Daghan Carlos Akkar

Daghan Carlos Akkar

Could you tell us about your journey to Oxford? Why did you choose to study at the Economics Department?

I had two imperatives after my double-major in Economics and Mathematics at Koç University: the foremost was to dedicate myself to rigorous academic training in Economics, which I was passionate about throughout my University years. The second was to explore opportunities outside academia before choosing a career in research. Oxford seemed like the perfect fit: the MPhil in Economics offered rigorous graduate training, paving the way to the DPhil or to Economics PhD programs elsewhere. It also led to attractive career opportunities and internships in the UK and the rest of Europe. Moreover, it offered the opportunity to meet impressive students from across the world and be part of a vibrant academic environment. It is hard to find elsewhere offering these experiences simultaneously; so I strongly felt the MPhil was “the” program most suited for me, while I was applying. I was thrilled when it was finally certain that I would be joining the MPhil after my Bachelor degree!

After completing the MPhil, I decided I wanted to pursue a Doctorate to train further in Economics research. I almost only applied to the DPhil program here at Oxford, thinking I could ever be elsewhere more suited to me! I am very fortunate that my research journey here at Oxford continues now in the DPhil program.

 

What have you found most rewarding about your DPhil studies so far?  What have you found most challenging?

The DPhil is a dream life in many senses; for those with the right (some would say, eccentric) set of tastes, of course. One joins a community of globally renowned experts, meets exceptionally curious and talented friends, and works on questions which could change the way we understand the world (even if, perhaps, marginally!). This work life is accompanied by a vast intellectual and professional freedom, the opportunity to teach, and the serenity of the life in Oxford (much missed during the pandemic), to make the entire experience unparalleled. All these suffice to make the day-to-day of the DPhil incredibly rewarding. It is hard not to feel incredibly lucky.

However, there are no roses without thorns: many aspects of the DPhil are intensely challenging. If I had to name one, it would be the uncertain nature of research. The search for good ideas and the journey to new discoveries is hardly ever predictable, and setbacks and failures abound. Although every failure and twist is an immense learning experience, they can be really testing for one’s patience, endurance, and self-confidence!  
 

Tell us a bit about your research?

I work on microeconomic theory – broadly. In my MPhil Thesis, I explored why frictions might persist in many-to-one matching markets without raising objections from participants whose allocations would improve under a stable mechanism. The best examples of many-to-one matching markets are mechanisms matching high school seniors to Universities. Applicants face constraints in many such mechanisms; for instance, British students are not allowed to apply to both Oxford and Cambridge. Standard theory predicts that at least one University will be worse off due to these constraints. Why do these frictions persist then? I found that Universities’ competition for quality applicants supplies one answer. Such constraints attenuate the competition for these applicants, and potentially make both Universities better off. Students suffer, sadly!

Currently I am working on models of information markets and trying to use insights from dynamic stochastic optimization to understand demand for biased news, and polarization. 

 

How has the scholarship benefitted your studies and professional development?

I was elated when I learned I was chosen for a Clarendon award and Nuffield College scholarship. This is an overwhelming statement of confidence by my Department and supervisors which led to all kinds of mixed feelings!

 
Besides their emotional value, these scholarships helped me devote myself entirely to my research and academic development during (at least during the early years of) my DPhil, freeing me of financial concerns that could setback my research. This is invaluable for any researcher, more so in such an early stage of one’s career. 

Both the Clarendon award and Nuffield College scholarship have the inestimable benefit of being part of two exciting and inspiring communities of scholars. Despite the laudable effort of our social representatives in these communities, the pandemic has terribly crippled these experiences this year. My only hope is to have some semblance of normality next year to take full advantage of this opportunity!