Nine students from the Harris School of Public Policy spent their summers working closely with University of Chicago faculty and local organizations as part of the James Bartlett Fellowship Program in Energy and Environmental Policy and the DRW Graduate Fellowship in Economics & Policy. Here’s a snapshot of their experiences.
Bartlett Fellow, Argonne National Laboratory
Joshua Kruskal, who is pursuing a Masters of Science in Environmental Science and Policy at Harris Public Policy, worked at Argonne National Laboratory. Based in the Environmental Science Division, he was able to contribute to research related to clean energy, landscape rehabilitation, and water quality improvement. Kruskal was closely involved with an ongoing project on marginal cropland use and developing computer models to test whether growing switchgrass and other biomass for ethanol in these areas might be ecologically and economically feasible.
“From this experience, I’ll certainly be taking away a much deeper appreciation for the challenges of complex systems analysis—the vast amount of data that must be gathered and cleaned, the extensive calibration and testing of models, and finally the interpretation of outputs. From a professional standpoint, this summer has already proven enormously beneficial.”
Kruskal will have the opportunity to present his research project, “Error Mitigation in Climate Interventions with Drought-Tolerant Crops,” at the International Conference on Sustainable Development at Columbia University on September 24th.
Bartlett Fellow, Environmental Law and Policy Center
Emily Bablitch, a MPP student at Harris Public Policy, worked as a policy intern for the Environmental Law and Policy Center. Bablitch had the opportunity to explore Chicago neighborhoods, gathering and monitoring air quality data for the Air Quality program. Her responsibilities included coordinating logistics for monitoring days, helping to facilitate air monitor trainings, and assisting in the creation of frameworks for and facilitation of community partners’ focus groups. She also wrote the 2018 community partners’ monitoring reports. This data will be used to advocate for equitable air quality in Chicago.
“I really loved getting out and exploring Chicago while collecting transparent, public data. Through this role, I have become more aware of the sources and causes of environmental injustices in Chicago and this experience has motivated me to continue working in environmental advocacy and policy.”
Along with external internships, Harris Public Policy students also spent the summer working with UChicago faculty on research projects. They included:
DRW Fellow; Eyal Frank, Assistant Professor, Harris Public Policy
Pete Rodrigue, an MSCAPP student, spent the summer 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 is helping Rodrigue transition from pure social science research to work at the intersection of social and environmental phenomena.
“We are only beginning to understand the connections between our socio-economic systems, policy, and the wider world. We need to do that fast.”
DRW Fellow; Eyal Frank, Assistant Professor, Harris Public Policy
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.”
Bartlett Fellow; Fiona Burlig, Assistant Professor, Harris Public Policy
Simoni Jain, who is a Masters of Arts in Public Policy with Certification in Research Methods, spent her summer with Harris assistant professor Fiona Burling creating a large-scale panel dataset on Indian industrial firms to study the long-term effects of infrastructural changes on the firms. The most important step for empirical research is preparing the data for analysis and through her work of cleaning and matching datasets, Jain learned about important tools and techniques for data-cleaning and managing large-scale datasets for secondary research.
Jain had the opportunity to hone her coding skills, try new methods, and seek guidance from Burlig when needed.
“I am looking to pursue a full-time research assistant position after graduating from Harris. This opportunity has helped me further my skill set in data analysis and research tasks, thus preparing me better for my short- and long-term plans of pursuing empirical economic research. Most importantly, it has given me a flavor of what the experience of pursuing my own research project would look like.”
Bartlett Fellow; Tamma Carleton, Postdoctoral Scholar, EPIC
Kriti Bhardwaj, who is pursuing a MSESP at Harris Public Policy, worked closely with Tamma Carleton, an EPIC postdoctoral scholar, to conduct quantitative and qualitative research on the impact of climate change on health. Bhardwaj researched various health topics, with a focus on developing countries and conducted geospatial and temporal analysis of impacts of pollution levels and other climatic factors on health.
“This internship has helped me use my quantitative skills in a practical setting. I have learned how to find data-driven solutions to the complex problem of climate change, health and development. My key take-away was to understand the way experts in this field work and how they look at problems to find targeted solutions. Tamma Carleton has been the best mentor one could ask for. She gave me diverse projects, pushed me to hone my quantitative skills and was always there to guide me. I hope to emulate her work ethic in my future.”
Bhardwaj’s favorite part of the fellowship was the opportunity to work on diverse projects, handling both qualitative and quantitative data.
“I have learned so much about the climate change field and the skills I have gained in this internship will be a steppingstone for my future endeavors. Being a Bartlett fellow is a privilege and the opportunities I had to explore different avenues has helped me realize the area of environmental policy I want to focus on.”
DRW Fellow; Anant Sudarshan, Executive Director, EPIC South Asia
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.
DRW Fellow; Michael Greenstone, Director, EPIC and Anant Sudarshan, Executive Director, EPIC South Asia
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.
Will Seonmin Heo
DRW Fellow; Koichiro Ito, Associate Professor, Harris Public Policy
Will Seonmin Heo, who is pursuing a Master of Public Policy, has 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.
“This fellowship provided me a great opportunity to gain in-depth knowledge on the field of energy economics.”
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.