How one became an Econometrician

I am very honored that I was asked to write a column in all issues of Nekst that will be produced this year.  My plan is to tell you more about my background and from that perspective my motivation to do the things that I am doing within my profession.  text by: peter Kort

To describe my background I like to start with my parents. They both were raised in Rotterdam and moved to the province of Zeeland after my father was asked to take a position as a mathematics teacher in Zierikzee. They married in April 1960 and nine months later, January 21, 1961, I was born. 

Already from the first moment that I more or less knew how to read, I became obsessed by the rankings of several football leagues exposed in the daily newspaper. It for sure also helped that my all-time hero Johan Cruijff started his glory days. This was also the time of the Olympic Games in Mexico 1968 during which I closely followed the development of the ranking of the medals that were won by the different countries. In the winter there were the all-round speed skating championships broadcasted on TV, where the final ranking was made based on a weighted average of individual achievements on the four different speed skating distances. And of course 1968 was the year that the first Dutch guy, Jan Janssen, won the Tour de France, and every evening I was sitting in front of the TV closely following how Jan Janssen moved more and more closer to first place, which he finally conquered on the last day. 

To make a long story short, I was, and still am, very interested in everything that had to do with rankings consisting of numbers, and sports of course, but that is a different issue.  Furthermore, already during my primary school days it turned out I was exceptional in doing calculus, while at the same time I was clumsy (I still am, unfortunately!) and not interested at all in all kinds of technical issues. So, when during my high school years I was tested to find out which academic study I should choose, it was no surprise that the word “Econometrics” came up. At that time however, I never had heard of it before.

Although my father was kind of disappointed I did not move to Delft to study Mathematics, in 1979 I moved to Rotterdam to study Econometrics and my parents have supported me ever since. I still remember how shocked I was after the first day of following lectures. From my high school experience I thought I would understand quite soon everything about mathematics, but on the first day at university the speed during the mathematics courses was so enormous and the notation so overwhelming, that I really doubted whether I was able to do this study. I was not the only one thinking that because during the first day about half of the students in Econometrics moved to Economics. However, I did not give up and after some time I became used to my new environment in all respects. So, after one year propaedeutic, one year candidate, and three years doctoral I graduated in 1984. 

During the year of 1984 I applied for several positions and ultimately Tilburg University, which at that time was called Katholieke Hogeschool Tilburg, decided I could work for them. At November 1, 1984, I had my first working day in an office on the fourth floor of what now is called the Koopmans building.  Now it is 35 years later, and I am still working in an office at the fourth floor of the Koopmans building. In these 35 years I taught several courses, got my PhD, wrote more than one hundred scientific articles, supervised more than a dozen PhD students, of which several also became full professor already, and supervised many bachelor and master theses. All of this work gives me a lot of pleasure!