Introducing the 2020-2022 Environmental Fellows

April 9, 2020
Introducing the 2020-2022 Environmental Fellows

HUCE announces new cohort of postdoctoral researchers

The Harvard University Center for the Environment announces the 2020 class of Environmental Fellows: Meir Alkon, Vinicius de Aguiar Furuie, John Philbin, and Agnes E. Thorarinsdottir. These fellows will join a group of remarkable scholars who will be beginning the second year of their fellowships. Together, the Environmental Fellows at Harvard will form a community of researchers with diverse backgrounds united by intellectual curiosity, top-quality scholarship, and a drive to understand some of the most important environmental challenges facing society.


fellow meir alkon.MEIR ALKON

Department: Government
Faculty Host(s): Dustin Tingley, Daniel Schrag, and Mark Wu
PhD: Politics, Princeton University

Meir Alkon researches political economy with a focus on the politics of large-scale energy and economic transitions.

Meir received his PhD jointly from Princeton's Department of Politics and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and he earned his BA from Stanford University. His research bridges political economy and interdisciplinary approaches to public policy, analyzing the behavioral and institutional foundations of environmental and economic governance. Meir's research has been published in journals including The Journal of Politics, World Development, Energy Policy, Studies in Comparative International Development, Economics and Politics, Energy Research & Social Science, and Energy for Sustainable Development.

As an Environmental Fellow, Meir will examine the political drivers and environmental impacts of China's overseas energy investments, including through the Belt and Road Initiative.


fellow vinicius de aguiar furuie.VINICIUS DE AGUIAR FURUIE

Department: Anthropology
Faculty Host(s): Bruno Carvalho and Ajantha Subramanian
PhD: Sociocultural Anthropology, Princeton University

Vinicius de Aguiar Furuie is an anthropologist researching Amazonian river trade among riverside populations affected by climate change and large-scale infrastructure projects.

Vinicius earned a BA in journalism from the University of Sao Paulo and an MA in cultural studies from the University of Tokyo, where he wrote an ethnography on post-Fukushima antinuclear social movements. He received a PhD in sociocultural anthropology from Princeton University with a dissertation based on 20 months of fieldwork conducted with "regatão" river traders of the Xingu basin, in the eastern Brazilian Amazon. His fieldwork was based in Altamira, the main site of recently built Belo Monte dam and a current hotspot of logging and forest fires. He studies local understanding of economic morality in communities that exchange non-timber forest products such as Brazil nuts, rubber, and medicinal oils for industrial goods.

As an Environmental Fellow, Vinicius will work with host Professor Bruno Carvalho and co-host Professor Ajantha Subramanian on the importance of local categories of moral exchange for public policy design, as well as registering the impact of dam construction on Amazonian urban populations.


fellow john philbin.JOHN PHILBIN

School: John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Faculty Host: Prineha Narang
PhD: Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley

John Philbin works at the intersection of theoretical chemistry, condensed matter physics, and computational material science to understand and develop the next generation of nanomaterial-based technologies.

John earned a BA and an MS in biochemistry and chemistry, respectively, from the University of Pennsylvania in 2014. Following graduation, John transitioned from experimental chemistry to theoretical and computational chemistry by studying catalytic reactions involved in biofuel production at the Institute of High Performance Computing in Singapore. He then moved to Professor Eran Rabani's research group at UC Berkeley where he completed his PhD in chemistry in 2020. John's PhD focused on developing and applying atomistic electronic structure methods to nanomaterials to elucidate the underlying physics that control the efficiency of nanomaterial-based solar cells, lasers, light-emitting diodes, and photocatalysts. John has co-authored many peer-reviewed publications and illuminated influential structure-function relationships of nanomaterials. John also turned these relationships into basic design principles to accurately predict and understand the energy efficiency of nanomaterial-based clean energy devices, including photocatalysts and photovoltaics.

As an Environmental Fellow, John will work with Assistant Professor Prineha Narang from the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. John and Pri plan to explore how light-matter interactions in nanomaterials can be understood and utilized to rationally design energy-efficient nanodevices (e.g. solar cells and quantum computers).


fellow agnes thorarinsdottir.AGNES THORARINSDOTTIR

Department: Chemistry and Chemical Biology
Faculty Host: Daniel Nocera
PhD: Chemistry, Northwestern University

Agnes Thorarinsdottir is an inorganic chemist studying the physical and chemical properties of metal catalysts that facilitate the conversion of solar energy to chemical fuels under environmentally benign conditions.

Agnes earned a BS in chemistry from the University of Iceland in 2015 and a PhD in chemistry from Northwestern University in 2019. Her doctoral work focused on manipulating the electronic structure of transition metal-based molecular compounds to design bioresponsive magnetic resonance imaging contrast agents and to elucidate design principles for molecule-based magnets with high operating temperatures. While at Northwestern, she served as the president of the Northwestern's Chemistry Honor Society Phi Lambda Upsilon and the vice president of the student-led safety organization Research Safety Student Initiative, which she co-founded.

As an Environmental Fellow, Agnes will work with Professor Daniel Nocera from the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology. Their work will focus on addressing issues relevant to large-scale implementation of sustainable energy, such as solar energy, by developing sustainable and cost-effective catalysts using earth-abundant metals for the solar-driven splitting of natural water into oxygen and hydrogen. As hydrogen gas can be employed directly as a clean fuel and to derive further energy-dense products, this route provides an environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels.