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Regular version of the site

A Good Education is the Best Investment for the Future

Kirill Pogorelskiy, Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Economics, Warwick University, UK, starting August 2015. Completed his Master's in Applied Mathematics and Information Technology, specialising in Mathematical Modelling in 2009 and began a PhD in Social Sciences at Caltech, USA, which he finished this year. In an interview Kirill talked about teaching at HSE, his academic interests and doing a PhD at a top American university.

— After you graduated, you decided to carry on and take a Master's degree. Why did you choose to stay at HSE?

— In the final years of my bachelors I started to get interested in applied mathematics in social sciences. It was during the final phase of the ‘migration’ of teachers from the Applied Mathematics and Informatics Faculty of the polytechnic where I was studying to the Faculty of Business Informatics at HSE Nizhny Novgorod, so I had heard a lot about HSE by then.

— Were your expectations fulfilled? What do you remember particularly from your studies?

— Yes, I think HSE has been a big influence in my life. It was my first experience of western style education. The main thing is the module system which means you have exams almost every month. There were lots of interesting courses, and the courses on micro and macroeconomics changed my understanding of how mathematics can be applied to solve different kinds of problems. We had great opportunities to do research. I published several articles with F.T. Aleskerov and V. A Kalyagin. I started going to international conferences and summer schools and gave lectures with famous economists. All that helped me decide in favour of an academic career. 

 After HSE you got into the PhD Social Sciences programme at Caltech. Can you tell us about the selection process, was it tough?

— I applied for an American PhD programme and of course the competition was fierce. They have standard requirements like GRE and TOEFL but your references and academic record are what really count. You need to notch up competitive points well in advance - the application process and submitting documents takes the best part of a year.

 I think HSE has been a big influence in my life. It was my first experience of western style education. We had great opportunities to do research. I started going to international conferences and summer schools and gave lectures with famous economists. All that helped me decide in favour of an academic career. 

 What’s the topic of your research?

— My current interests include game theory, political economy and laboratory experiments. I’m particularly interested in how communication between agents in groups influences the results of their strategic intergroup interaction. Here’s a concrete example: elections. There are two presidential candidates and the electorate who decide whether to go and vote for their preferred candidate or not. On the one hand going to the polling station involves an outlay (time, transport costs, etc) but on the other, you have a chance to influence the outcome of the vote and achieve victory for your favourite candidate which could have material consequences, like a change in the tax system. Standard theories say that in the balance the percentage of voters coming to the polling station needs to be close to zero because if there are a lot of voters the chance of influencing the outcome of the elections is miniscule compared to the cost of voting.  So the so-called turnout paradox arises — that in actual elections the turnout is much higher. But the theory doesn’t take into account that voters don’t make choices in an informational vacuum but are receiving a combination of signals from candidates and the media and through talking to each other. I managed to show that under certain circumstances the turnout paradox can be resolved if you take into account explicitly the correlation between voters decisions.

 What’s the difference between studying in the USA and Russia?

— It all depends on the faculty and the university — you can’t make a general comparison. Each place has its own characteristics. But the overall approach to education in the US is different: here students have much more responsibility for choosing their subjects, courses and the professors they work with. For PhDs the good universities give grants to cover the whole programme, usually combining it with a teaching assistantship or research assistantship which provides you with enough to live relatively comfortably. So a PhD student can spend his main resource  time  on research, not trying to earn money to make ends meet. And anyway, the terms of a student visa in the US don’t allow you to work on the side.

 What are your plans? Will you stay in the USA, will you stay in academic research or do you plan to go into industry?

— In the last year of the PhD programme you start hunting around on the job market. It’s a long and complicated process. The academic market is even more competitive than getting on the PhD programme. There are far more candidates than jobs on the tenure track. This year I managed to get one of those jobs at Warwick University so in the near future I’ll be moving to England to carry on my research and work as an Assistant Professor.

 What would you wish school leavers who are trying to choose a career path?

— Try to get a good education  it’s the best investment for your future. Learn English to advanced level at least  it will open up the biggest and best part of the internet for you.




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