EPIC is excited to announce the addition of two new postdoctoral scholars, adding new diversity to the EPIC research community. Fiona Burlig, who completed her PhD in agricultural and resource economics at the University of California, Berkeley, and James Rising, previously a postdoctoral fellow at the Energy & Resources Group at UC Berkeley, joined EPIC on July 1.
“We’re thrilled to have two young scholars with rock star potential joining the EPIC community,” says Michael Greenstone, the director of EPIC and the Milton Friedman Professor in Economics, the College and the Harris School. “Fiona and James are part of a small cohort of researchers unwavering in their commitment to create impact through research. This commitment complements EPIC’s mission and will surely add to the depth and breadth of our research.”

Fiona Burlig comes to EPIC for a one-year postdoctoral appointment, after which she will remain part of the community as an assistant professor at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy. She studies energy and environmental economics, with a focus on the developing world. Her ongoing research examines the development impacts of rural electrification, the economic consequences of electricity supply outages, and the private and social costs of misallocation on the supply side of the Indian electricity market. Burlig also studies new empirical methods, including applying machine learning to quantify the effectiveness of energy-efficiency upgrades in K-12 schools in California and new tools for designing randomized controlled trials across contexts.

“As incomes rise around the world, energy demand increases sharply. Meeting this growing need and achieving economic development at low cost while at the same time managing pollution is a major global challenge, requiring problem solving and well-informed public policy,” says Burlig. “EPIC is at the forefront of policy-relevant energy research in the developing world. I’m thrilled to be joining a team that is working to test and implement evidence-based solutions to problems that range from expanding electricity supply reliability in small villages to managing the global climate. I am excited to tackle energy challenges facing the developing world with research that extends beyond the ivory tower.”
Before earning her PhD and master’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley, Burlig attended Williams College. There, she received her bachelor’s degree in economics, political science and German.

More on Fiona Burlig


Also joining the team is James Rising, who will be at EPIC for a six-month appointment in partnership with the Center for Robust Decision Making on Climate and Energy Policy (RDCEP). Rising is a broadly interdisciplinary researcher who draws on analytical approaches from multiple fields and develops computational models to understand integrated global challenges. He is particularly interested in understanding the interplay between environmental and human systems—focusing on the impacts of climate change, but also the water-energy-food nexus. Through his climate work, he is part of the Climate Impact Lab research consortium co-led by Greenstone, as well as RDCEP, an interdisciplinary effort aimed at improving policymakers’ ability to make decisions under climate uncertainty. RDCEP is led by EPIC-affiliated faculty Elisabeth Moyer, Amir Jina, and Michael Greenstone and is supported by the National Science Foundation.

Rising received his PhD from Columbia University’s program in Sustainable Development.  He previously taught within MIT’s Experimental Study Group and at Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering. Until recently, he was a software developer, working with over a dozen companies on audio and video processing, social networks, and artificial intelligence.
“I’m always looking for ways to apply my deep background in technology to help communities solve our greatest challenges,” says Rising. “The complex nature of climate change makes it a perfect context for exploring the use of new technologies and methods. EPIC is the perfect place to do this work since it is at the pinnacle of using innovative approaches to tackle such tough challenges. I’m looking forward to contributing to this great work and learning from a diverse group of scholars.”
After his six-month appointment with EPIC, Rising will be joining the Grantham Institute at the London School of Economics as an assistant professor.