Jun 16, 2024  
Rensselaer Catalog 2009-2010 
Rensselaer Catalog 2009-2010 [Archived Catalog]


Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Schools & Departments

Head: Arturo Estrella

Director Ph.D. Program in Ecological Economics: Faye Duchin

Department Home Page: http://www.rpi.edu/dept/economics

The Nobel Prize in Economic Science recognizes the rigor and analytical content of economics. The private sector also values economic analysis, and economists are widely sought as potential employees by leading financial institutions and consulting firms. At Rensselaer, undergraduate students are introduced to the key ideas of economics that revolve around scarcity of resources and the function of social institutions. They learn to make choices among alternatives in which it often is not possible to achieve all desirable outcomes.

Through a sequence of progressively more advanced courses, students learn the concepts and tools of economics as applied to a variety of public policy issues such as: growth and technological change, resource scarcity and environmental pollution, unemployment, inflation, poverty, government spending and taxation, and regulation. Primary emphasis is on the analysis of how markets perform the central economic task of allocating scarce resources among competing ends. However, several courses such as public finance, government regulation, and cost-benefit analysis focus on public-sector allocative decision making. For engineers, scientists, and managers, career choices and options are often heavily intermixed with economic problems and policies.

The basic one-term course, ECON 1200 Introductory Economics, creates an awareness of the country’s economic problems and furnishes the basic tools with which, as voting citizens, students will reach independent, rational judgments on public policy questions.

The course provides a general introduction to economic principles and institutions. It is a self-contained course and is also a prerequisite for other courses listed. However, under certain circumstances, this prerequisite may be waived.

Prospective students should also be aware that the department administers the Edward J. Holstein Memorial Award for Excellence in Economics and the Shavell-Weinman Fund. Faculty members are also encouraged to work with undergraduates on research projects.

Research Innovations and Initiatives

At the graduate level, the training objective is to allow students to apply the body of economics knowledge and techniques to a variety of issues in academic, government, and business settings. Department faculty and students focus their research in selected areas, including environmental and ecological economics, economics of technological change, productivity analysis, cost-benefit analysis, economic regulation, and international competitiveness.

Undergraduate Programs

Rensselaer’s undergraduate major in economics differs from other programs in three important respects. First, it requires that about one-fourth of the student’s program be in mathematics and the natural sciences. Second, students must apply quantitative tools to real economic problems, notably in problem labs that employ regression, linear programming, and risk analysis. Finally, in addition to dedicated courses, students pursue various courses dealing with relevant aspects of environmental, ecological economics, and the economics of technological change.

Dual Major Programs

Students are encouraged to consider a dual major as a means of enhancing their employment and graduate school prospects. Training in economics can provide an edge in either situation. A dual major is NOT a double degree, which requires 30 additional credits beyond the first degree. Dual majors may use their economics courses to fulfill the social science portion of the 24-credit H&SS Core. Otherwise the requirements are the same as for the single major in economics.

For those students who are interested in a degree that emphasizes both science and technology and environmental issues there is an opportunity to pursue a dual major in Economics and Science, Technology and Society. This combination of majors combines the best of both departments – economic analysis and a broader humanities and social science analysis that emphasize the roles science and technology play in today’s global economy and culture. For more information on this area of study, please contact David Hess at hessd@rpi.edu.

Special Undergraduate Opportunities

Accelerated Programs

In consultation with an academic adviser, a student may design a five-year program to complete requirements for the Bachelor of Science in Economics and the Master of Science in Operations Research and Statistics or the Master of Business Administration. Participation in these programs may require admission to the Graduate School. They are designed to prepare the student for employment or for advanced graduate or professional training.

Graduate Programs

The Department of Economics offers a Master of Science degree aimed at developing skills in economic analysis and an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Ecological Economics. These programs stress important applications in industry, government, and education.

Graduate level research projects cover a wide range of economic issues, including energy and environment; technological change and productivity measurement, cost-benefit analysis, health economics, international competitiveness, community sustainable development, the role of technology as an agent of change in the structure of national output in planned and market economies, global economic cooperation, cost-benefit analysis of state and local projects and policies, urbanization and industrial development; the economics of new technologies in nonprofit hospitals, technological change in input-output analysis, and innovation and international trade.

Master’s Programs

Though students must become competent in certain fundamental areas such as economic theory and econometrics, programs in economics are quite flexible and can readily accommodate those wishing to combine a graduate-level major in economics with a minor concentration in some related area. An economics minor can also be developed to complement a graduate program in another discipline.

Course Descriptions

Courses related to all economics curricula are described in the Course Descriptions section of this catalog under the department code ECON.



Adams, J.D.—Ph.D. (University of Chicago); growth and technical change, labor, public economics.

Duchin, F.—Ph.D. (University of California, Berkeley); input-output analysis, structural economics, ecological economics, economic development, technological change.

Estrella A.—Ph.D. (Harvard University); macroeconomics, econometrics, financial modeling, financial regulation.

Gowdy, J.M.—Ph.D. (West Virginia University); ecological economics, industrial organization and public regulation, regional economics.

Vitaliano, D.F.—Ph.D. (City University of New York); public finance, cost-benefit analysis, health economics.

Assistant Professor

Simons, K.—Ph.D. (Carnegie Mellon University); industrial organization and technical change, dynamics of economic systems.

Shawhan, D.—Ph.D. (Cornell University); environmental and resource economics, electricity markets, experimental economics, behavioral economics.

Clinical Associate Professor

Heim, J.—Ph.D. (University at Albany); macroeconomics, money and banking, international economics, econometrics.

Clinical Assistant Professor

Jones, R.—Ph.D. (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute); money and banking, macroeconomics, introductory economics, econometrics.

Emeritus Faculty

Hohenberg, P.M.—Ph.D. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology); economic history, economics of technological change.

* Departmental faculty listings are accurate as of the date generated for inclusion in this catalog. For the most up-to-date listing of faculty positions, including end-of-year promotions, please refer to the Faculty Roster section of this catalog, which is current as of the May 2009 Board of Trustees meeting.

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Schools & Departments