PhD Thesis Topics

Kwabena Boasiako – PhD student

Thesis working title: “Three Essays on Corporate Finance”, supervised by Dr Michael Keefe and Dr Griffin (Heng) Geng

Kwabena is a PhD Student in Finance funded by the Victoria Doctoral Scholarship. His research interest areas are capital structure and corporate innovation. He holds a MSc. in Investment Analysis from the University of Stirling in the UK and a Bachelor of Management Studies degree from the University of Cape Coast in Ghana. He is also a candidate of the CFA Institute.

Jeffrey Chen – PhD student

Thesis working title: “Board of director compensation in China: To pay or not to pay?  How much to pay?”, supervised by Dr Michael Keefe and Dr Griffin (Heng) Geng

Jeffrey's PhD research focuses on corporate governance. Specifially, Jeff studies the characteristic and influences of gratis directors in Chinese listed firms.

Jeff holds a Master of Commerce (Finance major) degree from Victoria University of Wellington.

Vu Tran Dang – PhD student


Thesis working title: “Essays on international stock market”, supervised by A/Professor Hai Lin and Dr Jinji Hao

Vu is a PhD student in Finance. His interests is on the international stock market.  Vu has a Bachelor of Commerce degree from University of Melbourne with majors in Economics and Finance. He also has a MSc in Finance from the University of Huddersfield.  Vu has been employed by the International School, Thai Nguyen University since 2013.

Diana De Alwis – PhD student

Diana De Alwis

Thesis working title: “Welfare Consequences of Disasters in Sri Lanka”, supervised by Professor Ilan Noy and Dr Harold Cuffe

Diana’s interest is on economics of shocks and recovery. In her dissertation, she investigates both frequent disasters and catastrophic shocks, responses to them, and their effects. 

Prior to her PhD studies, she had been lecturing at the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka. Her pre-doctoral studies include a Master’s Degree in Development Economics from Tsukuba University (Japan) under the Joint Japan/World Bank Post Graduate Scholarship Program (JJ/WBGSP). She also holds a Masters in Environmental Economics.

Diana’s website.

Masoumeh (Hanna) Habibi – PhD Student


Thesis working title: “Public Perceptions and Reactions to Disasters”, supervised by Professor Ilan Noy and Dr Jan Feld

Hanna’s research is a project focusing on behavioral economic aspects of the economics of disasters. Her research will use data collected from social media through programming and NLP techniques.

Hanna completed her BSc in Commercial Economics from Azad University of Iran and her MSc in Financial Economics from University Putra Malaysia.

Ilkin Huseynov – PhD student

Ilkin Huseynov

Thesis working title: “Foreign Direct Investment and Capital Flows.  Evidence from Industry-level data”, supervised by A/Professor Yothin Jinjarak and Dr Shutao Cao

Ilkin’s research focuses on international capital flows and foreign direct investment.

By utilizing industry-level data, he investigates the main drivers of capital flows and their volatility on domestic economies.

Currently, he is an editor of New Zealand Review of Economics and Finance student journal at Victoria University of Wellington.

Previously, he was an intern at Statoil - a leading energy company where his research focused on climate and energy policy issues.

Ilkin holds a Master’s degree from Paris School of Economics and is a current recipient of Victoria Doctoral Scholarship.

Aditya Kusuma – PhD student


Thesis working title: “Agricultural Insurance for Disasters”, supervised by Professor Ilan Noy and Dr Bethanna Jackson

Aditya’s is examining the efficiency of using weather indices for agricultural index (parametric) insurance to manage drought and flood risks.

Prior to commencing his PhD, Aditya worked for almost 10 years for the Netherlands’ Ministry of Economic Affairs as Senior Policy Advisor for agricultural affairs covering Indonesia and Singapore region and for Rabobank International as Manager of Food and Agri Research and Advisory in Jakarta, Indonesia. Aditya has a Master of Science degree from Wageningen University (Netherlands) under the auspices of Dutch government scholarship’s STUNED.

Aditya’s website.

Jaime Lancaster – PhD student

Jaime Lancaster

Thesis working title: “Policies and Programmes to Raise Earnings for Low Income Workers”, supervised by Dr Dean Hyslop and Dr Luke Chu

Jaime’s research is concerned with policies and programmes designed to raise wages for low wage workers. Her research looks at citywide minimum wages in the United States and at the Living Wage movement in New Zealand. Using New Zealand’s Integrated Data Infrastructure, Jaime is analysing the ways in which pursuing Living Wage certification impacts a firm’s recruitment, hiring and turnover and at the degree to which extra employee earnings are offset by reductions in public benefits.

Jaime holds a BA in Psychology from the University of California, Santa Cruz and an MBA from Humboldt State University. Before coming to Victoria University of Wellington, Jaime spent 10 years as an adjunct lecturer in the School of Business and Economics at Humboldt State University in California where she taught courses in finance and economics. Jaime’s other research interests include real estate economics, health economics and personal/household financial decision making.

Pengfei Liu – PhD student

LIU Pengfei

Thesis working title: “Topic: short sale”, supervised by A/Professor Hai Lin and Dr Cheng Zhang

The research interest include the long-term effects of short selling and market microstructure.

Pengfei Liu has a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Accounting and a Master of Economics from Northwest University of Political Science and Law, China.

He is currently funded by China Scholarship Council, which will fund him for 4 years’ PhD study. He really enjoys the life at Wellington and Victoria (especially enjoys the jogging around waterfront), which is definitely a good place to focus on research.

Mercy Mhuru – PhD student

Thesis working title: “Essays in Corporate Governance”, supervised by Dr Toby Daglish and Dr Griffin Geng

Mercy is studying towards a PhD in Finance, focusing on corporate ownership structures.

Originally from Zimbabwe, where she worked for the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe; she relocated to Wellington in 2012, studied towards a Master of Applied Finance, worked at NZX and now intends to build her academic research skills with the hope of being able to conduct empirical research on Africa and other emerging economies around the world.

Minh Nam Ngo – PhD student

NGO Nam Minh

Thesis working title: “International trade, manufacturing competitiveness labour skill intensity", supervised by A/Professor Yothin Jinjarak

My PhD research topic focuses on the effect of international trade on manufacturing competitiveness and wage inequality.  I also look at the potential role of vocational education in shortening the wage gap between high-skilled and low-skilled workers in emerging countries.

Prior to joining Victoria University of Wellington in early 2017, I have been working as an economics lecturer at Vietnam National University in Hanoi for nearly two years. My teaching experience includes Microeconomics, Public economics and Public project appraisal using cost-benefit analysis. In terms of education, I hold a BSc in Mathematics with Economics at University of Leicester and an MSc in Economics at University of Warwick, both in the United Kingdom. I am currently a recipient of Victoria Doctoral Scholarship.

Binh Nguyen – PhD student

Binh Ngyuen

Thesis working title: “Essays on Financial Markets”, supervised by A/Professor Hai Lin

Binh is doing his PhD in Finance at Victoria University of Wellington. His research interests include asset pricing, risk management, market microstructure and corporate disclosure. Prior to his doctoral research, Binh worked in KPMG’s audit division before becoming a lecturer of Banking University Ho Chi Minh City.

Binh holds Master of Finance from The University of Melbourne. He passed the CFA Level 2 Exam while studying his Master’s degree.

Nhu Cuong Nguyen – PhD student

Cuong Nguyen

Thesis working title: “The State-Owned Earthquake Insurance Scheme and Recovery from the 2011 Christchurch Earthquake”, supervised by Professor Ilan Noy and A/Professor Eric Ulm

Cuong is investigating the recovery of The Canterbury region after the 2010-2011 earthquake using the EQC claim database and night-time light imagery. Cuong also examines what would have happened in Christchurch had the EQC not been around.

Prior to his arrival to New Zealand, Cuong completed in 2013 a Master of Science in Econometrics and Finance at Queen Mary, University of London, United Kingdom, and worked as Teaching and Research Assistant at Vietnamese German University in Vietnam.

Huyen Thi Thu Nguyen – PhD student

Thesis working title: “Three Essays on Corporate Finance”, supervised by Dr Michael Keefe and Dr Griffin Geng

I hold Distinct Bachelor degree of Finance and Banking at Academy of Finance, Vietnam 2010 and Master of Economics, Finance and Banking at Academy of Finance 2013.

My interesting research areas are corporate finance, corporate governance, asset pricing, merger and acquisition. Currently, I intensively research about how deviation from target leverage ratio influence on merger and acquisition choice.

Khoa Nguyen – PhD student

Khoa Nguyen

Thesis working title: “Health Insurance and Health-Related Behaviors in Vietnam”, supervised by Dr Jaikishan Desai and Dr Harold Cuffe

Khoa is a PhD student in Economics. His study is funded by the joint scholarship between Victoria University of Wellington and the Government of Vietnam. He has been doing research on health economics which focuses on the evaluation of health insurance and the link of individual risk preference on health-related behaviours. Khoa has been employed by Cantho University in Vietnam since 2006. He gives lectures on Statistics and Econometrics at elementary level. During this period, Khoa also has opportunities to work for research projects which aim to alleviate poverty in the rural areas of the South of Vietnam.  Khoa holds a Master of Business Administration (Corporate Financial Management) degree from the University of Groningen under the funding of Nuffic.

Phuong Nguyen – PhD student


Thesis working title: “Market liquidity, informed trading and the market surveillance system: Evidence from Vietnamese Stock Market”, supervised by A/Professor Hai Lin and Dr Griffin (Heng) Geng

Since graduating with the Master of International Economics and Finance at the University of Queensland (UQ), Australia) in 2009, I have been working for a college in Can Tho, Vietnam.  I have experienced some domestic research in economics and finance such as "The Impact of Inward Foreign Direct Investment to the Development of Can Tho", and "The Solutions to Push up the Private Sector in Can Tho".

My major and interest are about finance, special in stock market. As studying at Victoria University of Wellington, my thesis is about the securities market of Vietnam in which I examine how informed trading changes after the market surveillance system, and how the corporate governance affects the informed trading matter by individual firms.

Matt Nolan – PhD student

Matt Nolan

Thesis working title: “Household tax-transfer policies and New Zealand’s Income Distribution: 1984-2014”, supervised by Professor John Creedy and Dr Yigit Saglam

Matt's PhD investigates the role changes in tax and transfer policy settings played in the evolution of income inequality in New Zealand between 1984 and 2013. By adding to our understanding of policies role in influencing income inequality Matt hopes his research will help to inform the current policy debate about income inequality in New Zealand.

Prior the undertaking his research Matt was a macroeconomic forecaster at Infometrics.  His role was focused on investigating patterns in household consumption and private investment. Matt holds a Masters in Commerce and Administration from Victoria University of Wellington.

Jacob Pastor Paz – PhD student


Thesis working title: “Earthquake Risk in New Zealand”, supervised by Professor Ilan Noy

Prior to commencing his PhD, Jacob worked at the Military Institute of Geography of Ecuador as a researcher in remote sensing, cartography and risk assessment. Jacob holds a Master of Science in Geoinformation Technology and Cartography from the University of Glasgow and a Bachelor of Economics by the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador. His postgraduate study at Glasgow was funded by a scholarship granted by the National Secretary of Science and Technology of Ecuador. Other previous professional experiences include stints at the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses of Ecuador, and the National Offices of Statistics of Peru and Uruguay, as a consultant for the World Bank and the OECD.

Farnaz Pourzand – PhD student


Thesis working title: “Droughts and flood risks for the Agricultural Sector in New Zealand”, supervised by Professor Ilan Noy

Farnaz is particularly interested in the impact of climate change on natural disaster risk and biosecurity in New Zealand’s agricultural sector. Farnaz completed both a B.Sc and MSc degrees in Agricultural Economics at Shiraz University, Iran. After graduation in 2010, she worked as a lecturer at Islamic Azad University of Shiraz and Payame-Nour University in Iran. She had also worked as researcher at Fars Agricultural and Natural Resources Research Centre, Shiraz Chamber of Commerce, and consulting engineering companies.

Rui (Amy) Qiao – PhD student


Thesis working title: "Workup Protocol and Market Efficiency: Evidence from the U.S. Treasury Market", supervised by A/Professor Hai Lin and A/Professor Ingrid Lo

Amy’s first chapter of PhD dissertation is on financial microstructure. She uses 2-year, 5-year, and 10-year U.S. Treasury Notes data from the year of 2006 to the year of 2012, to test the market’s responding to the news releasements at 08:30. Amy’s research interest is also on term structures of fix income securities, default risk modelling, and valuations of portfolios and derivatives.

Amy is currently funded by Victoria Doctoral Scholarships. She also received the CFA Institute 2015 scholarship, as a CFA candidate and a FRM candidate. Amy has a MBA degree and a bachelor degree in Economics.

Karam Shaar – PhD student


Thesis working title: "Essays on Modern Economic Issues in International Trade, Exchange Rates, and Housing", supervised by Dr Robert Kirkby and A/Professor Jonathan Chiu and Dr Mohammed Khaled

Karam is a Syrian national. He is currently a recipient of Victoria Doctoral Scholarship. He completed his bachelor’s degree from the University of Aleppo in Economics and Business Administration and his Master of Science in Economics from University Putra Malaysia. Karam’s research prior to joining Victoria University of Wellington was primarily focused on US-China trade-exchange rate nexus and the role of trade data discrepancy. During the period of master’s, Karam also co-authored a published paper on National Price Levels and Economic Freedom.

Before joining Victoria University of Wellington in May 2016, Karam was also awarded another 3-year doctoral scholarship from the Universities of Trento and Florence, Italy (Joint PhD), in Development Economics and Local Systems. His current research is focused on three distinct research areas: (a) housing in New Zealand and the role of macroprudential policy, (b) international trade data quality, and (c) reconsidering the J-Curve Theory discussing the dynamic impact of exchange rate on trade balance.

Karam is interested in economic theory, macroeconometrics, statists, and politics.  He is also a true believer in the future of online education and has successfully completed many online courses from different international universities. Karam is into public relations and public speaking as well. He recently won the first place in the 3 Minute Thesis Competition for the postgraduates of the faculties of Commerce and Law at VUW and he is currently a finalist contender for the competition on university level.

Publications and work in progress

Shaar, Karam, and Mohamed Ariff. "Re-examination of price level differentials using economic freedom index"The Journal of International Trade & Economic Development 25.6 (2016): 880-896

Shaar, Karam, and Ahmad Zubaidi Baharumshah. "US-China trade: Who is telling the truth?." School of Economics and Finance Working Paper Series, Victoria University of Wellington, 13/2016 (2016)

Shaar, Karam, and Ahmad Zubaidi Baharumshah. "US-China trade and exchange rate dilemma: The role of trade data discrepancy." School of Economics and Finance Working Paper Series, Victoria University of Wellington, 12/2016 (2016)

Impact of the civil war on Aleppo’s job market, The Aleppo Project, Center for Conflict, Negotiation and Recovery at the Central European University

Habibi, Masoumeh, Mohamed, Azali, and Shaar, Karam “Openness, exchange rate volatility, and the role of financial development”, Submitted to Empirical Economics on 3 Jan, 2016s

International trade data quality index (under submission)

Reconsidering the J-Curve Theory (in progress)

Housing in New Zealand and macroeconomic fundamentals (in progress)

This information is as of August 2016

Andrew Shelley – PhD student

Andrew Shelley

Thesis working title: “Self Defence against Drones”, supervised Professor Lew Evans and Dr Paul Calcott

Andrew’s research is on regulatory issues arising from the increasingly widespread use of unmanned aircraft, including safety, privacy, surveillance, and trespass. An issue of particular focus is the economic and legal basis for excluding or otherwise removing an unmanned aircraft from a specific location or area.

Andrew is an owner of the consulting firm Aviation Safety Management Systems Ltd. As part of that role he is actively involved in the practical aspects of unmanned aircraft regulation.

Andrew is studying part-time for his PhD, having transferred to the PhD programme from a Masters’ degree. He holds a Master of Arts degree in economics from Massey University.

Christie Smith – PhD student

Christie Smith

Thesis working title: “Identification, the propagation of shocks and monetary policy”, supervised by A/Professor Yothin Jinjarak and Dr Christoph Thoenissen

Christie Smith is the manager of the Research team at the Reserve Bank of New Zealand. He has previously worked in the Bank of Papua New Guinea and in the Economics Department of Norges Bank. Christie is also a co-director (with Ippei Fujiwara) of the Macro Policy Frameworks programme at the Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis, at the Australian National University.  Christie is currently studying for his PhD part time at Victoria University of Wellington. His research interests are in DSGE modelling, open economy macroeconomics, and the identification and estimation of structural models. His previous research has focused on model averaging, density combination, and forecast evaluation.

Tom Stannard – PhD student

Tom Stannard

Thesis working title: “Firing on all Cylinders? An analysis of CEO Retention and Firm Performance”, supervised by Professor Graeme Guthrie and Dr Michael Keefe

Tom’s research is focused on real options theory and empirical corporate governance. He is looking at retention decisions made by a board of directors in relation to its CEO, what effect ownership structure of a firm’s equity has on this decision, and what the resulting value implications are for small shareholders.

Tom has an Honours degree in economics from Victoria University of Wellington and has been a tutor for the school. Tom is currently a teaching fellow for the school in which capacity he has developed and lectured Finance 101 at Victoria University of Wellington.

Belinda Storey – PhD Student

STOREY Bellinda

Thesis working title: “Pricing of Risk in Coastal Property and Sea Level Rise”, supervised by Professor Ilan Noy

Belinda’s interests are in risk pricing under climate change including the impact of insurance retreat and events outside historical experience such as Black Swans and Dragon Kings.

Belinda has a M.B.A. in Finance from Columbia University of New York, and a B.A. in Political Science (First Class Honours) from the University of Canterbury.  She is member of the New Zealand Institute of Directors and Risk New Zealand and serves as a director on the boards of Aotearoa and ShelterBox New Zealand.

Tauisi Taupo – PhD student

TAUPO Tausis

Thesis working title: “Disaster Risk, Resilience and Response in Small Island Developing States: Evidence from Tuvalu”, supervised by Professor Ilan Noy and Dr Harold Cuffe

Tauisi’s research is on the impacts and implications of climate change and disaster risk for the people of the small island state of Tuvalu.

He previously worked in the public sector for the Tuvalu Government in the Ministry of Finance & Economic Planning. Tauisi was also an Intern at the International Monetary Fund, Washington D.C, where he joined his Minister of Finance in his mission to finalize preparations and signing of Tuvalu’s membership to both the IMF and World Bank. He was a tutor at the University of the South Pacific. Tauisi holds a M.A in Economics from the University of Hawaii that was funded by the U.S. Department of State. He is currently studying under a Commonwealth scholarship.

Tauisi’s website.

Thanh Le Thanh Tran – PhD student

TRAN Thanh

Thesis working title: “Bond pricing for US market for the late 19th and early 20th century”, supervised by Dr Toby Daglish.

Thanh is a PhD student in Finance. Thanh holds a Master of Science degree (Finance major) from University of Huddersfield in UK.

Melissa Welsh – PhD student

Melissa Welsh

Thesis working title: “Traceability in the New Zealand Dairy Industry”, supervised by Professor Ilan Noy and Dr Sarah Marshall

Melissa’s Phd research looks at the importance of traceability in food production. She is particularly interested in the dairy production and the potential value traceability may contribute in this industry.

Melissa’s previous qualifications include a Bachelor of Science majoring in marine biology and applied statistics, followed by a Masters’ degree in mathematics from Victoria University of Wellington. She began her current study after receiving a scholarship provided by GS1 New Zealand.

Olivia Wills – PhD student

WILLS Olivia

Thesis working title: “To be Determined”, supervised by Dr Harold Cuffe and by Professor Ilan Noy

Olivia’s research investigates the effects of catastrophic disasters on individuals’ academic performance, and the determinants of vulnerability to disaster shocks. She is interested in the impact of disasters on behaviour, health and wellbeing.

Olivia holds a BA in Politics and Economics and an MSc in Economics and Health Economics from the University of Sheffield. She is passionate about making economics more accessible to the general public, and is a journalist for, explaining economic ideas and current affairs in everyday language.

Mahdi Yadipur – PhD student


Thesis working title: “The Impact of Macroeconomic Announcements on Realized Volatility” supervised by Dr Toby Daglish and Dr Yigit Saglam

Mahdi's PhD research focuses on the impact of information arrival in financial markets. The research interest of Mahdi’s include Market Microstructure, Financial Econometrics and Empirical Asset Pricing.  Mahdi has completed his second master degree in finance at University of Oulu in Finland before joining Victoria University of Wellington as a full-time PhD Candidate in Finance. He has done his bachelor and first master in Economics. Mahdi has been a researcher at Oulu Business School (OBS), Ministry of Energy (MOE), Niroo Research Institution (NRI), and Iran Power Generation and Transmission Company (TAVANIR).

Rio Yonson – PhD student

Rio Yonson

Thesis working title: “Assessing the Vulnerability and Resilience of the Philippines to Disasters”, supervised by Professor Ilan Noy and Professor JC Gaillard

Rio’s research focuses on vulnerability, resilience, and disaster risk at the sub-national level in the Philippines. It examines the dynamics and relative importance of a confluence of factors affecting the vulnerability of elements that are exposed to natural hazards.

Rio was previously employed by the Philippines’ National Economic and Development Authority. She performed lead roles in the implementation of various efforts aimed at mainstreaming the integrated concerns of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation into development and physical planning at provincial and regional levels. Rio holds a Master of Economics (Hons) degree from Monash University, funded under the auspices of AusAID.

Completed Thesis students and topics

Gabriel Fiuza De Braganca

"Essays in price dynamics and real options in electricity markets"

supervised by Toby Daglish and Lew Evans

Andrew Fung

"Housing and consumption in NZ: A financial accelerator general equilibrium model and VAR analysis"

supervised by Viv Hall and Stephen Burnell

Azreen Karim

“Essay on Disaster Risk and Economic Development”

supervised by Ilan Noy

Larry Lepper

"The rhetorical consequences of Mr Keynes"

supervised by John Singleton and Charles Ferrall

Miles Parker

"Monetary policy in the aftermath of natural disasters"

supervised by Ilan Noy and Martin Berka

Nathaniel Robson

"A Multi-Regional Computable General Equilibrium Model for New Zealand"

supervised by Viv Hall and Stephen Burnell

Adrian Slack

"Tensions in New Zealand's public hospitals"

supervised by Paul Calcott and Jack Robles

Antony Srzich

"The effect of technological change and regulations on the evolution of the New Zealand telecommunications market"

supervised by Lew Evans and Stephen Burnell

Muhammad Tahir Suleman

"The Effect of Political Risk on Emerging and Developed Markets"

supervised by Dr John Randal and Dr Martin Berka

William Taylor

"Effort, idiosyncratic risk and investment under uncertainty"

supervised by Lew Evans and Graeme Guthrie

Kay Winkler

"Essays in Law and Economics"

supervised by Lew Evans and Neil Quigley

Mona Yaghoubi

"Three Essays on Capital Structure"

supervised by Dr Michael Keefe and Professor Graeme Guthrie

PhD Student Profiles

Some of our current PhD students have been willing to share some information with us about undertaking the huge journal of a PhD within the School of Economics and Finance. To read about other types of students please view the Student and Alumni Profile page.

Ilkin Huseynov

Ilkin Huseynov

PhD student, School of Economics and Finance, VUW


Started PhD studies at VUW on February 2015. Previously, I completed my master’s degree in economics from University of Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne and Paris School of Economics.

Thesis title

“Foreign Direct Investment and Capital Flows. Evidence from Industry-level data”

Reason for undertaking PhD study

Doing PhD is a big challenge and sometimes can be very tough. But skills we learn from doing PhD is priceless. Apart from academic career goals and passion toward research, one of the reasons for undertaking PhD study for me was that it gives us intellectual freedom to think about problems more deeply and feel closer to the economics science. To my mind, doing PhD studies rises one's confidence of sharing economic ideas and participating in economic forums. I feel very up-to-date and I perceive a chance to investigate economic issues and economics as a whole much deeper.

Reason for study at VUW?

VUW is one of the top universities in New Zealand. When I got three offers to undertake PhD studies from three different universities of New Zealand, I made my choice on VUW. One of the reasons is that the School of Economics and Finance at VUW is strong and I am very well supported and supervised on my research area here.

Apart from academic superiorities, VUW has nice campuses and it is very cool to be a part of VUW culture.

So far, so good?

I have strong support from my supervisor and so far I am happy to be here.

What advice do you have to offer prospective PhD Students?

Make sure you have a passion for research and choose the topic you have a strong interest. Never lose your confidence and always strive for the better.

Have fun and enjoy the beauty of New Zealand.

Future goals or intention upon completion?

One of my future goals as a part of "learning and development" is to participate in traineeship programs of multilateral organizations such as World Bank, ADB, and IMF and to exchange my research ideas with well-known economists of the world. My further intention is to be published in highly ranked journals.

Rio Yonson

Rio Yonson

PhD student, School of Economics and Finance, VUW


Prior to commencing my PhD studies, I worked for the Philippines’ National Economic and Development Authority. From 2011 to 2014, I served as the core team leader of a project on mainstreaming the integrated concerns of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation into sub-national development plans in my region. This project started my interest in disaster-related studies.

Thesis title

“Assessing the Vulnerability and Resilience of the Philippines to Disasters”

Reason for undertaking PhD study

In the years 2011 to 2013, three highly catastrophic tropical cyclones hit my country. One of these three, Tropical Storm Washi, hit my own city. I saw the grave destruction, and heard the near-death experiences of family and friends amidst muddy floodwaters. Given my engagement in in disaster-related work then, I felt the need to do more. I decided I need to have formal training to gain a deeper understanding on vulnerability and resilience to disasters. Hence, I undertook this PhD.

Reason for study at VUW?

At the time when I was looking for a scholarship, only Victoria University of Wellington (School of Economics and Finance) had the combination of (1) what I wanted, i.e. a focus on disasters, and (2) what is relevant to my educational background, i.e. Economics. My brother, who was already working in Christchurch at that time, told me to consider studying in New Zealand as the country is so beautiful. Shortly after, I found the advertisement on PhD Scholarship in Economics of Disasters of Victoria University of Wellington. I liked what I read: the Chair in Economics of Disaster is the first in the world, and Victoria University of Wellington is a premier academic institution in New Zealand.

So far, so good?

Indeed! The best part has to do with my supervisors. I appreciate the candid exchange of ideas and feedback, the quality of mentorship, and the fair amount of independence they give me in doing research. I’m also happy that they encourage me to do relevant endeavors. Alongside doing my PhD in 2015, I accepted a part-time job as teaching fellow of Victoria University of Wellington (School of Economics and Finance), and as World Bank short-term consultant for a Philippine project on disaster resilience. Apart from these jobs, my supervisors also sent me to conferences. These were huge added tasks, alongside doing my PhD research work, but the experiences were all worthwhile. The next best things are the casual conversations with other PhD students. It is comforting to know that there are others in the same boat as you are.

What advice do you have to offer prospective PhD Students?

Based on my own experience, I believe commitment, flexibility and diligence are key. Commitment keeps one focused on PhD targets amidst pressures, challenges, and intervening circumstances. Flexibility is also important as major adjustments are likely to come along the way. Diligence is a must because pursuing a PhD is so much about doing and figuring out the fine details mainly by the candidate herself/himself.

Future goals or intention upon completion?

I intend to go back to development practice. I enjoy variety hence I have preference for project-based engagement on disasters. Projects also give more opportunities for field exposure. I like traveling and I also find it interesting to see for myself what is going on and to write about it. Certainly, doing quantitative empirical research on disasters will be an integral part of what I intend to do.