VanHasseltSmallThis fall, the Department of Economics welcomes a new faculty member, econometrician Martijn van Hasselt.

Martijn’s affiliation with the Department began in Spring 2014 when he agreed to teach the PhD course, ECO 745: Advanced Econometrics. At that time, he was working as an econometrician at RTI International, former employer of department head Jeremy Bray. Jeremy had been searching for someone who had both the skills and the interest to offer the course to the cohort of new PhD students. His colleague Martijn immediately came to mind.

“It was an exciting proposition for me,” Martijn recalls. “I taught at Western Ontario after I received my doctorate, and I enjoy being in the classroom and working with students. Since I live in Greensboro, it was easy for me to integrate my duties as an adjunct professor with my research and work at RTI.”

Not long after Martijn became an adjunct, the Department received the go-ahead to hire a new permanent full-time faculty member.  Martijn was encouraged to apply.

Jeremy says, “Given the focus of our graduate programs on applied economics and research tools, it was critically important for us to have an econometrician on staff. We were particularly concerned with finding an applied econometrician who was experienced with doing real-world research and could help our doctoral students acquire and use skills in econometrics and carry out dissertation research that positioned them for careers as researchers. Martijn has exactly the skill set we needed, plus he’s a very likable guy with great enthusiasm for teaching.”

Martijn will join the faculty as an assistant professor in Fall 2014. He will be taking over the core MA course ECO 644, Econometric Theory, in addition to the advanced econometrics course he previously offered. Martijn will continue to work with the researchers at RTI on behavioral research studies and looks forward to collaborating with his new colleagues in the department.

Martijn says, “My skills and interests lie in taking the data collected by others and helping them tease out the patterns of behavior that inform us on how well programs and policies are working.”

Martijn’s research generally focuses on econometric methods. He says, “I am currently working on Bayesian inference in models for estimating treatment effects when not everyone complies with their assigned treatment. When you ignore this, you run the risk of biasing estimates of the treatment or intervention effect. “

Martijn hopes his work on the handling of non-compliance will lead to the development of tools that can be applied in a wide variety of contexts. “We analyze non-compliance in the context of a clinical trial for different kinds of medications, but the issue of poor adherence or non-compliance is also prevalent in observational studies.

“For example, consider the case of a training program for unemployed workers and the effect it has on the probability of finding employment. Some of those enrolled in the program may not be participating at all, or they may only partially participate. Moreover, these differences are usually not fully observed.

“Everything I’m learning from this grant, I would really like to be able to apply to other programs. They could apply to things like food stamps, the work that Chris [Swann] is doing. I think it would be really cool to sit down with him at some point and say, ‘Okay, well, this is what I’ve learned from this grant. Here are some methods. Now they will need to be adapted and modified because they’re not good to go instantly in another context, but I think it’s doable.’ So, that would be the next step and I’m looking forward to it.

“I like problems that have applications in different fields. Now we happen to be in the phase where we’re trying to develop the methodology but I know, once we’re done, there will be lots of different ways to use these methods. They’re not just artificial toys; we can employ them in lots of economics or social science research contexts.

“I think it makes it more interesting when you can see methods that have the potential to be broadly applied.”

Minerva Welcomes Martijn van Hasselt