Twelve students from the Harris School of Public Policy spent their summers working closely with University of Chicago faculty and energy and environmental non-profits as part of the James Bartlett Fellowship Program in Energy and Environmental Policy and the DRW Graduate Fellowship in Economics & Policy. From analyzing Chicago community air quality data to working on waste diversion with small businesses and drafting a white paper on water quality trading in Illinois, each fellow gained valuable skills this summer. Learn more about their experiences.
Bartlett Fellow, Current
Fatima Azmat, who is pursuing a Masters in Computational Analysis and Public Policy (MSCAPP) at Harris Public Policy, spent her summer working as a water policy intern at Current, a water innovation company based in Chicago. She worked on analyzing demographic data for the company’s event attendees and presenting visualizations. Additionally, Azmat analyzed water quality data from the Chicago River and web traffic for Current’s social media engagement on various platforms. She also co-authored blog posts on the future of water sustainability.
“I like that I learned about various innovations in water sustainability efforts and got the opportunity to hone my data analysis skills and sharpen my capabilities to present findings in a non-technical format. I appreciate being familiarized with platforms like Strikingly, Insightly and Hootsuite which aid in updating content and managing subscriber databases.”
Bartlett Fellow, Environmental Law and Policy Center
Linh Dinh, a MSCAPP student at Harris Public Policy, worked with the Air Quality Monitoring team at the Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC). As an aspiring data scientist, Linh helped analyze air quality data from communities around Chicago and built a prototype of a tool that would compare 3 different air quality data sources to help identify discrepancies and provide deeper insights into the data.
“I realized that thoroughly and correctly monitoring air quality data is not an easy task. Through working with the Air Quality Monitoring team at ELPC, I learned the importance and also the challenges of empowering youths and communities to get involved in monitoring factors affecting their health. I liked this internship because I had a chance to dive deep into various data sources and apply my analytical and programming skills. This experience provided me with a brand-new perspective on how communities can be engaged in the data generating process and be given back the autonomy of using such data.”
Bartlett Fellow, Environmental Law and Policy Center
Jordan Graham, a Master of Public Policy (MPP) student at Harris Public Policy, worked as a policy intern in the ELPC’s Grid Transformation Program over the summer. His work centered on advocating for modern electricity grid planning by helping advance the case for utilities to leverage and fairly compensate consumer and third-party owned solar projects for the value they provide to the distribution grid. Graham consulted on case strategies, wrote docket comments and discovery requests, edited expert testimony, and researched how state regulations and academic proposals could inform the cases. He also is helping co-write a white paper to serve as a policy position for how utilities can better incorporate distributed solar projects into their grid plans.
“I learned so much about the complex policy and infrastructure challenges that need to be addressed as we strive to transition to 100% renewable energy sources. The work introduced me to brilliant people advancing solutions in the Midwest, taught me new frameworks for thinking about energy issues, and showed me that there are scores of ways to become involved professionally in these efforts.”
Bartlett Fellow, Plant Chicago
Rahul Kulkarni, an MPP student at Harris Public Policy, worked at Plant Chicago, a local non-profit advocating for a circular economy. He focused on researching the current waste management and diversion landscape in Chicago and the United States and created a comprehensive report on the roadmap for transitioning towards a circular economy. Additionally, Kulkarni engaged with small businesses by making recommendations for how they could best divert their waste for greater economic and environmental impact.
“As someone who wishes to work in sustainable development, the internship helped me develop an understanding of environmental sustainability through a waste management lens, which I feel is often ignored. By advising these local businesses especially during a global pandemic, I grew a much deeper understanding for small businesses, and began appreciating their importance in the larger economy.”
Bartlett Fellow, Rocky Mountain Institute
Emily Zhang, an MSCAPP student at Harris Public Policy, worked at the Rocky Mountain Institute over the summer. Her research focused on characterizing the operational roles of natural gas plants and developing strategies to ramp down gas on a regional basis. This involved creating a database on natural gas plants, implementing a clustering algorithm to categorize plant behaviors, and designing a Tableau dashboard to visualize key characteristics.
“This summer internship gave me the opportunity to develop a research methodology and hone my coding skills. In addition, Rocky Mountain Institute was a great place to meet people working in the energy field and be immersed in trends in the energy sector.”
Along with internships at energy and environmental organizations in Chicago and beyond, Harris Public Policy students also spent the summer working with UChicago faculty on research projects. They included:
DRW Fellow; Anant Sudarshan, Executive Director (South Asia), EPIC
Geet Chawla, an MPP student at Harris Public Policy, worked with EPIC South Asia Director Anant Sudarshan to perform predictive analysis on post-lockdown trends in electricity consumption and pollution levels in India. Additionally, Chawla worked on an experiment assessing the impact of cash-transfers on remittances and other behavioral changes in a subset of migrant laborers impacted by the pandemic in India. And, he analyzed whether painting the roofs of under-developed houses with reflective paints could help in decreasing the cooling costs of a household.
“In my work at EPIC, I learned how high frequency data can be used to understand the economic implications of policy and how we can use energy and pollution patterns as a proxy for economic recovery. These implications are highly valuable and will go a long way in my professional aspirations to solve real-world problems using statistical inferences.”
Bartlett Fellow; Amir Jina, Assistant Professor, Harris Public Policy
Lily Grier, an MSCAPP student at Harris Public Policy, joined forces with Harris assistant professor Amir Jina to study the economic impact of locust plagues. Grier helped build a code to analyze the text of monthly locust bulletins by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization and six-week forecasts to compare how often the predictions were correct. This data could help millions of people whose food sources are decimated by locust plagues every year.
“This project opened my eyes to the many ways in which computer science and machine learning tools have value in policy contexts. The fellowship helped me connect the dots of my first year in the MSCAPP program, as I directly applied computational analysis tools to environmental policy issues. I especially loved learning the ins and outs of textual analysis and teaching the computer how to extract information from text without having to manually go through hundreds of pages. Having learned the power of textual analysis through this fellowship, I see myself using these tools throughout my future career to enact environmental, economic, and social change.”
DRW Fellow; Fiona Burlig, Assistant Professor, Harris Public Policy
Jessica Lyu, a Master of Arts in Public Policy with Certificate in Research Methods (MACRM) student, teamed up with Harris assistant professor Fiona Burlig. Lyu assembled almost a decade’s worth of local air quality data from India’s Central Pollution Control Board. This data will help Professor Burlig’s team study the impacts of electricity generation on pollution in Indian cities.
“Performing these foundational data tasks gave me insight into how researchers develop and use preliminary data – insight that will be useful when I pursue research at the doctoral level next year.”
DRW Fellow; Eyal Frank, Assistant Professor, Harris Public Policy
Siyue Ouyang, an MACRM student at Harris Public Policy, and Harris assistant professor Eyal Frank worked to estimate the relationship between wildlife related car accidents in the United States and the presence of wolves. Ouyang created a panel dataset on car accidents spanning the past few decades for analysis.
“It’s a privilege to have this opportunity. I got to know how many challenges a researcher may face during their work. As an RA, the research honed my coding and visualizing skills, deepened my understanding of the models we learned in class, giving me a hands-on experience of empirical research, which could better prepare me for my future academic career . And I’m grateful to have Professor Frank as my mentor, who always takes pleasure to help me out along the way. What’s more, the research has fostered my awareness of the cost of biodiversity loss that no one alone could be immune from .”
DRW Fellow; Mark Templeton, Director, Abrams Environmental Law Clinic
Jaymal Patel, an MPP student at Harris Public Policy, spent his summer working with Mark Templeton, the director of the Abrams Environmental Law Clinic. During the fellowship, Patel assisted in drafting a white paper on the implementation of water quality trading in Illinois, drafted a comment evaluating the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s proposed rulemaking on benefit-cost analysis under the Clean Air Act, and analyzed the use of the Social Cost of Carbon in EPA’s and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s final rulemaking on fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards.
“I was fortunate enough to learn a great deal about the relationship between federal and state regulations, statutes, and guidance. It was enlightening to see the role that the various nuances in this relationship can play when considering innovative approaches to improving the environment or advocating for the use of the best available science in environmental regulatory decisions. I loved that this experience exposed me to environmental issues not only through a legal and economic lens, but also through a local lens with respect to water quality issues in Illinois. This exposure has inspired me to continue to explore how transportation policy and environmental policy can be better integrated to achieve more meaningful pollution reductions.”
Bartlett Fellow; Ryan Kellogg, Professor, Harris Public Policy
Jonathan Rockower, an MSCAPP student at Harris Public Policy, assisted professor Ryan Kellogg in evaluating the economic costs of the Jones Act, which prevents nearly all movement of oil and refined petroleum products from the U.S. Gulf Coast to the Eastern Seaboard. As a result of this act, oil and refined products are exported from the Gulf Coast around the world, while the Eastern Seaboard imports oil and refined products from the Middle East. Rockower helped advance the project’s goal of estimating the costs of wasteful imports and exports by cleaning and analyzing detailed data on U.S. imports and exports of oil and refined products.
“The Bartlett Fellowship provided me the opportunity to build on the skills I developed in the first year of the CAPP program while helping Professor Kellogg manage and analyze data. After graduate school, I am hoping to work as a data engineer, helping organizations prepare and manage their data.”
DRW Fellow; Shaoda Wang, Postdoctoral Scholar, EPIC
Stan Xie, an MACRM student at Harris, worked with EPIC postdoctoral scholar Shaoda Wang to investigate how governments respond to civil complaints of environmental violations by firms. Xie analyzed large-scale text data from Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, to understand the effect of social media on the government’s response.
“EPIC gave me a great opportunity to participate in projects in a variety of topics that I am interested in. This fellowship significantly enhanced my quantitative skill set for dealing with large-scale data, my ability for unsupervised learning, and my knowledge of frontier econometrics. Working here also connected me with fantastic research ideas, from which I have gained much insight.”