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Claire Qing Fan was always concerned about the environment and climate change, but never imagined it would lead to anything career-related. That changed when she spent a semester studying abroad at a program on sustainable development in India.

“I learned about development, but also realized the important role the environment and climate change would play in people’s lives and trajectory,” she said.

Fan, who works on a variety of projects for EPIC Director Michael Greenstone, was born in Beijing before moving to the United States. in second grade. She has since crisscrossed the country, spending six years in Chicago, four in Pennsylvania and then four at Pomona College in Claremont, California, about 30 miles east of Los Angeles.

Fan started her college career in mathematics, but eventually discovered economics to be a better fit.

“In college, you learn about social and environmental issues, so I figured that I wanted my work to be directly be motivated by the real world and have a tangible impact on it,” said Fan, who earned her bachelor’s in mathematics with a minor in economics last spring. “Coming from math, economics was sort of the natural transition to that.”

In particular, several books about development and a sociology course steered Fan toward a human-focused application of her technical skills. It culminated with an independent field study at the end of her semester abroad in which she examined attitudes toward sustainable agriculture in farming communities in Punjab, a heavily agricultural state in India.

“I was exposed to all these human experiences and lived experiences and these social issues,” she said. “It convinced me that it would be worth it to try to learn something about an issue from the people who are going through it.”

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