Let’s talk about you: what is your background, what do you teach, and what are your research interests?
I am Irene Mammi, originally from Emilia, now a “naturalised” Venetian. I am a researcher at the Department of Economics of Ca' Foscari University of Venice. I teach Public Economics and Econometrics in master's and doctoral degree courses.
I mainly carry out research in the field of health economics. Still, I often make forays into different areas, such as fiscal policy, the effects of climate change, and firms' investment choices. In my research activity, I deal in particular with data analysis: my daily challenge is to identify the most appropriate statistical methodologies to answer interesting research questions. I am currently studying the effects of the expiration of patents for blockbuster drugs, with particular attention to the savings possibilities for the healthcare system.
Tell us about your academic path.
After receiving my high school diploma in humanities, I obtained a Bachelor's Degree in Development and International Cooperation and a Master's Degree in Cooperation and Local and International Development at the University of Bologna.
From 2002 to 2007, I was a student of the Collegio Superiore of the University of Bologna. During my two-year master's degree, I spent a semester in Warsaw thanks to an Erasmus exchange. I then attended the PhD programme in Economics, Markets, Institutions at the IMT School of Lucca, obtaining the doctorate in 2011.
I was also a visiting student for a year at the University of Essex (UK), where I received the Master of Science in Statistics and Econometrics. I was a research fellow at the University of Bologna from 2011 to 2017, when I qualified for the research position that led me to Ca' Foscari.
What are you most passionate about in your field of research?
For several years I have been doing research in health economics, focusing on the inappropriate use of health services and inequalities in access to care. One of the primary objectives of my research is to give indications to public decision-makers on the effectiveness of health policies.
Contributing to the definition of policies and good practices is the most exciting aspect of my work. Never before have public health and the functioning of health systems been such priority issues in debates. The possibility of bringing to the attention of public decision-makers and the scientific community results that may improve the health system's responsiveness to the needs of citizens is a great incentive to engage in research. The hope is to help protect the universal right to health and promote greater equity in access to resources.
Have you always known that this was going to be your path?
To tell the truth, no, not really — not from the beginning. I have always loved studying and I have always been curious and tenacious: the requirements for undertaking an academic career were all there. But right after obtaining my high school diploma I was undecided between enrolling in medical sciences or mathematics. I also dreamed of becoming a materials engineer and working in Formula1! Some time later, I imagined having a future in international cooperation, in some remote corner of the world, living life as a wanderer.
Then, as I was studying and meeting some professors who soon became mentors, the unexpected passion for new subjects, such as econometrics, was kindled... and, in a short time, research and teaching had become my passion and my job. A few years later, I am fully convinced that I am on the right track.
Can you offer any advice to researchers in the early stages of their career?
I would suggest staying away from fashionable, “hot” topics, and focusing instead on the topics that you really like and are interested in. Research can give you great satisfaction, but you may also experience moments of discouragement. The pleasure of dealing with topics you are interested in and the passion for what you do will help you face obstacles and difficulties.
I encourage you to be curious and determined but always humble and open to discussion — to be researchers who are also "social animals." So don’t lock yourself in your office or laboratory, but seek opportunities to interact with your colleagues and society.
I hope you will be able to show the value and usefulness of research to those who do not live in academia and that you will know how to communicate your work to those who perceive a considerable gap between university and life outside. And above all, I encourage you to allow yourselves to make mistakes and forgive yourselves when you do.