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Alumni & PhD portrait : Yuting Yang

Alumni experience



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From the classroom to the job market to the real world. Recently graduated from TSE,  one of our alumni  speaks to  us  about  her  new  roles  and  her  experience  as  TSE  student.

Yuting Yang, Energy   economist   at   University   of   New   Mexico   speaks  to  us  about  her  stay  at  TSE  and  how  it  prepared her for a career in academia. She    followed    the    environmental    and    energy    economics  track  at  TSE  and  today  concentrates  on the impact of electricity interconnection on the transition towards a low-carbon energy sector. 

What can you tell us about your recent research?

I look at whether expanding cross-country or regio-nal electricity transmission can help foster renewable investment and reduce carbon emissions. 

What  are  the  policy  tools  that  governments  can  use to ensure lower emissions?

Depending  on  the  level  of  the  carbon  tax,  I  find  that  expanding  electricity  interconnection  may  lead  to  lowered   renewable   investment   and   increased   emissions    because    trade    may    dampen    the    competitiveness  of  renewable  power.  To  avoid  the  adverse   impact   on   the   environment,   when   and   where to put the interconnection becomes crucial. Reducing  carbon  emissions  has  been  center  stage  in efforts to mitigate climate change. The main goal is to decarbonize the energy sector. With the continuous reduction in the cost of wind turbines and solar panels, it seems that we could achieve a future of zero-carbon emissions. I am interested to understand what are the necessary steps the world needs to take to achieve this goal, and what are the challenges and obstacles we need to watch out for along the way.

What attracted you to your new role?

I  will  be  starting  a  tenure-track  position  at  the  Economics  Department  of  the  University  of  New  Mexico  next  fall.  I  have  been  hired  as  an  Energy  economist,  in  collaboration  with  the  EPSCoR  New  Mexico  SMART  grid  project. Therefore, apart from the regular duties as an economics professor to teach classes and do research,  I  will  be  involved  directly  with  the  state-wide  project  to  design  and  implement  distributed  micro-grids  in  the  neighborhoods  where  they  would  reduce  carbon  emissions  from  energy  use  and  increase  climate  resiliency.  This is why I was attracted to this position. I will be collaborating with a group of engineers, physicists, computer scientists, and economists to carry out this project. It will be a great learning opportunity for me and, hopefully, I will be able to contribute what I know to the community. I hope I will be able to transfer the knowledge that I have accumulated over the years to my students. Meanwhile, I  will  continue  to  collaborate  with  other  researchers  and  produce  quality  output  that  can,  hopefully,  guide  policymaking in fighting climate change. 

How has your time at TSE prepared you for your new role?  

My time at TSE has prepared me for a career in academia in many aspects. First and foremost, I have learned to do rigorous research both independently and in collaboration with other researchers. Secondly, TSE has trained me  to  communicate  my  research  confidently.  The  many  opportunities  for  PhD  students  to  present  our  work  (workshops,  seminars,  and  conferences)  and  interact  with  researchers  have  gradually  shaped  us  to  be  better  presenters over time. Thirdly, TSE has always supported the academic exchange beyond its walls, which helped me build a research network. For example, I was financed by the GEMCLIME mobility grant to visit the University of California, Santa Barbara in spring 2019.The  three-month  visit  gave  me  the  opportunity  to  experience  research  life  in  the  US  first-hand.  I  was  able  to  interact closely with the local researchers, present my work and receive valuable feedback from them. Having this close interaction also benefited me on the academic job market.

Do you have any reflections on the role of economists in these challenging times? 

There is a disheartening expression on the internet these days saying that “COVID-19 is the earth’s vaccine against the virus of humans”. We have seen staggering evidence that across the globe, due to the lockdown measures of many countries and the huge reduction in economic activities, pollution has been declining, water has become clear, and wildlife has come wandering into places where it had never been seen before. This devastating time has painted a picture of what the Earth would be like without us and provided causal evidence on how human activities have damaged the natural environment. Moreover, this pandemic has made us realize vividly how connected the world is and how every individual is an organic part of society. Although the disease started in one city in China, it quickly spread and escalated to all parts of the world within two months. We have seen from the Asian countries that in order to effectively contain the spread, we need quick responses from the government, citizens should be responsible and practice strict social distancing, and we need countries to help each other in terms of medical supplies and experience. This is not a time to be politically divided between governments or for individuals to rely on the action of the states and not hold themselves responsible. This pandemic should be considered as an early warning for climate change. Governments need to know that they cannot free-ride on other countries’ commitments to cut emissions. All individuals should bear in mind the externality of their actions on the environment. We cannot afford to delay action until it’s too late.

 Do you have any career advice for future TSE students? 

We always knew that the job market is tough, more so for some than others. Be confident and apply for jobs that you are passionate about. Not only will this keep you motivated through the ups and downs of the market, more importantly, your passion can really influence how others perceive you and your work.TSE offers great training and support for its students. Former PhD students can also offer valuable support. I was lucky enough to receive a grant funded by a group of Chinese alumni for my final year as a PhD student. You should always make use of the opportunities and never hesitate to ask for help 

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