Placement: PhD IRI, Columbia University
Kevin Schwarzwald spent the last seven years building his research skills at the University of Chicago.
Schwarzwald, who earned bachelor’s degrees in physics and public policy (with honors) from UChicago in 2015, is working to foster collaboration and dialogue between the climate science and social science/economics fields as an RA for EPIC.
“The main benefit of approaching climate and energy issues using an interdisciplinary lens is the ability to identify where we’re possibly overlooking some really important connections between the frontiers of climate and economic research and to make sure the large bodies of knowledge in both fields are being used efficiently,” he said.
Schwarzwald has been associated with climate and energy policy at UChicago since 2015, when he began working on climate models as a research specialist at the Center for Robust Decision Making on Climate and Energy Policy (RDCEP). He continued to contribute to RDCEP through EPIC-affiliated researchers Amir Jina and Liz Moyer, a fitting pairing given that Jina works in public policy and Moyer in the natural sciences.
To broaden his understanding and perspective on climate change, energy and environmental economics, he interrupted his seven-year run at UChicago to earn a master’s in China studies from Peking University’s Yenching Academy in 2017. There he studied the impact of Chinese fiscal and political incentive structures on urban expansion and land conversion practices, a topic deeply connected to the energy and environment through questions of land use and energy efficiency.
An Austrian born in Paris, Schwarzwald moved to Los Angeles at the age of 7. He’s been interested in energy and environment issues for “as far back as [he] can remember,” and attributes some of that interest to seeing firsthand their global impact and relevance through his travels. An undergraduate class on energy systems taught by Moyer solidified his desire to pursue interdisciplinary research on climate.
Schwarzwald conducted research in two primary areas: studying changes in climate variability through climate model evaluation at RDCEP and investigating the impacts of those variability changes on society.
“The most interesting part of my work [is]… trying to figure out how we make sure climate research gets translated into economics research and policy research, and vice versa,” he said.
Toward that end, Schwarzwald created and co-ran with fellow EPIC RA Johanna Rayl a lunch and learn series for young researchers across campus, which took place every Thursday. The series invites students interested in climate and energy issues from to collaborate across disciplines and to present their research or lead discussions in a low-pressure situation.
“EPIC has that kind of environment where that’s able to be done,” Schwarzwald said. “These are the types of research institutes I seek out.”