Ralph Ossa joined our Faculty at the beginning of the year. Prior to moving to Zurich, he served on the faculty of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. In this introductory interview he explains why working with models is so essential for economics students.
What were the decisive factors for you to join the University of Zurich?
After almost 10 years in the US, I was ready to move back to Europe and the University of Zurich was the perfect match for me. It has one of the strongest economics departments in Europe and is located in a city with an unparalleled quality of life.
What fascinates you about your field of studies?
Economics applies rigorous methods to social science questions which is a fascinating combination to me. While I have done research in a number of areas, most of my work is on international trade. For example, I have explored the economics of trade wars and trade talks and estimated how much countries gain from international trade.
What would you like to convey to your students?
It is easy to criticize economic models for their apparent lack of realism but this criticism often misses the point. Fundamentally, economic models are about focusing on the essentials and abstracting from the details so that we can clearly see what is going on. A perfectly realistic model would be as useless as a map of scale 1:1.