Featured C+Ser: Sreeja Nair
By Candice Allouch, C+S ’15
Sreeja Nair is a C+S alum with an interdisciplinary background in the biomedical sciences and environmental policy fields. She has worked with the Centre for Global Environmental Research at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in New Delhi, evaluating climate impacts, vulnerability and adaptation assessments in the agriculture and water sectors. Being interested in both climate science and its socio-ecological impacts, Nair applied to C+S, believing it to be a “good balance between providing depth of knowledge and breadth of issues.” She was attracted to the program because of its faculty, who are some of the leading scientists across the world engaged in cutting-edge research on climate science and impacts.
During her time with C+S, Nair enjoyed the opportunity to work in teams and present selected topics at public schools and libraries, giving her a tremendous boost in confidence as a student (and future researcher and teacher of the subject!). The elective that she enjoyed most was the Climate Change and Public Health course at the Mailman School of Public Health, as it allowed her “to get a good overview of the complexities of public health as a critical sector likely to be adversely affected by climate change.”
During her internship with C+S, Nair worked as a Graduate Research Assistant at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society studying the impacts of climate variability in Ceara region of Brazil and identifying institutional mechanisms and linkages between scientific and political initiatives on climate change. In addition, she worked on a project assessing fire early warning systems in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia and El Niño impacts in parts of Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and Asia Pacific.
Her favorite part of the C+S program was the group projects that brought different students together on a specific theme about climate science, impacts and policy responses.
“The group projects provided a unique opportunity to learn from each other and apply many of the concepts that were studied in the different core courses,” Nair said.
Currently, Nair is a PhD candidate at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore. After working at the interface of climate research and policy in India and interacting with scientists as well as policymakers, she realized that policy research does not seamlessly translate into policy formulation and implementation. C+S fed her fascination of long-term uncertainty in policy formulation and eventually brought her to apply her knowledge about climate and society to more effectively designing environmental decisions.
Following the C+S program at Columbia, she continued working with her group at TERI until 2012. She is also a contributing author for the Asia chapter of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report. She ultimately found that her ease in clearly and effectively communicating to both experts and non-experts could be extremely valuable and that brought her to her current stop in Singapore to pursue a PhD. But in many ways, her path to the present was greatly influenced by her time at Columbia.
“The engaging style of teaching and the research and academic rigor of the program and affiliated research institutes at Columbia University constantly motivated me as I prepared myself for further academic pursuits,” she said.