CRP Ph.D. Student Profiles

Ph.D. Candidates in Regional Planning

Farhana Ahmad

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Farhana Ahmad is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Department of City and Regional Planning at Cornell. Her research intersects the fields of adaptation planning, water, and institutional reform. Her work examines how and why processes of adaptation planning by institutions differentially affect cities, regions, and communities, and the implications of these processes for questions of vulnerability, equity, and sustainability. Ahmad's interest in issues of equity in cities comes from her 10 years of experience working in the international development field in Bangladesh. She holds a bachelor's degree from Grinnell College and a master's degree from the University of Minnesota.


Austin M. Aldag (M.R.P. '18)

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Austin M. Aldag’s research agenda focuses broadly on local governments and intergovernmental relations in particular. He has twice been published in Local Government Studies where he investigated both interlocal government collaboration and citizen voting behavior in mayoral elections. Another article by Aldag investigates the pragmatic nature of local government pushback on state policies in a paper that appears in 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 sections of town to analyzing public work practices regarding street line painting. Aldag holds a master of regional planning from Cornell University (M.R.P. '18) 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, walking his beloved cat Gus around Ithaca, or reading the latest science fiction novel.


Kadir Basboga

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Kadir Basboga's main research interests include participatory planning and community-driven development. He has 10 years of experience in development planning and international development specifically in Turkey, Uzbekistan, and Azerbaijan. He has previously studied the contributions of entrepreneurship and small enterprises to socioeconomic development. Now he is investigating culturally friendly ways to build up the capacities of local development's partnership to enhance the sustainability of ongoing country and international level development interventions. He aspires to come up with new and more effective ways of engaging local communities. Before joining AAP, he received his bachelor's degree in management from Bilkent University in Turkey, and a master's degree in public administration from the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs.


Jared Enriquez

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Jared Enriquez investigates integrated planning solutions to achieving water security, the equity implications of environmental and economic development policies, and the diversification of urban development actors. His current research focuses on local governments' water conservation policies and practices in landscapes at risk of significant ecological transformation. Before studying water policies, he examined defensible urban design and the social and physical construction of exclusive spaces in the name of security. After his Ph.D., he hopes to become a professor who leads planning studios and directs research. Enriquez received his B.A. in architecture and urban studies from Yale, and master of urban planning from the University of Michigan.


Shoshana Goldstein

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Shoshana Goldstein is a Ph.D. candidate in CRP. Her current research explores planning history and urban governance in northern India, specifically questions surrounding the impacts of economic liberalization, public-private partnerships, and internal migration on urban placemaking. She holds an M.A. in international affairs from the New School, where she focused on the comparative urban development experiences of India and China. Prior to joining CRP, Goldstein worked for the India China Institute and as a consultant for the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs and UNICEF.


Lu Liao

headshot of a young woman with brown hair and glasses with grass and plants behind herLu Liao's research interests sit at the intersection of environmental planning and urban politics. Her research explores the interplay between different stakeholders involved in environmental issues during China's sociopolitical transition, and the formation of regional collaborations to achieve effective environmental governance. One of her projects is a quantitative exploration of factors that influenced public opposition towards two types of environmentally sensitive projects in China. Currently, she works with Professor Mildred Warner on a U.S. national sustainability survey to explore the incentives and barriers of localities' sustainability actions. An environmental planner and policy analyst by training, she tries to apply spatial-econometric models to examine the spatial interdependence of regional environmental governance. She received both her bachelor's degree in law and master's degree in public policy from Tsinghua University in China.


Andrea Restrepo-Mieth

headshot of a woman with long dark hair wearing an orange scarfRestrepo-Mieth's research explores the interplay of planning, politics, social movements, and institutions in cities in the global South. Her current work in Medellín and Bogotá examines the strategic actions of grassroots, state actors, and business elites towards formally and informally institutionalizing progressive planning in three areas — mobility, public space, and water and sanitation. In line with this focus, she is also interested in the ways in which urban inhabitants in Medellín's underprivileged northern zones redefine citizenship through their engagement in community-based planning practices that reimagine their neighborhoods and the city. She is currently a visiting researcher at EAFIT University in Medellín. In addition to working on her dissertation, Restrepo-Mieth is a member of a multidisciplinary research group funded by the Institute for Comparative Modernities and the Polson Institute for Global Development that examines relations between space, place, and resistance in Latin America. Prior to attending Cornell, Restrepo-Mieth worked for three years in investment banking in New York City and one year in urban sustainability in Singapore. She holds a B.A. in economics and international relations from SUNY New Paltz and a master's in public policy from the Lee Kuan Yew School, National University of Singapore.


Melanie Sand

headshot of a young woman wearing a sleeveless burgundy shirtMelanie Sand is a Ph.D. candidate writing her dissertation on American Indian dispossession, climate change displacement, and indigenous relocation planning. She focuses more generally on planning for resilience in cultural heritage communities and the human dimensions of planning in at-risk coastal communities. Before pursuing graduate school, she worked as a town planner for two neighboring towns in western North Carolina. She conducted research with the University of New Orleans Center for Hazards Assessment, Response, and Technology where she worked with lowland people and bayou communities of southern Louisiana promoting participation and community activism toward coastal resilience. At Cornell, Sand has been a teaching assistant for an array of planning subjects, including the American city, urban theory, land use, and geographic information systems. She also taught an introduction to GIS course at Cornell as a visiting lecturer. She plans to defend her dissertation in 2018. She has a bachelor's degree in urban planning and development from Ball State University and a master's degree in urban and regional planning from the University of New Orleans.


Melissa Smith

portrait of a woman standing on a shoreline wearing a blue life jacketMelissa 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

portrait of a young man with dark hair and trees behind himDylan Stevenson's research focuses on the agency of Indigenous communities within the planning process, both on tribal lands and urban areas. His research interests investigate how tribal epistemologies and land relations influence the conceptualization of the future and culturally appropriate methods of creating such futures. More specifically, he focuses on the role of food systems as a means of developing sovereignty that also promotes the revitalization of cultural practices of marginalized communities, namely Indigenous communities in North America. His other interests include urban design, intergovernmental collaborations, and utopian thought. He holds a bachelor's degree in linguistics from the University of California–Davis, and a master's degree in planning from the University of Southern California.


Nidhi Subramanyam (M.R.P. '14)

Nidhi SubramanyamSubramanyam's research examines how small cities in the global South manage urbanization in the face of demographic and climate change. She is interested in understanding how small city governments provide and manage basic services such as water and sanitation (and the infrastructure that undergirds them) in an equitable and sustainable manner. Her other interest areas include postcolonial urban development and the politics of localism in cities in the global South. Prior to returning to Cornell to pursue her doctoral studies, Subramanyam worked with the Climate Change program at Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC). At IDRC, she helped institute projects that addressed climate change adaptation in secondary cities in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa and published papers on the governance of flooding risks in the peri-urban municipalities in the Mumbai metropolitan region. An architect by training, Subramanyam obtained her M.R.P. from Cornell, where her thesis examined agrarian communities' responses to dispossession from their lands and livelihoods for Special Economic Zones in Tamil Nadu, India. She also interned with the nonprofit Transparent Chennai, where she worked on participatory mapping projects to increase access to water and sanitation for the urban poor in Chennai.


Fauzul Rizal Sutikno

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Fauzul Rizal Sutikno is a Ph.D. Fulbright scholar from Indonesia. His research focuses on international planning in poverty alleviation and community-based planning in Southeast Asia. He is trying to understand how communities engage social networks and construct efficient developments in their neighborhoods. He is also trying to identify why and how participation happens in local and municipal communities. He is interested in combining modeling and qualitative methods in his research. Before coming to Cornell, he worked as a lecturer at the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at Brawijaya University in Indonesia, and also worked as a planning consultant focused on infrastructure and transportation projects. He received his master's in planning from Institut Teknologi Bandung, Indonesia, and his bachelor's degree from Brawijaya University.


Ryan Thomas

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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 Janiero. 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.


Christine Wen

Christine WenChristine Wen's research — situated at the intersection of migration, labor geography, and urban planning — explores the governance challenges and social conflicts arising from rapid urbanization in contemporary China. Her dissertation applies the framework of migrant integration to analyzing the interactions between state and migrant agency, particularly around the issue of urban citizenship and space production. In particular, she seeks to understand how local governments balance practices of both "expulsion" and "incorporation" in their approach to integrating migrants. Her ethnographic fieldwork primarily takes place in emerging secondary cities in interior, migrant-sending provinces of China, where she looks at how processes of integration vary for different types of informal migrant spaces in central and peri-urban areas. Wen holds a B.A. in physics from Princeton University and an M.S. in urban planning from Columbia University, where she studied the impact of climate change on U.S. groundwater systems as a researcher at the Earth Institute.


Ph.D. Candidates in Regional Science

Woosung Kim (M.S. RS '12)

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Woosung Kim's research focuses on policy analysis and management by focusing on regional impact analysis using various method combinations, particularly the social accounting matrix, econometrics, and agent-based modeling. Currently, his research is relating to the impact of reducing military expenditures, relationships between peace and trade, and the impact of tax incentives by using integration of computational methodologies and theories. Before joining the Ph.D. program, he received his bachelor's degree in international studies from the University of California–Irvine and a master's degree in regional science at Cornell University.


Carlos A. Mesa-Guerra

b&w headshot of a young man with brown hairCarlos 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.


Waishan Qiu

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Trained as an interdisciplinary urban designer and researcher, Waishan Qiu is now pursuing a Ph.D. in regional science at Cornell University. He is experienced in developing digital tools to investigate the dynamic interaction between people and space. Being interested in cybernetics, sensing technology, spatial analysis, and data visualization, he has been involved with various data-driven research across the world in places like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the U.S., and China. His research explores mobility, accessibility, shareability, resilience, and sustainability issues in an urban context. Prior to joining Cornell, he worked as a research associate at MIT. He also has several degrees from top universities in China, the U.K., and the U.S., including a master of city planning in city design and development from MIT in 2017, a master of architecture in urban design with distinction from the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London in 2015, and a bachelor of engineering in urban planning from Tongji University in 2013. His previous lab experiences include the MIT Senseable City Lab, the MIT Samuel Tak Lee Real Estate Entrepreneurship Lab, the MIT Center for Advanced Urbanism, and Evidence for Policy Design at the Harvard Kennedy School. His portfolio can be viewed at


Xiaozhong Sun (M.R.P. ‘16)

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Xiaozhong Sun’s research covers topics related to regional economic development, regional agglomeration, and fiscal decentralization. His research question is mainly centered on what factors contribute to the uneven economic development at a macrogeographic scale over time. These factors of interest include path-dependent locational comparative advantages, institutional settings, policy incentives and distortions, agglomeration economies, and accumulation of human capital. The goal of the research is to provide policy recommendations for land and fiscal resource allocation at a regional level and predict future regional growth and decline with the inflow and outflow of migration and capital. Currently, his object of study is the evolution of spatial inequality in China since the reform and opening-up policy at the provincial and sub-provincial level. With the help of theoretical and empirical study, he is trying to understand the interactions of geographical force, market forces, and institutional force with respect to explaining China's trajectory of economic development. His work combines conventional econometrics, spatial econometrics, network analysis, and GIS. He formerly graduated from M.R.P. in 2016 and continues his study as a doctoral student in the field of regional science. Before coming to Cornell, he received bachelor's and master's degrees in land resources management from Nanjing Agricultural University and Renmin University of China.


Ziye Zhang

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Ziye Zhang's research focuses on housing markets and consumer behavior. His current interest is to explain the housing price spatial-temporal dynamic from the perspective of household behavior, integrating theories and methodologies from microeconomics, location theory, spatial econometrics, and agent-based modeling. He is also interested in employing qualitative methods to explore the behavioral insights of household decision making. Before coming to Cornell, he received his master's degree in regional economics and bachelor's degree in public policy from Peking University in China.