Making it to the top: award for the best economics thesis in the country goes to a student at Católica

The award for the best master's thesis in Economics in Portugal in the 2020-2022 biennium took place this Monday, November 14th. Of the five best-distinguished thesis, four were by students of the master's in economics at CATÓLICA-LISBON, with the winner being Martim Leitão, a student at our institution.

On the 15th of November, CATÓLICA-LISBON wanted to celebrate this feat, having organized an event with more than 200 students and teachers, where the four awarded students could be greeted and could also share the process of developing their master's thesis and choices professionals they did after graduation.

The four students of the master's in economics at Católica finished their master's last year and are currently working in top jobs. They came from afar to receive this prestigious award (Northwestern University - Chicago, Pompeo Fabra University - Barcelona, ​​European Investment Bank - Luxembourg, and Charles Rivers Associate Consultant - Toronto).

For Martim Leitão, winner of the Prize awarded by Banco de Portugal, the research process was demanding, but rewarding: “to grow, you also have to suffer a bit, and definitely the benefits of doing research are greater than the costs of doing it”, admits the student of excellence.

When questioned about the feeling of knowing that he produced what is considered to be the best economics thesis in the country, the student stated that the feeling is indescribable and, above all, he knows that this is “an interesting investigation that allows us to understand how crises propagate in the economy, because it has distributional effects on companies and workers and also allows us to design better public policies and improve people's well-being”. The student also wanted to mention that he is proud of having chosen a subject that he is so passionate about and that, at the same time, is important for society and that this whole process has made him grow and become a better professional.

The role of CATÓLICA-LISBON in the development of master's thesis

Four of the five best theses in the country are by CATÓLICA-LISBON students. But, after all, what is the secret to forming so many brilliant and promising minds?

For Filipe Santos, Dean of CATÓLICA-LISBON, Católica is distinguished by its focus on advanced research and the quality of its professors, who are very involved in research and pass on this passion and research practice to teaching and students. “And, therefore, students interact in a very profound way around accessing data that our researchers know where to find or that they have on the Portuguese economy or Portuguese companies, and they manage to do a very good dissertation work because they have this practice and this vision of investigation since the beginning. And this alliance at Católica between rigor in research and the connection to teaching and practice, and to the best that knowledge can bring to society, is something we want to deepen”, defends Filipe Santos.

For Professor Joana Silva, director of the Master's in Economics and supervisor of two of the four distinguished master's theses, success is due to a “combination of factors”. On the one hand, the high-quality classes, cover the toolkit of modern economics and technical rigor and, on the other hand, the careful selection of the best students. “In addition, we offer them the opportunity to do research work or economic analysis with PROSPER – Center of Economics of Prosperity, a Research Center of CATÓLICA-LISBON, which develops them technically, monitors them and gives them relevant practical experience to the thesis and for top jobs. It works as a talent incubator. There they have a team, and they work together, they learn from each other to ask the right questions, use concrete data, and apply techniques capable of answering those questions. Therefore, this ability of ours to have the fantastic raw material, terms beyond the classes, the research center that supports them, professors of excellence who are in very diverse areas of research and have top professional careers with an eye on companies and decisions economic realities … I think this is our strength”, reiterates the professor.

For the four students whose theses were distinguished, there is no doubt that CATÓLICA-LISBON was a fundamental support during the entire process of growth, whether for the good preparatory classes, for the professors who were always available and attentive, for the emphasis on placement in professional trajectories of top, for the seminars and initiatives that were taking place or even for “knowing that they were never alone”.

For student Francisca Monteiro Fernandes de Novais e Silva, not everything was easy, but the effort paid off: “I must say that Católica, in terms of classes, is super demanding. I won't say that my confidence was high the whole time, it really is a period of ups and downs. But, in fact, it was in this thesis process that I realized how lucky I was to be at the Institution where I was. I had a supervisor who spent hours and hours and hours with me, sometimes even on a Sunday, discussing the thesis - and guided me through the whole process. And I think this makes Católica a spectacular institution and that's why I managed to produce work of such high quality”, she admitted.

A message of encouragement to all CATÓLICA-LISBON students

It won't always be easy. There will be many moments of introspection and doubts, fears, and even steps back – and then moving forward. But this is all part of the research process: and no student is alone.

For Filipe Santos, Dean of CATÓLICA-LISBON, developing a thesis is “an opportunity for you to do independent work, where no one will tell you exactly what to do. It is supervised work, but very independent and self-aware”, he says, adding that in a world that is always so fast and so fragmented, where we don't have much time to delve into something, “this is your opportunity to delve into a topic, a company, a conceptual challenge, something that makes you passionate and that makes you evolve a lot in your reflection and in your knowledge, but also helps you to contribute to society's knowledge. It's a unique opportunity: don't miss it”, encourages the Dean of CATÓLICA-LISBON.

Professor Joana Silva adds that “this step is so important for your life. Do it for yourself, grow a lot and think that life is long, you will work for many years and here it is a good investment in you and it is an investment that is worthwhile (…) it is a privilege to have time and moments in life to delve deeply and intensely into an issue that interests us. Enjoy the ride, and be patient: things will work out in the end. And they will never be alone”, defends, enthusiastically, the supervisor of two of the distinguished master's thesis.

Excellence student Francisca Monteiro Fernandes de Novais e Silva also leaves an important message about the world of work: “don't let yourself be blinded by what you are told, by what is immediately so obvious, by what seems immediately ahead of you. Seek, be active and, above all, believe in yourself”, supports this master of excellence, currently working at the European Investment Bank.

Rahim Richard Jiva Lila, another of the distinguished students, also wanted to leave his message to the students, encouraging and advising them through the process of developing a thesis, giving two examples that seem fundamental during this period: “first advice: enjoy of your process because this is the moment when you will be able to explore a topic that you are passionate about, always bearing in mind that this topic must have a concrete impact on the world. The second piece of advice is to be intellectually curious. Read the studies that have already been done and see how they can contribute to the literature and the world. Be curious, have perseverance and resilience and these qualities will be transferred to your theses and careers”, he explains.

Merit student Madalena Gaspar also, in a very succinct and assertive way, advised students to never give up, no matter how many challenges may arise ahead. “I never felt alone on this journey, my thesis advisors were always by my side, and I know that this was one of the great secrets to the success of all these distinguished works”.

Martim Leitão, the great winner of the Prize awarded by the Bank of Portugal, ends with a golden key and draws an interesting analogy about the process of creating a research work: “it's a bit like when we're diving and we know that we're probably seeing fish that no one has ever seen in their life: with research, it's a bit similar. We are discovering things and working with data that perhaps no one has ever worked with in their lives and we are discovering completely new results. Therefore, this is really the possibility of being on the frontier of knowledge. And that is very rewarding.”

On behalf of CATÓLICA-LISBON, we salute these four award-winning students, as well as all students who find a safe and fruitful place in our institution for their academic and professional path. On our side, we are committed to continuing this journey in search of the best knowledge and commitment to all students and teachers in continuing to develop one of the best Schools of Economics and Business in the world.