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A PhD Student Abroad

During the Spring semester of 2019, I left Durham to participate in a three-month research and training visit to the United States as part of the Overseas Institutional Visit scheme for PhD students funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Workshop in Experimental Economics

My visit began at the Graduate Student Workshop in Experimental Economics at Chapman University in sunny Orange County, California. This workshop brought together PhD students from around the world to explore laboratory methods in economics and learn from leading academics in the field. Its unique format combined first-hand participation in experiment sessions and lectures about the experiment from the researcher’s perspective. The workshop covered varied topics including risk preferences, asset market and dynamic decision-making experiments – including a session led by a Nobel Prize winner. We interacted with faculty members throughout the week and received ideas and potential direction for our doctoral research. I met PhD students engaged in similar research methods and topics to myself who I hope to work with in the future.

A visit to the Lone Star State

After leaving California I took a short (by US standards but still 3 hour…) flight east to the University of Texas at Dallas, to establish links with potential collaborators at the Center and Laboratory for Behavioral Operations and Economics. Researchers in the Center apply quantitative methods in the area of focus for my ESRC-funded research project, namely trust and trustworthiness in procurement and the supply chain. Everyone was welcoming and being independent of my PhD project, able to offer new insights and guidance on theoretical and statistical problems that I was encountering, along with general advice on how to approach the future job market process. A second objective of the visit was to obtain specialist graduate-level training of direct applicability to my thesis research. I learnt about strategic decision-making behaviors, bargaining and auctions (and the optimal strategy to win at rock-paper-scissors!).

Being nearly three times the size of the UK, Texas has a lot to see, including Austin, Houston and San Antonio, a great place to travel around on Spring Break.

Final Presentation

The culmination of my overseas institutional visit was an hour-long slot at which I disseminated my research in progress for feedback during the department’s weekly seminar series. Whilst slightly daunted by the quality of previous speakers during the semester, I enjoyed explaining my research design and findings in detail and received helpful comments about how to revise and expand my work going forward. The process of preparing and presenting to an academic audience was very useful.


Presentation at the seminar series in Dallas, April 2019.

I am grateful to the NINE DTP and ESRC for enabling me to develop my research through an overseas institutional visit, improve my subject-specific knowledge and establish networks that I hope will broaden my career possibilities in the future.

Find out more about the ESRC and the opportunities available here.

You can download your fully interactive postgraduate prospectus here.

Matt Walker

Hello, I’m Matt Walker, a second-year PhD student in Economics at Durham University Business School, from Ustinov College. My research focuses on mechanisms to improve trust and trustworthiness in procurement and the supply chain. I receive doctoral funding from the ESRC through the National Productivity Investment Fund, which aims to address research challenges identified in the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy.
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