Pre-doctoral fellowships serve as a one- or two-year bridge program between college and a doctoral program. Recipients gain an in-depth understanding of the entire research process while undergoing intensive career development as part of a close-knit community.
Intended for those with at least a Bachelor’s degree, EPIC’s pre-doctoral fellowships allow awardees to gain hands-on interdisciplinary research training in preparation for a doctoral program in economics or another quantitative social science. Pre-doctoral fellows are paired with an EPIC-affiliated faculty member who serves as a mentor in guiding them through the research process. Responsibilities span all stages of research, from managing projects and collecting and analyzing data to creating presentations and editing manuscripts. In addition to working closely with faculty as research assistants, pre-doctoral fellows often attend classes and seminars at EPIC, the University of Chicago and affiliate institutions.
Along with the day-to-day contact with EPIC faculty supervisors, the fellowship provides two key events for professional training. At the beginning of each year, pre-doctoral fellows participate in a five-day orientation and training workshop. The training sessions cover topics from data management practices to econometric methods and science communication tools. In the winter, EPIC holds a retreat dedicated to career development. Faculty present on issues such as completing applications to graduate school, developing research ideas and projects, applying to grants, and performing cutting-edge statistical methods. They also provide advice on how to avoid common mistakes and succeed in graduate school.
EPIC’s outstanding pre-doctoral fellows have gone on to some of the country’s top PhD programs, securing places in Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School; Urban Planning at the University of California at Berkeley; and more. Five pre-doctoral fellows have won prestigious and highly-competitive National Science Foundation grants in the last two years.
““EPIC stood out to me not only as a place to do cutting-edge research with clear policy impact, but also as a uniquely supportive, collaborative and friendly community. Both the faculty and the other fellows have really impressed me with their openness and willingness to help me grow as a researcher.”
-Jared Stolove, Class of ‘22
How to Apply
Applications for pre-doctoral fellowships are reviewed in fall and winter cycles. The fall deadline is in mid-November, with final decisions made in mid-December. The winter deadline is the beginning of March, with final decisions made around toward the end of March.
Applicants must have completed a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree by June of the year they are applying, and have strong quantitative and programming skills. Candidates with research experience are strongly preferred, especially those with experience in Stata, R, Python or Matlab. The ideal candidate would begin in June and work for EPIC for one or two years before applying to graduate school in Economics or another quantitative social science. EPIC offers a competitive salary and employee benefits.
“I have grown so much as both a thinker and researcher since I started working for Ryan. I am now more confident than ever that I will be pursuing a PhD in Economics. Ryan has always been approachable and has taken the time to ensure I understand how to perform sound economics research. The community surrounding EPIC is so friendly and supportive that even a young researcher like me feels as if I have a voice and important ideas to contribute to the energy policy world.”
-Nadia Lucas, Class of ’19
Jesse Jian Adelman
B.S. Economics, University of Pittsburgh
Jesse Jian Adelman is a pre-doctoral fellow at EPIC. He assists the research efforts of Harris School of Public Policy Assistant Professor Eyal Frank, focusing on the efficacy of U.S. conservation policies designed to rebuild populations depleted by overfishing and maintain those that have recovered. Prior to joining EPIC, Adelman received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh, where he majored in Economics with a minor in Chinese. During his time at Pitt, Adelman became interested in land and resource economics after his experiences researching the Kingdom of Portugal’s colonization efforts in Brazil, as well as his assistance in researching the adverse effects of slash-and-burn agriculture throughout India.
“When deciding on a pre-doctoral program, I often faced a tradeoff between which institution will provide the most opportunity and which institution’s research aligns most with my passions. At EPIC, I get the best of both worlds. With coursework, seminars, and workshops offered by UChicago, BFI, and EPIC, I have plenty of opportunities to be excited about during my fellowship. In addition, the welcoming and passionate nature of my professors, fellow pre-docs, and the entire EPIC team made me feel right at home. Best of all, I have the opportunity to contribute to environmental economics research during a time when the world is finally beginning to realize that a renewable resource is not an expendable one.”
Sushant is a Pre-Doctoral Fellow at EPIC where he works primarily with Eyal Frank—assistant professor at Harris School of Public Policy—and his collaborators, on research topics such as impacts of weather on agricultural production; influence of conservation laws on real-estate economics; and public health outcomes associated with changes in wildlife population. Sushant holds a bachelor’s in civil engineering from Institute of Engineering, Pulchowk Campus and a master’s in environmental science from Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, where he specialised in urbanisation science and remote sensing. Sushant research interests are in the economics of urbanisation in the developing world and socio-political implications of transboundary natural resource management.
“For me, working at EPIC is as much a learning opportunity as it is a job. My PI, Eyal Frank, and the work I do with him are the sources of valuable insights in economics research for me. Although I come from a strictly engineering background, my PI has focused on me learning economics and has been extremely helpful in the process. Additionally, the weekly seminars and EPIC learning groups have been a great way to keep abreast of cutting-edge research at the intersection of environmental science and economics. Overall, I enjoy working in the convivial environment at EPIC. And while I, as a part of my job, contribute to research in environmental economics, I also hope to prepare myself well for the graduate study in the same.”
Michael Cahana is a Pre-Doctoral Fellow with the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC). He works for Professors Ryan Kellogg and Thomas Covert, researching topics in energy economics focused on the oil and gas industry. Prior to joining EPIC, Michael worked as a research assistant at Northwestern University, where he studied a range of issues including renewable energy policies in California and real-time pricing initiatives in Spain. He earned his bachelor’s in economics from Northwestern, while also studying computer science and environmental policy. Michael is interested in energy & environmental policy, especially as they relate to climate change.
A.B. in Economics, Princeton University
M.A. in Computational Social Science, University of Chicago
Faculty Supervisor: Climate Impact Lab, Michael Greenstone
Junho (Jun Ho) Choi is a pre-doctoral fellow for the Climate Impact Lab, working primarily with the coastal impacts team. Before joining the Lab, Choi graduated from the University of Chicago’s Masters in Computational Social Science (MACSS) program, with a concentration in economics. In his MA thesis, Choi conducted an empirical analysis of how recipient-specific information hinders or promotes sponsorship in child sponsorship programs and explored sponsorship organizations’ optimal “inventory” strategies using a simple theoretical model. Choi also holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Princeton University.
“At the Climate Impact Lab and the coastal impacts team, I am learning something new each day, whether in economics, climate science, computer science, or more. There is so much ground to cover, but I am glad to have senior and peer researchers to count on, along with other great EPIC pre-docs. Through regular contributions to on-going projects and diverse learning opportunities at EPIC and the Climate Impact Lab, I am genuinely excited about the prospect of myself developing as a researcher well-versed in various methodologies and techniques in economic and climate science research.”
Delgerzaya Delgerjargal is a Pre-doctoral Fellow in the Climate Impact Lab at EPIC. Her research focuses on quantifying the impact of climate change on the global agricultural sector. She earned her bachelor’s degree in environmental studies and economics from University of Washington in 2019. As an undergraduate student, Delgerzaya studied nesting behaviors of the Mongolian ground jay—an endangered bird species in Mongolia, and for her senior capstone project, she worked with NOAA’s dynamic ensemble model to protect blue whales from ship strikes by predicting whale distributions 30 days in advance. She hopes to give better protection to the environment using economic tools, so that healthy environment and human society can coexist for many more generations.
“As an environmental studies major, I believe that the environment has its own intrinsic value, and therefore the right thing to do is to respect and protect it, popular economic perspectives notwithstanding. Sadly, however, many sustainable options aren’t available to those who want to give better protection to the environment. And to me, economics has been one powerful field of study that has the power to change the system from the top to the bottom by influencing decision makers through data and evidence. What the decision makers will make really depends on how true and good the story we are able to tell from the data. And that is what I am trying to contribute to as a predoctoral fellow in the Climate Impact Lab.”
BA Economics (New Economic School and Higher School of Economics)
Faculty Supervisor: Amir Jina
Alina Gafanova is a pre-doctoral fellow at EPIC working with Harris Public Policy Assistant Professor Amir Jina. She earned a bachelor’s in Economics at New Economic School (Moscow, Russia), where she worked as a research assistant on oil industry topics. Her current interests encompass the intersection of economics and environment, specifically health issues related to poor environmental conditions and climate change. Gafanova’s bachelor thesis focused on how vulnerable Russia may be to the rise of vector-borne infections due to the variations in climate. Prior to her economic research, she worked and interned in various industries: management consulting, pharmaceuticals, and urban development projects. This well-rounded experience gives her a deeper understanding of the real-world problems and will assist her in conducting applied research in the future.
“Due to pandemic, I am joining EPIC from my home in Russia, but the team does everything possible to expose me to all the amazing opportunities: from attending UChicago seminars to learning new coding skills during orientation sessions. My main motivation behind becoming an EPIC predoctoral fellow was to be surrounded by people who study issues which I personally find the most pressing. That’s why I am so delighted to work with my PI, Amir Jina, who now helps me to see the frontier of interdisciplinary research between economics and climate science.”
Iván Higuera is a pre-doctoral fellow at the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC). He works under the supervision of Steve Cicala, assistant professor at the UChicago Harris School of Public Policy, exploring the behavior of energy markets and the impacts of energy regulation on population welfare and health. Before joining EPIC, Iván was a research fellow at the Center for Data Science and Public Policy (DSaPP) at the Department of Computer Science at UChicago, where he contributed to the deployment of machine learning models applied to health and criminal justice. Iván was also an economist at the Central Bank of Colombia’s Research Unit, where he researched deforestation and protected areas policy. He holds a bachelor’s in economics and political science from Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia.
B.A., Economics with Specialization in Data Science (UChicago)
Faculty Supervisor: Michael Greenstone
Kei Irizawa is a pre-doctoral fellow at EPIC working for Director Michael Greenstone on energy and environmental economics projects. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Economics with specialization in Data Science from the University of Chicago in 2020. He wrote an honors thesis that considers the future of monetary policy through a two-country economy model with national currency and global (crypto) currency as imperfect substitutes in providing liquidity services. His research interests are in macroeconomics, microeconometrics, environmental economics, and computational economics.
“There are three reasons why I chose EPIC. First, EPIC has an ideal working environment that brings out the best in us. Second, Dr. Greenstone highly values the capacity development of pre-doctoral fellows. Third, EPIC conducts cutting-edge economic research that addresses the most important global theme: energy and environmental challenges. I hope to further expand my passion for economic research through my valuable experience at EPIC.”
B.A. in Economics (Tohoku)
Faculty Supervisor: Koichiro Ito
Keisuke Ito is a pre-doctoral fellow at EPIC, working with Koichiro Ito, an associate professor at the Harris School of Public Policy, on research topics ranging from the effects of India’s car tax policy on air pollution, safety, market competition, and welfare to the relationship between ozone monitoring and strategic fuel switching of U.S. Midwest power plants. Ito initially became interested in environmental and energy economics after he experienced the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and power outages caused by the Fukushima nuclear accident. Besides energy and the environment, he has always been interested in the consequences of policy such as tax and social welfare policies for income inequality and equality of opportunity, and statistical tools for analyzing public policy. Ito graduated from Tohoku university with a major in Economics and spent a year abroad at UC Berkeley where he studied machine learning and causal inference in the Statistics department.
“One of the reasons I started studying Economics was because I was deeply impressed by a book written by my PI, Koichiro Ito. Now, I greatly appreciate the opportunity to work with him and I am especially excited to be directly involved in the process of cutting-edge research where I look to tackle real world social problems by applying statistical methods.”
Simoni Jain, who is a Masters of Arts in Public Policy with Certification in Research Methods, spent her summer with Harris assistant professor Fiona Burling creating a large-scale panel dataset on Indian industrial firms to study the long-term effects of infrastructural changes on the firms. The most important step for empirical research is preparing the data for analysis and through her work of cleaning and matching datasets, Jain learned about important tools and techniques for data-cleaning and managing large-scale datasets for secondary research.
Jain had the opportunity to hone her coding skills, try new methods, and seek guidance from Burlig when needed.
“I am looking to pursue a full-time research assistant position after graduating from Harris. This opportunity has helped me further my skill set in data analysis and research tasks, thus preparing me better for my short- and long-term plans of pursuing empirical economic research. Most importantly, it has given me a flavor of what the experience of pursuing my own research project would look like.”
BA Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences (Northwestern)
Faculty Supervisor: Koichiro Ito
Tianyu Luo is a pre-doctoral fellow at EPIC. He is working with Harris Public Policy Associate Professor Koichiro Ito on the effect of policy and infrastructure change in the Chilean electricity market. He graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences. He became interested in energy in an undergraduate class on environmental economics, where he learned about externality, emission regulation, and the health and economic impact of pollution. While at Northwestern, he also helped with evaluating the outcome of educational and career interventions that targeted parents with low-income and their children.
“EPIC offers me opportunities to work with faculty whose research interests coincide with mine. I look forward to learning the details of doing empirical work and getting to know the staff and RAs at EPIC. I thank them for having helped me get onboard smoothly under these difficult circumstances.”
BSc Economics (Warwick); MA Public Policy and Development (Paris School of Economics)
Faculty Supervisor: Fiona Burlig
Ucindami Mafeni is a pre-doctoral fellow at EPIC, working for Harris Assistant Professor Fiona Burlig to study how farmers in California — one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions — respond to environmental regulations aimed at reducing underground aquifer depletion. He earned a bachelor’s in economics from the University of Warwick in 2018 and a Master’s in Applied Economics with a major in Public Policy and Development from the Paris School of Economics in 2020. He wrote his undergraduate thesis on female economic empowerment in developing countries, and his master’s thesis on affirmative action in higher education in Malawi. Mafeni’s interests include economic development and public policy, and how both can be adapted to take the environment into account.
“After looking at some of the projects which the lead researchers were undertaking, I was drawn to the idea that the work which I would be involved in during my pre-doc would be both interesting and beneficial to society. Furthermore, I believed that it would serve as ideal preparation for the PhD which I intended to pursue immediately after the pre-doc. Finally, during the interview process I was convinced that a pre-doc at EPIC would let me into a tightly knit and supportive community of mentors and colleagues, all of whom would help bring out the best in me as researcher. Now that I am part of the team, I can honestly say that those pre-conceptions were 100% correct.”
BA Economics (Mount Holyoke); Master of Public Policy (Georgetown)
Faculty Supervisor: Climate Impact Lab, Michael Greenstone
Odiche Nwabuikwu is a pre-doctoral fellow at EPIC. She works under the supervision of Director Michael Greenstone, on a variety of energy and environmental economics projects. Before joining EPIC, Nwabuikwu was a research assistant at the Georgetown University Initiative on Innovation, Development and Evaluation, where she contributed to education policy research in East Africa. She holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Mount Holyoke College and a Public Policy Master’s degree from Georgetown University.
“Working as a fellow at EPIC has shown me that climate conditions are important to consider when designing social policies. I look forward to learning more about the mechanisms through which climate affects our wellbeing.”
Ian Pitman is a Pre-Doctoral Fellow at EPIC, working for Director Michael Greenstone on projects that aim to combat air pollution and overfishing, among other environmental concerns. He earned a bachelor’s in economics and mathematics from the University of Chicago in 2019. In his fourth year at the university, he wrote an honors thesis in which he proposed a data-adaptive method of choosing optimal bandwidths for matching estimators. Ian’s interests include the use of machine learning in econometrics, especially as it relates to environmental and energy policy.
“As a predoctoral fellow, I’ve had the opportunity to work on projects that further our understanding of the health impacts of pollution and the ecological impacts of overfishing. It’s exciting to see the research I’ve contributed to translate into policies that tackle these complex issues.”
Alice Schmitz is a Pre-Doctoral Fellow with the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago and works for Director Michael Greenstone on a variety of energy and environmental economics projects. She graduated from the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor with a major in Economics and a minor in Double Bass Performance. While at Michigan, Alice worked on research teams studying public education; race, gender and technology; and juvenile sentencing. In addition to climate change issues, her research interests include the economics of mass incarceration and immigration.
“As a fellow at EPIC, I have the opportunity to experience first-hand how economics can be used to address pressing climate and humanitarian issues. I am excited to work with a variety of experts and peers to conduct intentional research whose impact can reach beyond academic circles and contribute to a deeper understanding of energy and the environment.”
B.S. Mathematics and Economics (University of California, Santa Barbara)
Faculty Supervisor: Fiona Burlig
Garrison is a pre-doctoral fellow at EPIC working for Harris Assistant Professor Fiona Burlig and her colleagues on a variety of energy and development economics projects. He earned bachelor’s degrees in economics and mathematics from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2018. While at Santa Barbara, Garrison coauthored The Path to an Economics PhD with Dick Startz and worked on several research teams studying health incentives, gender disparities in hiring, and educational inequality. After graduating, he taught secondary mathematics in an underserved community in his native Sacramento. During this time, he became deeply interested in addressing inequality on a large scale through economic research, especially as it relates to energy and environmental policy.
“I chose EPIC, and Fiona specifically, because I was really interested in working at the intersection of climate and development economics, and because I felt like I would make great friends with the other pre-docs. I majored in Math and Economics at UCSB and taught secondary math in an underserved community after graduating. Right now, I am excited to work with Fiona on projects involving migrant workers in India and COVID-19.”
BA International Economics (University of British Columbia)
Faculty Supervisor: Climate Impact Lab, Michael Greenstone
Kit Schwarz is a pre-doctoral fellow working at the Climate Impact Lab. She earned a Bachelor of International Economics from the University of British Columbia. Prior to joining CIL, Kit was a research assistant at Pragati Abhiyan, studying the effect of commercial dairies on pastoral groups and the effectiveness of yield-improvement techniques for millet farmers. She also spent six months working in the Moria refugee camp in Lesvos, Greece. Her research interests lie in the fields of development, environment, and humanitarian aid.
“Growing up in beautiful British Columbia gave me a deep respect for the incredible natural world that sustains us as a species. I see my work at the Climate Impact Lab as a great opportunity to use my skills as a budding economist to better understand our dependence on the environment, and to help set policy that maximizes human welfare both today and in the future.”
B.Sc.(Research) Economics (Shiv Nadar); Masters of Arts in International and Development Economics (Yale)
Faculty Supervisor: Climate Impact Lab, Michael Greenstone
Nishka Sharma is a pre-doctoral fellow at EPIC, where she works with the Climate Impact Lab, a multi-institution, multidisciplinary research group co-led by EPIC Director Michael Greenstone that works to quantify the impact of climate change. She earned her master’s in International and Development Economics from Yale University and a bachelor’s in economics from Shiv Nadar University in India. In the past, Nishka worked as a researcher at the Indian School of Business in India on projects that empirically evaluated the impact of digital identity in social welfare programs. Her current research interests lie broadly in the intersection of environmental and development economics including social impacts of climate change, and how adaptation to climate change can be made more accessible.
“I wish to work towards quantifying the impact of challenges due to climate change in harmony with economic development. I am excited to work with my peers and the experts at the Climate Impact Lab to pursue that goal and contribute to developing scientific strategies to mitigate them. I also look forward to making the most of the learning opportunities that CIL, EPIC, and UChicago have to offer.”
B.S. in Economics and Mathematics (Michigan)
Faculty Supervisor: Michael Greenstone
Jared Stolove is a pre-doctoral fellow on EPIC Director Michael Greenstone’s research team. He works on a variety of projects in energy and environmental economics, including the enforcement of pollution regulations, the electrification of rural areas in India, and the social cost of carbon. Aside from his work at EPIC, Stolove has researched behavioral interventions to combat HIV in Mozambique, the distributional consequences of the Affordable Care Act, and the effects of trade liberalization on U.S. and Mexican labor markets. Stolove graduated from the University of Michigan with majors in Economics and Mathematics.
“EPIC stood out to me not only as a place to do cutting-edge research with clear policy impact, but also as a uniquely supportive, collaborative and friendly community. Both the faculty and the other fellows have really impressed me with their openness and willingness to help me grow as a researcher.”
Emile is a pre-doctoral fellow with EPIC, working with the Climate Impact Lab on estimating the impact of the future climate, as projected by climate scientists, on the economy. His background training is economics. In the past, Emile worked as an intern at the Energy and Prosperity Chair in Paris on a research project that aimed to empirically evaluate the welfare impacts of rural electrification in Rwanda. He also worked as a research assistant at Sciences-Po Paris on identifying the causal effect of Airbnb on rents in European cities.
“As time goes, I’m becoming more and more aware of the climate risks for society. I hope to contribute by identifying these threats with my research. I believe the Climate Impact Lab is a place where I can have such an impact.”
Lixi Wang is a Pre-Doctoral Research Fellow at EPIC. A fun fact about him is that Lixi did not know that US is the largest gas and oil production country over the world until his interview. Nevertheless, he found himself a new interest in the fossil fuel production, and currently works with Prof. Ryan Kellogg and Prof. Thomas Covert on topics in energy economics focused on the oil and gas industry. Lixi was born and raised in Beijing, China, and prior to joining EPIC, he conducted researches in math department in Brandeis University and earned his B.A. in Economics and Mathematics. Lixi would like to pursue a PhD in Economics in the future.
“I look forward to working on research related to gas and oil production, which is something I have never dealt with previously. Both of my PIs, Thom and Ryan, are really knowledgeable in this industry and they have been extremely patient with my learning curve on this new subject. Working with them helps me shape my future research interest. Current EPIC RAs, staffs and EPIC alumni have been helpful since the day I got admitted to EPIC and they make my transition as smooth as silk. I am also excited for all the learning opportunities like Lunch & Learn, seminars, workshops and graduate classes that EPIC, the Econ Dept and the entire UChicago offer.”
Bachelor of Arts in Financial Economics, Guanghua School of Management; Bachelor of Science in Applied Mathematics, School of Mathematical Sciences (Peking)
Faculty Supervisor: Michael Greenstone
Jinglin Yang is a pre-doctoral fellow at EPIC, working for Professor Michael Greenstone on a variety of environmental economics projects, such as the value of statistical life and the health impact of climate change. She holds a bachelor’s in economics and applied mathematics from Peking University in 2019 and a master’s in social science with a concentration in economics from University of Chicago in 2020. Jinglin’s interest is in environmental economics, with a particular attention to developing countries, especially her home country of China.
“I was born in a small county where there is clean air, blue sky, but bad economic performance. On the other hand, while I studied in Beijing, there was severe air pollution and murky sky, but good economic performance. It made me begin to reflect on whether environmental pollution is inevitable for economic development and which policy would be effective and efficient for developing countries. I believe EPIC would be an ideal place where I could further my understanding of these issues. At EPIC, I am excited about working on research on environmental issues, with particular attention to developing countries, such as the health impact of climate change and people’s valuation about their life. Moreover, I enjoy working in the warm and friendly atmosphere at EPIC.”
Claire Qing Fan
Placement: PhD Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of California, Davis
Laura Alcocer was a Pre-Doctoral Fellow with the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC). She worked primarily with the Climate Impact Lab, a multi-organization, multidisciplinary research group co-led by EPIC Director Michael Greenstone that works to calculate the social impacts of climate change. Laura previously worked as a consultant at Energea, a consulting firm that specializes in energy project development in Mexico, assisting in the restructuring of a government agency in charge of regulating industrial safety and environmental protection in the Mexican hydrocarbons sector. She earned her bachelor’s in economics from Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México and a master’s in economics from The University of Texas at Austin. Laura is broadly interested in environmental and energy policy and industrial organization.
“It’s been a really enriching experience to work with people that are so knowledgeable in the subject, and I honestly could not have imagined the technological tools we use for our models. That’s amazing to me. I’ve also been developing a new way of thinking about things, a mindset for approaching the research process.”
Placement: PhD Public Policy, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs
Tom Bearpark was a Pre-Doctoral Fellow with the Climate Impact Lab (CIL), a multidisciplinary team of researchers from EPIC, the University of California, Berkeley, Rutgers University and Rhodium Group. His work primarily focused on quantifying the effects of climate change on conflict and migration patterns. Before joining EPIC, Tom earned a master’s degree in Economic Research at the University of Cambridge and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and economics from the London School of Economics. He also spent two years working as an economist in the United Kingdom’s energy regulator, the Office for Gas and Electricity Markets; during that time he also spent three months in Brussels working for the European Union’s energy regulators. Tom’s research interests are in policy analysis and the role of climate change in economic development.
Coming from Singapore, a country that has historically relied on Malaysia for much of its water supply, Trinetta Chong understands the problems that accompany limited natural resources.
“Trying to achieve self-sustainability in our water supply means turning to alternative sources such as desalination and wastewater reclamation,” Trinetta explained. “While these technologies help to supplement our water supply, they consume very high amounts of energy.”
This presents a challenge for Singapore and countries like it around the world that are trying to both meet its water demands and limit energy consumption. The dilemma motivated Trinetta’s interests in environmental policy topics, such as the energy-water nexus, green initiatives and sustainable development.
After studying communications at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and obtaining a Masters of Public Policy from the Goldman School at the University of California Berkeley, Trinetta worked with the International Food Policy Research Institute. There, she examined the impact of weather shocks on nutrition in Bangladesh.
This experience added to Trinetta’s knowledge on climate change and prepared her well for her Pre-Doctoral Fellowship at EPIC, where she is working primarily on the Social Cost of Carbon project with Michael Greenstone.
“My past experience relates well to the Social Cost of Carbon project, which demonstrates the economic and social impacts of weather variation on various sectors, and adds to a growing body of research that highlights the consequences of climate change,” she said.
While at EPIC, Trinetta looks forward to gaining experience with experts and further developing her skills in data manipulation and analysis within the field of energy and environment.
Placement: PhD Economics, Princeton | NSF Awardee
Growing up, Greg Dobbels recalls being immersed in the hard sciences. But his academic focus shifted slightly in college. While studying Government, he realized empiricism was important to him.
“I settled on economics as a field and theoretical framework to guide future pursuits,” he said.
As a Pre-Doctoral Fellow with EPIC, Greg worked on the Social Cost of Carbon project with Michael Greenstone, which aimed to contribute guidance to drive and inform energy and environmental policy. He is interested in answering questions that focus on what a changing climate actually means for the human existence, and specifically its effect on agricultural systems across the world.
“We are reasonably certain how the climate is changing, but are still building our understanding of how these changes will impact our everyday existence. Figuring that out has huge implications for how we try to adapt to a changing climate,” he said.
Over the years, Greg’s interests developed into a focus on the relationship of climate change and agriculture. Because food is a vital component of the human existence, it is important to understand how agriculture will be affected by a changing climate.
Climate and agriculture also has a big impact on developing countries like Uganda, where he has spent some time. After graduating from Cornell University, where he studied Government and Economics, he spent three years working for Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), a non-profit that evaluates the effectiveness of organizations that aim to provide solutions to global problems. This work brought him to Uganda, where he worked on projects evaluating programs that aimed to improve local governance and increase access to affordable healthcare for the rural poor.
While at EPIC, Greg looked forward to enriching his knowledge of climate change and policy work and aims to contribute to the meaningful research.
“Along the way, I hope to build my own understanding of the economic impacts of climate change, know where the gaps in our knowledge are, and learn the empirical tools needed to fill in those gaps,” he said. “A process I hope to continue to build on in graduate school.”
Placement: PhD Public Policy, Chicago Harris | NSF Awardee
Qing (Claire) Fan was a Pre-Doctoral Fellow with the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC), where she worked for Director Michael Greenstone on a variety of energy and environmental economics projects. She earned her bachelor’s in mathematics with a minor in economics in 2018 from Pomona College in California. While at Pomona, Claire conducted a field study on attitudes toward sustainable agriculture in farming communities in Punjab, India, and worked on research in applied mathematics and on the economics of social enterprise. Claire is interested in the intersection of environmental and development economics, including the social impacts of climate change, and food and agriculture.
Placement: PhD Economics, Chicago | NSF Honorable mention
Michael Galperin earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics and economics from UChicago. He worked for Michael Greenstone at EPIC for two years, and received an honorable mention for the NSF fellowship. While at EPIC, he contributed to research that analyzed the relationship between extremely hot days and the mortality rate in India. Additionally, he helped to create a new cost-benefit analysis model that could be used on environmental regulations by using the novel approach of adapting seemingly unrelated data on military reenlistment. Prior to coming to EPIC, Galperin interned at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and was a research assistant for Marianne Bertrand, the Chris P. Dialynas Professor of Economics at the UChicago Booth School of Business. He is most interested in questions of development and political economy as they relate to energy access, and his time at EPIC reinforced the idea that economic analysis and tools can be used to improve living condition for the world’s poor.
“In addition to being a part of a wonderful research community, my time at EPIC prepared me for rigorous research that requires independent thinking and initiative,” Galperin says. “I’m excited to apply the skills and tools I gained to dive deeper into ways to improve energy access throughout the world.”
Placement: MA City Planning, Berkeley
Before becoming a Pre-Doctoral Fellow with EPIC, Brian attended Georgetown University for his undergraduate degree. At Georgetown, Brian entered the School of Foreign Service, where he completed his major in International Economics. He has strong interests in transit-oriented development in cities and energy as it relates to transportation.
“While electric cars are one alternative possibility to combustion engines, I believe structural changes in cities, such as relaxing zoning regulations, are just as important. Dense cities are environmentally-friendly cities.”
At EPIC, Brian worked on three main projects. In one, he gathered data for a working paper that uses underground geological characteristics to determine the local economic impacts of fracking. The other two projects focused on energy efficiency programs.
While he’s attracted to “the sheer gravitas of energy problems,” Brian has always had a broad interest in public policy. To him, policy and energy problems intertwine.
“Something that I had not fully appreciated before coming here was that although technological innovation will play an enormous role in climate change mitigation, the right energy policies can have massive cost implications in the meantime.”
There are two major qualities about EPIC that drew Brian in: a world-class group of researchers on energy and the environment and its uniqueness where researchers strive to write informative papers for policy-makers.
“Although a lot of institutions do this, I believe EPIC is a leader in this pack.”
He hoped to learn a lot about the research process and to explore his own research interests in greater depth. Particularly, he says: “I would like to continue exploring the development of walkable cities and its potential impact on climate change.”
While a Pre-Doctoral fellow at EPIC, Radhika worked on the Social Cost of Carbon project which is aimed at providing a global assessment of climate change impacts.
Prior to joining the University of Chicago, Radhika was a research analyst at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC where she conducted research on fiscal policy, agriculture, and political economy for Sub-Saharan Africa. Previously, she worked for the International Growth Centre (directed by London School of Economics and University of Oxford) in the Rwanda and Oxford offices where her research focused on a range of themes including public finance, education, poverty, urbanization and agriculture. She has also consulted for the World Bank and Oxford Policy Management and engaged in fieldwork across Africa and southeast Asia.
Radhika holds an MSc in Economics for Development and a BA in Economics and Management from the University of Oxford and was a Ministry of Education (Singapore) Agency for Science, Technology and Research scholar.
Placement: PhD Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of California, Berkeley
Simon Greenhill was a Pre-Doctoral Fellow at the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, where he was a member of the Climate Impact Lab (CIL), a multi-institution collaboration seeking to measure the social cost of carbon. At CIL, Simon primarily studied how climate change will affect human migration. He earned his bachelor’s degrees in economics and Arabic from the University of California, Berkeley. While at Berkeley, Simon contributed to research on the labor market effects of the Syrian refugee crisis in neighboring countries and spent a semester studying in Amman, Jordan. He is broadly interested in economic questions at the intersection of energy, climate change and development.
Placement: PhD Economics, Chicago
Faraz was a Pre-Doctoral fellow with EPIC, interested in energy and fossil fuel consumption in developing countries. He worked on several different projects, including one study that focused on the economic impacts of hydraulic fracturing in U.S. counties, and another on China’s Huai River policy.
Before coming to EPIC, Faraz received his undergraduate degree from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, where he studied Math and Economics. At the time, his research was focused more on economic theory and development economics, but growing up in Pakistan he was always very well aware of pollution and energy crises. It was his childhood there that later served as a motivation for studying energy topics and finding “a solution to the energy problems of developing countries.”
Given his interest in energy economics, Faraz decided to join EPIC in order to work closely with Michael Greenstone and other researchers with similar interests. While here, he hoped to learn more technical skills, such as writing code for a research project. “Getting firsthand experience on how research is conducted is also a big plus and will help me when I attend graduate school.”
Placement: PhD Public Policy, Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs
Dylan Hogan was a Pre-Doctoral Fellow with the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC), where he worked primarily with the Climate Impact Lab, a multi-organization, multidisciplinary research group co-led by EPIC Director Michael Greenstone that works to calculate the social impacts of climate change. Prior to joining EPIC, Dylan worked for several years as an economic consultant at NERA Economic Consulting, advising clients in the energy sector on environmental and economic issues. As an undergraduate research assistant at Brown University, he contributed to research in education and development economics. His current research interests lie broadly in environmental policy and international development. Dylan has a bachelor’s in applied mathematics and economics from Brown.
Azhar Hussain’s evolving interest in energy and environmental topics grew as a Research Associate at the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), a network of affiliated professors from 49 universities whose mission is to reduce poverty by ensuring that policy is informed by scientific evidence.
At J-PAL, he was exposed to energy access and accounting problems faced in India through his work on the Light Up Bihar study, which focused on improving the revenue parameters and checking commercial losses incurred by the Power Distribution Companies in Bihar. His short-term projects with other prominent development economists including Jean Dreze helped him understand the importance of economics in day-to-day life. In addition, his previous internship with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) enriched his understanding of the environmental impact of over-utilization of natural resources.
“All these rich experiences and my love for economics learning encouraged me to take up a research career, which I hope to nourish with time” he said.
As a Pre-Doctoral Fellow at EPIC, Azhar worked on the Social Cost of Carbon project with Michael Greenstone. His interest include studying the impact of energy usage on environment. He aims to monetize the environmental impacts on different sectors such as labor, agriculture, etc., and link that to macroeconomic parameters like GDP.
During his time at EPIC, he intended to improve his research capabilities, especially as they relate to energy and environmental economics. He also hoped to take economics courses offered by the University of Chicago.
Placement: PhD Economics, LSE
When Ananya Kotia was 16 and living in Delhi, the Indian economy took off. With it went his interest in economics.
“My impression of the Indian economy at the time was largely shaped by the discourse around development and poverty alleviation” Kotia said. “Suddenly, I discovered macroeconomics and finance.”
That interest has taken Kotia from Cambridge and Oxford universities to the International Monetary Fund, India’s Ministry of Finance, and, now, EPIC.
Kotia worked for EPIC director Michael Greenstone on a variety of environmental and energy economics projects, such as determining the effectiveness of marine sanctuaries around the world and estimating the demand of grid and solar electricity in Bihar, one of India’s poorest states. Greenstone’s focus on India and China on a diverse range of issues caught Kotia’s attention.
“His focus on energy and environment policy in India and China is somewhat unique” Kotia said of Greenstone. “My primary motivation is to use economics to answer interesting questions about India, whether social or political or economic,” he said.
Kotia, who was born in Jaipur, the capital of the Indian state of Rajasthan, earned his bachelor’s in economics at Delhi and Cambridge universities and an MPhil in economics from Oxford.
He moved around India with his family a lot growing up because of his father, a career civil servant. Inspired to follow in his father’s footsteps, Kotia then returned home to Delhi (he had spent the most time there, nine years, of any part of India) for a job with the Ministry of Finance. There he worked on fiscal rules for eight months, and then for the chief economic adviser on the annual Economic Survey.
After seeing the execution of economic policy through the government from close quarters, Kotia was ready to return to academia and joined EPIC in September 2017.
“While I had never worked on environmental economics before,” he said, “the approach of using quasi-experimental econometrics to answer policy questions was familiar, and it is exciting to be a part of the process with [Professor Greenstone] of extending this rigorous approach to questions regarding energy and the environment.”
Placement: PhD Public Policy, Michigan
Theo was a Pre-Doctoral Fellow with EPIC and primarily worked on the Social Cost of Carbon project. When it comes to his research, Theo’s interested in making the representation of energy systems and energy use in Integrated Assessment Models more realistic and useful.
“These tools are a key component of our ability to think about national and global energy policy issues.”
Before coming to EPIC, Theo completed his Master of Science in Environmental Science and Policy (MSESP) degree at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and a BS mechanical engineering from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. In addition to pursuing his master’s degree, Theo lived in Cairo, Egypt for three years where he worked as a project manager at an environmental consulting firm.
A conversation Theo had with a high school physics teacher originally spurred his interest in the causes and implications of climate change, and therefore, energy topics. As a result, Theo took undergraduate courses while at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign on many of the technical aspects of energy use and recognized he was interested in questions about the impact of energy use on society.
Having participated in the James Bartlett Fellowship Program, Theo is already familiar with “a lot of the great researchers and exciting research being done” at EPIC.
Placement: PhD Economics, University of Pennsylvania
Chinmay Lohani was a Pre-Doctoral Fellow with the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC), where he worked with Fiona Burlig, assistant professor at Harris Public Policy, on research topics at the intersection of energy and development. His research interests are in industrial organization, economic theory and econometrics. Chinmay has a master’s in economics and mathematical economics from the London School of Economics and a bachelor’s in mathematics from the Indian Institute of Science.
Placement: PhD Economics, University of Chicago | NSF Honorable mention
Originally from Bellevue, Washington, Nadia Lucas moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts to study computer science at MIT. However, once she took her first economics class, she quickly became enamored with analyzing human behavior from a mathematical perspective. She switched her focus while at MIT and began taking every opportunity she could to be involved in economics research. This led Lucas to a pre-doctoral fellowship at EPIC upon graduation. For the past two years, she was exposed to policy-relevant economics research, working for Ryan Kellogg in analyzing the U.S. fracking industry. In beginning her PhD, she remains interested in conducting research in the economics of energy and environmental policy. Specifically, she is interested in looking at energy and environmental policy through the lens of sustainable growth of industries and firms on a microeconomic level. She believes these questions are particularly relevant within the setting of the developing world.
“EPIC is an amazing place because of the range of researchers, both at every level of academia, and focused in almost every subtopic in energy and environmental economics. Being a DRW Fellow, I hope to become a researcher who also contributes important work to this field, and I am confident that I can find the support I need to do so given how many accomplished researchers there already are at EPIC.”
Placement: PhD Economics, MIT | NSF Awardee
Vishan Nigam was a Pre-Doctoral Fellow on EPIC Director Michael Greenstone’s research team, assisting with topics ranging from market failures in Indian electricity provision to farmer crop choice in the United States. Vishan became interested in sustainable development after a summer spent studying decentralized water provision in New Delhi. Aside from energy and the environment, he has related interests in the economics of immigration, conflict and racial discrimination. Vishan graduated from Princeton University, where he majored in Economics with minors in Spanish and in statistics and machine learning.
Placement: PhD Public Policy, Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs
Maya Norman was a Pre-Doctoral Fellow working with the Climate Impact Lab, a multi-organization, multidisciplinary research group co-led by EPIC Director Michael Greenstone that works to calculate the social impacts of climate change, where she primarily worked on calculating the impact of energy consumption on climate change. Before joining EPIC, Maya was a research intern with Earth Economics, where she assisted with the benefit-cost analysis of navigation expansion project on the Upper Mississippi River. As an undergraduate Maya studied how to optimize trash production levels and the role of aquaculture in alleviating policy tensions surrounding Maine fisheries. She is broadly interested in the intersection between natural systems and human infrastructure as well as how policy can better optimize resource use. Maya has a bachelor’s in economics from Bowdoin College.
Bridget Pals is a Research Assistant at the Urban Energy & Environment Lab at the University of Chicago. She is passionate about environmental issues and is particularly interested in increasing the sustainability of the urban environment and in alleviating the impacts of climate change. Previously, Bridget worked with a community development bank that strives to provide financial services to unbanked and underbanked individuals on Chicago’s south and west sides. She received her BA from the University of Chicago in Physics and Economics.
Placement: PhD Agricultural and Resource Economics, Berkeley
As a Pre-Doctoral Fellow with EPIC, Sébastien worked on the Social Cost of Carbon project with Michael Greenstone. His research explored the impact of global warming on the economy, including labor productivity, mortality rate, and agriculture yields, among other economic factors.
Sébastien received his B.A. in Economics from Ecole Normale Supérieure, in his home country of France, and an M.A. in Energy and Environmental Economics from Université Paris-Dauphine. Prior to joining EPIC, he worked on assessing the impact of intermittent renewable energies on electricity prices as a research assistant at the Chaire European Electricity Markets.
In 2014, he continued his research on electricity prices as a research assistant for Steve Cicala. In between his two academic research experiences, Sébastien worked on several projects related to energy markets regulation at Compass Lexecon, an economic consulting company.
“I am mostly interested in the electricity market because it has been and continues to be subject to a lot of innovations, like renewable energy, electricity storage, smart network and smart meters, and demand side management,” he said.
As an undergraduate, Sébastien had a growing interest for studying energy topics after realizing the energy industry can have the highest negative effects on the environment. His B.A. thesis at the Ecole Normale Superieure focused on the impact of environmental regulations on firm relocation, demonstrating how energy companies cannot easily be relocated in countries with low environmental standards, forcing them instead to adapt and innovate.
With an understanding of the intersection between the environment and energy industries, Sebastian was excited to have joined EPIC.
“EPIC is a quite new laboratory but is growing very fast and it is full of talented people, and I wanted to be a part of it,” he said.
Sébastien looked forward to working closely with faculty and staff while exploring research in energy topics.
“People are close to each other and easy to talk to,” he said. “I know that I will learn from their experiences, both in terms of academic skills and on a personal level.”
Placement: PhD Economics, Northwestern | NSF Awardee
Johanna Rayl, who in addition to the DRW Fellowship also received a prestigious fellowship from the National Science Foundation (NSF), worked for EPIC for two years as a pre-doctoral fellow for Michael Greenstone. During that time, she focused on projects analyzing the adoption rate of solar-powered microgrids in India and the effectiveness of energy efficiency policies. For the latter, she helped oversee the rollout of an experiment with Baltimore Gas & Electric. Prior to working with EPIC, Rayl researched water markets in Chile as an intern for Resources for the Future. She received her bachelor’s degree in environmental analysis from Pomona College.
“EPIC has provided me with a very clear sense of the important energy questions that need answering, as well as with incredibly valuable connections to the broader energy and environment research community at UChicago,” says Rayl. “I’m grateful for the support this fellowship provides me as I continue my economic studies.”
Placement: PhD Economics, Chicago | NSF Awardee
Harshil Sahai, is a doctoral candidate in economics. Sahai is exploring the effects of extreme temperatures on educational outcomes so as to gain insight on how climate change can impact a country’s growth and development. Specifically, he is studying the impact of temperature on school test scores and enrollment, while seeing if access to reliable electricity and credit can cushion the effect. Having conducted deep quantitative analysis through research assistantships with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Federal Reserve Bank and Credit Suisse Securities, and volunteered in teaching children from low-income areas of Pennsylvania, China and India, Sahai’s background combines his passions for economics, mathematics and societal improvement. He holds a bachelors degree in mathematics and economics from Swarthmore College.
As a pre-doctoral fellow, Harshil worked closely with EPIC Director Michael Greenstone.
“In working with EPIC as a pre-doctoral fellow over the last two years, I’ve learned that I can make the greatest impact on the world through a dispassionate, careful, and quantitative examination of our biggest challenges,” says Sahai. “In addition to gaining a greater understanding of the research process and general economic behavior, I hope this fellowship will provide me with the tools and acumen to understand global issues in a way that I can make a difference.”
Placement: PhD Economics, MIT | NSF Awardee
Patrick Schwarz looked forward to greater exposure to the world of academic research during his Pre-Doctoral Fellowship at EPIC.
He decided to join the team of researchers at EPIC because of his interest in applied microeconomics, with a specific interest in energy.
“I felt that working in the context of energy and the environment is incredibly rewarding,” he explained. “Much of the research we do here has direct policy implications, and requires a multi-faceted approach to finding the best answer to complex problems.”
He worked with Michael Greenstone on a variety of projects. One involved analyzing the effect of pollution exposure on human capital in China.
Prior to coming to the University of Chicago, Patrick spent a year working in economic consulting. He graduated from Swarthmore College with a degree in Math and Economics.
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.”
Placement: PhD Economics, University of Wisconsin
Despite being from Houston, Texas, the so-called ‘energy capital of America,’ Andrew Smith hadn’t been all that interested in energy—or economics, for that matter. Smith, who worked for Harris Public Policy Assistant Professor Koichiro Ito, chose economics for a major “on a whim” before enrolling at Texas A&M University.
“Eventually, I realized that whim turned into something great,” Smith said, as he realized that economics is his true calling. He plans to pursue a PhD in economics and would like to become a professor.
“There’s a social [policy] aspect to it that you can answer in a pretty mathematical way,” Smith said. “There are ways to actually measure how people react to certain policies – to actually sniff that out and figure out why things happen in the framework that is economics is pretty cool.”
Before deciding he wanted to go all-in on economics, Smith had to be cajoled by a friend into taking an internship at the Council of Economic Advisors (CEA), a research body within the Executive Office of the President that reports directly to the president. He said that after a couple of interviews he realized the opportunity in front of him, and took the spring semester of his junior year off from school to conduct research at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, adjacent to the West Wing.
Within economics, Smith’s primary areas of interest are in labor and education, which he focused on at CEA. Upon returning to Texas A&M for his senior year, he decided to pursue research assistant opportunities, and his economics professors steered him toward EPIC.
“I didn’t really touch energy because I didn’t really know anything about it,” Smith said. “I still have a lot to learn, but I definitely have a greater appreciation for it now that I work here.”
Smith researched how consumers respond to price changes in energy markets for Ito. Smith said the irony of finally beginning to research energy at UChicago after attending the same university that trained the late hydraulic fracturing pioneer George Mitchell is not lost on him.
“The amount of care and rigor associated with this research makes me, one, appreciate what I’m going to eventually become part of,” Smith said. “Two, something I wasn’t originally interested in, energy economics, is definitely now a possibility for me as I go into graduate school.”
Placement: PhD Public Policy, Chicago Harris
Yuqi Song is a 3rd year PhD student at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy. Her research interest lies with environmental, energy and climate economics. She is currently working on projects related to the effects of energy policies and the impacts of advancing forecast technology in China. Before entering Harris, she worked as a Pre-Doctoral Fellow at the Energy Policy Institute at Chicago, and earned an MBA at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business with a focus on finance. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Economics from MIT.
“When I came to EPIC, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue pursuing a career in academic research or go work in industry,” Song says. “Working at EPIC helped me see how truly valuable academic research can be if we work to make it part of policy conversations. I’m excited to now continue researching the economics of pollution and climate change, which have such a profound impact on human life.”
Placement: PhD Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy | NSF Awardee
As a Pre-Doctoral Fellow with EPIC, Dan was interested in policy issues that combine economics and the natural sciences. He received his undergraduate degree with Honors in Economics from Swarthmore College. Though his undergraduate studies did not specifically focus on environmental/energy economics, he was interested in “high-stakes public policy issues that require multiple disciplines,” such as global warming.
Before coming to Chicago, Dan worked as a research assistant with Michael Greenstone at MIT. He has since worked on a variety of papers and topics concerning environmental and energy economics. In one project, he calculated the gains in life expectancy due to the passage of the Clean Air Act in 1970. In another project, he estimated the carbon potential of fossil fuel reserves and the associated impact on global temperatures.
“All of this research has huge policy relevance – that’s one of the best parts of working at EPIC,” Dan said.
Dan had also taken graduate courses at UChicago in preparation for his own research career.
“It’s been great to combine classes with my research for EPIC. I’ve been totally immersed in cutting-edge research, between the graduate classes, weekly seminars, and projects for EPIC.”
Moving forward, Dan hoped to learn much more about the research process and continue to explore his own research interests.
Placement: PhD Economics, University of Chicago Booth School of Business | NSF Honorable mention
Yixin Sun graduated with a BA in Economic-Statistics from Columbia University. She then went on to work as a pre-doctoral fellow at EPIC, where she has worked for the last three years. While at EPIC, Yixin primarily worked with Thomas Covert, examining the impacts of investment decisions in the fracking business. She has also worked with Fiona Burlig, analyzing the effects of a large-scale rural electrification project in India. Yixin hopes to pursue research at the intersection of development and environmental economics while a PhD student at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.
“EPIC is a unique hub for interdisciplinary researchers with a policy focus. The DRW fellowship provides me with an opportunity to tackle these big policy questions, and I look forward to the mentorship these amazing researchers provide.”
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.
Placement: PhD. Economics, MIT | NSF Awardee
Henry Zhang is an environmentalist at heart, having grown up about an hour north of Denver where there are plenty of opportunities nearby to hike, ski and camp.
“It’s easy to grow up to become an environmentalist if you spend a lot of time in and around Boulder, Colorado,” he said.
As a high schooler, Zhang thought he would become an engineer. It wasn’t until his sophomore year at Swarthmore College that he realized economics could be an avenue for studying and finding solutions for environmental issues – leading him to EPIC.
Zhang, who interned at EPIC during summer 2016, worked on a variety of environmental economics and policy projects for EPIC Director Michael Greenstone. He planned to pursue a PhD in economics and become a professor.
“Part of what I found interesting about applied economics was there are so many tools you can use for a wide variety of scenarios in the real world, as long as you have the data and an interesting research idea,” said Zhang, who graduated from Swarthmore with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics with highest honors and a second major in economics.
“I, and probably many other people who study environmental economics, began with an intrinsic interest in the environment, balanced out by a concern for human welfare and a curiosity for how well markets function,” he said.
Zhang said he used to think about environmental issues – how a tax on gasoline affects human behavior, for example – but didn’t know how to answer them. His economics studies at Swarthmore and two stints at EPIC have advanced his ability to understand such issues and work towards solutions.
“I realized that economics could give me the tools to answer those sorts of questions,” he said.