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 € 16,243 gross per year . The scholarship can be increased by 50% when a student visits foreign universities and institutions. Starting from the 2nd year, each student is endowed with an additional budget of about € 1,624 for research activities.


Full details for applying for the academic year 2022-23 (Cycle 38):  here (in Italian) and here (in English). The full call for application can be found here (in Italian) and here (in English).

Deadline for applications for the academic year 2022-23 (Cycle 38): August 2nd, 2022 (11:59am CEST).

Shortlisted candidates will be selected and interviewed (via Microsoft Teams) in September.

The enrolment procedure for the new cohort of PhD students will be completed in October and they will officially start their activities from November 1st, 2022.

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 (Curriculum 2: Socio-economic risk and impacts), with a 50% co-funded scholarship for the a.y. 2021/2022 – cycle 37, and with a fully funded scholarship for the a.y. 2022/2023 – cycle 38. Reference persons for the Department of Economics – University of Insubria: Prof.ssa Elena Maggi and Dr. Eugenio Caverzasi.

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 and social preferences (Astrid Gamba, Insubria)
• The economics of altruistic decisions and charitable giving (Umberto Galmarini, Insubria)
• Preferences, Utility and Optimization (Matteo Rocca, Insubria)
• History of decision making (Carlo Brambilla, Insubria)
• Transport decision making and sustainability (Elena Maggi, Insubria)

(ii) Econometric techniques and simulation models for decision making

• Applied econometrics: health economics (Silvana Robone, Insubria & Ariadna Garcia-Prado, UPNA)
• Applied econometrics: causality and policy evaluation (Andrea Vezzulli & Giuseppe Porro, Insubria)
• Introduction to Macro AB models (Eugenio Caverzasi, Insubria)
• Agent-based models on Transport & Sustainability (Moreno Baruffini, USI)
• Agent-Based Modelling (ABM) in innovation economics (elective) (Matthias Müller, University of Hohenheim)
• Seminar in Machine Learning and Big Data Analysis (elective) (Andrea Vezzulli, Insubria)

(iii) Quantitative methods for risk assessment

• The axiomatic approach to risk measurement (Elisa Mastrogiacomo, Insubria)
• Portfolio Allocation in Practice (Asmerilda Hitaj, Insubria)

(iv) Other courses

• Research methods (Paola Tubaro, CNRS)
• Introduction to MATLAB (Enrico Moretto, Insubria)
• Introduction to STATA (Alessandra Tanda, University of Pavia)

Courses taught in the first semester (November, December 2021)

Moretto EnricoIntroduction to MATLAB – 6hNovember
Mastrogiacomo Elisa An introduction to risk measures The axiomatic approach to risk measures – 10hNovember – December
Hitaj AsmerildaPortfolio Allocation in Practice – 15hNovember – December
Tanda AlessandraIntroduction to STATA – 10hNovember – December
Vezzulli Andrea
Porro Giuseppe
Applied econometrics: causality and policy evaluation – 20hNovember – December
Caverzasi EugenioIntroduction to Macro AB models – 10hDecember
Baruffini Moreno (USI)Agent-based models on Transport & Sustainability – 3hDecember
Müller Matthias Agent-Based Modelling (ABM) in innovation economics (elective) – 20hOctober – November

Courses taught in the second semester (February, March, April, May 2022)

Brambilla Carlo
Sidki Marcus
History of decision making – 12hMarch
Rocca MatteoPreferences, Utility and Optimization – 20hFebruary, 22nd – March, 22nd

Tubaro PaolaResearch methods – 12hMay
Robone Silvana
Prado Ariadna García
Applied econometrics: Health Economics – 15hApril – May
Galmarini UmbertoThe economics of altruistic decisions and charitable giving – 10hApril – May
Gamba AstridBehavioral economics and social preferences – 10hMay
Maggi ElenaTransport decision making and sustainability – 14hApril – May
Thach KaterynaIncome inequality: patterns, measurement, and spatial dimension (elective) – 4hMay
Centorrino SamueleEconometrics of discrete choice models – 12hMay
Silvia MassiniDigital Technologies, Innovation and Skills – 4hMay
Sandro MendonçaWhat can we learn from editormetrics? Data, approaches, insights. – 4hMay
Vezzulli Andrea Seminar in Machine Learning and Big Data Analysis (elective) – 40hFebruary, 23rd –
May, 18th


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, HDR, Associate Dean and Full Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Applied Mathematics, SKEMA Business School, Université 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
  • 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, Associate 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 2022/2023 a total of six scholarships for PhD students are available. Each scholarship amounts to approximately € 16,243 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. 2021/2022, cycle 37
    • Anindita ARIF
    • Michele CIRUZZI
    • Irina DI RUOCCO (DM 1061 “Green” PhD scholarship)
    • Andriy ROMANYUK
    • Sara RONCO
    • Evgeniia SHTELE
    • Do THANH THUY (DM 1061 “Green” PhD scholarship)
    • 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
    • Carlotta MONTORSI (Incoming PhD student in co-tutelle with the University of Luxembourg)
  • PhD students, from a.y. 2019/2020, cycle 35
    • Zeid AL KAFFAF
    • Muhammed BITTAYE
    • Giorgio DI MAIO
    • Cecilia MARONERO
    • Isaac Kwesi OFORI
    • Matteo SCACCHI
  • PhD students, from a.y. 2018/2019, cycle 34
    • Mawunyo AGRADI, PhD May 2022
    • Alberto CITTERIO, PhD May 2022
    • Wubeshet REGASA
    • Adnan SHAHI, PhD July 2022
  • PhD students, from a.y 2017/2018, cycle 33
    • Lawrence Adu ASAMOAH, PhD March 2021, Research Economist at African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET), Ghana
    • 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, Lecturer at a the University of the West of England, Bristol
    • Migbaru Alamirew WORKNEH, PhD September 2021, Postdoc at Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia
    • Angel FERNANDEZ (Incoming PhD student in co-tutelle with the University of Granada), PhD June 2021
  • PhD students, from a.y. 2016/2017, cycle 32
    • Solomon Kibret ABREHA, PhD June 2020
    • Vlad-Andrei ALEXANDRU, PhD April 2020
    • Luca CONGIU, PhD February 2020; Assistant Professor (RTDa) at Tor Vergata University of Rome.
    • Valentina DI IASIO, PhD March 2020; Research fellow at University of Southampton, UK
    • Julien SEAUX, PhD December 2019; Technical analyst & programmer, Google, Dublin, Ireland
    • Mariia VASIAKINA, PhD April 2020; Postdoc at the National Research University, Higher School of Economics, Moscow
  • PhD students, from a.y. 2015/2016, cycle 31
    • Daniele GRECHI, PhD April 2019; Postdoc at University of Insubria
    • Juliya ILYASHENKO, PhD April 2020
    • Sepideh KHAZAEI, PhD March 2021
    • Matteo MARINI, PhD February 2019; Assistant Professor at the Department of Public Economics, Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic.
    • 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

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;
    2. 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.