PhD Feature: Hong Xiu Li

Tell us about your research interests, particularly research projects you are currently involved with.

I am interested in environmental economics, resource economics and international trade. Currently I am working on climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Increasing carbon emissions by human activities is a major driver of climate change, which can have grave consequences to the ecosphere and human beings. According to the Climate Vulnerability Monitor (2nd ed), the present carbon economy and the climate change to date are estimated to have already lowered global output by around 1.2 trillion dollars (1.6% of world GDP). Moreover, an estimated 4.9 million deaths each year is linked to climate change and the present carbon energy system, such as air pollution, environmental disasters, infectious disease and heat & cold Illnesses. If emissions continue to increase unabated in a business-as-usual fashion, losses are expected to increase rapidly, reaching 3.2% of world GDP and 6 million deaths by 2030.

Countries across the world have been actively pursuing ways to tackle climate change over the past two decades. Climate change mitigation policies (e.g. quota, carbon tax and cap-and-trade mechanisms) aimed at reducing carbon emissions and adaptive measures (adjustments in ecological, social or economic systems) aimed at reducing climate change damage are two major approaches to address climate change. It is widely agreed that given the current technology, neither mitigation can prevent climate from changing, nor adaptation can protect human beings from climate change. The key question is, with limited resource, how to invest in mitigation and adaptation to tackle climate change efficiently.

My research focuses on the interaction of adaptation and mitigation of emissions in presence of heterogeneous countries, and provides policy implication on how to fight climate change efficiently.

You are taking over graduate seminars. Could you share what they are and what your role would be?

Yes. I took over the PhD student seminar at the beginning of this semester from Sonja (Yu Chen), who had contributed a lot to the seminar.

The seminar is a weekly seminar organized by PhD students in the Department of Economics. The goals of the seminar are to provide graduate students opportunities to develop presentation skills and to provide a friendly academic environment in which PhD students can present their research advancements and benefit from criticism. The PhD student seminar is a great opportunity to improve presentation skills and to receive feedback from colleagues and professors.

My responsibility is to organize the seminar: identify speaker, book room and plan schedule, send email alerts, and communicate with faculty members and students…

The speakers are mostly our PhD students. Professors in the department and people from other universities are invited as well. The seminar is part of the PhD community and is a constructive as well as friendly meeting where students receive feedbacks on their study and share academic insights and questions.

Now we have a website for the PhD student seminar! Please visit

How have your other experiences (lecturing, teaching assistantships, etc) played a role in your graduate experience?

As in most PhD programs, PhD students need to be either teaching or research assistant. I have done both in the department so far. The TA/RA environment in our department is very friendly. I treat my teaching experience as a way to pass knowledge and my graduate student experience to students. The TA experience also gives me an opportunity to get a sense of teaching, which is likely to be part of my future career.

The university provides many programs to graduate students to polish their teaching skills (for example the CTE programs).

Why did you choose Waterloo?

University of Waterloo has consistently been ranked as one of the top ten universities in Canada. The PhD program in Economics is relative new but has a lot of potential. The department provides strong financial, academic and career support to graduate students. Moreover, departments at the University of Waterloo collaborate closely with each other. As a PhD student, we are encouraged to take courses in our interested fields, including courses outside the department. Also, we have opportunities to work jointly with professors in and outside the department. For example, I am interested in resource economics, which requires some background in finance (such as options and futures of natural resources). I took courses in Finance and Computer Science, and received valuable comments from professors in different departments.

What do you expect to do after you finish your degree?

I would like to pursue an academic position. Personally, I enjoy the research environment in universities. I would like to contribute to environmental issues as an economist.

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