Dr Harvey Upton
BSc Economics, 2015
Harvey completed an undergraduate degree at the Management School followed by a master's and PhD. He is currently working as a Postdoctoral Researcher (or ‘Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter’ which translates to ‘Scientific Employee’) at Humboldt University of Berlin.
You spent eight years studying and living in Liverpool - what were your favourite things about the city?
I think Liverpool is a great place to be a student, with a pretty low cost of living and loads to do. I mostly enjoyed going to the bars and restaurants around the city - Bold Street and the Baltic Triangle were some of my favourite areas, but there are also some great places around Hope Street and Mathew Street which are worth checking out.
Why did you decide to study an Economics undergraduate degree initially?
In Economics, we study abstract and complex ideas, but also use these insights to develop practical solutions to real life problems, such as policy recommendations. I first studied the subject at A-Level and enjoyed this combination of theory and practice, so decided to continue my studies at undergraduate level.
What inspired you to do your master's and then a PhD?
A career in research was never really my plan. After my undergraduate degree, I still didn’t know what I wanted to do, but was enjoying my studies and felt like I still had lots to learn, so decided to choose the Masters. It was only during this year that I seriously began to consider the option of a PhD. Writing my Masters thesis and studying a particular topic in great depth was something I really enjoyed, so pursuing a PhD was a natural progression.
Tell us what your PhD research was about?
The title of my research was: ‘Essays in Behavioural Contract Theory.’ This is the area of organisational economics, which uses economic methods to study how firms are structured, their decision-making processes and employer-employee relationships. In my thesis, I studied the impact of wide-ranging social comparisons on the behaviour of workers and the resulting implications for employment relationships within firms.
Doing a PhD can be quite the emotional rollercoaster, what were your high and low points?
The beginning of a PhD can often be difficult, as deciding which specific topics and questions are most appropriate for research is something which is completely new for most people. I think that this is where good guidance and supervision is especially important. I’d say there were lots more high points than low ones, but I think the best had to be the sense of achievement that came from finally submitting my thesis.
How did you celebrate submitting your thesis?!
A night at the pub followed by a couple of days in bed. It felt good!
What advice would you give for students wishing to explore options in academia?
I think it’s important to begin researching options as soon as possible. If there is a particular area which you find interesting, check which universities employ researchers which specialise in this area or have related research groups. Also, don’t be afraid to ask staff for advice; they are always happy to share their experiences and provide guidance to students who are interested in pursuing research.
What does your current role as a Postdoctoral Researcher involve?
A Postdoc is generally a short-term position to further focus on research after completion of a PhD. Currently, I am a part of a large project funded by the German Research Foundation, which aims to explore how accounting and taxation affect firm and regulatory transparency, and how regulation and transparency impact our economy and society. Our goal is to help develop effective regulation for firm transparency as well as a transparent tax system. My research focuses in particular on organisational design, such as the allocation of decision rights within firms, and the implications this has for transparency.
Can you tell us what an average working day looks like?
It can vary a lot. Since my position is primarily research focused, I am typically working on reading scientific literature, developing research ideas and writing papers for submission to journals. Sometimes I work alone, but often I work with others to generate new ideas. I also attend seminars and conferences in Germany and abroad. There are also non-research aspects to my job, such as teaching and supervising Masters students who are writing their dissertations.
Did you receive funding to do your PhD?
I had two sources of funding during. For my first year, I was supported directly by ULMS. After that I was supported by the NWDTC (now the NWSSDTP) which is funded by the ESRC. The application process for funding is quite straightforward, and I was helped throughout by university staff. PhD students also have the opportunity to earn extra money by undertaking teaching and marking duties – altogether, the total income was probably comparable to that of an average graduate starting position, which made my decision to pursue a PhD much easier.