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Member Highlight: Milena Nikolova

1. First, list your current professional title. Second, describe your background, experience, and research as it relates to Quality-of-life studies. 

I am currently working as an Associate Professor and Rosalind Franklin Fellow at the Faculty of Economics and Business at the University of Groningen (the Netherlands).  I am also affiliated with the Brookings Institution, IZA, GLO, and Bruegel and serve as an Associate Editor (Economics) of the Journal of Happiness Studies. I moved to Groningen in 2018, and before that, I was at IZA Bonn in Germany (2014-2017), where I worked as a Research Associate after finishing my Ph.D. at the University of Maryland.

I have been working in the field of Quality-of-life studies for about eight years now. More specifically, I do quantitative research related to the economics of happiness and mostly focus on questions related to labor and development/transition economics. For example, my work (with co-authors) studies topics, such as the well-being consequences of unemployment for indirectly-affected spouses and children, how international migration influences the subjective well-being of those who move and their families left behind, and whether switching to self-employment brings physical and mental health benefits. More recently, I have been working on topics related to the long-term consequences of communism for life satisfaction in transition economies, the implications of automation and technological change for subjective well-being, and the causes and consequences of work meaningfulness.

2.  What initially attracted you to the field of quality-of-life studies?

One person: Carol Graham. Let me explain. I had the privilege of being a Ph.D. student at the University of Maryland, where Carol, who is currently the President of ISQOLS, is a College Park Professor (in addition to her position at the Brookings Institution, of course). I took a class with Carol and immediately fell in love with happiness research (it was hard not to). Carol quickly became my Ph.D. supervisor, mentor, and friend. She introduced me to ISQOLS and some of the key researchers in the field and inspired me to pursue this research line further. So, I must say that I have been quite lucky.

3. What are some areas of quality-of-life studies you feel are lacking attention? Any advice for future QoL researchers?

I'd say that some topics related to the future of work and well-being should get more attention in QoL research. For example, we do not know yet much about the perceived well-being consequences of automation and technological change. Also, topics related to globalization and climate change/sustainability are not well-covered, at least in my view. Another promising area is the long-term determinants of subjective well-being, e.g., the role of past institutions or historical developments for present-day subjective well-being. It would be nice to have these issues developed in the future from both conceptual and empirical viewpoints (and using both quantitative and qualitative methods). 

4. How long have you been a member of ISQOLS? Why did you choose to be a member of ISQOLS? How has your involvement in ISQOLS impacted your career/research/advancement in your knowledge of QoL studies?

I first joined ISQOLS in 2013 when I was still a Ph.D. student. I have greatly benefited from ISQOLS – I enjoy the conferences and learning more about the different aspects of quality-of-life studies. Since 2019, Martijn Burger (EHERO), Martijn Hendriks (EHERO), and I have been organizing special sessions on the Economics of Happiness at the ISQOLS conference, and this has been one of the most enjoyable activities associated with ISQOLS for me.

I especially appreciate the supportive network – I have met great collaborators and friends through ISQOLS. In addition, I really value the newsletters and the information about events, members, and new articles/books on the topic. I am also very thankful for my role as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Happiness Studies, as it helps me keep up-to-date with the state-of-the-art in the field.

5. Feel free to include any other important comments or things you'd like to share with the ISQOLS community.

While COVID-19 has, hopefully temporarily, limited our ability to meet in person, I am very thankful to Jill and the Board for keeping up the community of researchers on quality-of-life studies active, engaged, and informed. I really appreciate the fact that the conference is still ongoing in an online format, though I am looking forward to the next opportunity to meeting everyone in person!

Dr. Milena Nikolova
Associate Professor and Rosalind Franklin Fellow     
T +31 50 363 37 05  

University of Groningen

Faculty of Economics and Business, Global Economics and Management

Nettelbosje 2, 9747 AE Groningen

The Netherlands

The International Society for
Quality-of-Life Studies

P.O. Box 118
Gilbert, Arizona, 85299, USA


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