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PhD Candidate Develops Skills to Further His Career in Energy and Environmental Policy

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Gokul Iyer

With a background in electrical engineering and energy systems engineering, Gokul Iyer began pursuing a doctoral degree in environmental and energy policy at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy after he developed an interest in climate change and energy.

“As I worked on technical issues surrounding power systems, induction motors and electronic circuits, broader issues such as the economics of technology, climate change and energy caught my interest,” Iyer says. “My interest slowly developed into a passion and I decided to diversify into the social science to get a broader worldview of technology and energy systems. Environmental and energy policy offered a smooth transition for someone like me with a background in engineering to delve into general issues of societal interest.”

While working on his doctoral degree, Iyer also works at the Joint Global Change Research Institute (JGCRI), a collaboration between Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and University of Maryland. “My research focuses on the nexus between technology, energy and climate change. In addition, I have also worked on issues related to the development of specific technologies such as nuclear and wind.”

“My work has helped me develop skills in energy and environmental policy analysis,” Iyer adds. “This feeds directly into my career goals to grow as an analyst with a deeper understanding of processes and issues related to technology and policy. I’ve worked on several projects related to the role of technology and technological change in climate change mitigation.”

SPP offers a unique and flexible PhD program that one can tailor to his or her own interests. I particularly liked the fact that UMD is located close to the world’s policymaking hot spots.
Gokul Iyer SPP Student

Iyer recently wrote a paper on climate change that was co-authored by SPP Associate Professor Nate Hultman, College Park Professor of Public Policy Jae Edmonds and PhD alumnus Haewon McJeon, as well as other scientists from JGCRI, University of California San Diego, and Resources for the Future. “This study looks at differences in investment risks across technologies and regions and finds that such differences could lead to substantially higher costs for reducing emissions and a shift in emissions reductions from developing to developed countries.”

During his time at the School of Public Policy, Iyer says he’s been influenced by several faculty members. “Nate Hultman, my PhD advisor has been an immense source of inspiration and support during my PhD,” he says. “Likewise, Leon Clarke and Jae Edmonds from JGCRI, and Professor Steve Fetter have contributed immensely to my PhD experience.”

Iyer chose to continue his studies at the School of Public Policy because of the unique program offered. “SPP offers a unique and flexible PhD program that one can tailor to his or her own interests,” he says. “I particularly liked the fact that UMD is located close to the world’s policymaking hot spots.” Additionally, he says the decision to pursue an advanced degree should be about weighing the costs. “A doctoral degree comes with pros and cons. There is an opportunity cost, however, the benefits include a deeper and solid understanding of issues of one’s interests and an entry into a niche community of respected scholars,” Iyer says. “For me, benefits outweighed the costs. This is a great school with plenty of avenues to do good work.”


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