Pursuing his Passion, Mohit Uppal, Economics Enthusiast
1) What are you passionate about?
In a word? Economics. Everything related to this highly unpredictable and perpetually evolving branch of social science. My interests have evolved more specifically into international trade and international economics over the past two years. International Trade is a sub-section of International Economics that deals with a country’s trade policies, in simple words, it decides which goods a country trades and with whom. I will be candid about the origin of my interest in this field. It had an international-spy-espionage kind of thrill attached to it. So I decided to investigate for myself.
I formally pursued my interests at Wharton School of Pennsylvania and London School of Economics where I studied Global Economics and Monetary Policy and International Economics respectively as summer courses. I met a nationally and culturally diverse population of economics students at various stages of their studies. I was introduced to global and country-wise perspectives on current economic issues. At the end of the summer session, I realized that the world of International Trade and foreign policies was indeed as thrilling as it was diabolical. A simple erection of a tariff barrier, or a domestic policy like an export subsidy can (and has) reduced countries to dust. The effects of these policies and decisions are amorphous at best, and cannot be visually sensationalized like a devastating missile explosion, but it is this very invisible nature that makes it a more lethal weapon than military force and has not seen any large-scale revolutionary civilian protests launched against it.
The use of trade foreign policy as a weapon of power has long held my attention, but now it has my curiosity. I have recently co-authored a paper as a part of my ongoing endeavors to decode the world of international trade, titled “Costs of Non-tariff Barriers in South Asian Agriculture” (working title) which will be published in April 2013 by the organization I worked with in the winter.
2) How much time do you spend on an average acting on your passion?
To be honest, I don’t know what acting on your passion means, but yes I am constantly striving to be up to date with economic happenings throughout the world. I spend most of my time reading articles and research work on international trade. More recently I have been working on making additions to the aforementioned paper on South Asian agriculture.
3) Is it affecting your academics? If so, by how much and does it bother you?
It would be most convenient to say that my detours in economics have affected my academics at IIT. But the truth is, my interests in economics has been coincident with a sharp decline in interest in mechanical engineering, and the cost of living the proverbial two lives, has been taking a toll academically.
The contrasting nature of the two kinds of studies (mechanical engineering and economics) means that one could scarcely boost the other, but I have been given renewed hope in the form of introduction to Industrial Engineering and Operations Research courses which have a decent amount of economics attached to them. I have finally started to believe that my formal education could fuel my interests and passion to a large extent.
As to whether it bothers me, grades for me have now been reduced to a threshold for an economics grad school which I have to cross. As long as I am hovering on the right side of it, it ceases to be of any concern.
4) What are your expectations from IITB in terms of helping you in realizing your passion?
Earlier, my outlook on receiving help and support from IITB was gloomy, to put it mildly. Although certain professors in the HSS department (and a particularly helpful one in Mechanical with a strong background in economics) have been more than helpful in giving me recommendations and advice on the pursuit of subject, by and large, I have been on my own in finding my way to achieve self-actualization in economics.
But with the introduction of the aforementioned IEOR courses, prospects have started to brighten up and I have a wide range of options to seek help from in my endeavors.
5) What do you see yourself doing once you are out of this place?
With no bounds to ambition? Being an integral part of the decision making process for India’s foreign trade and macroeconomic policies.
But to be a bit more realistic about the near-future, I see myself working as a trade-policy analyst either for the fine people in Delhi or for a trade consultancy firm after completing my masters in international economics. That is the current plan, but passions have been known to have the fickleness of the London weather, so one never knows. Thankfully, mine haven’t dwindled till now.