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The first Ph.D. in Engineering and Public Policy in Portugal

The first Ph.D. in Engineering and Public Policy in Portugal
Pedro Ferreira is an Assistant Professor at the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Instituto Superior Técnico, Portugal, and a Visiting Professor at the Heinz College, Carnegie Mellon University.

Part of the Carnegie Mellon|Portugal Partnership is responsible for the Ph.D. program in Engineering and Public Policy (EPP), which deals with issues related to telecommunications and energy policies. These are “two industries organized on a network where there are many spill over’s”, says Pedro Ferreira.

The Ph.D. program in EPP began last year with five students: Alexandre Mateus (Portuguese, copyright and regulation), Rathapon Saruthirathanaworakun (Thai, management of spectrum), Rebecca Bea Mayer (American, universal service), Brandon Keith Mauch (American, integration of wind energy and the energy distribution network), Patrick Kwadwo Agyapong (Ghanaians, use of broadband in schools and potential use in general). In the next academic year, 2009/2010, three new students will enter the program: Miguel Matos (Portuguese, targeted regulation), Colleen Angela Horin (American, integration of renewable energy in the energy distribution network) and Moinul Zaber (Bangladesh, social networks). Ferreira makes a positive assessment: “The balance of the first year was very interesting and we have been fortunate to have
the best students.”

Ferreira comments that the energy sector must prioritize the integration of renewable energy in the energy distribution network, saying, “for example Portugal is very interested in the energy of wind and waves, while in the U.S. there are other interests.” Moreover, he says that there must be a “change in consumer habits, and therefore there is an entire work to do in the level of social science and marketing that needs to be done to enable consumers to buy more efficiently.”

The telecommunication area has been the most in demand by students and by faculty. Here, “we have been looking at several issues, all related to public policies: universal service (for example, does telecommunications reach all people in a nation? How?); regulation for the next generation networks; and many other issues. Another area that is under investigation is the question of regulation and new technology.

Ferreira explains that regulation may be neutral, applying to what already exists, or may change because the technology is new. In this area, “the attitude of the operators is that they need to have some return on investment they made, so if we open networks in which everyone can compete, the attractiveness for operators in terms of investmentwill decrease”, says Ferreira. Another aspect under review is: “How can the spectrum be used more efficiently, particularly how can operators sublet the space that is not being used?”
“The Carnegie Mellon|Portugal Partnership will be assessed at the end of five years, but in 10 years will bring great results.”

“All these projects are worked in partnership with Portugal Telecom, Vodafone and ANACOM (regulator, supervisor and representative of the communications sector in Portugal)”, Ferreira explains.

A Ph.D. student in EPP program could, in future, act in large companies and consulting firms, state agencies, or in academia. “While responsible for the PhD in EPP, my goal is to have graduates, co-author papers with faculty at Carnegie Mellon and Portugal, publish in the best journals “, Ferreira reveals. “The goal is to create information for an informed decision in public policy and business management.”