Each year, select Young Scientists Summer Program (YSSP) participants win a scholarship to support their travel and research. In 2022, IIASA welcomed Swaptik Chowdhury, the recipient of the Roger Levien Fellowship, and Chayasmita Deka, who received the Professor Jyoti and Professor Kirit Parikh Fellowship.
Swaptik Chowdhury is a PhD student at Pardee RAND University in Los Angeles, where he studies Technology Applications and Implications. He is also a policy researcher at the RAND Corporation, and an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University starting this fall. His area of research is in climate change adaptation, with an emphasis on the decision-making process. Chowdhury is particularly interested in the role of equity in decisions. Working with the Advancing Systems Analysis (ASA), and Energy, Climate, and Environment (ECE) programs at IIASA, he was able to combine ASA methodology with ECE models, which are designed to look at different climate scenarios.
Chowdhury was awarded the Roger Levien Fellowship, which is available specifically to one student each summer from the Pardee RAND Graduate School. Levien was the director of IIASA from 1975 to 1981, and established the fund so that Pardee RAND graduate students and IIASA researchers could work together. Chowdhury said that he was very excited to receive the fellowship as part of the YSSP program.
“I was so happy to finally come to IIASA and was so grateful for the financial assistance. I also got to meet Roger Levien, and that meeting was quite momentous. He’s a giant in the field, and it was a big deal for me to chat with him and get a fellowship in his name.”
For his YSSP research, Chowdhury worked with his advisors, Piotr Zebrowski and Elina Brutschin, on sculpting policies on energy and decarbonization. He feels that he has greatly benefited from the research environment at IIASA.
“I think that one of the main reasons I applied to the YSSP was due to the collaborative environment at IIASA and their explicit focus on systems analysis,” he says. “I’m amazed by how approachable even the top researchers are here.”
Chowdhury is excited about how his time at IIASA will impact his career.
“The skills I picked up, especially through systems reading, and running models and talking through them with my colleagues, helped me finesse my research methods,” he explains. “Participating in the YSSP allowed me to polish the questions that I am asking in my PhD research. Working at IIASA also helped me to look at my PhD questions from a broader, systems perspective. I am so excited to be part of the IIASA alumni community and to have access to IIASA alumni all over the world, which will be so helpful for my future career.”
Chayasmita Deka visited IIASA in summer 2022 from the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati in India. She researches climate change mitigation with a focus on behavioral adaptation. As a YSSP participant, she investigated decision making among the middle-income group in India, specifically in terms of their purchase of electric vehicles and broader patterns in transportation. She worked with researchers in the ASA program to understand the step-by-step process of intention formation and decision-making. Deka is a recipient of the Professor Jyoti and Kirit Parikh Fellowship, which is awarded to one YSSP participant every year.
Professor Jyoti Parikh was a IIASA research scholar from 1976 to 1978, and 1980 to 1986. Her policy work emphasizes the importance of different stakeholders, including at the grassroots level. Dr. Kirit Parikh is also an eminent researcher who has been involved in several different international organizations, including the United Nations.
“Both perform action-oriented research that takes the different perspectives of stakeholders into account,” Deka explains. “They have been supporting Indian students coming to IIASA for a long time. I think that is incredible work, and I hope to have the opportunity to meet them someday so I can thank them in person. They are such an inspiration to me.”
Deka found out that she received the scholarship as part of her YSSP acceptance letter.
“I was very excited,” she says. “I am so grateful to Professor Jyoti Parikh and Dr. Kirit Parikh for providing this fellowship to me and making my time at IIASA so fruitful. It was so nice to not have to think about managing my finances so I could focus on my work.”
Deka says that one of her favorite moments during the 2022 YSSP was her first day at IIASA, when she met her supervisor, Nadejda Komendantova.
“That was a great day for me,” she notes. “I got to meet all the other YSSP students too. It’s a really memorable day because you wonder who you’re going to meet and what IIASA is going to be like, and then you find out. It’s a huge experience to have in one day. Then the entire three months continued to provide me some of the best learning experiences for life”.
Deka has also enjoyed the work culture at IIASA, and says that it will always stay with her.
“I really appreciate the lack of hierarchy and how the people here are not only your coworkers, but your friends,” she says. “Something special that I noticed is that all the research scholars here are so intelligent, yet so humble. As a result, I found that I did not hesitate to speak my mind. I think that is something that is really important for young researchers to grow and develop curiosity.”
Click here to learn more about the scholarship opportunities available to Young Scientist Summer Program participants.
Note: This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of the Nexus blog, nor of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.