Putting Their Heads Together
By Elizabeth Hillberg
Working in collaboration has paid off for graduate students Ananth Ramanarayanan and Costas Arkolakis, whose ongoing research has already received accolades.
When Ananth Ramanarayanan and Costas Arkolakis won the Hardy third-year paper competition for their work “Endogenous Specialization, Intermediate Goods, and International Business Cycles," they knew they were carrying on a tradition of intellectual collaboration as old as the economics department itself.
“There’s a history of collaboration here," says Ananth. “When we read the research of Minnesota graduates we see their names together and see how they cooperated. And you know these are lifelong collaborations."
Although the Hardy Award is given to third-year students, the groundwork for this type of collaborative research begins as early as the first year. “We are taught that everything you research should have a similar foundation based on theoretical reasoning and certain principles that are established in the first couple of years in the program," explains Ananth, who also has a doctoral dissertation fellowship from the Graduate School. “When you share that same foundation, everyone can communicate a lot easier regardless of what the topic is."
Though English is a second language for Costas, an international student from Athens, he and Ananth found working together to be easy with economics as their common language.
“We didn’t know much about writing a paper when we started," says Costas, the recipient of the 2006 Heller Dissertation Fellowship. “Sometimes we try working on similar tasks simultaneously, and compare what we find. A lot of the time we interpret the things the other has found."
Having complementary specialties within the world of international economics also contributes to an effective collaboration. Ananth, a new Jersey native, is working on the effects of imperfect allocation of inputs on the response of the economy to changes in the conditions it faces from abroad. Costas is studying the decisions of firms to export their products and is analyzing new ways of modeling the way they gain access to foreign markets.
Their paper began in their second year as a class project in Tim Kehoe’s International Trade course. “We all had to do a group presentation of an idea that could be a research project, and Costas and I decided to work together," Ananth explains. “We were friends beforehand. Really everyone is friends in our class. We all work together, and what little free time we have we also spend together."
The spirit of collaboration extends beyond students working together. The relationships of students with their advisers provide further opportunities for sharing ideas and receiving valuable criticism.
“Tim Kehoe and Cristina Arellano run a workshop focused on research in international trade and macroeconomics in which students take turns presenting their research every week," Costas says. “We benefit regularly from their advice and criticism. It’s important for the professors to evaluate your work so you can see if you’re going in the right direction."
“During these workshops, it’s not just a particular student meeting with a professor," Ananth explains. “All the students get involved and see what everyone is working on. It gives us ideas. We really try to help each other out a lot."
“The students here are more cooporative than competitive," he continues. “People become friends and work together when they’re here. And they work together and maintain friendships long after they’ve left."