Ph.D. opportunities at UNC Chapel Hill

November 15 2017

Ph.D. Opportunities for research on Energy Poverty in Africa UNC-CH (6 positions)

Exciting graduate study opportunities at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNCCH)!
Four years of year-round graduate funding is available to enroll in Ph.D. programs in Geography, Public Policy, Sociology, Environment and Ecology, and Anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH), beginning August 2018. EPPSA Fellowships include tuition, health insurance, fees, 12-month stipends, funds for research support and travel, and conference funds. Students will be engaged in a large, interdisciplinary project funded by the United States National Science Foundation titled “Confronting Energy Poverty: Building an Interdisciplinary Evidence Base, Network, and Capacity for Transformative Change” (or “Energy Poverty PIRE in Southern Africa” (EPPSA)).
The student is expected to contribute to project execution, travel internationally, and conduct fieldwork in Malawi, Zambia and/or Zimbabwe. S/he will develop their PhD dissertation research focused on population environment dynamics as it pertains to energy poverty, with the exact topic to be developed in consultation with the advisor and project team. EPPSA involves the completion of a Graduate Certificate in (quantitative) Impact Evaluation. The successful applicant should have a strong interest in population-environment interactions, and interest and ability to work in interdisciplinary teams (that include social scientists, natural scientists and engineers), a strong foundation in social and geographical sciences, and experience with statistical modelling. Applicants with a Master’s degree and/or relevant professional experience are encouraged to apply. This project brings together scientists and practitioners through international partnerships with UNC-CH, North Carolina State University, the Research Triangle Institute, Copperbelt University (Zambia), the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) (Malawi), the University of Zimbabwe, and the
Center for International Forestry Research. Given the interdisciplinary nature of the broader project, we are particularly interested in candidates with a demonstrated interest and commitment to interdisciplinary approaches to complex problems, as well as willingness to
conduct field research in Southern Africa.

• The candidate will have an academic background/degree(s) in Geography, Public Policy,
Sociology, Environmental Studies/Science, Economics, Anthropology, or other relevant
• Master’s degree and/or relevant professional experience.
• Strong quantitative and analytical skills are a requirement for this position.
• Experience with geospatial tools and analysis, including GIS, and the ability to incorporate
qualitative data into quantitative analyses.
• Interest in population-environment interactions related to energy, development, land use,
and conservation.
• Ability to write grants, write scientific papers.
• Ability to do fieldwork, especially in low resource rural and urban communities, for at least
3 months in Malawi, Zambia or Zimbabwe.
• A collegial person who gets along with people from different cultural backgrounds.
Preferred Qualifications
• GIS and remote sensing skills
• Strong statistical modelling competency
• Experience in social science research methods
• Proficiency in Stata, R, and/or Python
• Interest in mentoring undergraduate students in projects related to population and
• Professional and/or academic experience with field work and travel in sub-Saharan Africa
• Self-starter, can work independently, strong communicator, team player
• Ability to interact and facilitate conservations with a variety of audiences – rural and urban households, small and large enterprise owners, engineers, government officials, policy makers, NGO practitioners etc

Application Process for Prospective Students

Interested students must first apply for admission to a PhD program in one of the participating departments at UNC-CH: Geography, Public Policy, Sociology, Environment and Ecology, or Anthropology. Full graduate school applications to UNC-CH are due December 12,
2017. Prospective students should signal an interest in the EPPSA in the application materials submitted to the Graduate School and the home department. In addition, students should also provide a 2-page Statement of Interest specifically addressing their research interest in energy poverty in developing countries to Ryan McCord , EPPSA Project Assistant by 15 January 2018. Submit your letter as a single PDF with the file name “SURNAME_GEPF_2018” to Ryan McCord by 15 January 2018.

Further information on EPPSA can be found at:

About the project
Sub-Saharan Africa is the epicenter of the global challenge of energy poverty, defined as the lack of access to electricity and reliance on biomass fuels. In Southern Africa, the absolute number of energy poor is projected to increase through 2050. Energy poverty has implications for climate, environmental sustainability, human health, and well-being, with negative impacts realized at individual and collective-scales, and in local, regional, and global contexts. Our goal is to build an interdisciplinary evidence base and network for transformative change. We center our research and educational program around two themes: evaluating technology and
incentives; and population and environment dynamics. Using rigorous impact evaluation research designs, we will measure the air quality, land use, and human welfare impacts of a representative set of novel and scalable technology and behavioral interventions designed to
mitigate energy poverty. We use life-cycle analysis to evaluate temporal trade-offs and synergies between environmental and social outcomes. In the second theme, we will investigate the social, demographic, and spatial dimensions of energy poverty by analyzing geographic variables as determinants of energy poverty, and consider the question of optimal scale of implementation of interventions for maximizing environmental benefits and human well-being. Using our comparative research design, we will explore the relationship between energy poverty and urbanization and migration, and shocks such as droughts and political instability. The EPP is innovative for two reasons. First, we use rigorous mixed-methods interdisciplinary impact evaluation as the anchor for our research and training program. We seek to study what works, why it works, and over what spatial and temporal scale. Second, the study of energy poverty is highly fragmented across a large number of disciplines with very little cross-fertilization or engagement with interdisciplinary frameworks (e.g., complex socioecological
systems and population and environment dynamics). We use these important theoretical lenses to shed new light on this highly intractable problem, and to guide a coherent body of empirical research in an understudied region.