Program Lead for Water-Energy Nexus
PhD Candidate in Politics and Social Policy
Meir Alkon is a PhD Candidate in Politics and Social Policy at Princeton University, in the Department of Politics and the Woodrow Wilson School. He is also a fellow at the Princeton Energy and Climate Scholars program and the Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance. His research interests lie at the intersection of international/comparative political economy and political behavior.
In the realm of energy and environmental issues, Meir’s work has focused on the politics of sustainable development and resource access in India, as well as pollution and regime support in China. His research has appeared or is forthcoming in publications such as the Journal of Politics and Energy for Sustainable Development. Meir previously received a BA in International Relations from Stanford University. He is currently ISEP’s Program Lead for studies involving nexus of water and energy.
Brian Dylan Blankenship
Academic Lead for Program in Jharkhand, India
PhD Candidate in Political Science
Brian Blankenship is a PhD Candidate in Political Science at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in Columbia University. His research has focused on understanding the existence of inefficient governmental energy policies and the conditions under which they are dismantled. In particular, he has studied the reform of gasoline and diesel subsidies globally, as well as public opinion toward electricity access and electricity theft in India. He is interested in understanding how governments can craft policies that make energy more accessible, affordable, and sustainable.
Brian graduated with highest distinction from Indiana University Bloomington with a B.A. in Political Science, a B.A. in History, and a minor in French. Now, he is ISEP’s Academic Lead for our program in the state of Jharkhand, India.
Sung Eun Kim
Program Lead for Air Pollution
Assistant Professor of Political Scince
Sung Eun Kim is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at Korea University. Her research interests include political economy of environment and energy and international political economy with a particular attention to the impact of information on individuals’ economic and political responses to globalization. Broadly, her research lies at the intersection of domestic politics and international relations and draws upon a wide body of quantitative and text-based data. She received B.A. and M.A. in Political Science from Korea University, and Ph.D. in Political Science from Columbia University.
As an ISEP fellow, Sung will be conducting research on political and economic geography of air pollution, with a keen interest in analyzing public awareness of and media attention to it in emerging economies. She is also ISEP’s Program Lead for studies on air pollution.
Program Lead on Natural Resources
PhD Candidate in Comparative Politics and International Relations
Jacob Kopas is a doctoral candidate in Comparative Politics and International Relations in the Political Science Department at Columbia University in New York. He has been the recipient of a National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Research Grant in Political Science, and developed a successful EGAP Metaket grant for a field experiment measuring the impact of community-led forest monitoring on deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon.
Jacob’s research focuses on two fundamental topics. The first focus is on environmental politics and the political economy of environmental protection. Current research projects include studying the role of international human rights law in indigenous peoples’ movements, and uncovering how politics affect incentives for designating protected areas or permitting large energy projects.
The second focus examines the intersection of law and politics. His research pays special attention to the power of legal rights and international law to change political attitudes and mobilize social movements. Jacob’s doctoral dissertation studies these effects, as results of large land titling projects in the countryside of Peru and Colombia, including an ambitious land restitution project aimed at victims of forced displacement in Colombia.
Jacob’s work as an ISEP student fellow includes studies on the politics of energy infrastructure and policy, focusing on environmental licensing and the differential impact of pollution on vulnerable communities. He is now ISEP’s Program Lead for study of natural resources.
Program Lead on Energy Subsidies
Associate Research Scholar, Columbia University
Senior Associate, Global Subsidies Initiative
Dr. Tom Moerenhout is an associate research scholar at Columbia University. He attained his PhD at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. His research is on the political economy of sustainable resource valuation and predominantly focuses on energy policy reform in developing countries. In 2015-2016, Tom was a visiting researcher at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP). In 2016-2017, he was the Aramco-OIES fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies. His current research mainly concentrates on energy subsidy reforms in the MENA region, electricity sector reforms in India and subsidy & taxation reforms in Nigeria. In his research, Tom also zooms in on social safety net reforms to mitigate negative impacts from pricing reforms.
Since 2010, Tom has also worked for the Global Subsidies Initiative of the International Institute for Sustainable Development. As a Senior Associate, he has cooperated with international organizations, NGOs and foundations to advance research on the sustainability of energy pricing policies and their reform. In recent years, Tom has also provided practical, in-country support to energy pricing reforms in – among others – Nigeria, Egypt, India, Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan and Lebanon. In doing so, he has worked directly with local consultants and governments via the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program. Tom has a keen interest in the comprehensive reforms that are needed to transition to sustainable energy policies, including a focus on the energy-water-food nexus. To this end, he supports a more proactive integration of behavioral economic insights into reform programs. Currently, Tom is ISEP’s Program Lead for the study of energy subsidies.
Jason Chun Yu Wong
Academic Lead for Program in Uttar Pradesh, India
Ph.D. Candidate in Sustainable Development
Jason Wong is a Ph.D. Candidate in Sustainable Development at Columbia University and a Research Affiliate in the Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Jason is interested in the impact of technology and infrastructure in regional socioeconomic outcomes and environmental decision making. His dissertation focuses on improving individual carbon offsets, economic impacts of aviation connectivity, and climate change impacts on aviation. He also works on electricity infrastructure and energy poverty in India. In 2016-2017, he is a National Academies of Sciences Transportation Research Board Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) Graduate Research Awardee. He won the 2017 Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching by Graduate Student Instructors, the highest teaching honor bestowed upon a graduate student at Columbia.
Jason graduated summa cum laude from the University of Maryland with a B.S. in Environmental Science and Policy, a B.A. in Germanic Studies, a Certificate in Science, Technology, and Society, and a minor in Statistics. During his undergraduate studies, Jason was a College Park Scholar in Science and Global Change, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Ernest F. Hollings Scholar and a German Academic Exchange Service Undergraduate Scholar.
Currently, Jason is ISEP’s Academic Lead for our program in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India.
Academic Lead for Energy/Environment Data Collection
PhD Candidate in Political Science
Joonseok Yang is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science at Columbia University, specializing in comparative/international political economy with an additional focus on methods. His research interests include political economy of environment and energy, trade and multinational corporations. His dissertation interrogates political and economic incentives to provide generous financial inducements such as tax incentives to deter corporations from relocating to other regions.
Joonseok holds a B.A in Political Science and French Literature from Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea and a Master of International Affairs (MIA) with a policy concentration in international finance and economic policy from Columbia University. Previously, he worked in the National Assembly in South Korea as a legislative staff. Joon is now ISEP’s Academic Lead for the collection of energy and environmental data.
Alice Tianbo Zhang
Program Lead on Energy Infrastructure
PhD Candidate in Sustainable Development
Alice Tianbo Zhang is a PhD Candidate in Sustainable Development at the School of International and Public Affairs in Columbia University. Her doctoral research seeks to improve the understanding of how large-scale natural and social processes, such as anthropogenic climate change, natural disasters and development-induced forced migration, affect human welfare and the policy tools available to address the challenges of sustainability. More fundamentally, she is interested in tackling issues of environmental and social justice, especially as they relate to the disparities in health, education and political representation of the disadvantaged and marginalized.
Alice graduated cum laude from the University of California, Berkeley with a B.A in Economics, Statistics and a minor in Public Policy. At Columbia, she has worked for the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy (ISERP), the Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP) and the Earth Institute Research Program on Sustainability Policy and Management (SPM). Previously, she worked in Councilmember Gordon Wozniak’s office in the City of Berkeley on implementing the Berkeley Climate Action Plan. Alice is currently ISEP’s Program Lead for the study of energy infrastructure.