The Economics Department offers an interdisciplinary Ph.D. degree in ecological economics that allows for individual research specialization and independent study in an atmosphere of close contact between faculty and students.
The program combines traditional training in advanced economics, expected of Ph.D.s in economics, with the broader interdisciplinary perspective on economic, social, and environmental systems provided by ecological economics. Ecological economics is the transdisciplinary field that integrates diverse perspectives on human resource use, development, and the environment. In addition to traditional economic policy concerns regarding efficiency and equity, ecological economics focuses on sustainability. Research interests include: global pollution, land use, and resource scaracities; analyzing scenarios for a sustainable economy; economic development and environment quality; household consumption; lifestyle change; energy and the environment; electricity policy, climate change; regional air pollution; power grid modeling; renewable energy policy; and the economics of nuclear energy. The department has a strong empirical focus using techniques including econometrics, input-output analysis, electricity network simulation modeling and time series analysis.
The Ph.D. in economics requires at least 72 credits beyond the baccalaureate degree and 48 credits beyond an M.A. or M.S. in economics or a related field. For the post-master’s Ph.D., a minimum of 30 credits of course work or 10 three-credit courses must be taken. However, students can choose to take more courses and may be required to do so if their background so indicates. At least two-thirds of the total credit hours, excluding thesis, must be at the 6000 level, with the further limitation that no more than 21 credit hours of 4000-level courses are to be allowed. For example, if a student is taking 30 credits of course work in a post-master’s Ph.D., a maximum of 10 credits at the 4000 level is allowed. A maximum of 15 credits can be taken at institutions other than Rensselaer.
Students must complete a core course sequence in economic theory, quantitative methods, and ecological economics. Students can receive waivers if they have previously completed a course with a substantially similar content and at a similarly advanced level.
The core economic theory and quantitative methods courses are: ECON 6550 Advanced Microeconomic Analysis, ECON 6590 Advanced Macroeconomic Analysis, and ECON 6570 Econometrics. The course ECON 6120 Advanced Quantitative Methods is recommended preparation for ECON 6570.
The ecological economics sequence consists of ECON 6230 Advanced Environmental Economics and ECON 6250 Advanced Ecological Economics.
To complete their coursework, students may choose other advanced courses offered by the economics department, other Rensselaer departments, and cross-registered colleges that are relevant to students’ interests.
Students are strongly encouraged to attend seminars conducted regularly in the economics department as well as in other Rensselaer departments.
An initial adviser will be assigned to each student. Immediately upon entering the economics Ph.D. program, students should draft a study plan. These plans must be kept current, as they will likely undergo periodic changes. The program director or co-director must approve the Plan of Study. The Plan of Study also indicates the student’s curriculum adviser and expected date of graduation.
Economics Ph.D. students must also pass written comprehensive exams that cover theory and application in the four required core fields of microeconomics, macroeconomics, quantitative methods, and ecological economics. The exams are commonly scheduled in late May or in mid December with other dates scheduled as appropriate and necessary.
Upon successfully completing the qualifying exams, students choose an adviser and then organize a dissertation committee with that adviser, complying with Rensselaer’s requirements for a doctoral dissertation committee.
Students will prepare a dissertation proposal in consultation with their adviser that covers the theoretical and applied literature in the chosen field of study for the dissertation and outlines the planned dissertation research. The candidacy exam consists of an open presentation of the proposal. This constitutes an additional oral field exam in a chosen area of specialization. This exam is scheduled in consultation with the thesis adviser after the candidate has passed all required comprehensive exams. After passing the candidacy exam, a Ph.D. student is considered a candidate with only the dissertation and dissertation defense remaining to complete the requirements of the Ph.D. program.
Outcomes of the Graduate Curriculum
Students who successfully complete this program will be able to:
- apply the concepts and models of microeconomics to describe and/or explain the behavior of economic actors including individuals and firms.
- apply the concepts and models of macroeconomics to describe and/or explain current and historical events facing domestic and global economies.
- rigorously model economic behavior and performance using mathematical or other analytic tools in original ways that contribute to the literature of the discipline of economics.
- analyze economic issues using an appropriate theoretical framework, design empirical analyses based on well-formulated, testable hypotheses, applying statistical and econometric methods, collecting data and using state-of-the-art software.
- communicate results of original research effectively in written and oral form.