Helsinki GSE strengthens economic expertise in transport and education with three new professorships

Training in transport economics starts in Finland

Helsinki Graduate School of Economics (GSE) is creating a new branch of education and research for the Finnish field of economics. Education in economics, which explores transport and its social impact, will be launched with two new assistant professor appointments. Prottoy Aman Akbar and Pablo Ernesto Warnes will take up their positions at Aalto University at the beginning of August. Akbar’s professorship has been funded by the Ministry of Transport and Communications.

Akbar, who has been appointed Assistant Professor of Transport Economics, has been working as a doctoral researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, finalising his dissertation on the accessibility of public transport and its effects on regional inequality. ‘There are a lot of interesting questions in this field. What, for example, explains the slowness of public transport in rich or poor cities, how fast public transport benefits people from different backgrounds, and how public transport can affect the CO2 emissions from mobility,’ Akbar describes.

Warnes, who has been appointed Assistant Professor of Economics, will move to Aalto University from the University of Columbia where he has been working as a doctoral researcher. His research has in particular focused on the social impact of public transport infrastructure projects in developing countries. ‘Public infrastructure projects can have significant benefits, but these benefits are not always evenly distributed. In my research, I investigate how public infrastructure projects affect people from different backgrounds, both in terms of income and educational background,’ says Warnes.

Akbar’s professorship will be carried out in collaboration with the Department of Built Environment at Aalto University’s School of Engineering. ‘With this kind of collaboration we cross sometimes painfully high disciplinary boundaries in one fell swoop. A new way of thinking that combines the teaching and research of economics with other sciences, is guaranteed to lead to something new and interesting. It is wonderful to have such talented researchers join our community,’ says Otto Toivanen, Academic Director of Helsinki GSE.

An economic point of view to questions of work, crime, and education

Helsinki GSE also strengthens its teaching and research expertise in the field of labour economics, which includes education, crime and family economics. Kristiina Huttunen, Doctor of Political Science, has been appointed Professor of Economics and she started her role at the Department of Economics at Aalto University in March. Huttunen has studied, for example, the connection between crime and education.

‘Education and crime might not immediately be considered to be related to economic research. However, economics is a science that seeks to solve different societal issues with the help of statistical analysis and economic tools. For example, modern labour economics seeks to understand how various factors from early childhood onwards affect the formation of human capital and thereby life-cycle incomes. By investigating these themes, we can obtain a lot of information about the effects of criminal convictions, unemployment or education on people’s lives,’ says Huttunen when discussing the background of her research.

Kristiina Huttunen has worked as a Research Professor at the Institute for Economic Research (VATT) and has studied the effects of parental unemployment on children’s careers, the link between secondary education and crime, and the effects of criminal convictions on labour market earnings and repeat crime.

‘Huttunen is a great example of how economics investigates interesting social issues that are not always thought to have an impact on economics,’ says Matti Liski, Head of the Department of Economics at Aalto University.

‘Huttunen’s strong competence strengthens our solid expertise in labour and education economics. We look forward to her contribution to teaching and research at Helsinki GSE,’ says Toivanen. ‘Economics has long been a far too masculine field. Although recruitment is not based on gender, Kristiina Huttunen’s appointment proves that the situation is finally changing. It is in the interest of science that more and more women apply to study in the field and later have the opportunity to be elected to the most responsible teaching and research positions.’

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