IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Inside CU's faculty profile series
Our faculty are a source of great pride and bring a world of expertise, experimentation and excellence to our students and our community. Meet Keith Maskus, a professor in the Department of Economics.
Maskus specializes in the analysis of international trade, foreign investment and technological change. He is also the associate dean for Social Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences.
His current research focuses on how the legal protection of intellectual property rights (patents, trademarks and copyrights) affects international economic activity among nations. His work has shown that these policies substantially influence international trade decisions by multinational enterprises about where to invest and the prices such firms set for their goods. Of particular interest is a series of theoretical and empirical papers on how pharmaceutical companies choose prices and write contracts in different countries in the presence of competition from generic products and gray-market importation of their own goods. Maskus received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan and has served as senior economist at the U.S. Department of State and as lead economist at the World Bank. He also is an adjunct professor at both the University of Adelaide in Australia and the Kiel Institute in Germany, and a research associate of the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, D.C. He is currently working on a grant from the National Science Foundation to support analysis of how international graduate students contribute to knowledge creation and innovation in the United States economy.
What drew you to your field of expertise, and keeps you passionate about your work?
I first became fascinated by the processes of international trade and finance when I was in high school. At that time, President Nixon reacted to a global macroeconomic crisis by removing the dollar from the fixed exchange-rate system and imposing wage and price controls. In college I decided I would try to understand what happened by studying economics and mathematics. That developed a taste for deeper knowledge and I decided to continue on to graduate school. Questions of how national economies and businesses interact with each other and respond to various economic and political shocks are endlessly fascinating. Because they expand opportunities and access to knowledge, trade, investment and globalization they are fundamentally important factors for encouraging growth and economic development. At the same time, if managed poorly they can bring economic hardship to workers and communities that are not equipped to compete. I have never tired of thinking about these questions and sharing my understanding with students.
What do you most enjoy and what is the most challenging aspect of your profession?
One of the great things about being an international economist is that I receive many invitations to lecture and perform research in different countries. Although the travel can be tiresome, I feel privileged to speak with students, businesses and government officials around the globe about how policy reforms and economic strategies can help them manage the opportunities and pressures from international economic activity and technological changes. For example, I often speak with public health officials in poor countries about how patent protection may affect the quality and prices of medicines available on their markets and how best to meet their patient needs for drugs. I especially appreciate that I can bring insights from these experiences to the classroom and train a new generation of knowledgeable citizens and research professionals. Without question, the most challenging aspect of my job is finding enough time to devote to tasks I find interesting and worthwhile, especially since becoming associate dean.
What are your favorite interests and activities apart from your work?
I do enjoy spending time with my family in different countries and cultures, which has helped me develop a global network of friends. When I am in Boulder I spend a lot of time on my bicycle and hiking in the mountains. Dining out and taking in the occasional baseball game, play or concert also rank high on the list.
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