CRP Ph.D. Student Profiles
Austin M. Aldag (M.R.P. '18)
Austin M. Aldag's research agenda focuses broadly on local governments as institutions of social change and inter-governmental relations and inter-municipal cooperation in particular. Aldag is currently involved with projects examining state preemptions of local autonomy, local-to-local collaboration, and fiscal stress. His work has been published in several public administration journals including, but not limited to, the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Public Administration Quarterly, and Publius: The Journal of Federalism. Prior to his graduate studies, Aldag held a summer research fellowship at the University of Maryland where he specialized in survey methodology and foreign direct investment. He has held various local government positions with the cities of Peoria, Bloomington, and East Peoria, Illinois, where he has done everything from investigating sewer lines within historic districts to analyzing public work practices regarding street line painting. Aldag holds a master's of regional planning from Cornell and has a bachelor of arts in political science from Illinois Wesleyan University. When not talking to city managers, combing through local government databases, or reading about transaction costs, you may find Aldag making sushi with his wife Nghi, playing one of his many board games, or reading the latest science fiction novel.
Maame Boatemaa is a scholar-practitioner whose interest in cities emerged at the juncture of her studies in urban political ecology, climate resiliency, and inequality in cities. As an Albert Gallatin Scholar at New York University, she critically interrogated how urban spaces transform in diverse social, economic, and political settings and won several grants for research in Ghana, Kenya, and Senegal. She completed her graduate studies at the London School of Economics before moving to Seoul as a Henry Luce scholar. In South Korea, she spent the first half of her Luce year working at the University of Seoul and with a team of planners hired by the Paraguayan government to draw up a master plan for the flood-prone area of Bañado Sur. Following this project, Boatemaa joined the editing team at the JoongAng Daily, a New York Times-affiliated newspaper in Seoul. Currently, Boatemaa is interested in examining African cities' political ecology as a doctoral student in the CRP department.
Dieter Bouma's research interests focus on justice and equity in environmental land-use planning, land security for vulnerable populations, and win-win arrangements for biodiversity conservation and human livelihood development. His research has a regional focus in South Asia, specifically South India. Bouma has a background in environmental policy and planning. He currently teaches a field-based class on conservation and development in the Indian tropics in partnership with Bishop Heber College in Tamil Nadu. Prior to his doctoral program, he facilitated transdisciplinary research projects, bringing together research scientists and community organizations to coproduce science at the University of Michigan's Graham Sustainability Institute. Bouma received a B.S. in biology from Calvin College and a joint M.S./M.P.P. in international environmental policy and planning from the University of Michigan.
Natassia Bravo (M.R.P. '19)
Natassia Bravo is a Ph.D. candidate whose research focuses on rural broadband policy in the U.S., with a special interest in the role of local and state governments and of nontraditional providers. Along with Professor Mildred Warner, Bravo was awarded a grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts in 2022 to examine how state broadband programs allocated funds before the pandemic. A report based on their findings, "Closing the Broadband Infrastructure Gap: State Grant Funds and the Digital Divide," was released in October 2023. Bravo and Warner were also awarded the TPRC51 Charles Benton Broadband & Society Prize for their conference paper, "State Grants for Broadband: Implications for Federal Policy Design." Prior to joining the Ph.D. program, Bravo worked on a nationwide research project studying the growth of state preemption of local authority. She is currently researching the role of states in supporting innovative rural broadband projects. Natassia Bravo holds a master's degree in city and regional planning from Cornell University, and a bachelor's degree in architecture from Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas in Lima, Peru.
Malembe Dumont Copero
Malembe Dumont Copero is a Ph.D. student researching the intersections between urban planning and public health. She holds a master's degree in City and Regional Planning from Rutgers University as a Fulbright fellow. She has worked as a participatory planning researcher at MIT Community Innovators Lab (CoLab) and as a project coordinator at an urban planning research institute, part of the University of Oregon. Her research agenda focuses on understanding the impact of infrastructure on the multiple determinants of environmental health equity and how community-led infrastructure (social and physical) that advances environmental justice and climate adaptation can also improve community health. Her research always incorporates an intersectional feminist lens. She is especially interested in contexts of urban informality, although she eventually hopes to help advance healthy communities across the globe. She holds a second master's in international development from the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and a bachelor's in political science from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. As a volunteer and practitioner, she has also worked with communities in Colombia, Mozambique, and the U.S.
Soojung Han's primary academic focuses on mobility constraints experienced by the marginalized population group. She is interested in examining how the confluence of social and spatial factors influence the travel of each population group, particularly women, in low-income or ethnically minor households. On the same note, she also seeks to establish an integrated system of mobility with new and old transportation modes aligned to assist the travel needs of people situated within the local context. During her master's, Soojung explored the intersection of sociology, geography, and urban planning by studying the racialized, gendered, and classed conditions affecting the travel of marriage migrant women living in rural and urban regions of Korea. Prior to joining Cornell CRP, she has worked in various locations, including Seoul and Beijing, for the Seoul Metropolitan Government and Ministry of Environment. She holds a B.A. in Sociology and English Language and Literature from Korea University and an M.C.P from Seoul National University.
Euna Kim's research focuses on finding ways to better preserve and develop affordable housing. With a broad research interest covering areas of housing policy, real estate development, and historic preservation, she is particularly fascinated by the role in which private affordable housing developers play in the United States. Recognizing the huge role private developers play in building cities, she believes a deeper and nuanced understanding of these actors can lead to innovative approaches that can transform today's privatized affordable housing system to become more equitable and sustainable. Her interest in housing stems from her two years of working experience as an architect in Seoul, South Korea, and continued through her master's thesis in which she investigated the urban politics surrounding a gentrifying historic residential district in Seoul, South Korea. She received a B.Arch from Yonsei University in South Korea and an M.Sc in Conservation of Monuments and Sites from KU Leuven in Belgium.
Sang-O (Alex) Kim's research interest focuses on the intersection of urban mobility and the built environment. In particular, he is interested in examining how the retirement of baby-boomers, the very generation whose work and life shaped our current urban landscape, would affect the future distribution of travel patterns and residential locations in communities, cities, and regions. Ultimately, he wishes to become a research-oriented scholar investigating how cities and civic institutions could better prepare themselves for the novel challenges of an aging society. Before joining CRP, he gained various work experiences ranging from public diplomacy in Austria, interior design in South Korea, and local government in California. He received his bachelor's degree in geography from King's College London (UK) and received a master of urban planning from the University of Southern California.
Ashley Lauren Kopetzky
Ashley Lauren Kopetzky is a Ph.D. student in City and Regional Planning at Cornell University. Her interests lie at the intersection of public policy, natural resources, and carbon, specifically in regard to their impacts on communities. Before coming to Cornell, she practiced architecture in Seattle, Washington, where she participated in zoning advocacy centered around accessory dwelling units and supportive housing for those previously homeless, while also developing one of the first volume certifications with International Living Futures Institute through BLOCK Architects and Facing Homelessness. During Kopetzky's graduate studies, her thesis focused on implementing emergency management practices within buildings and proposing hub systems to foster support in the event of climate emergencies. Her other professional work includes management in restaurants, wine education, and ceramics. When she is not studying, she loves running, yoga, fiberwork, and reading female-written and translated novels (ask her for a recommendation!). She holds her bachelor of science in architecture from Washington State University, a master's in architecture, and a technical teaching certificate from the University of Oregon.
Wenzheng Li (M.R.P. '18)
Wenzheng Li's research focuses on the urban spatial structure, with emphasis on the measures of polycentricity and its empirical justification as the future spatial planning paradigm in the international context. He explores the topic in terms of morphological and functional metrics and justifies the positive impacts of polycentricity on boosting economic welfares, reducing regional disparity, and improving environmental sustainability. He is engaged in an ongoing project that examines how people value neighboring environmental amenities (e.g., green space and clean air) over time in regions with rapid environmental degradation through the hedonic housing price model. Li extensively combines GIS, remote sensing, spatial econometrics, and computer programming in his research. Before joining the Ph.D. program, Li worked for Tompkins County, where he was committed to improving the affordability and accessibility of public transportation in small urban/rural areas. He received his bachelor's degree in remote sensing from China University of Geosciences and a master's degree in regional planning at Cornell University.
Carlos Lopez Ortiz (M.R.P. '21)
Carlos Lopez Ortiz is a Ph.D. student in City and Regional Planning at Cornell University. His research interests lie at the intersection of planning, urban economics, and urban sociology. He is interested in understanding how poverty in cities affects people's development, with a particular interest in Latin American cities. Specifically, his research will explore how planners, in and outside traditional planning frameworks, can turn urban spaces into platforms that build people's capacities to improve their wellbeing. During his master's degree, Lopez Ortiz analyzed the relationship between income residential segregation and children's academic performance in metropolitan areas in the northeastern United States. He holds a master's degree in Regional Planning from Cornell University and a bachelor's degree in Architecture from Universidad de Los Andes in Bogota, Colombia.
Yousuf Mahid's research agenda focuses broadly on climate change adaptation, forest resource management, conservation, and institutional mechanisms for climate policy formulation. His work investigates the synergies between ecosystem-based adaptation and sustainable development solutions for climate-vulnerable communities, particularly in South Asia. Before joining the program, he worked as a Program Coordinator in the International Center for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) based in Bangladesh. While working at ICCCAD, he provided a contribution on policy advocacy and assisted government officials, particularly of the Planning and Finance Ministries of Bangladesh. Most notably he facilitated the General Economics Division of the Planning Commission in conducting policy research and in producing several reports in order to contribute to the Five-Year Plan and Vision 2041 (national policy documents) of Bangladesh. Similarly, he provided his on-demand research support to the Economic Relations Division of the Ministry of Finance - National Designated Authority to the Green Climate Fund (GCF). After his Ph.D., he aspires to become a faculty and to conduct research in sustainability issues in developing countries. Mahid received his bachelor of urban and regional planning (B.URP) from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) and a master of urban and environmental planning (MUEP) from Arizona State University (ASU). In his spare time, he loves to read books and play table tennis.
Antonio Moya-Latorre is a musician and an architect from Spain who became an urban planner. He is currently a Ph.D. student in City and Regional Planning at Cornell University. Before embarking on his doctoral adventure, Antonio obtained his master's in city planning at MIT with a fellowship from La Caixa and worked at the MIT Community Innovators Lab (CoLab). His research explores how a culture-oriented approach to community planning can leverage existing institutions to advance community self-determination, well-being, and equitable human flourishing in Latin America. As a researcher and practitioner, Antonio has collaborated with underserved communities in Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil.
Malavika Narayan is a Ph.D. student in the Department of City and Regional Planning at Cornell University. Her research focuses on the spatiality of urban informal economies and how work gets reorganized in contexts of rapid urban transformation. She is interested in unpacking how informal sector workers mobilize the land and capital required for their labor and contribute to the creation of highly productive live-work neighborhoods that are integral to the formal city but remain in varying levels of tension with official plans and policies. Prior to this, Malavika has worked with Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO), providing research and programmatic support to the Focal City Delhi project. During this time, she also co-coordinated the Main Bhi Dilli ("I, too, am Delhi") campaign which is aiming to make urban planning in Delhi more inclusive and participatory. Narayan holds a master's in Political Science from the University of Delhi and was also an Urban Fellow at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, Bengaluru.
Maya Porath is a doctoral student researching housing, land use, and shared models of property ownership. Prior to her Ph.D. studies, she worked as an architectural designer in NYC and was the Peter Reyner Banham Fellow at the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning (2022-23). Maya holds a bachelor's degree from Brown University, and a Masters of Architecture from the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University.
Sebastian Restrepo Rodriguez
Sebastian Restrepo Rodriguez likes to solve complex problems. His research interests are regional development and peacebuilding, focusing on the Global South, especially Latin America. Specifically, he is interested in generating development (social, environmental, and economic) in conflict or post-conflict regions from both a top-down and a bottom-up approach. In his research, he seeks to link the generation of policies and programs with funding sources. He has more than 15 years of experience designing and implementing regional development programs. In his last position at the National Department of Development in Colombia, he coordinated the execution of loan contracts with the World Bank, IDB, and the Government of the United Kingdom for the implementation of the multipurpose cadastre public policy to consolidate legal security in land tenure, contribute to fiscal strengthening, territorial development, and environmental sustainability. Restrepo Rodriguez holds a master's degree in Public Policy, a master's degree in Engineering, a professional specialization in Project Management, and a bachelor's degree in Industrial Engineering.
Melissa Smith's research interests include preservation planning and heritage management as it relates to diverse, multiethnic, and cross-cultural circumstances, focusing on public engagement and outreach and exploring the political and social issues that affect and inform planning practices. Her background includes experience in historical archaeology, nonprofit management, as well as work as a cultural liaison for the Somali Bantu refugee community in Vermont. Her research is currently being utilized to interpret the Turner Family homestead for inclusion on the Vermont African American Heritage Trail. She holds a bachelor of arts in anthropology from the University of Mary Washington and a master of science in historic preservation from the University of Vermont.
Dylan Stevenson is a Ph.D. student researching the intersections among urban planning, public health, and indigenous communities. His research interests investigate how tribal epistemologies and land relations influence the conceptualization of the future to develop culturally appropriate methods to promote the goals of indigenous communities. More specifically, he examines the impact of agricultural activity in eastern Oklahoma to understand its relationship to public health outcomes for indigenous communities in the surrounding area. His other interests include health care accessibility, tribal planning, and epidemiological methods in planning practice. Prior to coming to Cornell, Stevenson worked for public and quasi-public entities dealing with the implementation of local, state, and federal legislation. He holds a bachelor's degree in linguistics from the University of California–Davis and a master's degree in urban planning from the University of Southern California.
Shanasia Sylman is a Ph.D. student who is interested in the different ways marginalized communities manage and own open spaces in the U.S. For the last four years, Sylman has been working as an outdoor recreation planner for the National Park Service, assisting with park planning projects for national parks as well as local and community-driven outdoor recreation and conservation projects across the country. It became apparent how the process of creating and managing parks and open spaces does not account for systemic barriers to land access for marginalized communities, so Sylman's proposed research intends to take a critical look at how land protection, conservation, and stewardship practices are evolving to redress social injustices and create more equitable opportunities for land ownership and stewardship. She holds a master's in Urban Planning from the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) and a bachelor's in Environmental Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Outside of the classroom, Sylman enjoys binging sitcom reruns, watching the occasional horror movie, attempting hobbies that never quite stick (blogging, photography, calligraphy), yoga, mindfulness, online shopping and trying new recipes.
Ryan Thomas is interested in learning about sustainable development by studying the economic development strategies employed by communities that are impacted by climate change. He is currently working on a project to compare cities' environmental performance using open and remotely sensed data. Thomas grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, where his hometown pride and optimism led him to work for the city planning department and complete a master's degree in community planning at the University of Cincinnati. As part of his master's thesis research, Thomas conducted a census in an informal settlement of Rio de Janeiro. This experience highlighted the importance of data as a tool to advocate for basic government services. Since then, he has worked to develop computer information systems for data collection, management, and analysis. Prior to joining the CRP Ph.D. program, Thomas developed knowledge management systems to support project evaluations and performance management for USAID and the U.S. State Department. He holds a bachelor's degree in philosophy from the College of Wooster.
Andrea Urbina's primary academic interests include urban planning, housing policy, and governance, focusing on the Global South, especially Latin America. Before joining the Ph.D. program, she worked on a government research project on the impact of intensive residential densification in the re-structure of the city, focusing on the urban morphology and urban regulation in Santiago, Chile. She has researched urban renewal, promoting new ways to regenerate plots given to families in a housing policy established in the 1960s in Chile. She has also worked as an urban planner in the Planning Unit of two municipalities in Santiago. She holds a bachelor's degree in Architecture and a master's degree in urban projects at the Catholic University of Chile (PUC). Her master thesis analyzed Santiago's densification processes and their socio-political implications in the consequences of "unplanned" densification. Ultimately, she aims to analyze verticalization processes as a new renting trend in Latin American cities. In the Ph.D. program, she seeks to explain the emergence and implications of this new urban rental tendency and its effects on urban morphology, urban planning, and governance.
Hassan Yakubu is a trained architect and spatial planner whose research broadly seeks to bridge these spatial scales. Specifically, his work lies at the intersection of infrastructure planning, Science and Technology Studies (STS), and climate urbanism. Through this, Yakubu is developing a line of research exploring spatial patterns of urban energy consumption in order to inform the development of sustainable and resilient African cities. His earlier research engaged with sustainability within slum resettlement programs exploring and extending the "site and services" approach at Old Fadama at the heart of Accra, Ghana. Thereafter, he investigated financing mechanisms of urban development schemes via public-private partnerships, combining a critical policy transfer and a new public management lens. In practice, Yakubu has undertaken architecture consultancies with leading practices in Rabat and Accra on a number of residential, commercial, and public projects. He holds an MPhil. in Planning from the University of Cambridge, U.K., where he was a Commonwealth Shared Scholar, and an Architecture Diploma from the National School of Architecture-Rabat, Morocco, where he was a Ghana-Morocco Governments' Scholar. As an academic, he worked as an analyst, research coordinator and later led the Pedagogical Affairs Unit at the School of Architecture, Planning and Design, Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, Morocco.
Courtney Bower is a Ph.D. student in Regional Science at Cornell University. His tentative research interests include the Black Sea region, Peace Science, post-war economic recovery, and megaprojects. His M.R.P program research focused on examining planning theory knowledge networks using bibliometrics and the study of utopian settlement projects, notably Arcosanti. During his master’s degree study, he received the Arch R. Winter Graduate Fellowship for 2020, worked for the United Nations Office of Disaster Risk Reduction, and was awarded a full-tuition scholarship to Harvard University's Ukrainian Research Institute, where he studied Ukrainian for use in research and scholarship. Prior to attending Cornell University, he completed a 33-month service term in the United States Peace Corps as an English educator in southwest Ukraine. His additional professional experiences include marketing, advertising, and freelance writing. He holds a master's degree in Regional Planning from Cornell University and a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications from Kansas State University.
An economist by training, Andres Castaño is now a fourth-year Ph.D. student in regional science. Castaño's research interests span the areas of regional, labor, and health economics. His work combines a variety of quasi-experimental methods and spatial analysis to study 1) the impact of immigration on the labor and educational sector in the developing world and 2) the effect of gender norms and the distribution of income within a household and its socio-economic consequences. Before coming to Cornell, Castaño worked as a lecturer at the Universidad Católica del Norte in Chile and as a research assistant for Colombia's Central Bank Division of Regional Economics. He has also been a consultant for the World Bank. Castaño holds a bachelor's degree in economics from the Universidad of Cartagena in Colombia and a master's degree in applied economics with a focus on urban and regional economics from the Universidad Católica del Norte in Chile.
Hazel Lee is a Ph.D. student in Regional Science whose main research area lies in the energy transition in the Global South, focusing on household agency, spatial analysis, and Ethiopia. She is interested in analyzing the socio-technical energy transition (STET) and how we can achieve a just and sustainable energy transition. Prior to joining Cornell, she worked with the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), where she was based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and has also worked with the World Bank as a short-term consultant. Her previous research has focused on gender inequality such as gender-based conflict in the Rohingya refugee camps, and digital sex crimes in South Korea. She holds a M.I.S. and B.A. degree from Ewha Womans University, South Korea, in development cooperation and international studies, respectively.
Carlos A. Mesa-Guerra
Carlos A. Mesa-Guerra's research covers topics related to development (especially rural development) and decentralization. Currently, he is interested in understanding the existing gaps between urban and rural areas in low- and middle-income countries. In these places, he studies the provision of public goods and services, how spatial and income inequalities affect regional and national growth, as well as the institutional constraints that facilitate or hinder growth. His work combines econometric and spatial methods for causal inference. Before coming to Cornell, he received his B.S. in economics and B.A. in political science and government, and a master's in economics and public policy from Universidad del Rosario in Colombia.
Gina Yeonkyeong Park
Gina Yeonkyeong Park seeks to research transportation infrastructure planning and regional economic development, particularly improving connectivity between highways, ports, and airports for smart city building. Prior to joining Cornell, she worked at the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, California, and researched the Sri Lankan port of Colombo's infrastructure and supply chain integration of South Asia under the Belt and Road Initiative of China. She presented her findings at the World Conference on Transportation Research in Mumbai, India. She later used this information to expand her master's thesis research to build a single-window system in Sri Lanka for implementing the trade facilitation agreement. Park also worked as a research analyst for map visualization of air pollution at the National Cancer Center of South Korea. She holds bachelor's degrees in international management from the University of Applied Sciences Osnabrueck (Germany) and international studies from Kyung Hee University (South Korea), and a master's degree in international commerce from Seoul National University.
Chanchal Pramanik is a Ph.D. student studying Regional Science in the Department of City and Regional Planning. His primary research interest is analyzing rural-urban dynamics and how they can benefit rural economies, with a focus on digital technologies, bargaining problem and game theory. Prior to Cornell, Chanchal worked as a Scientist with the Digital Farming Initiatives (mKRISHI®) group of Tata Consultancy Services’ Innovation Lab. He is a member of the Committee on Agricultural Statistics of the International Statistical Institute, representing young statisticians. He is a certified Chartered Statistician and Six Sigma Black Belt, accredited by the Royal Statistical Society and Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi respectively. Chanchal holds a master’s degree in Applied Economics and Management from Cornell University, a master’s degree in Agricultural Statistics from Acharya N. G. Ranga Agricultural University, Hyderabad, and a bachelor’s degree in Agriculture from Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan.
Yating Ru (M.R.P. '17)
Yating Ru is a Ph.D. student in regional science. Her research interest centers around spatial inequality and international development. Particularly, she is interested in developing innovative and interdisciplinary approaches to international development challenges by integrating emerging geospatial big data, machine learning, and economic methods. Before joining the Ph.D. program, she worked as a geospatial analyst at the International Food Policy Research Institute for three years, where she employed geographic information tools in conjunction with economic analyses in her research related to poverty, hunger, malnutrition, environmental degradation, and climate change. Yating holds a master's degree in city and regional planning from Cornell University and a B.E. in urban planning from Wuhan University in China.
Zhuojun Wang (M.S. RS '20)
Zhuojun Wang's research interests are urban inequality and place-based policy. Currently, she focuses on analyzing the social and economic impacts of urban infrastructure and observing the interaction between residents and local policies in East Asian countries. She is interested in integrating geographic information system (GIS) techniques, spatial analysis, econometric models, and machine learning methods to solve urban problems. Before joining the Ph.D. program at Cornell, she had experiences as a Mayoral Fellow at the city of Chicago and participated in various urban data analysis projects for the Shanghai and Guangxi provinces. She holds a master's degree in Regional Science from Cornell University, a bachelor's degree in Geomatics from the University of Waterloo, and a bachelor's degree in GIS from Wuhan University.
Hanxue Wei's research focuses on environmental planning, health and social equity, and the housing market using linear regressions, spatial statistics, and machine learning. She works on urban mobility data, socioeconomic data, built environment data, parcel data, satellite images, Twitter sentiment data, and Google Street View. Her dissertation investigates the urban tree canopy, environmental justice, cardiovascular death, and the implications for environmental planning. Her research has been published in peer-reviewed journals such as Environmental and Planning B and Annals of the American Association of Geographers. In addition, her work on social equity and urban mobility during COVID-19 has been reported by twenty media outlets. Prior to joining Cornell, she worked as an urban planner in Shanghai. She has a background in urban planning and urban design.