, which is reflected in the fact that all students of the Faculty of Economic Sciences have to work on projects.
In my first academic year, I participated in the research project ‘Poverty, Inequality and Economic Development’ led by Prof. Elena Kotyrlo, during which I wrote a term paper exploring the regional income disparities between Russia and China. In the second academic year, I moved to another research project ‘Labour Market Policy Evaluation’, also led by Prof. Elena Kotyrlo. In this project, my research shifted to investigate the impact of COVID-19 on the labour market and whether it is transferred to the incomes of vulnerable groups.
The study focuses on the heterogeneous impact of COVID-19 on income across different vulnerable groups, professional groups, regions and income groups, as well as identifying specific groups whose income is significantly affected by COVID-19
Although our research is conducted within the framework of a project, it does not mean that we do not have the freedom to choose a specific topic; you can decide it according to your interests. However, you will undoubtedly need to consult with and receive helpful advice from your project supervisor.
— What role did your academic supervisor play?
— Prof. Elena Kotyrlo is an excellent supervisor and she has my utmost admiration. She has excellent teaching skills and a spirit of endless pursuit of knowledge, and always keeps a friendly and supportive attitude towards all students. I meet with her every 1–2 weeks in project seminars.
During the project seminars, all participating students take turns to report on the progress of their research and have rich discussions with the supervisor and all other participants
Moreover, Prof. Kotyrlo also taught some important knowledge to help us acquire ample research skills, including but not limited to research methodology and econometrics closely related to our research topics. More importantly, we can also book individual consultations with Prof. Kotyrlo during office hours, and she is always eager to help us. This means that we can receive substantial support for our research from our supervisor.
— Where did you get the data and how did you work with it?
— At HSE University, students have access to a wide range of resources to conduct research.
In my case, accessing the data and working with it was not difficult and we were taught everything we needed to know
My study combined the Propensity Score Matching method with Difference-in-Differences models for linear and quantile regression in order to obtain average treatment effects and quantile treatment effects for different groups, based on the Russia Longitudinal Monitoring Survey - Higher School of Economics (RLMS-HSE). It is publicly available data with high credibility and long-term follow-up.
— What were you looking for in your research? Did you find any interesting facts or correlations?
— The study focused on exploring the heterogeneity of COVID-19 effects on income, such as gender differences, regional and occupational differences, and differences across income groups. More importantly, the aim was to reveal the extent to which the income of different vulnerable groups is affected by COVID-19.
Preliminary findings demonstrate that the incomes of workers with lower education, single parents and young workers are negatively affected by COVID-19 to a greater extent
In addition, a large body of literature suggests that the income of parents with multiple children and workers with disabilities could be significantly affected by COVID-19. However, this situation was not observed in the findings. This may be due to the fact that in Russia, these two vulnerable groups are better protected by the government. But it is too early to say, as the study is still being iteratively improved. I expect to find more exciting results.
— What do you plan to do next with this research?
— Earlier this year, I joined the research and study group ‘Estimation of the Impact of Macroshocks on Socio-economic Processes in the Regions of Russia’ led by Prof. Olga Demidova and Prof. Elena Kotyrlo. The team has received a grant from the HSE Academic Foundation to support our academic research. This also means that there is an opportunity for my research to be published in the near future. I am currently working on this with the help of Prof. Elena Kotyrlo and other team members.
— What do you plan to do after graduation and beyond?
— In March, I passed the competitive selection process and I was accepted into a doctoral programme at HSE University based on the Russian Government Scholarship (quota). This means a lot to me, since it will set me up well for my academic career.
For the future, I hope to become an outstanding young scholar in the field of the Russian economy and Sino-Russian economic and trade cooperation.
If I am successful in getting my PhD at HSE University, I plan to do post-doctoral research at a leading institution in China or Russia and then work towards a teaching position at a leading university
— What are your overall impressions of your studies at HSE?
— Everything at HSE University is excellent in my eyes. In fact, I originally wanted to thank certain people, but I found that all the professors and staff I have come into contact with at HSE University deserve to be thanked. The list is too long, but thank you for all your help and kindness.
One of the more important points I would like to emphasise is that HSE University is known for its strict educational standards and leading academic reputation. Therefore, I strongly believe that applying to HSE University is a good choice for all students who have the talent and study hard enough. One of the sentences I often hear is: ‘it may not be perfect, but let’s find a way to improve.’
HSE University is a young university, but there is a spirit of endlessly seeking solutions to problems
The last thing I would like to say to new arrivals is ‘Welcome to HSE University.’
Elena Kotyrlo, Professor at the Department of Applied Economics, Doctor of Sciences in Economics, PhD in Economics
On July 7, Wenrui Zhang graduated from the master’s programme in Economics and Economic Policy (Applied Economics Track) at the Faculty of Economic Sciences. During his studies at HSE, I supervised his research. Wenrui expressed an interest in poverty and policy evaluation in the labour market. He came from China and was eager to do a comparison of living conditions in China and Russia. However, we decided to conduct research on Russian data due to its availability. He worked with HSE-RLMS data and showed both interest and skills in studying vulnerable groups in the Russian labour market at the time of COVID-19. The topic has a high relevance to income policy and the evaluation of pandemic outcomes.
I enjoyed reading his paper. The text thoroughly presented a literature review and the quality of data and justified the application of econometric techniques. For 2019–2020 data, Wenrui employed difference-in-difference with inverse probability weighting on the first step (IPW-DD) and the quantile treatment effect evaluation with the same first step (IPW-QDD). These are advanced techniques, but Wenrui has done a good job at explaining the methodology and ambiguity of the studied effects. At the moment we are working on a paper for publication based on his Master’s thesis.
Being an extremely motivated and hardworking student, Wenrui was invited to the research project ‘Estimation of the Impact of Macroshocks on Socio-economic Processes in the Regions of Russia (on the example of COVID-19)’ funded by the Academic Fund Programme at HSE University. He was one of the most active participants in seminar discussions.
I would like to congratulate Wenrui, as he has already enrolled in a PhD programme at HSE. I wish him success in the academic career he has chosen.
Seungmin Jin, from South Korea, is researching the field of Explainable AI and planning to defend his PhD on ‘A Visual Analytics System for Explaining and Improving Attention-Based Traffic Forecasting Models’ at HSE University this year. In September, he passed the pre-defence procedure at the HSE Faculty of Computer Science School of Data Analysis and Artificial Intelligence. In his interview for the HSE News Service, he talks about his academic path and plans for the future.
‘Studying at HSE Was a Chance for Me to Get to Know Some Supportive Seniors, Knowledgeable Professors, and Wonderful Friends’
On August 4, 2023, a pre-defence of the thesis on ‘Refugee-Host Community Conflict over Assimilation, Integration, and State Legitimacy: The Case of Rohingyas in Bangladesh’ by Md. Reza Habib will be held at HSE University. The preliminary defence will take place at a joint meeting of the HSE School of Sociology and the International Laboratory for Social Integration Research. Md. Reza Habib shared his experience of studying and preparing his PhD with the HSE News Service.
Why do international students at HSE University decide to pursue a career in academia? What fields in economics are relevant to PhD students? Richard Asiamah from Ghana and Alesya Bukreeva from Uzbekistan are current master’s students at the Faculty of Economic Sciences, but have already received scholarships from the faculty to continue their studies as doctoral students at the university. Below, they share their experiences, while Denis Melnik, Academic Director of the Doctoral School of Economics, suggests some tips for the application process.
On March 15, Judas Everett defended his doctoral dissertation ‘The Effect of the Patterns in the Dissolution of Communism on the Transition to New Systems in Eastern Europe’, which investigates the relationship between the demise of communist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe and the quality of democracy in the post-communist regime. The defence took place remotely. His academic supervisor was Professor Andrey Akhremenko of the HSE University School of Politics and Governance at the Faculty of Social Sciences. In his interview, Judas talks about the topic of his research and explains why political science is more important than ever.
On March 16, the results of the Open Doors International Olympiad for master’s and doctoral applicants were announced. The competition is organised by the Association of Global Universities with the support of the Ministry of Education and Science of Russia and the Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States Affairs, Compatriots Living Abroad, and International Humanitarian Cooperation (Rossotrudnichestvo). HSE University is one of the Olympiad’s organisers and the site of its distributed project office.
Wai Yan Phyo Naing first came to HSE University from Myanmar to enrol in a master’s programme at the Faculty of World Economy and World Affairs in 2015. After graduation, he decided to pursue a PhD at the Doctoral School of International and Regional Studies. On February 16, 2023, he successfully defended his dissertation on ‘Evolution of Myanmar’s Policy Towards China (1988–2020)’.
Majid Sohrabi is a 28 year-old student from Iran currently enrolled in a doctoral programme at the HSE University Faculty of Computer Science. Before starting his PhD, he graduated with honours from the university’s Master of Data Science programme. In addition to studying, he also works as an assistant at the School of Data Analysis and Artificial Intelligence and a research assistant at the Laboratory for Models and Methods of Computational Pragmatics.
Ion Frecautan chose to pursue his doctoral studies at HSE University because of its reputation as a leading research university and its extensive academic infrastructure. With the latest enrolment campaign for doctoral schools now underway, we spoke to Ion about his green finance research at the Faculty of Economic Sciences, his activities as a lecturer, and more.
On February 1, 2023, HSE University will open admissions to its doctoral schools. The Doctoral School of Economics has held a webinar for prospective students, which attracted participants from various parts of the world. Materials and feedback from the webinar, as well as information on applications, are now available on the Faculty of Economic Sciences website.
The first stage of the Open Doors: Russian Scholarship Project for prospective master’s and doctoral students has concluded. The winners of the competition get an opportunity to study at Russian universities for free. HSE University is among the most popular universities on the project.