On my prospective student visit day at Pitt in March 2016, the collegial and collaborative atmosphere of the Economics department was immediately apparent. On top of all the other features I was looking for in a program, including an impressive faculty with a diverse range of research interests and a robust slate of field courses and seminars to help solidify my research interests or discover new ones, the students seemed genuinely happy to be here, and to be with each other. I accepted Pitt’s offer of admission soon after with this collegiality in mind, and five years later, it remains the defining characteristic of my experience in the department.
The Pitt Econ community has shaped my experience in the past five years both professionally and personally. As a student researcher, I have built on the interest in behavioral and experimental economics that I entered with as a first year by participating in the Pittsburgh Experimental Economics Laboratory (PEEL) group, first as a research assistant and now as a co-author on projects with both faculty members and fellow students. I also developed broader interests in applied microeconomics, especially in health and environmental topics, workshopping all my ideas with my colleagues along the way. As an individual, I have enjoyed happy hours, department kitchen lunch breaks, countless walks for coffee, and several International Dinners, one of which I hosted (with a lot of help). While these particular activities are on pause during the COVID-19 pandemic, the social connections I have made in the department have only become more valuable.
I am planning to be on the job market next year, with the intention of staying in academia. Happily, I ended up enjoying research as much as I expected, especially on topics with direct implications for population health such as potable water supply, food security, and behavioral determinants of health. By next year, like now, virtually every line on my CV will be at least in part thanks to the guidance and influence of my colleagues at Pitt, and I will be hoping I land at a department where I could say the same.
Kelly Hyde is a fifth-year PhD student in economics at Pitt specializing in environmental, health, and behavioral economics. His research focuses on the environmental and behavioral determinants of health outcomes. His current work includes studies of the formation of pessimistic beliefs about the efficacy of healthy behaviors, the link between drinking water contamination and food insecurity among households in poverty, and the association between prior exposure to contaminated drinking water and COVID-19 mortality across neighborhoods in the United States.