Options Winter 2021: Jessica Jewell was a 2010 YSSP participant and researcher at IIASA between 2011 and 2019. She continues to support the work of the institute as a guest researcher.

Portrait of Jessica Jewell © Ronyn Photography

Jessica Jewell’s research focuses on identifying feasible solutions to energy and climate challenges. She is currently an associate professor in energy transitions at the Department of Space, Earth, and Environment at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, professor at the Center for Climate and Energy Transitions at the University of Bergen, Norway, and IIASA guest researcher in the Advancing Systems Analysis Program. She recently started a European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant project called MANIFEST. While we know how to solve climate change in mathematical models, she’s trying to figure out which solutions would work in the real world. Answering this question is challenging scientifically because the climate problem requires unprecedented action and there are no direct historical analogs. She overcomes this by unpacking the mechanisms that have shaped similar actions in the past. By understanding these mechanisms she hopes to be able to anticipate what is and is not possible in the future.

Before taking up her current position, Jewell worked at IIASA from 2011–2019 after participating in the Young Scientists Summer Program (YSSP) in 2010. She was initially attracted to IIASA because she wanted to understand the large-scale mathematical models, which are at the heart of a lot of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s analyses in formulating pathways to reach climate targets. While working at IIASA, she maintained a firm footing in empirical research – as opposed to large-scale modeling – and developed expertise in bridging future visions of sustainable worlds with today’s hard realities.

Today, she co-leads the POLET research group – a multi-institutional and interdisciplinary research group with two post-docs and seven PhD students. Since joining Chalmers University, supervising PhD students has quickly become one of the favorite parts of her job. She loves discovering new things with her students and mentoring them to achieve their goals.

By Monika Bauer