Placement: PhD Economics, Northwestern

Growing up in Beijing, Jingyuan Wang witnessed firsthand the worsening pollution around her, but assumed it was a normal part of city life.

“At first I supposed that pollution is a stage which all developing cities should experience and there is no solution except time,” she explained. “However, during the Olympic Games in 2008, the sky became surprisingly blue.”

The series of short-term environmental policies implemented around the 2008 Olympic Games thus became a turning point in Jingyuan’s life, influencing her decision to study environmental topics. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Peking University in China, where she majored in Environmental Science and Economics. Once she realized that the increasing pollution in China was related to economic development, she added economics as a second major. Jingyuan also holds a Master’s in Applied Economics from Cornell University. Through her academic experience, she gained a solid knowledge of economic and chemistry theories behind environmental pollution.

Building on this, Jingyuan also did an assistantship at the Cornell Institute for China Economic Research (CICER), where she primarily examined the relationship between industrial activities and air pollution in China. As a Pre-Doctoral Fellow at EPIC, she worked on the Social Cost of Carbon project with Michael Greenstone, and expanded her viewpoint.

“From CICER to EPIC, I have a feeling that I am stepping out of China and building a broader view of the environmental issues,” she said. “Fortunately, my data analysis and econometric skills learned at CICER are helpful for my work here.”

While focused on her home of China for many years, Jingyuan does have a solid background doing research outside of China. In the summer of 2015, Jingyuan worked as a research assistant at the World Wildlife Fund. There, she worked on a team that reported on pollution emitted during food producing processes as well as pollution immigration driven by the global food trade. The internship helped Jingyuan develop a global view of environmental issues.

“I realized that local emission and local environmental issues might not be truly local,” she explained. “This is important for the SCC Project which analyzes country-level climate change impacts as well as global impacts.”

Jingyuan’s specific environmental interests include a study of the impact of air quality degradation on human health. In the future, she hoped to enroll in a doctoral program to further develop this interest. In addition to improving her data analysis skills while at EPIC, Jingyuan looked forward to being exposed to a range of energy environmental topics.