I am looking for always looking to enthusiastic graduate students who are interested in working on issues related to sustainability, urbanization and energy transitions.
Before you reach out to me, please read my research philosophy and approach below.
The energy industry is the largest industry in the world. Access to high quality energy sources has transformed our civilization and one could attach many important events in history to the discovery and use of new energy sources. My research in this topic focuses on what I call energy economic development, which tracks how access to energy determines the location and magnitude of economic activity. My research shows that our current economy exhibits large degrees of concentration of wealth and economic activity as a direct result of the use of very dense energy sources. To answer questions regarding the spatial use of energy resources, I have developed a set of theoretical models and empirical tests. My coauthors and I have found that the discovery of coal in England lead to a large movement of people towards the north and away from the depleted forests in the south. We have also found that the introduction of maize in Africa lead to an increase in population that had a large effect in the supply of slaves to the West, and that the regional industrial composition leads to a very large difference in the use of energy in the United States and the world. With this research we look to inform policy regarding future energy transitions towards more renewable sources.
What is the most interesting and/or challenging part of your job/research?
I love solving puzzles.
I think of my research as if it was a crime. The overall research idea is the crime scene. First, you need to identify the crime. This is done by looking into the data, looking for some sign of something that changes around the time and place where your crime scene is. Once you identify the crime, you need to find a set of possible suspects. For this, you need to read history (very old, or very recent) and try to identify situations that can explain what you observe in the data. Once you have a set of suitable suspects, you need to narrow it down. This is called intent and opportunity. Across all the possible events in history that could’ve caused the behavior you observe in data, which ones are plausible? What is the story? Once you have your main suspect, you need to build your case. For this I need evidence. I build my case using statistical methods, theoretical models and when the question calls for it, historical references. Every piece has to be set so that you convince the jury your suspect is in fact guilty. That is, you get published. Of course, this is not a linear process, I have to go back and forth trying new suspects, finding new evidence, building new cases.
This process, which is all I do constantly at work, is the most interesting, challenging and rewarding aspect of my work.
My advice for potential students?
Enjoy learning, I wish I were told not to worry about grades. I know this is standard advice that sounds cliché, but learning takes on a whole different level when you do it to feed your thirst for knowledge.
Read a lot. Read everything. Reading keeps your imagination active and allows you to create. Creativity is the scarcer input into your production function, no matter what you do.