The Independent Student Newspaper of Ashoka University

Know Your Professor: Ajit Mishra

Priyanka Shankar and Diksha Lahoti, Class of 2019

Coming from a small town in Odisha, Professor Ajit Mishra did not particularly have too many big dreams or ambitions. Sports, debating, and reading were the only sources of entertainment for him. He fondly remembers the common library in Bolangir, near Cuttack, Odisha, as a popular center for catching up with friends. He tells us that the last time he visited Bolangir, the library was nowhere to be seen. “One of the many effects of the internet. Now, we (Bolangir) have of course become more internet friendly”, he says, reminiscing.

Professor was not always a student of economics. Economics was not the ‘in’ thing during his time, he says. After completing his Pre-University (Grades 11 and 12), he flirted with the idea of doing Engineering briefly before dropping out to pursue Economics. He decided to pursue Economics as he was told it was the ‘most quantitative and logic-based subject’ in the social sciences. It helped that he was already in love with mathematics. After completing his undergraduate degree in Ravenshaw University, he went on to do a Masters in Delhi School of Economics (DSE), did research at the University of Cambridge and later came back to DSE. When we asked him if becoming a Professor was always on the chart, he reminds us of the age-old Indian fascination with the Indian Administrative Service (IAS). However, having cleared the prelims of the UPSC exam (the first step to enter the IAS), he lost all interest in it while preparing for the ‘mains’. He taught at the Shri Ram College of Commerce and then worked in the Planning Commission for a while before deciding to complete a Ph.D. to pursue academia as a career.


He has been a Professor in the University of Bath, UK, since 2007, and a Visiting Faculty at Ashoka University since 2016. We asked him the evident differences he notices among students of Ashoka and students of Bath. He told us that students from Bath are more ‘mature’, in the sense that they use their resources justifiably and know what they want, while students at Ashoka are more ‘respectful’. He adds, however, that this wasn’t a fair comparison, as he teaches 3rd and 4th year-students at Bath and 2nd year-students at Ashoka. He added that both sets of students are comparable on an intellectual level. Further, he mentions that he enjoys his time here in Sonipat because of the enthusiasm he sees in students.

Professor Mishra’s primary field of research is developmental economics, and given a chance, he says he would love to teach the subject. He added that if he were to drift away from his research field to teach a course, it would have to be a course on Political Economics. He also told us that had he been in a different environment and put under the right kind of pressure, he might have ended up becoming a scientist. Talking about his recent research interests, he listed down his past three projects on corruption, negative reciprocity, and measurement of vulnerability.

While discussing our summer plans, we asked Professor what he would do had he been in our position. He tells us that if he were to use his experience over the years as an economist and then put himself in our shoes, he would probably not be obsessed with the idea of attending a summer school. He considers the quality of the course being offered to be a more important factor than just the pure reputation of the university offering it. He would have preferred to do an independent research project considering the long summer break we Ashokans get.

We also asked Professor what his hobbies and interests were, and what he does in his free time. He is an avid reader of both fiction and non-fiction, although he says he hasn’t read a good fiction book in a while. Do-It-Yourself ideas, fixing and creating new items also interests him. He is also a big fan of travelling; though he is quick to add that he is not adventurous enough to venture into countries where the majority of the population do not speak English (or any other familiar language).

Professor Mishra finds the combinations in the mess food funny, commenting on how they give Indian with Italian on the same day in the same meal! He says, otherwise, considering the scale of food made, the mess food is good, although he generally prefers making his own meals. Professor Mishra mentioned that he makes really good pasta!

Professor Mishra’s advice to all those there who are novices in the field of research is to “ask questions, simple questions”. He goes on to explain how asking simple questions about things around you and using simple methods for research, not necessarily mathematical analysis, can help one create a good research project.

Favorite movie (among the recent ones)- Dangal
Favorite book (in economics)- Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson
Favorite genre of Music- Indian Classical and Instrumental

Professor Ajit Mishra is a Visiting Professor of Finance at Ashoka University. He takes the second half of the FIN101-Introduction to Finance course every Spring Semester.

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