EPIC is pleased to welcome a new class of fellows to the James Bartlett Fellowship Program in Energy and Environmental Policy and the DRW Graduate Fellowship in Economics & Policy for the academic year. The fellows have the opportunity to work closely with EPIC affiliated faculty on a variety of research initiatives from the willingness-to-pay for clean water, to remote sensing methods to identify large patches of plastics in the ocean, and how governments can best incentivize the transition to renewable energy.

Learn more about each of our fellows.


Kashif Ahmed

DRW Fellow; Fiona Burlig, Assistant Professor, Harris Public Policy

Kashif Ahmed, a Masters of Public Policy (MPP) student at Harris Public Policy, teamed up with Harris Assistant Professor Fiona Burlig. Ahmed is assisting in a randomized controlled trial looking at the willingness-to-pay for clean water and its prospective welfare outcomes in rural India. He has reviewed literature to assist the principal investigators in making an informed decision on their intervention based on previous empirical evidence (or the lack thereof) and to have a high-quality instrument for measuring outcomes of interest. This experience has given Ahmed a complete picture of the rigorous process of academic research and randomized controlled trials.

“All of the EPIC PIs are very accessible, excited to work with students, and flexible to our interests. From my experience, it is very useful to work for EPIC projects even if you are interested in working outside of academia. I’ve learned a lot about effective program implementation and the challenges projects often have to work around, such as securing funding and collaboration across the world. Finally, it’s useful to know that I will have this position throughout the year to practice my professional skills in social science as I know I will be ready for life after graduation.”


Kaveri Chhikara

DRW Fellow; Eyal Frank, Assistant Professor, Harris Public Policy

Kaveri Chhikara, a Masters in Computational Analysis and Public Policy (MSCAPP) student at Harris Public Policy, and Harris Assistant Professor Eyal Frank are working to quantify the impact of a controversial policy reintroducing wolves into certain regions. The project aims to understand the relationship between wildlife car accidents and the presence of wolves in the United States.

“The DRW fellowship has provided me the opportunity to build on my research and programming skills. Working on this project with Professor Frank will hopefully allow me to witness the research workflow from beginning to completion while helping him with data management and analysis. The project taught me how to critically look at policies and use data to scientifically gauge their impact. The research also made me aware about the intricacies of environmental policy issues, understanding involvement of different stakeholders and the policy’s widespread impact. This hands-on experience with empirical research has better prepared me for a future academic career.”


Ziyi Liu

Bartlett Fellow; Shaoda Wang, Assistant Professor, Harris Public Policy

Ziyi Liu, a Master of Public Policy with Certificate in Research Methods (MACRM) student at Harris Public Policy, is working with Harris Assistant Professor Shaoda Wang on a project that investigates how populism contributed to the anti-nuclear regulations in democracies after Chernobyl. They are quantifying the associated environmental, economic and welfare implications. His fellowship consists of literature reviews, data scraping, text analysis and a questionnaire survey. Overall, Liu’s research interests include causal inference with observational data and computational social science. He is also interested in political economics, studying the changes of political attitudes via social media data.

“I am learning and practicing the skills of dealing with a large scale of text data and conducting causal inference with them. So far, the experience has been a good opportunity to learn about frontier economics.”


Tarren Peterson

Bartlett Fellow; Amir Jina, Assistant Professor, Harris Public Policy

Tarren Peterson, a second-year student in the Masters in Computational Analysis and Public Policy (MSCAPP) program at the Harris Public Policy, paired up with Harris Assistant Professor Amir Jina on a project using remote sensing methods to identify and classify large patches of plastic in the ocean. He is helping the project team scale the analysis by speeding up the existing data pipeline and moving the computation to the Research Computing Cluster at the University.

“I am deeply interested in the application of methods like remote sensing for climate adaptation amongst smallholder farmers in the developing world. There are not many classes at the University that focus explicitly on remote sensing methods, so it is helpful to gain experience through this project. I hope to apply to Geospatial Data Science positions after graduation this summer and I think this project will be my best preparation.”


Max Snyder

DRW Fellow; Koichiro Ito, Associate Professor, Harris Public Policy

Max Snyder, a Master of Public Policy (MPP) student at Harris Public Policy, is working with Associate Professor Koichiro Ito to study how governments can best incentivize the transition to renewable energy. Since the start of the academic year, he has conducted policy research on solar subsidy programs, identified natural experiments that exist at the boundaries between utilities, and analyzed data on solar irradiance from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

“The DRW fellowship has been a great opportunity to develop expertise in environmental economics and spatial research methods. As someone who is interested in pursuing a career researching issues in environmental economics, this position provides the opportunity to be part of an engaging community of scholars and policy experts. What is more, the fellowship has provided an opportunity to contribute to timely conversations about decarbonizing the power sector.”


Xiaoting Sun

Bartlett Fellow; Andy Hultgren, Postdoctoral Scholar, EPIC

Xiaoting Sun, who is pursuing a Masters in Computational Analysis and Public Policy (MSCAPP) at Harris Public Policy, is working with EPIC Postdoctoral Scholar Andy Hultgren on a research project that seeks to determine how firms respond — via innovation and lobbying — to the discovery that their products may be harmful and may face future regulation. As such, Sun is constructing a novel dataset of scientific discoveries of product harms and will then employ causal inference methods to empirically measure how firms respond.

“The fellowship enables me to deeply dive into a research project from a critical point and deploy my skills as much as possible. Initially, I am trying to find the best solution to the research problem and could build a comprehensive understanding of my mentor’s theoretical models and research methods through the process. Then, what makes me more excited is that, based on the original framework and my work during the summer internship, I could now integrate my own research ideas into this project. I am trying to uncover the role that mass media plays on the firms’ strategies when their products are discovered to be harmful. Answering this question requires much knowledge of the large-scale computing, and I am trying to use the cloud resources and parallel solutions to create an original dataset for further causal inference analysis. Working at EPIC greatly inspires my research interests and I can’t wait to realize them.”


Robert Walatka

Bartlett Fellow; Kim Wolske, Research Associate Professor, Harris Public Policy

Robert Walatka, a Master of Public Policy (MPP) student at Harris Public Policy and Harris Research Associate Professor Kim Wolske are researching how installing residential solar is easier at specific times, such as when building a home and completing roof maintenance. Wolske and Walatka are working on understanding the perceptions of solar by home builders and roofing contractors, with the goal of increasing the involvement of these actors in the residential solar market.

“A major takeaway is the sheer complexity of large-scale, long-term policy research. With a 3-year time horizon, staying organized and being prepared for unexpected barriers has been key. Working with Professor Wolske has encouraged me to think beyond standard economic approaches to making policy. For our project, we are exploring the power of perceptions, considering individual psychology, and understanding roofers and builders’ concerns. This experience has solidified my interest in a psychological approach to policy.”


Jason Winik

DRW Fellow; Mark Templeton, Director, Abrams Environmental Law Clinic

Jason Winik, a Master of Public Policy (MPP) student at Harris Public Policy, is working with Mark Templeton, the director of the Abrams Environmental Law Clinic, to understand where daycare facilities in Illinois have dangerous levels of lead in their drinking water and are out of compliance with Illinois testing requirements. A report will be published incorporating Winik’s visualizations and findings to raise awareness about the severity of the issue to the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and provide policy recommendations to remove lead more swiftly from Illinois’ drinking water.

“By contributing to a public report, the scripts I wrote needed to be readable by others. This is the first time I’ve contributed to a publication where the analysis and scripts I made will be publicly available. I therefore learned the importance of making my code clearly written so that my work can be reproduced and validated. Overall, I had the opportunity to work on not only the data analysis of the project, but I also wrote about the findings and contributed to the policy recommendations. In doing this, I realized that I enjoy roles where I can do both data analysis and policy writing so I’m grateful I could do both for this project.”