International Economics Fascinates
By Anne Siegel
It has taken Aghdas Mirzaie many years and many miles to achieve her goal of obtaining a Ph.D. in international economics. Since 1995, she has been working with Prof. Mohsen Bahmani-Oskooee in pursuit of that goal.
Mirzaie, a dual citizen of Iran and Sweden, has co-authored one professional paper with Bahmani-Oskooee and is currently working on another. Their first collaboration demonstrated a relationship between the U.S. and Canadian gross national product and each country's exports.
Their most recent project also focuses on the U.S. economy. It investigates the effect of change in the value of the dollar on manufacturing, mining, construction, and the country's financial and service sectors - over a 25-year period.
Mirzaie feels fortunate to be working with her mentor. "Doing research with one's professor is certainly gratifying from a professional and personal perspective," she says. "Our research interests are very similar, and working together has been a valuable experience." She describes her professor in seemingly contradictory terms, both demanding and easy-going.
"He's demanding when it comes to the work," she explains. "He works very hard and expects students to work hard, too. But he makes you feel comfortable and is able to put you at ease."
Mirzaie believes that doing research has been a valuable part of her educational experience. She notes that research requires students to stay abreast of current developments in their field. It also provides an opportunity to work independently, even when one is co-authoring papers with one's professor. "As long asI'm learning, I'm happy," she confides.
Learning has been a lifelong quest for the 40-year-old Mirzaie. Born and educated in Iran, she received a bachelor's degree in public administration there before her interest shifted to economics. When her family moved to Sweden, Mirzaie earned a bachelor's degree in economics from Stockholm University. The Persian-speaking Mirzaie had to take crash courses in two foreign languages, Swedish and English. "Our lectures and exams were in Swedish, but the required reading was in English," she explains.
Mirzaie's growing interest in international affairs paralleled a shift toward today's global economy. "Advances in communication have made countries less isolated," she says, adding that the relationships between countries have resulted in more complex economies. "Answers to economic questions aren't as clear-cut as they may have been before."
After graduation, Mirzaie wanted to supplement her strong background in European economics with a better understanding of world economics. She knew that important work on this subject was being done in the U.S. When Mirzaie received an invitation to study at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, she accepted. The decision meant moving to a new country again, this time with her husband and two young daughters. The family was charmed by the area's southern hospitality, and the transition was a smooth one. Mirzaie received a master's degree in economics in 1995.
Mirzaie became aware of Prof. Bahmani-Oskooee's work while studying in Hattiesburg. She says she considered his diversified research background an advantage for "gaining a broad perspective on the inter-relationships between economic issues." One of Mirzaie's professors mentioned that he knew Bahmani-Oskooee. That professional connection led to Mirzaie's move to the UWM campus in Fall 1995.
She hopes to complete her Ph.D. work in Spring 1999 and then secure a teaching position in the U.S. or Europe. Until then, Mirzaie is eager to benefit from Bahmani-Oskooee's knowledge and guidance. She says her professor has continued to work with some students after graduation, and hopes she'll also be able to collaborate with Bahmani-Oskoee in the future. But where in the world her next stop will be is anybody's guess.