Placement record in top PhD programs continues GSE alumni tradition of research excellence

Graduates of the 2009 Barcelona GSE master class who have chosen to enter doctoral programs this fall will follow in the footsteps of alumni from previous years who are already hard at work in university departments and research centers around the globe.

MSc in Economics 2009: An Extraordinary Placement Record

This year’s class boasts an outstanding placement record in top doctoral programs. In the MSc in Economics program alone, out of 42 students, four will join top-ten programs in the United States while several others will do PhDs at top schools throughout Europe. This is in addition to 11 other graduates who have chosen to continue their studies at the UPF or the UAB in one of the GSE’s reference doctoral programs in economics.

Lorenzo Magnolfi, MSc in Economics '09 is beginning his PhD studies at the European University Institute (EUI) this fall. He will focus his research on applied microeconomics, in particular industrial organization and corporate finance. He observed that the placement record of the Barcelona GSE’s master program rivals that of many other top master programs. "The PhD placement from the MSc in Economics this year has been extraordinary,” he said. “I have friends who recently got masters in other renowned institutions, and my impression is that this placement record, when related to class size, is unparalleled."

Students who enter rigorous doctoral programs after their year at the GSE are likely to find themselves well prepared to handle the challenges of PhD study. Toni Ahnert, MSc in Economics '08, is now a doctoral student at the London School of Economics. He recently commented that the Barcelona GSE's master course was “a splendid preparation for the PhD program. I benefitted tremendously from both the conceptual comprehension and the technical rigor of the program, which helped smooth the transition from the Master level to the PhD level.”

Globetrotting Alumni Produce, Publish, and Present

From New York to Mannheim, in Bonn, Bellaterra and London, GSE alumni are already making a name for themselves in a variety of fields of economics research.

At the other end of the doctoral process is Rhiannon Sowerbutts, who will defend her thesis this fall in the GPEFM program, one of the GSE’s two reference PhD programs. Ms. Sowerbutts graduated from the MSc in Economics in 2004, when it was organized by the UPF. Her research during the PhD focused on banking and financial intermediation, secondary loan markets and financial crises – highly relevant topics that have monopolized economics headlines in recent months.

Her recent paper, "Sweetening the Lemon: House Prices and Adverse Selection in Secondary Loan Markets," examines the effect of loan sales on the market for housing. “In the paper, I look at under what conditions the market for housing loans is sustainable when the banks have better information than the people buying the loans about the quality of the borrowers they have made loans to,” she explained.

Ms. Sowerbutts has already begun putting her research experience to work in the Bank of England’s Prudential Policy Division. “In this division we work to design regulation and metrics to try and ensure we don't have a financial crisis of this magnitude again, and also to be able to deal with a crisis more easily,” she said.

Moving from the PhD program to the professional workplace presented Ms. Sowerbutts with new challenges and new perspective. "It changes the focus on your work, and you have to become aware of other fields of research pretty quickly! The hardest adjustment is the meetings, which means it is hard to get uninterrupted time."

Working at a central bank also provides opportunities to stay on the cutting edge of economics research with both internal and outside speakers invited to present their work to bank employees in regular seminar sessions. "The environment is pretty collaborative, and if someone sees some interesting new research they generally send it around, plus we generate some research ourselves," Ms. Sowerbutts explained.

"The most positive side is that there are so many people working on issues of banking and financial crises that you get a really good debate and insight from people who are real experts and have the inside information about what really goes on in a banking crisis," she said.


Lorenzo Magnolfi '09
European University Institute

Research interests:
applied microeconomics - industrial organization and corporate finance


Toni Ahnert '08
London School of Economics

Research interests: macroeconomics, fiscal policy, and monetary economics


Rhiannon Sowerbutts '04
Universitat Pompeu Fabra


Bank of England

Prudential Policy Division

"Sweetening the Lemon: House Prices and Adverse Selection in Secondary Loan Markets"


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