Postdoc Fellows & Visiting Scholars

DIL’s Postdoctoral (‘Postdoc’) Fellowship programs provide young researchers with unique opportunities for continued engagement in poverty studies and development engineering applied research, scholarship, and teaching.  Alumni will go on to teach and conduct research at universities around the world, creating an interdisciplinary network that will globally strengthen academic participation in science, social science, and technology for development.

The DIL Visiting Scholars program connects currently supported DIL project teams with international collaborators. The initiative aims to build new international partnerships that strengthen on-going initiatives, through technology design, field evaluations and more.

Global Poverty and Practice Postdoctoral Fellows

DIL’s Global Global Poverty and Practice Postdoctoral Fellows  advance a research project; share their research with other scholars within DIL, UC Berkeley, and USAID’s broader Higher Education Solutions Network; and teach within the Global Poverty and Practice Minor (GPP) – a groundbreaking poverty studies program housed within the Blum Center for Developing Economies.

Background on the Global Poverty & Practice Program

The start of the new millennium is marked by the emergence of a remarkable global conscience to tackle persistent poverty.  While the field of international development has long concerned itself with poverty, the new moment is unusual in several ways.  Development is no longer viewed simply as a practice centered within the institutions of bilateral and multilateral foreign assistance.  Engagement with poverty is now widespread, taken up by NGOs, social entrepreneurs, business, citizen campaigns, universities, social movements, development engineers, and governments of both the global North and the global South.

This democratization of who engages in poverty action has meant that the problem of poverty is increasingly seen as one best tackled through multiple approaches rather than a single dominant paradigm. Given the geographically distinct and uneven trajectories of development and inequality, there is the urgent need for a better understanding of divergent models of poverty action and for how lessons learned from one region can be applied to another.  As development studies was a scholarly reflection on the post-war Bretton Woods world order, so global poverty and inequality scholarship must interpret new paradigms of development and poverty action.

Such trends present an opportunity and challenge for academic institutions.  How can the next generation of global citizens be trained to participate in the development debates and to tackle poverty and inequality?  What sorts of knowledge must be produced in order to enable such work?  How can the frameworks of development studies be updated and reworked to reflect these new global realities?  What is the role of universities in such a project, especially as their classrooms fill with a generation of students eager to address the issue of poverty?  How can young men and women based in the global North develop solidarity with organizations and communities in the global South?

These questions have been taken up by an innovative and popular minor, Global Poverty and Practice (GPP), at the University of California, Berkeley.  Established in 2007 by the Blum Center for Developing Economies, GPP quickly became the largest undergraduate minor on the Cal campus.  Today it has over 300 students from over 30 different majors ranging from economics to engineering, molecular & cell biology to media studies.  Students in the minor complete rigorous coursework and conceptualize and implement a “practice experience” focused on poverty alleviation.  Through critical reflection, they come to better understand the forces at work in the constitution and persistence of poverty and how they may play a role in supporting social change.

The GPP Minor thrives within a constellation of Blum Center initiatives that seek to shape and sharpen the debates of poverty and inequality. In 2012, the #GlobalPOV Project began combining critical social theory, improvised art and digital media to explore innovative ways of thinking about poverty, inequality and undertaking poverty action. Most recently, we have begun work on a book series with UC Press – Poverty, Interrupted – that will accessibly present key organizing concepts and analytical frameworks for building up global poverty as a critical field of inquiry as well as short-form texts that explore: specific poverty interventions, accounts of how various discipline engage the poverty analytic, or broader analysis of current economic and political transformations and their implications for poverty and inequality.

In 2012, the Blum Center for Developing Economies was recognized by USAID as one of 7 inaugural “development labs” in its newly launched initiative, Higher Education Solutions Network (HESN). Meant to leverage academic research and university-based science and technology efforts in crafting innovative and durable responses to global poverty challenges, the HESN project places the work of the Blum Center, including the Global Poverty & Practice Minor, in a worldwide effort aimed at alleviating poverty.

GPP Fellows Program Overview

The Global Poverty and Practice Postdoctoral Fellows  (“GPP Fellows”) program is being launched within the context of this expanding scope of Global Poverty & Practice initiatives and through USAID’s HESN partnership with the Blum Center for Developing Economies.

The Global Poverty and Practice Postdoctoral Fellows program has three main goals:

1. To nurture postdoctoral research that has direct relevance for the understanding of poverty and inequality and for poverty action and development practice.

2. To inspire and train the next generation of academic scholars to create forms of undergraduate teaching that position research universities as central to global poverty studies and development practice.

3. To create a cohort of university researchers and educators who are committed to working with the international development community to find solutions to global challenges.   Uniquely informed by and integrated into the HESN, it is assumed that alumni of the Fellowship will go on to teach undergraduates and conduct poverty-action work at universities around the world, creating an interdisciplinary network that will strengthen the HESN globally.

The Global Poverty and Practice Postdoctoral Fellows program aims to support research and teaching in a wide range of interdisciplinary fields and on a variety of subject areas relevant to poverty, inequality, and poverty action, including: urban / rural poverty and inequality, food and environmental justice, information technology for society, development economics, workers’ organizing and other social movements, community and public health, immigration and poverty, development engineering, educational justice, Third Sector studies, city planning, disaster relief, microfinance, fair trade, and other economic justice initiatives.

GPP Fellows Program Details

Sponsorship: The Global Poverty and Practice Postdoctoral Fellows are housed within the Blum Center for Developing Economies and governed by the Education Committee of the Center that oversees the Global Poverty and Practice Minor.

Responsibilities: The Global Poverty and Practice Postdoctoral Fellows program requires Fellows to advance a research project in global poverty studies and to articulate a plan for the publication and dissemination of such research.  Each Fellow will also be asked to teach three courses during the two-year appointment. One course directly relates to the Fellow’s research, and the other courses contribute to the core curriculum of the Global Poverty and Practice Minor. Fellows are expected to participate regularly in HESN meetings and conversations, work collegially with HESN network partners, and regularly report to the Blum Center on their activities.  Each Fellow will be assigned a faculty mentor. These mentors will link Fellows to departments on campus affording them additional support for their research project.

Eligibility: Applicants must have a doctorate by the start of the appointment but have received this doctorate no earlier than May 2010.

Date and Duration:  Each award is for a 24-month period. The appointment begins Sept 1, 2013. The start date maybe negotiable.

Application Deadline:  July 15, 2013 – by 11:59 pm (Pacific Standard Time)

Salary: The annual award provides a salary of $55,000. The award also includes health insurance, vision and dental benefits, and up to $3,000 for research-related and program travel expenses. These funds can be used for relocation and moving expenses, as well as for computer, travel, conference, journal, book, software, equipment, and other research costs.

External Funding:  Global Poverty and Practice Postdoctoral Fellows are encouraged to develop and submit research proposals for external funding in cooperation with their faculty mentor, other UC Berkeley faculty, or scholars within the HESN. When doing so, Fellows must follow all University of California, Berkeley rules applicable to postdoctoral scholars.

Visas: University of California, Berkeley assists Fellows in obtaining visas for non-US citizens. Read more information on UCB’s visa eligibility policies online at the Berkley International Office’s website.

Benefits: Global Poverty and Practice Postdoctoral Fellows are considered a UC Berkeley “Postdoctoral Scholar – Employee” and are therefore eligible for health and medical benefits as well as other benefits provided by the university for full-time employees. The rules, regulations and policies of UCB as well as applicable state and federal law that govern employment at University of California, Berkeley are also listed on the above web site.

Housing: The Blum Center for Developing Economies does not provide housing allocation for Fellows.  Fellows may contact the Cal Housing Office for informal guidance on acquiring housing in the areas near the university.

Program Activities: The Global Poverty and Practice Postdoctoral Fellows program hosts a series of activities that explore interdisciplinary issues in poverty studies and introduce the Fellows to a diverse array of University of California, Berkeley faculty and researchers. Early in the Fall Semester, Fellows are asked to present their research in a symposium organized by the Blum Center. The symposium provides a valuable opportunity for Fellows to engage the University of California, Berkeley research community as well as the larger public in innovative research in poverty studies. Throughout the year, Fellows are expected to engage in Blum Center sponsored events and programs. We expect the HESN, as a global network of universities, nonprofits, and development agencies, to also be an important audience for the scholarship and projects of the Fellows.

There is no current open application cycle.

Current Postdoctoral Fellows

Dr. S. Imran Ali

Ph.D., University of Guelph, 2012

Research Area

  • Building evidence-based guidelines for emergency safe water supply in refugee/IDP camps
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Dr. Ali is an aid worker and academic focused on humanitarian challenges at the intersection of environment and public health. He is a water and sanitation specialist with Médecins Sans Frontières and has been part of emergency responses in South Sudan and Pakistan. Dr. Ali holds a doctorate in environmental engineering from the University of Guelph and received his bachelors in engineering from Queen’s University.

Dr. Ali’s current research focuses on emergency safe water supply in refugee/IDP camps. In response to major knowledge gaps in humanitarian operations, his research aims to develop evidence-based guidelines for emergency safe water supply. In collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Médecins Sans Frontières, Dr. Ali is carrying out this field research in refugee camps in South Sudan, Jordan, and elsewhere, through 2013-2015. Dr. Ali’s doctoral research focused on participatory design of safe water systems in urban slums in South Asia. He is also interested in the role of engineers and technical ‘experts’ in supporting communities in environment and resource related struggles. Originally from Toronto, Canada, Dr. Ali’s researches have also taken him to India, Sri Lanka, and Bolivia, all in an effort to avoid the Canadian winter.

Dr. Kweku Opoku-Agyemang

Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2012

Research Area

  • Interactive voice-based mobile surveys in Ghana
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Kweku Opoku-Agyemang works on the political economy of development—how both economic and political factors affect social change, with current emphasis on technological innovations. Before coming to the University of California, Berkeley, Kweku was a Research Scholar with the Agricultural and Applied Economics Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Kweku Opoku-Agyemang holds a doctorate in Development Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, an M.A. in Economics from Ohio University, and a B.A. in Economics with Geography and Resource Development from the University of Ghana. Kweku was selected as a National Service Person with the Ghana Government, where he worked on scaling up a national HIV/AIDS policy across the country.

Dr. Opoku-Agyemang’s current research focuses on the impact of mobile technologies on governance in African countries. In Ghana, he is working on survey experiments and impact evaluations to study how mobile innovations can improve policy effectiveness overall, and the state of rural and urban utilities and public services in particular. He has been invited to discuss his research with various stakeholders, such as the Ministry of Communications, the Ministry of Trade and Industry, and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development as well as urban district assemblies in Ghana. In addition to other ongoing projects at the intersection of technology and African development, Kweku is also doing research on econometric and statistical methods for using big data in impact evaluations.

In Fall 2014, Opoku-Agyemang developed and taught a new course for UC Berkeley on “Poverty, Technology and Development.” The course engaged students on the ongoing impacts of mobile and other technological innovations on African and global development.

Development Impact Lab Visiting Scholars

The DIL Visiting Scholars program connects currently supported DIL project teams with international collaborators. The initiative aims to build new international partnerships that strengthen on-going initiatives, through technology design, field evaluations and more.

Visiting Scholars

Debalina Chakravarty

Ph.D. Student, Economics
Jadavpur University, India


  • Eric Brewer, Department of Computer Science, UC Berkeley
  • Catherine Wolfram, Energy Institute at Haas School of Business,UC Berkeley
  • Meredith Fowlie, Agriculture and Resource Economics, UC Berkeley
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Debalina Chakravarty is a Fall 2013 DIL Visiting Student Researcher focusing on economics and climate change. She will spend the semester working with Professors Eric Brewer, Catherine Wolfram, Meredith Fowlie, and their research team on the Rural Electric Power Project (REPP) – an evaluation of solar microgrids in India. Debalina comes to DIL from Jadavpur University in India, where she is pursuing a PhD in Economics with a focus on climate change and the rebound effect. Her dissertation, entitled “Rebound Effect: Empirical Evidence from the Indian Economy,” focuses on the impact of energy efficiency and climate change mitigation policies on consumer behavior in the energy sector. Debalina received her M.Phil. in Economics from Jadavpur University, and has published her work in peer reviewed books and journals.

Amit Dutta and Anupam Debsarkar

Professors, Civil Engineering
Jadavpur University, India


  • Dr. Ashok Gadgil, Civil and Environmental Engineering,UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab
  • Dr. Susan Amrose, Indoor Environment Group, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab Jadavpur University, Kolkata, West Bengal,India
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Dr. Amit Dutta and Dr. Anupam Debsarkar, both professors in the Department of Civil Engineering of Jadavpur University in Kolkata, West Bengal, India, focus their research on Environmental Engineering, particularly on water purification technologies. They plan to spend their time in Berkeley gathering information and hands-on experience with new mechanisms for Arsenic Remediation, Flouride Remediation of groundwater, and other water purification methods. Additionally they seek to explore cost-effective desalination processes in an effort to ease the world’s increasing water shortages. During their time at Berkeley both Dr. Dutta and Dr. Debsarkar laid the foundation for the expansion of future collaborative research opportunities between researchers from Jadavpur University and UC Berkeley and other Bay Area water purification specialists.

Siva Rama Satyam Bandaru

ECAR Technical Specialist and Field Supervisor, Global Change Programme
Jadavpur University, India

Home Institution

Jadavpur University, Kolkata, West Bengal, India

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Siva has a Bachelors degree in Civil Engineering (2010) and a Masters degree in Environmental Engineering (2011) from the Indian Institute of Technology – Kharagpur. He is currently working on a pilot scale implementation of ECAR technology in India, a system designed to supply arsenic safe water to rural communities in arsenic-affected regions. He has worked on the design and fabrication of the scaled up prototype and supervised a multi-month field trial of a community scale system. Before joining the ECAR team, Siva worked on low cost microbial fuel cells for waste water treatment with simultaneous energy recovery as a part of his Master’s thesis. He wishes to pursue a PhD in environmental engineering.