Research Fellows

Ying Gao

PhD student in Political Science, Department of Political Science, MIT

Ying is a PhD student in comparative politics at MIT and is interested in the political and behavioral foundations of development in rapidly urbanizing countries. As an IDIN Summer Research Fellow, she will be traveling to Jakarta, Indonesia to research the social and political impact of innovation in the digital informal economy, focusing on informal transportation. Pior to starting her PhD, Ying worked at the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), where she organized multi-stakeholder meetings with over 500 delegates in preparation for the Habitat III Conference and served as lead regional researcher for a five-country participatory research project on urban youth and equity for the Global State of Urban Youth Report 2017. Ying holds a Master in City Planning from MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning, and a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University, where she majored in International Politics.

Meghan McCormick

MBA/MPA candidate at the Sloan School of Management, MIT and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government

Meghan will be working in Guinea to map the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the capital of Conakry, paying special attention to how it has been shaped by post-Ebola investments. This builds on work Meghan has been undertaking in Guinea since serving as a Community Economic Development Volunteer in the Peace Corps in the country from 2011-2013. After her service, she founded Dare to Innovate, a youth-led movement to end unemployment in West Africa through investments in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. To date, the organization has trained over 1000 youth entrepreneurs in West Africa and helped launch 32 youth-owned, social businesses.  At MIT, Meghan is a Legatum Fellow for entrepreneurship in emerging markets and serves as a member of the Africa Business Club. She received a B.S. in Business Administration from Georgetown University. 

Sera Tolgay

Master of City Planning and Master of Science in Architecture student, MIT

Sera will be researching community-based water management systems in the farming communities of the Jordan River Valley with local NGO Friends of the Earth Middle East, who have pioneered novel approaches to water management in the valley. Sera is a dual degree candidate in the Master of City Planning and Master of Science in Architecture Studies (Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture), originally from Istanbul, Turkey. Her research is at the intersection of environmental science, landscape ecology and community development, with a particular focus on green infrastructure strategies and community-based water management systems in arid climates. Prior to MIT, she worked on various environmental planning and urban development projects at UNDP, EMBARQ and Studio-X Istanbul. Sera has a background in environmental science and policy and received her B.A. from Yale University, where she also worked for the Yale Sustainable Food Project.

Juan Cristobal Constain Ramos

MCP candidate, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT

Juan is an urban planner from Popayán, Colombia who is currently completing his Master of City Planning degree at MIT DUSP. For the past 4 years, Juan has worked with the MIT Community Innovators Lab (CoLab), focused on designing and implementing capacity building and leadership development programs to advance economic democracy and self-determination in the Colombian Pacific Region.  Before joining MIT CoLab, Juan led the community engagement strategy for the Innovation District in Medellin, a project led by Ruta N. As an IDIN Research Fellow this summer, he will be interviewing critical stakeholders of Medellin’s rising innovation ecosystem and discussing the multiple strategies for inclusive innovation deployed by local government, civic society, and the private sector.  Juan has graduate degrees in Urban Law and Strategic Urban Planning from Universidad del Rosario in Colombia and CIDEU in Spain and has served as an Advisory to the Mayor’s Office and Planning Department in Popyayán, Colombia.

Jessica Huang

PhD student in Public Health, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Jessica is a Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) student at Harvard interested in the intersection of health, environment, and education. She will be working in Guatemala this summer with a local innovation ecosystem focused on sustainable housing in rural communities. Previously, Jessica was an instructor with D-Lab at MIT, helping to develop and teach courses around environmental sustainability and youth engagement, and a Climate Fellow at the Alliance for Climate Protection led by Vice President Al Gore (now known as the Climate Reality Project). She has also helped to co-found a social enterprise in India, called Zimba Water, that installs locally-designed and locally-manufactured technologies for drinking water disinfection in rural and peri-urban communities. Jessica holds a Masters in Learning, Design and Technology from the Stanford Graduate School of Education, and a B.S. in Environmental Engineering and B.S. in Business Administration from the University of California, Berkeley.