Celebrating 10 Years of the First
PhD in Sustainable Development
Introductions Merit E. Janow
Jeffrey D. Sachs
Dean of School of International and Public Affairs; Professor in the Practice of International Economic Law and International Affairs, Columbia University
Director of The Earth Institute Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development and Professor of Health Policy and Management
As one of the faculty who voted in favor of the Sustainable Development PhD program ten years ago, I am delighted that the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) remains its academic home. Now as dean, I congratulate the success of the first decade of the program, including the important role and impact of its graduates — across academic, public, and private sector careers — as examples for the world to take notice and to catch up to their distinctively interdisciplinary and rigorous training. Across the landscape of graduate policy schools, the Sustainable Development PhD program at SIPA stands out as a unique program for its students and faculty. It is a bold program demanding competence in both economics and the sciences. It enables students to bridge communities of scholarship through interdisciplinary, in-depth research, and it is producing a generation of researchers able to shed new light on the challenging development and environmental problems that the world faces today. By connecting otherwise isolated disciplines, its graduates are applying creative, rigorous methodologies and creating insights in the field that have already advanced our understanding of subjects as disparate as macroeconomics and atmospheric physics. The School of International and Public Affairs is committed to continue to support the program as it evolves, advances, and defines the science of sustainable development.
The new academic discipline of Sustainable Development is a complex systems science, studying the interactions of economic, social, political, and natural systems. It aims to understand the dynamics of a planet under stress, where large-scale economic activity, rapid technological change, and significant demographic changes, are contributing to unprecedented human-induced stresses on the Earth’s physical systems, including climate, hydrology, nitrogen flux, ocean chemistry, biodiversity, and species abundance. The goals of the science are both positive — an understanding of global dynamics — and normative, to address increasingly urgent global-scale crises, such as human-induced climate change. Students are trained in a novel manner, requiring expertise in social dynamics, physical processes, and their two-way interaction. Each student has advisors that span the social, policy, and physical sciences. Our recent graduates have already become recognized leaders in the rapidly expanding field, adding to our understanding of the complex economic and natural dynamics, and contributing to problem solving of some of the world’s most pressing economic, social, and environmental challenges. Columbia University has been in the lead in developing this new field, and I am confident that the University will remain among global leaders as the new field of study spreads throughout the world.
“…adding to our understanding of the complex economic and natural dynamics, and contributing to problem solving of some of the world’s most pressing economic, social, and environmental challenges.” — Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute, Columbia University
Celebrating 10 Years of the First PhD in Sustainable Development
John Colin Mutter (Left) Director of Graduate Studies, PhD in Sustainable Development; Member of the Faculty of The Earth Institute, Columbia University; Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Columbia University; School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University
Douglas Almond (Right) Economics Advisor, PhD in Sustainable Development, Department of Economics, Columbia University; School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University
Columbia’s Sustainable Development PhD program is an outstanding success. Our remarkable students have the courage and dedication to build a new field of inquiry that generates fundamental insights into the key challenges human societies face. The core issues of sustainable development demand an informed exchange between the Earth’s natural processes and human aspirations for improved wellbeing. Students obtain a rigorous PhD-level training in both intellectual fields, clearly an ambitious combination and undertaking. As the program’s director of graduate studies and economics advisor, we come from fields at the polar ends of disciplines germane to sustainable development studies: seismology and applied microeconomics. Our respective disciplines typify the customary disconnect between natural and social sciences: intellectual exchange is either absent or unidirectional at best. But just as studying in the field of sustainable development requires a bridging of disparate but formal disciplines, so too does guiding an interdisciplinary PhD program. We have been astonished and delighted to see how this venture has flourished. Many of the barriers between disciplines have proven to be constructs erected by tradition or inertia, and wind up having little substance. Our students have banished or ignored many of these barriers to develop research that draws on both domains, and have presented their research at the world’s leading geophysical conferences and the world’s leading environmental economics conferences. No other program produces students who could be equally at ease in both settings.
Congratulations to all our stellar students and alumni! Photos: Amir Jina, Anthony D’Agostino
THE PROGRAM IN NUMBERS The challenges facing our world are evolving. Economic progress and technology have driven astounding gains in health, wealth, and population. Yet we have left billions of people in poverty and subjected the planet to unprecedented damage. To address these problems requires a new generation of scholars, able to see beyond traditional boundaries to find fresh solutions. Bridging natural and social sciences, they explore how we can maintain prosperity, preserve the natural environment, and extend the promise of a better life to every human on the planet, both today and in the future. Admissions rates
The program admits 3-6% of applicants each year (6 from a typical applicant pool of more than 150) Source: 2013 review
Gender Ratios Across Different Cohorts & Alumni 100%
Acceptance rates (yields)
75% (8 offers are made for 6 positions) Source: 2013 review
Diversity of Academic Backgrounds Diversity of Regions Represented In The Program
North America Europe Central and South America Oceania
Economics Mathematics International Affairs Philosophy Sustainable Development Environmental Policy Other
Asia Africa Middle East
Engineering Environmental Science Public Policy Physics Development Urban Planning
10-Year Timeline Planning of the PhD program begins, as part of Jeffrey Sachsâ€™s initiatives as new director of the Earth Institute.
First class is admitted, with strong science backgrounds.
The second class joins, with stronger economic backgrounds.
Lisa Anderson, Jeffrey Sachs, and Joseph Stiglitz contribute to designing the curriculum.
Celebrating 10 Years of the First PhD in Sustainable Development
path in the PROGRAM The distinctive and innovative nature of this program requires a core set of courses that provide an interdisciplinary grounding. Each of these courses is taught at the level expected of first- or second-year PhD students in the affiliated departments. The course structure is designed to provide students with PhD-level training in economics and a natural science field, complemented by integrative courses in sustainable development, designed specifically for this program, and courses in social sciences. The course structure is designed to combine flexibility to pursue an individual field of study, with the development of broad-based skills and knowledge.
Structure of the Curriculum
Students complete a minimum total of 60 credits, and should maintain an overall B+ average with no lower than a B- in any of the core classes. In addition to course work, students participate in integrative seminars throughout the first three years of the program, and complete the MA thesis and take an Orals Exam (leading to the MPhil Degree), in addition to presenting and defending a PhD dissertation.
Program Core • Environmental Science for Sustainable Development • Human Ecology • Global Governance for Sustainable Development • Environmental and Resource Economics • Sustainable Development Seminar Core Economic Courses • Microeconomic Analysis I + II • Introduction to Econometrics I + II • Macroeconomic Analysis I
Geoffrey Heal becomes the first director of graduate studies. Columbia Economics Department first allows Sustainable Development PhD students to take classes with the PhD students in Economics.
Social Science Electives
Quantitative Analysis Elective
Science Track Electives
Examples for Natural Science Electives Atmospheric Sciences–Dynamics • Introduction to Atmospheric Sciences • Geophysical Fluid Dynamics • Atmospheric Dynamics Energy Sciences –Alternative Energies • Energy Sources and Conversion • Alternative Energy Resources • Photovoltaic Systems Engineering Ecosystem Services and Dynamics
Exmples for Social Science Electives • Industrial Development • Topics in Development Economics • Topics in Political Economy • Laboratory Experiments and Formal Theories in Political Science • Public Finance I • Public Finance II Examples for Quantitative Elective • Quantitative Methods in Data Analysis • Microenonometrics
• Advanced Thermodynamics • Mathematical Models and Quantitative Methods in Evolution and Ecology • Scaling in Ecology and Sustainability Science
Josh Graff Zivin becomes the director of graduate studies and helps to build a coherent direction for the program.
John Mutter becomes the program graduate studies director. Douglas Almond becomes the official economics advisor. Students host the 18th PhD Workshop in International Climate Policy. Placements: Kiel Institute for the World Economy (Germany)
Selected Publications Growth and “Development, structure, and transformation: Some evidence on comparative economic growth” Development co-authored by Gordon McCord and published in National Bureau of Economic Research, 2013. Research was featured in the media on PBS Newshour.
“How do ‘mineral-states’ learn? Path-dependence, networks and policy change in the development of economic institutions” authored by Jose Carlos Orihuela and published in World Development, 2013.
“Reconciling disagreement over climate-conflict results in Africa” authored by Solomon Hsiang & Kyle Meng and published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2014. “Quantifying the influence of climate on human conflict” co-authored by Solomon Hsiang and published in Science, 2013. Research was featured in the media on CNN, BBC, The Economics, PBS Newshour, Associated Press, National Geographic. “Civil conflicts are associated with the global climate” co-authored by Solomon Hsiang & Kyle Meng and published in Nature, 2011. Research was featured in the media on NPR, The Economist, BBC, CNN, Financial Times, NY Times.
“Economic costs of ocean acidification: A look into the impacts on global shellfish production” co-authored by Daiju Narita and published in Climatic Change, 2012. “Linking indigenous and scientific knowledge of climate change” co-authored by Marta Vicarelli and published in Bioscience, 2011. “International climate policy and regional welfare weights” co-authored by Daiju Narita and published in Environmental Science & Policy, 2010. “Attributing physical and biological impacts to anthropogenic climate change” co-authored by Marta Vicarelli and published in Nature, 2008.
“Over-extraction from shallow bedrock versus deep alluvial aquifers: Reliability versus sustainability considerations for India’s groundwater irrigation” co-authored by Ram Fishman and forthcoming in Water Resources Research, 2014. “Cultivating the Nile: The everyday politics of water in Egypt” authored by Jessica Barnes and published in Duke University Press, 2014. “Changing frequency and intensity of rainfall extremes over India from 1951-2003 2009” co-authored by Chandra Kiran Krishnamurthy and published in Journal of Climate, 2009.
Ecosystems “Modeling biogeochemical processes of phosphorus for global food supply” co-authored by Marion Dumas and published in Chemosphere, 2011.
“The requirement to rebuild U.S. fish stocks: Is it working?” co-authored by Kimberly Lai Oremus and forthcoming in Marine Policy, 2014.
10-Year Timeline Creation of the Sustainable Development Doctoral Society, as a student group under SIPA. Placements: U.S. Department of State (Japan)
Sustainable Development Research Symposium: This event, which also ran in 2011, sought to introduce student research to the University community.
The first Interdisciplinary PhD Workshop in Sustainable Development (IPWSD), with 36 student speakers from 11 countries.
Placements: Goldman Sachs (Clean Energy Team), University of South Carolina (Department of Geography & Environment)
Placements: American University (Lebanon), George Washington University, McKinsey & Company, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, UC Berkeley, UMass Amherst, Umea University (Sweden)
Celebrating 10 Years of the First PhD in Sustainable Development
“Emission allowances and mitigation costs of China and India resulting from different effort-sharing approaches” co-authored by Daiju Narita and published in Energy Policy, 2012. “Local and national electricity planning in senegal: Scenarios and policies” co-authored by Aly Sanoh & Lily Parshall and published in Energy for Sustainable Development, 2012. “Spatial distribution of urban building energy consumption by end use” co-authored by Lily Parshall and published in Energy and Buildings, 2012. “National electricity planning in settings with low pre-existing grid coverage: Development of a spatial model and case study of Kenya” co-authored by Aly Sanoh & Lily Parshall and published in Energy Policy, 2009.
Health and “The stability of malaria elimination” co-authored by Geoffrey Chi-Johnston and published in Science, 2013. Pollution “Deployment of community health workers across rural sub-Saharan Africa: financial considerations and operational assumptions“ co-authored by Gordon McCord and published in Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 2012.
“Quantitative assessment of Plasmodium falciparum sexual development reveals potent transmission-blocking activity by methylene blue” co-authored by Geoffrey Chi-Johnston and published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2011. “Traffic impacts on PM2.5 air quality in Nairobi, Kenya” co-authored by Nicole Ngo and published in Environmental Science & Policy, 2011.
Students organize the first Science and Policy Summer School with Sciences Po, with eight speakers from the US and Europe.
A full Program Review involves student, faculty, and outside reviewers.
Placements: Johns Hopkins (Bloomberg School of Public Health), UC San Diego (International Relations and Pacific Studies), University of San Francisco (Department of Economics), World Bank
Placements: UC Santa Barbara (Bren School of Environmental Science and Management), University of Oregon (Department of Planning, Public Policy and Management), Xiamen University (Wang Yanan Institute for Studies in Economics)
The Earth Institute provides the first workspace for the program.
Ten-Year Anniversary Event: Celebrating the success and achievements of the program’s alumni and inviting current and future students to join in shaping and leading this new field.
Program Contact John Colin Mutter, Professor Director of Graduate Studies, PhD in Sustainable Development Member of the Faculty of the Earth Institute, Columbia University Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University Douglas Almond, Associate Professor Economics Advisor, PhD in Sustainable Development Department of Economics, Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University Mona Khalidi, Assistant Dean Assistant Director of Graduate Studies, PhD in Sustainable Development Email: email@example.com
Visit us on the web Official Program Page:
http://sipa.columbia.edu/sustainable-development The Sustainable Development Doctoral Society:
Published on Feb 25, 2014
Celebrating 10 Years of the First PhD in Sustainable Development. Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs' Sustaina...