When did you join the Department of Economics/KBS/UL? 

I joined in January 2022. I came from Lancaster in the UK where I had been for eight very happy years. Before that I was a Research Fellow at The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) in Trinity College. Prior to that I was in Warwick for my PhD, which I greatly enjoyed. I have moved around a lot! 


What are some of your major professional accomplishments? 

I have just published in Social Science and Medicine, a four star journal. This was a career highlight especially because a co-author, Chiara Costi, was my PhD student and the paper was a chapter of her thesis. I supervised her MSc dissertation, so it’s been great to see her progression.  


What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as a post-doc/researcher? 

Economics is a tough discipline. There is a much higher bar for publication in terms of rigour (especially demonstrating a causal effect) relative to most social sciences. We publish far fewer papers than other disciplines and there is a huge premium on quality relative to quantity. Even getting a review at a four/three star journal is so much tougher than at a two star. Lastly, the reviewing process is so slow. A three month wait between reviews is considered fast! They should pay people to review.  


What are you currently researching/working on? 

I am revising a paper about the effects of the Smoky Coal Bans on health in Ireland.  People are very harsh towards our politicians, but the ban is a great public policy success. 

In teaching, I run an undergraduate applied economics module. I had not taught Irish students before, so it’s interesting to compare them to the British students I used to teach – for example it’s clear to me that Irish students have a much broader base of knowledge because of the Leaving Cert. 

I am also getting ready to launch the Postgraduate Diploma in Economics and Public Policy.  Exciting times! 


Why did you choose your current career? What does your appointment mean to you? 

I loved my undergraduate courses in statistics and econometrics. I loved doing data work because it’s an applied skill. I got talking to my lecturer, Prof. Colm Harmon, and it turned out he needed a Research Assistant. So one thing, just led to another. I remember at the time of leaving undergrad, I was going to join the Army, but I decided to give economics a go. It’s funny how things turn out. 


How do you think young professionals in your field can best develop their knowledge and skills? 
Talk to your lecturers about careers in their area of expertise. A lot of students, even high achievers, don’t seem to have a broad knowledge or interest in economics. They should read general interest publications like the Financial Times, The Economist and even certain professional journals like Journal of Economic Perspectives. I listen to a lot of podcasts – EconTalk and David McWilliams are excellent. Students should attend events on campus - this year we had visits from the Chief Economist to the Government, a Deputy Governor of the Central Bank, and the Chief Economist of Northern Trust among others.  


When you are not researching or working, what do you do? 

I used to run, but my knees gave out. I have been doing Orienteering for the last few years, but now I want to do open water swimming. 


Who are some people in your field that you’d like to acknowledge as having a positive impact on you? (3 or 4 will do a short sentence about them). 

I started out life as research assistant to Colm Harmon, Kevin Denny and Arnaud Chevalier. All are great researchers who gave me great training and were very patient and generous. Colm and Arnaud very much took a “natural experiment” approach while Kevin took a much more technical nonparametric approach. My PhD supervisor, Ian Walker, really showed me the importance of linking theory and empirics. All of them showed me the importance of producing research to the highest international standards.  

My post-doc at The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing had a different focus. Brendan Whelan, a former director of the ESRI taught me a lot about survey design and collection. He had a great saying: “if you find something interesting, you are probably wrong”.  Alan Barrett, now the director the ESRI, taught me a lot about making research relevant for policy makers. More recently, I have learnt a lot about Stata programming from Kit Baum. I have also learnt a lot from my co-authors and my research students. 

In terms of teaching, I take inspiration from everyone who taught me including school teachers and even my driving instructor. I did my years as a teaching assistant – I learnt so much from the module leaders. Nothing makes you know something like having to teach it. 


Where is your favourite place on the UL campus? 

The 50 metre swimming pool. It’s such a fantastic facility. Please don’t tell anyone because I like having a lane to myself.  


If you didn’t live in/near Limerick, where would you live & why? 

I would love to do a sabbatical in the USA to experience American university life. Maybe my HoD will be nice to me...