DRW fellows have the opportunity to carry out individual research projects while also working alongside faculty to develop their research skills. These fellowships are available to accepted University of Chicago graduate students.
EPIC launched the DRW Graduate Fellowship in Economics & Policy in 2017 to support students focused on contributing to energy, environment or climate research while pursuing advanced degrees at the University of Chicago. In addition to rigorous academic training, DRW fellows have opportunities to work closely with EPIC affiliated faculty on a variety of research initiatives.
“In addition to the coursework, I am looking forward to learning new ways that econometric and computational methods can be used to inform policy. Receiving this fellowship allows me to do so while continuing to contribute to impactful hands-on data analysis and research.”
– Parth Khare, 2018 DRW Fellow
As an example of the types of experiences DRW fellows gain, one of the first DRW fellows, Harshil Sahai, spent a summer working with EPIC-India to explore a range of possible research topics. In one project, he is looking at the long-run effects of extreme temperatures on educational outcomes to better understand how climate change might affect a country’s economic growth. In another project, he is exploring why fewer people use pollution masks in some cities, such as Delhi, compared to others, such as Beijing. He will be delving further into these research projects over the course of his studies.
Emily is a second year MPP at the Harris School of Public Policy and is pursing the Environmental and Energy Policy Certificate. This summer she interned as a Policy Intern at the Environmental Law and Policy Center helping gather air quality data for future advocacy and policy work. On campus she is the Vice President of Communications and Marketing for Harris Environmental and Energy Association (HEEA), a Writing TA, and a Research Assistant for Professor Wolske through EPIC’s DRW Fellowship. Prior to Harris, Emily worked as an Environmental Educator at a nonprofit in Milwaukee. During the year, Emily will be working with Professor Wolske to examine policies to encourage greater household investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies (e.g., fuel efficient cars, energy efficient appliances, home insulation, solar panels).
“I am excited to work on this research project because I think energy efficiency investments and renewable energy technologies provide a way to help households engage in low carbon activities. This research project uses behavioral economics to identify effective policy designs and hopes to develop future research frameworks. Working on this project will help me further my research design skills and evidence-based data collection knowledge.”
Shruti Bhimsaria is a first year Master of Public Policy student at the Harris School of Public. Prior to coming to Chicago, Bhimsaria worked for more than five years in various parts of India for the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL). In her role at J-PAL, Bhimsaria was a research manager on several projects conducted jointly with EPIC-India, including a project to launch and evaluate the world’s first trading market for particulate pollution in Gujarat, India, and a project to improve electricity access in Bihar, India. As a fellow with EPIC, she will assist the central communications team with their efforts to gain international visibility for the Gujarat and Bihar projects, as well as other projects.
“Communications is integral to policy and is deeply rooted throughout the policy cycle. As a DRW fellow, I’m looking to understand how stakeholders and the public respond to policies and how these policies end up shaping the larger information campaign.”
Originally from Bellevue, Washington, Nadia Lucas moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts to study computer science at MIT. However, once she took her first economics class, she quickly became enamored with analyzing human behavior from a mathematical perspective. She switched her focus while at MIT and began taking every opportunity she could to be involved in economics research. This led Lucas to a pre-doctoral fellowship at EPIC upon graduation. For the past two years, she’s been exposed to policy-relevant economics research, working for Ryan Kellogg in analyzing the U.S. fracking industry. In beginning her PhD this fall, she remains interested in conducting research in the economics of energy and environmental policy. Specifically, she is interested in looking at energy and environmental policy through the lens of sustainable growth of industries and firms on a microeconomic level. She believes these questions are particularly relevant within the setting of the developing world.
“EPIC is an amazing place because of the range of researchers, both at every level of academia, and focused in almost every subtopic in energy and environmental economics. Being a DRW Fellow, I hope to become a researcher who also contributes important work to this field, and I am confident that I can find the support I need to do so given how many accomplished researchers there already are at EPIC.”
Harshil Sahai, is a first-year doctoral candidate in economics. Sahai is exploring the effects of extreme temperatures on educational outcomes so as to gain insight on how climate change can impact a country’s growth and development. Specifically, he is studying the impact of temperature on school test scores and enrollment, while seeing if access to reliable electricity and credit can cushion the effect. Having conducted deep quantitative analysis through research assistantships with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Federal Reserve Bank and Credit Suisse Securities, and volunteered in teaching children from low-income areas of Pennsylvania, China and India, Sahai’s background combines his passions for economics, mathematics and societal improvement.
“In working with EPIC as a pre-doctoral fellow over the last two years, I’ve learned that I can make the greatest impact on the world through a dispassionate, careful, and quantitative examination of our biggest challenges,” says Sahai. “In addition to gaining a greater understanding of the research process and general economic behavior, I hope this fellowship will provide me with the tools and acumen to understand global issues in a way that I can make a difference.”
Anna-Elise Smith is a second year Master of Public Policy student at the Harris School of Public Policy, where, through this fellowship, she is working with Harris Public Policy Professor Ryan Kellogg on a project that evaluates the economic costs of the Jones Act, which has effectively prevented nearly all movement of oil and refined petroleum products from the U.S. Gulf Coast to the Eastern Seaboard. Prior to coming to the Harris School, Smith graduated with a degree in economy and evolutionary biology from the University of Colorado Boulder. She spent her summer working as a greenhouse gas reporting policy intern at The Climate Registry and continues to work for the organization by designing and testing an automated and responsive Excel tool to help countries track progress towards their Paris Agreement goals.
“I hope to become more comfortable working with data, outside of the classroom and hope to gain hands on experience in academic research. I want to apply the quantitative skills gained at Harris to meaningful research. This experience as a fellow will help me determine my professional and academic path forward in several ways. First, it will help me demonstrate my skills to employers. Second, it will help me determine what kind of work is right for me. I may want to continue working in academia, or with research at a think tank. I hope this experience helps me decide what career path fits me best.”
Yuqi Song, a PhD student at the Harris School of Public Policy, hopes to bring with her the knowledge she learned from working at EPIC over the past two years. While at EPIC, Song was part of the Climate Impact Lab (CIL), an interdisciplinary, multi-organizational project co-led by Michael Greenstone. For the project, Song focused on calculating the relationship between energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by identifying emissions levels by sector over time. Prior to coming to EPIC, Song earned her MBA from the Booth School of Business, where most of her research centered on policy, particularly in her home country of China. She also worked with Greenstone as an undergraduate student in mathematics and economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Song hopes to one day tackle global challenges through academic research or at an organization such as the International Monetary Fund or World Bank.
“When I came to EPIC, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue pursuing a career in academic research or go work in industry,” Song says. “Working at EPIC helped me see how truly valuable academic research can be if we work to make it part of policy conversations. I’m excited to now continue researching the economics of pollution and climate change, which have such a profound impact on human life.”
Jeanne Sorin received her BA in Social Sciences at SciencesPo Paris, France, and continued on to receive her MSc in Economics at the university. During her MSc, she spent a semester at the University of Southern California working for Matthew Kahn and Amine Ouazad on a project on Mortgage Finance in the Face of Rising Climate Risk. This experience launched her interest in contributing to research on economic mechanisms that may drive adaptation and resilience to climate change from a microeconomics perspective. In her master’s thesis she investigated the role of local newspapers in channeling flood risk related information and their impact on the housing market. During her PhD at the University of Chicago, she plans to study the interactions between beliefs, location choice and production decisions of households and firms facing increasing climate hazard.
“I am convinced that EPIC offers one of the best research environments to study what leads communities to successfully adapt to increasing climate hazards in both developed and developing countries. As a DRW PhD Fellow at EPIC, I am looking forward to learning from, and collaborating with experts at the Department of Economics, Harris and Booth.”
Borin Sun is a second year Master of Public Policy student at the Harris School of Public Policy. Through this fellowship, she is assisting postdoctoral fellow Tamma Carleton on research which aims to develop the first causally-identified as well as globally-comprehensive empirical estimates of agriculture’s water footprint. Sun’s interest in agricultural development originated from her undergraduate studies at George Washington University, where she took advanced courses in agricultural policy, rural development as well as food security. In addition, during an internship with the Global Food and Agriculture Program at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, she contributed to key research and policy support for the Council’s annual publication on sustainable water management in agriculture. She also assisted with the Council’s research on Chinese investment on the development of the African water sector.
“I am interested in data-driven and evidence-based research in the field of international development and I believe that this fellowship is an amazing opportunity for me to apply my Harris education to resolve real world policy challenges. I hope that by the end of this internship, I can have a better understanding of the influence of agricultural policy on global water consumption.”
Yixin Sun graduated with a BA in Economic-Statistics from Columbia University. She then went on to work as a pre-doctoral fellow at EPIC, where she has worked for the last three years. While at EPIC, Yixin primarily worked with Thomas Covert, examining the impacts of investment decisions in the fracking business. She has also worked with Fiona Burlig, analyzing the effects of a large-scale rural electrification project in India. Yixin hopes to pursue research at the intersection of development and environmental economics while a PhD student at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.
“EPIC is a unique hub for interdisciplinary researchers with a policy focus. The DRW fellowship provides me with an opportunity to tackle these big policy questions, and I look forward to the mentorship these amazing researchers provide.”
Will Seonmin Heo
Jenna Allard, a doctoral candidate in Public Policy at the Harris School, explored electrification policy and environmental regulation in developing countries. Previously, she worked on energy and environment issues in the private, non-profit, and policy sectors for nearly a decade. Allard spent three years working as a research manager at the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), which conducts evaluations to test and improve the effectiveness of policies and builds partnerships with policymakers to ensure those policies are driven by evidence and able to be scaled up. At J-PAL, Allard managed energy and environment projects across seven states in India and supervised field activities that included surveys of 30,000 households and 9,000 businesses. Her projects ranged from industrial air and water pollution regulation, to electricity allocation and tariff revision, to solar micro-grid development and fuel efficiency.
“I’m especially interested in the intersection of development and environmental economics. Specifically, I want to understand how better policies can effectively extend clean, reliable and affordable electricity to rural households,” says Allard. “Over one billion people in the world remain in the dark, and many more lack access to reliable high-capacity power that can be a key ingredient for economic growth. Through this fellowship, I hope my research will help extend electricity to households in India and beyond.”
Jennifer Boughton is earning her master’s in environmental science and policy at Harris after spending the past several years working abroad. Boughton, who earned a bachelor’s in political science and Spanish from The Ohio State University, worked with Harris Assistant Professor Eyal Frank on a variety of projects at the intersection of ecology and economics. Projects included calculating the impacts of animal waste from factory farms on nearby residents, examining the shortcomings of the Sustainable Fishers Act of 1996, exploring the effects of the Endangered Species Act on property values and evaluating the effect of using high levels of pesticide in a region in Vietnam. Prior to enrolling at Harris, Boughton was a government relations assistant for W2Worth Innovations in Manila, Philippines, during summer 2017. Before that, she taught English in Bogota, Columbia, as a Teaching Fellow for the IIE Fulbright Association. She is fluent in Spanish, having lived in Venezuela for seven years as a child.
“This research at the intersection of environmental improvement and economic feasibility is crucial in today’s society to create viable and sustainable green policies,” Boughton said. “I am thrilled to be a part of it.”
David Foote, a MSCAPP student, assisted Harris assistant professor Eyal Frank by performing geospatial analysis on potential economic impacts of a set of particular conservation efforts throughout the country. Foote also searched for data sets from governmental and private organizations, inspected the data for usefulness, and verified the data.
“I was lucky enough to work on a really well thought out project and am leaving with some great insights on strategies to measure and understand the impact of policy decisions that affect many different groups in many different ways. The geospatial analysis I performed would not have come up in any class in the same scale, and I was lucky enough to work on projects centered around animal and habitat conservation, an issue near to my heart.”
Michael Galperin earned his bachelor’s degree in economics from UChicago. He has also been working for Michael Greenstone at EPIC over the past two years, and received an honorable mention for the NSF fellowship. While at EPIC, he contributed to research that analyzed the relationship between extremely hot days and the mortality rate in India. Additionally, he helped to create a new cost-benefit analysis model that could be used on environmental regulations by using the novel approach of adapting seemingly unrelated data on military reenlistment. Prior to coming to EPIC, Galperin interned at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and was a research assistant for Marianne Bertrand, the Chris P. Dialynas Professor of Economics at the UChicago Booth School of Business. He is most interested in questions of development and political economy as they relate to energy access, and his time at EPIC reinforced the idea that economic analysis and tools can be used to improve living condition for the world’s poor.
“In addition to being a part of a wonderful research community, my time at EPIC prepared me for rigorous research that requires independent thinking and initiative,” Galperin says. “I’m excited to apply the skills and tools I gained to dive deeper into ways to improve energy access throughout the world.”
Will Seonmin Heo, who is pursuing a Master of Public Policy, worked with Harris associate professor Koichiro Ito on attribute-based regulations in the automotive industries by collecting data on the global car market and examining automobile tax structure as a DRW Fellow during the summer of 2019.
Now as a Bartlett Fellow, Will is continuing to work with Ito on the global car market and automobile tax structure in India.
“I hope to learn what research entails from one of the top researchers in the field and conduct independent research using microeconomics models in the near future.”
Prior to joining Harris, Will Seonmin Heo served three years as a military intelligence officer in the Air Force. Afterwards, Heo plans to pursue a PhD to tackle policy challenges through research.
Animesh Jayant, a Master’s in Public Policy with a Certificate in Research Methods (MACRM) student, had the opportunity to continue work he was previously doing with EPIC’s Michael Greenstone and Anant Sudarshan in Bihar, India, which was to study the impact of a revenue-linked power supply scheme on consumer bill payments. Animesh studied first stage effects of the scheme through several models, analyzed the impact of a separate treatment arm where customized messages were sent to consumers to study their impact on bill payment frequency, and generated exhibits and balance tables from household & business surveys to inform the project research.
“Working as a Wilson fellow has helped me apply theoretical models learnt in class to a real-world setting. I intend on using research skills acquired during the summer for my doctoral studies in the near future.”
Prior to joining Harris, Jayant worked as a Senior Research Associate at the South Asia office of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL). There he worked closely with Michael Greenstone on projects that aim to design, implement and test reforms for improving collection rates and power supply in the state of Bihar. Prior to joining J-PAL, he worked as a consultant in PwC’s emerging technologies practice. He has a B.Tech. in Metallurgical Engineering & Materials Science from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay.
Parth Khare will be pursuing a masters in computational analysis and public policy at the Harris School after having worked as a data science consultant for the Chief Economic Adviser of the Indian Ministry of Finance. There, he designed and implemented big data-driven civic tech solutions and extensively analyzed satellite-based (air pollution, climatological, urban footprint and nightlights) data for the last three Indian Economic Surveys. This work included co-authoring a study assessing the long-term impact of climate change on Indian agriculture as part of this year’s survey. He has also worked in data analytics and science positions for several companies in India, including for the New Delhi branch of Nielsen.
“In addition to the coursework, I am looking forward to learning new ways that econometric and computational methods can be used to inform policy,” Khare says. “Receiving this fellowship allows me to do so while continuing to contribute to impactful hands-on data analysis and research.”
Julian Lake worked in the Climate Policy program in WRI’s Brazil office, where he conducted research on national policy options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and drive economic growth.
Lake said his favorite project while in Brazil was researching the climate strategies of the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Mexico, France, Canada and the Czech Republic, and using their experiences to inform recommendations for the Brazilian government on how to reach its long-term climate goals.
Living in another country for the summer also added to the experience, he said.
“It means that your education never stops, even when you leave the office,” Lake said. “I am constantly learning more about the culture, the struggles and ambitions of the Brazilian people, and how those topics relate to my public policy studies. With an eye towards a career in environmental policy, I can think of no better experience than to work with an organization like WRI in a country as critical to our global climate efforts as Brazil.”
Genta Mecolli worked in WRI’s Sustainability program in Washington, D.C., where the bulk of her time was spent crafting a viable carbon pricing plan through integration of behavioral analyses, economic incentives and logistical limitations.
Mecolli described her time at WRI as “invaluable,” as it allowed her to understand the full process of how an idea becomes policy. But the most important lesson she learned is the importance of translating policy research in a way that will motivate policymakers to respond, she said.
“We as policy students need to be able to take the research we create and champion it to those who draft policy,” Mecolli said. “Pure statistics will not sway everyone, and it is up to us to learn how to take our skills and go one step further: to be active advocates for policy rooted in truth and reality.”
Pete Rodrigue, an MSCAPP student, spent the summer of 2019 as a DRW Fellow with Harris assistant professor Eyal Frank. He focused on invasive pests that kill trees and investigated what indirect effect they may have had on air quality. The fellowship helped Rodrigue transition from pure social science research to work at the intersection of social and environmental phenomena.
Now as a Bartlett Fellow, Pete is continuing to work with professor Frank.
“I look forward to continuing the work I started over the summer and shepherding our most promising projects to publication.”
Sushmita Singha, an MSESP student, spent her summer working on a randomized study on the cooling effect from rooftop painting. Her responsibilities entailed running regression models for impact evaluation, visualizing data, and documenting results for academic publication.
“The Summer Fellowship was an excellent opportunity to work on policy research, using econometric techniques. It not only brought more clarity in my understanding about fixed effect models, but it also helped me further hone my data skills. I have been working on energy, environmental, and urban development policy research for some time now, and I plan to continue working in this field in the foreseeable future. At EPIC, the effort is to fill the gap in evidence needed for effective policy-making in developing countries like India. I hope to continue making meaningful contribution in evidence-building.”
Sushmita joined the Harris School after several years of professional and academic research in India. As a senior research associate at Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), she worked on a rural electric power project under the supervision of professors at UC Berkeley, and EPIC-India Executive Director Ken Lee. Before that, Sushmita worked on environment, urban, and economic research and project management at several organizations in New Delhi, including the National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA), The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), and the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER). She has a master’s in Economics from TERI School of Advanced Studies.