PhD Program in Methods and Models for Economic Decisions


Director: Andrea Vezzulli

Duration: 3 years

Posts: 6 posts per academic year

Scholarships: each post is endowed with a scholarship of about € 15,350 gross per year. The scholarship can be increased by 50% when a student visits foreign universities and institutions.

Partnerships: the PhD program in Methods and Models for Economic Decisions participates in the inter-university PhD programme in Sustainable Development and Climate change (PhD SDC), coordinated by IUSS – Pavia, with a 50% co-funded scholarship (Curriculum 2: Socio-economic risk and impacts) from the a.y. 2021/2022, cycle 37. Reference person for the Department of Economics – University of Insubria: Prof.ssa Elena Maggi.

Topic and goals

A significant part of economic analysis focuses on decision-making processes. Consumers and producers, workers and firms, banks and managers, households and policy makers continuously make decisions which are economically relevant. Economists are interested in understanding, predicting or modifying the processes underlying these decisions.

The analysis of decisions relies on methods and models that differ significantly across various fields of economic research. For instance, classical decision theory is largely based on abstract mathematical models, while more recent research in behavioral decision theory often relies on experimental methods. Econometric tools are used to investigate the determinants of specific decisions, such as those concerning labor, transports, or health. Computational methods are used to simulate how artificial agents interact, and to investigate the economic effects of their interaction.

The PhD program in Methods and Models for Economic Decisions trains young researchers to master the variety of theoretical and applied approaches that are used in economics for analyzing decision-making processes. In the first year of the program, students attend compulsory courses where they acquire a broad set of research skills in theoretical and data analysis, that allow them to tackle the complex phenomena related to decision making. During the second and third year of the program, students focus on their own research under the supervision of a faculty member and interact in seminars and reading groups in their field of interest.

The program strongly encourages students to spend part of their PhD abroad and supports them in gaining international experience. The central goal of the program is to create independent researchers, who can then pursue an academic career in leading universities or obtain research positions in private firms or international organizations.


In the first year, students attend the program’s courses at the Department of Economics of Insubria University, which is located in Varese. These courses are not the standard first-year courses in quantitative methods, microeconomics, macroeconomics, but cover the specific and more advanced topics in decision theory addressed by the doctoral program.

Courses focus on three main areas of research: (i) the economic theory of decision making, in the mainstream as well as behavioral version; (ii) econometric techniques to analyze economic decisions recorded either in the laboratory or in the field; (iii) the study of economic indicators of risk and inequality associated with the outcome of collective choices. Additional courses related to the program’s topic are taught by external professors visiting the Economics Department. During the first year, students also identify a research area for their dissertation and the member of the PhD board who will serve as their supervisor, eventually pinning down the topic of their first research paper.

The second and third years are entirely dedicated to research. Students work on their research papers and are expected to attend seminars and other training events held at the Department of Economics. In addition, students are strongly encouraged to spend part of the second and third years in foreign universities and research institutions to gain international experience. They can choose among universities having specific exchange programs with Insubria University, such as the University of Jena and the University of Bordeaux, as well as among other leading institutions in their field of research.

Over the last few years, students in their second or third year have spent research periods in the following institutions: Duke University (USA), Stony Brook University, New York (USA), University of Nottingham (UK), University of Kent (UK), University of Jena (Germany), University of Bordeaux (France), University of Lille (France), University Jaume I, Castellón (Spain), University of Granada (Spain), Technical University of Ostrava (Czech Republic).

From the second year onwards, students are also encouraged to present their research papers at internal seminars and international conferences.

Courses taught in the academic year 2021/2022

(i) The economic theory of decision making

• Behavioral economics (Astrid Gamba, Insubria)
• The economics of altruistic decisions (Umberto Galmarini, Insubria)
• Multiobjective optimization (Matteo Rocca, Insubria)
• Agent-Based Modelling (ABM) in economics (Davide Secchi, University of Southern Denmark)

(ii) Econometric techniques

• Machine learning and big data analysis (Andrea Vezzulli, Insubria)
• Applied econometrics of health decisions (Silvana Robone, Insubria)
• Applied econometrics: causality and policy evaluation (Andrea Vezzulli & Giuseppe Porro, Insubria)
• Transport decision making and sustainability (Elena Maggi, Insubria)

(iii) Economic indicators for risk and inequality

• Multidimensional approaches for measuring well-being and poverty (Chiara Gigliarano, Insubria)
• The axiomatic approach to risk measurement (Elisa Mastrogiacomo, Insubria)
• Introduction to MATLAB (Enrico Moretto, Insubria)
• Portfolio Allocation in Practice (Asmerilda Hitaj, Insubria)

(iv) Other courses

Economic history and decision making (Carlo Brambilla, Insubria)
• How to write a scientific paper and a research proposal (Paola Tubaro, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, CNRS)
• Law and complexity (Ilaria Capelli, Insubria)

Courses taught in the first semester (NovemberDecember, 2021)

PhD Board

The PhD Board includes faculty members of Insubria University as well as faculty members of other Italian and foreign universities

Faculty from Insubria University

Faculty from other Research Institutions

  • Samuele Centorrino, Assistant Professor of Econometrics, Stony Brook University, USA
  • Giovanni P. Crespi, Professor of Mathematical Methods for Economics, LIUC – University Carlo Cattaneo
  • Davide La Torre, Full Professor of Business Analytics and Quantitative Methods, SKEMA Business School, Universite’ Cote d’Azur, France
  • Francesco Lissoni, Professor of Economics, University of Bordeaux, France
  • Silvia Massini, Professor of Economics and Technology Management, University of Manchester, UK
  • Nicolae Popovici, Professor of Mathematics, Babes-Bolyai University, Romania
  • Davide Radi, Assistant Professor of Mathematical Methods for Economics, University of Pisa
  • Davide Secchi, Associate Professor of Organizational Cognition, University of Southern Denmark, Denmark
  • Valerio Sterzi, Associate Professor of Economics, University of Bordeaux, France
  • Alessandra Tanda, Assistant Professor of Financial Markets and Institutions, University of Pavia, Italy
  • Paola Tubaro, Professor, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Paris, France
  • Fabio Tufano, Associate Professor of Economics, University of Nottingham, UK
  • Simone Vannuccini, Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Sussex, UK
  • Dmitri Vinogradov, Professor of Finance, University of Glasgow, UK


For the academic year 2021/2022 a total of six scholarships for PhD students are available. Each scholarship amounts to approximately € 15,350 gross per year, is paid on a monthly basis, and lasts three years. The amount of the scholarship can be increased by 50% when a student visits foreign universities and institutions.

Additional funding opportunities include employment as a teaching or research assistant at Insubria’s Department of Economics.

From the second year onwards, PhD students are also entitled to research funds they can use for their research and participation to conferences


Conferences, congresses, summer schools related to the PhD program:

PhD Students:

  • PhD students, from a.y. 2021/2023, cycle 37
    • Anindita ARIF
    • Michele CIRUZZI
    • Andriy ROMANYUK
    • Sara RONCO
    • Evgeniia SHTELE
    • Ottavia VALENTINI (PhD SDC)
  • PhD students, from a.y. 2020/2021, cycle 36
    • Anna Claudia CASPANI
    • Lorenzo GAGLIARDI
    • Rashad MAMMADLI
    • Jurgena MYFTIU
    • Viet Duong NGUYEN
    • Massimo RUSCONI
  • PhD students, from a.y. 2019/2020, cycle 35
    • Cecilia MARONERO
    • Matteo SCACCHI
    • Zeid AL KAFFAF
    • Muhammed BITTAYE
    • Giorgio DI MAIO
    • Isaac Kwesi OFORI
  • PhD students, from a.y. 2018/2019, cycle 34
    • Mawunyo AGRADI
    • Alberto CITTERIO
    • Wubeshet REGASA
    • Adnan SHAHI
  • PhD students, from a.y 2017/2018, cycle 33
    • Lawrence Adu ASAMOAH, PhD March 2021
    • Saddam HOSSAIN, PhD April 2021
    • Mario MARTINOLI, PhD April 2021; Postdoc at Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa
    • Anna NOCI, PhD April 2021; Postdoc at Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa
    • Evangelia PANTELAKI, PhD March 2021
    • Migbaru Alamirew WORKNEH, PhD September 2021, Postdoc at Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia
  • PhD students, from a.y. 2016/2017, cycle 32
    • Julien SEAUX, PhD December 2019; Technical analyst & programmer, Google, Dublin, Ireland
    • Luca CONGIU, PhD February 2020; Research assistant at Bocconi University, Milan
    • Valentina DI IASIO, PhD March 2020; Research fellow at University of Southampton, UK
    • Vlad-Andrei ALEXANDRU, PhD April 2020
    • Mariia Vasiakina, PhD April 2020; Postdoc at the National Research University, Higher School of Economics, Moscow
    • Solomon Kibret ABREHA, PhD June 2020
  • PhD students, from a.y. 2015/2016, cycle 31
    • Matteo MARINI, PhD February 2019; Postdoc at University of Florence
    • Daniele GRECHI, PhD April 2019; Postdoc at University of Insubria
    • Emmanuel Kwasi MENSAH, PhD May 2019; Business intelligence consultant, Adastra, Frankfurt a.M., Germany
    • Kateryna TKACH, PhD July 2019; Postdoc at Università Politecnica delle Marche
    • Juliya ILYASHENKO, PhD April 2020
    • Sepideh KHAZAEI, PhD March 2021

Rules for PhD students

For each PhD cycle, the Academic Year begins November 1st and ends October 31stof the next year.


  • In order to be admitted to the second year, first year students need to pass all the exams and submit all the required essays no later than the 15th of September of the first year. Failed exams can be retaken only once. All retakes should be carried out by the 15th of October. Failing twice to pass any exam prevents admission to second year and it involves the suspension of the fellowship
  • By the 15th of September, first year students also need to choose a supervisor, among the members of the PhD board. A co-supervisor can also be chosen among other academics or practitioners who are not members of the PhD board


  • • In order to be admitted to the third year, students need to have completed at least one working paper and to have submitted it, through the supervisor, to the PhD board by the 15th of September of the second year. Failure to submit a working paper with the following requirements will prevent admission to the third year and involves the suspension of the fellowship.
  • The working paper is an original research essay that contains at least some preliminary results with good potential for future publication, according to the supervisor’s evaluation. It needs to appear in the Economic Department WP series or any other official WP series.
  • In a workshop that takes place during the spring of the second year, students present their preliminary work to the PhD board.


  • The PhD dissertation should satisfy the following minimal requirements:
    1. One chapter of literature review;
  1. Two chapters containing two original pieces of research. The two chapters do not need to be already published as peer-reviewed articles, but they should have a strong potential to be published in peer-review journals.It is the responsibility of the supervisor to assess the quality of such chapters and decide whether they are apt for the PhD dissertation.

Students are strongly encouraged to produce more than the minimal requirements described above. Any original result already published or accepted for publication on a peer reviewed scientific journal will be highly appreciated.

  • In a workshop that takes place during the spring of the third year, students will present their work to the PhD board.


  • Attendance of the Departmental Seminars is mandatory for PhD students when not abroad for research purposes.
  • Students’ mobility: the PhD board strongly encourages students to pursue their research interests in other leading international research institutions. From the beginning of the second year, but not before having completed all first-year exams and duties, students can apply for visiting other universities or research institutions. The application is subject to approval by the supervisor and the PhD director. Activities to be conducted abroad should be clearly related to the student’s doctoral project.
  • Guidelines for the submission of the PhD dissertation and viva vocem examination can be found here.