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Modelling Poverty Traps

by David

By Filipp Grcondciel

Choosing a specific research direction is not an easy choice. Especially in small universities, such as the Halle-Wittenberg university, only few advanced lectures are available. I was not satisfied with all options. In general, I am interested in the application of mathematical-physical methods to socio-political problems. The Junior Research Group POLISES drew my attention quite fast. In order to get an overview about possible research topics, I first did an internship.

At the beginning, I had a short discussion with Dr. B. Müller and Prof. Dr. K. Frank, realizing that I would like to work on poverty traps. During the next 3 months I was introduced into research practice and read introductory papers about poverty traps. Up to that moment, the impact of changing ecological conditions had been poorly investigated in the development economic research field.

Together with Dr. J. Groeneveld, we decided to formulate a differential-equation based poverty trap model as a basis for my master’s thesis in Physics. At the end of the internship I framed the research questions: I was interested in determining possible poverty trap types in a model with coupled livestock-biomass dynamic. Furthermore, I wanted to understand which impact changing ecological conditions have on the occurrence of these trap dynamics.

The system output depends strongly on the explicit model equations. I varied the model slightly by changing the explicit shape of the ecological coupling function in order to estimate this impact. Answers to these exciting research questions are given in my thesis. Regarding the analysis method, I had all options open. I chose a system dynamical approach using bifurcation and phase space analysis.

The methodological and content-related supervision was excellent. Having multiple research groups door to door enables you to quickly find someone who either uses the same programming language or has solved, for example, similar mathematical problems. Another great experience were the reading circle and the Journal Club. These structures invited me, from the beginning, to contribute to current research questions and become part of the working group. It was an amazing experience to write my master’s thesis in the Junior Research Group POLISES. The supervision was excellent and I would do it again anytime.

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