Dedicated to training and mentoring future energy leaders and exposing them to real-world experiences, the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) has launched a new fellowship program for talented University of Chicago doctoral students to work with faculty on innovative research. The inaugural DRW Graduate Fellows in Economics & Policy, Harshil Sahai and Jenna Allard, began this academic year.
“Harshil and Jenna are exceptionally talented people with bright futures, who, through this fellowship, have great potential to conduct energy research with a direct impact on policy discussions,” says EPIC Director Michael Greenstone, the Milton Friedman Professor in Economics, the College and the Harris School. “We see this as being a pioneering fellowship program that will help to attract some of the most promising young minds to study energy economics issues—and, to study them at the University of Chicago. It will help to provide the world with energy leaders and reinforce the university’s reputation as the go-to place to study energy economics and policy.”
Jenna Allard, a first-year doctoral candidate in Public Policy at the Harris School, is exploring 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 the last 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.”
The second recipient of the fellowship, 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.”