Luksic Scholar graduates from MIT

Danilo Rocha Limoeiro is a 37 year-old Luksic Scholar from Brazil who graduated from MIT Political Science with a Ph.D on June 7th, having been selected in 2016 as a Luksic Scholar in the program MIT Political Science Luksic Fellowship. Before starting his studies at MIT, he worked for seven years in Brazil’s federal government, and also earned a Master’s in Philosophy from the University of Oxford.

Recently we caught up with Danilo to talk about his experience as a Luksic Scholar at MIT and his plans after graduation.

Why did you decide to go to MIT to pursue your Ph.D?

I wanted to improve my technical and quantitative skills, so I chose MIT because their political science department is strong in these fields.

Describe life in Cambridge.

Life is Cambridge can be very hard sometimes. Being from central Brazil, a very dry region, I was used to sunny weather every day. So, adapting to New England’s weather was a challenge. Also, the pressure at MIT is enormous and we always had to manage a very heavy workload. Ph.D students in particular – because the program is very long, have to be patient and understand that the hard work will pay off in the end!

What was the impact of the Luksic Scholarship on your life?

Great impact! The Luksic Scholarship enabled me to come to one of the most amazing educational institutions in the world, and that certainly transformed not only my professional trajectory, but I also changed a lot as a person. I developed a thicker skin working on long-term projects under a lot of pressure. I think this is a great skill to have.

Tell us a little but about your thesis.

Sure. My thesis is entitled, “Gatekeepers of Prosperity: how the state and business block the path towards functioning market economies in developing countries.”

I tried to investigate why so many developing countries, especially in Latin America, have such a poor business environment. I wanted to know why the cost of doing business in poor countries is so high, and understand the politics driving up these costs. 

Now that you are getting your Ph.D what are your future plans? Are you going back to your hometown?

I did not pursue an academic career, as I thought, and decided to use the knowledge on statistics and machine learning I got at MIT to start my own business. So, now I’m living in São Paulo working on the startup I co-founded. Our main goal is to use new technologies, such as data analytics to decrease the cost of doing business in developing countries. We are starting with the huge challenge of improving tax compliance in Brazil. Currently Brazil has the most complex tax system in the world. It takes an average firm 2,000 hours to be tax compliant. We are addressing this issue with a platform that expedites tax law research and predicts patterns of tax law enforcement. 

Very impressive and interesting challenge! Do you have a message for future Luksic Scholars?

Don’t forget how highly privileged and lucky you are to be able to study in top schools, so pay it forward when you are done by trying to make the world a better place. Think about what is going to be your impact and your legacy to the world.