Biographical Profiles of Current Ph.D. Graduate Students

Hélène Benveniste
Ecole Nationale Superieure des Mines de Paris, 2012
Science and Executive Engineering, Master
Rennes, Brittany, France
Born and raised in Brittany, France, Hélène has developed a passion for interdisciplinary approaches to solve the climate change challenge. As part of her Ph.D. studies in the Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy, she focuses on quantifying economic impacts of climate change in terms of migrations and conflict risks, using integrated assessment models. She is also interested in international environmental agreements design, as well as using behavioral science to improve communication between scientists and policy makers on climate change. Before graduating with a MSc in science and executive engineering and a minor in geostatistics and applied probabilities from Mines ParisTech, she was a research fellow at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado where she developed a statistical tool for scoring extreme climate events forecasts. She then started her career as deputy attaché for energy at the French Embassy in Germany, and as such followed the development and implementation of the German energy transition. Right before joining the Woodrow Wilson School, Hélène worked as a research engineer and project manager on an expertise mission for the French government; the mission, linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21), aimed at assessing the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) presented by countries ahead of COP21, and used as a new tool for climate negotiations.
Leyatt Betre
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2016
Physics/Political Science, B.S.
Frisco, Texas
As a first-generation American born to Ethiopian parents, Leyatt had a small town Texas upbringing often punctuated by encounters with the wider world. While she cannot claim any encounters of the third kind, she picked up an early love of astronomy and the slightly less wide world of international politics. Leyatt went on to study physics and political science at MIT, where she sought to forge some semblance of academic and personal coherence out of her dual interests. After researching the early chemical evolution of the Milky Way, the spatial distribution of dark matter halos, the drivers of nuclear proliferation, and the role of arms control in shaping U.S. force posture, she concluded that the coherence of one’s C.V. should generally take a backseat to asking interesting questions. Leyatt is a Ph.D. student in security studies whose research interests center on issues of nuclear strategy, arms control and diplomatic history.
Christopher Crawford
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, 2012
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, B.S.
East Lansing, Michigan
Chris is a second-year Ph.D. student in the science, technology, and environmental policy (STEP) program, where he is working to illuminate the various trade-offs of biodiversity conservation and inform the policies that are designed to encourage conservation on private lands. He is interested in what changing agricultural land use trends mean for conservation, and harnessing these new opportunities to restore marginal lands to maximize their value for biodiversity, ecosystem services, and people, especially along rivers and streams. He is also interested in the role of restoration and conservation on private lands in building resilience into the mosaic of habitat patches to help species adapt to a changing climate. Before landing in Princeton, Chris worked at Sustainable Conservation, where he collaborated with the horticultural industry to stop the sale of invasive plants and worked with farmers, government agencies, utilities, and environmental organizations to facilitate riparian restoration projects in California’s Central Valley. Chris graduated from the University of Michigan in 2012, and likes riding his bicycle, taking pictures of clouds, and listening to Swedish music.
Katherine Elgin
Princeton University, 2013
Politics, A.B.
The Plains, Virginia
Katherine is a Ph.D. candidate in security studies interested in grand strategy, civil-military affairs, alliance dynamics and national security decision-making processes. Her dissertation examines the Sino-Russian relationship. Before commencing her graduate studies at the Woodrow Wilson School, Katherine worked at the Foreign Policy Program of the Brookings Institution. There, she focused on U.S. grand strategy and global political trends, contributing to several books and projects. While in D.C., Katherine also worked with a defense research firm. Katherine speaks Swedish, Russian and French. She grew up on a family farm near Middleburg, Virginia, and enjoys photography, tennis and traveling.
Travis Frederick
The Ohio State University, 2014; Georgia Institute of Technology, 2017
International Studies, B.A.; International Affairs, M.S.
Fairfield, Ohio
Travis is a first-generation college student from Fairfield, Ohio. Prior to attending the Woodrow Wilson School, he worked for the Behavioral Modeling and Computational Social Science lab at the Georgia Tech Research Institute on issues ranging from measuring deception and cohesion in online video games to modeling Soviet theories of information warfare. His experiences in public service include working in the Policy Management Office of the Office of the Secretary of Defense and in the Executive Office of the Ambassador at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. Travis has conducted field research in Cambodia, Argentina, South Africa and Russia. However, despite his informative fieldwork and research experience, he still considers receiving top marks at the seventh-grade state science fair to be his most prominent achievement in research to date. Travis’ current research interests include international security policy, civil-military relationships, and linking micro-cognitive processes to macro-social phenomena.
Xiangwen Fu
Peking University, 2015; Peking University, 2018
Environmental Science, B.S.; Environmental Science, M.S.
Beijing, China
Xiangwen was born and raised in Beijing, China. Prior to arriving at Princeton, he earned a master’s degree at Peking University with a focus on urban air pollutant dispersion. His previous research mainly dealt with characterizing the distribution of traffic-related air pollutant in complex urban terrain by developing and using atmospheric models. Xiangwen plans to continue his work on urban air pollution in China, and is interested in assessing the implications of environmental policies on urban air quality, energy use and human health.
Carlton Haelig
Rutgers University, 2013; George Mason University, 2017
History/Political Science, B.A.; International Security, M.A.
Bridgewater, New Jersey
Carlton is a first-year Ph.D. student in the security studies program who focuses on military innovation, grand strategy and civil-military relations. He is interested in the impact of the contemporary security environment on the nature of military innovation and adaptation, particularly in militaries with mixed-intensity security priorities. Prior to Princeton, Carlton was the director of research at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law where his work drew upon international security and public policy research to develop and advocate on behalf of solutions to national security issues, which arise as a result of the changing character of warfare. Carlton holds a master’s degree in international security from George Mason University and a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University, where he double-majored in political science and history. He was born and raised only half an hour from Princeton in Bridgewater, New Jersey, and – having suffered through Northern Virginia’s lack of quality pork roll and pizza for far too long – is happy to be back in Central New Jersey.
Jeongseok Lee
Seoul National University, 2007; Seoul National University, 2009
Political Science, B.A.; International Relations, M.A.
Seoul, South Korea
Jeongseok (Jay) is a Ph.D. candidate in the security studies program, who studies international security with a regional focus on East Asia. He is currently writing a dissertation on the origins and evolution of the U.S. alliance network in Asia. Challenging a predominant view that American hegemony is the main cause of the prevailing bilateralism, his dissertation explores how Asia-Pacific countries’ preferences and strategies shaped and solidified the hub-and-spokes structure of the alliance system. This research is supported by the fellowships and grants from the Bradley Foundation and the Center for International Security Studies, and he is also working on papers on North Korea’s nuclear doctrine and China’s economic coercion as additional research projects. Before joining the security studies program, Jay had served in the Republic of Korea Air Force as an officer and taught international relations and strategic studies courses at the ROK Air Force Academy as an instructor.
Shangwei Liu
Beijing Normal University, 2018
Environmental Science, B.S.
Beijing, China
Shangwei is a first-year Ph.D. student in science, technology and environmental policy at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Prior to coming to Princeton, he was an undergraduate student in the School of Environment at Beijing Normal University. His previous research focused on the impact on carbon emissions of China’s current socioeconomic transitions. Shangwei is interested in understanding the environmental impact of economic activity based on data analysis to facilitate the development of sound environmental policy.
David Logan
Grinnell College, 2009; Princeton University, 2017
Political Science, B.A.; International Relations, MPA
New Orleans, Louisiana
David was born and raised in New Orleans. After graduating from Grinnell College, he returned home to teach U.S. history and coach debate at a New Orleans public school. Three years later, he moved to the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang to work as a Princeton-in-Asia fellow, teaching English, being humiliated by his students on the basketball court, and learning to eat silk worm pupae. Before coming to the Woodrow Wilson School, he studied Chinese at Tsinghua University in Beijing and served as a Global Policy intern at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center, and completed the summer Middlebury Chinese Language School. He has conducted research for the Brookings Institution, the Arms Control Association, and the National Defense University’s Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C. David completed the MPA degree in 2017 and enjoyed his time at the Woo so much that he decided to stick around and pursue a PhD. In the 2017-18 academic year, he will serve as a fellow in Princeton’s Center for International Security Studies and deputy director of the Center’s Strategic Education Initiative. David’s professional interests lie in arms control, nonproliferation and strategic stability, particularly in the context of the U.S.-China relationship. He spends much of his free time thinking about the state of post-Katrina New Orleans, recruiting people to Woo intramural teams, and exploring hip hop from across the world.
Mayank Misra
West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, 2007; Princeton University, 2014
Law, B.A./LLB (Hons); Public and International Affairs, MPA
Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Mayank works on complex adaptive systems and his research interests lie at the intersection of human collective behavior, ecosystems, and climate change. At the Levin Lab, Mayank studies the socio-ecological and co-evolutionary dynamics of integrating different human populations on their organizational structures and native ecosystems. He uses a mix of theoretical models and empirical research to investigate human adaptability to risk across organizational and temporal scales. His research currently focuses on the interaction between indigenous populations, formal States, and markets. Prior to his time at Princeton, Mayank was a constitutional and civil rights lawyer at the Supreme Court of India. He drafted federal laws relating to food security, sectarian violence, and the prevention of sexual offences against minors. He also drafted the Indian Bar Council’s code of ethics for legal professionals. Mayank completed a Master in Public Affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School in 2014. He was a Wertheim scholar at the New York Public Library, and consultant for the Open Society foundations before returning to Princeton as a Ph.D. student.
Paul Nix
University of Lausanne, 2016; University of Geneva, Lausanne, 2018
Geology, B.S.; Geology, M.S.
Lausanne, Switzerland
Paul is interested in analyzing case studies of the propagation of cascading effects in natural hazard risk and management through the functional and physical parts of critical infrastructures and in how strategic planning can take this into account towards ameliorating mitigation and response mechanisms. To that effect, he recently took part in a United Nations course on disaster mapping, as well as an excursion to the Aeolian Islands to investigate societal vulnerability in relation to active volcanism. Paul also recently completed an internship in Zimbabwe, seeing first-hand the economic and political issues that face small ore miners. He graduated from the University of Geneva and Lausanne with an M.S. in geology, and after completing his Ph.D., looks to work within an NGO with the aim of improving coastal communities’ adaptation potential with respect to climate change related processes.
Liqun Peng
Beijing Forestry University, 2013; Tsinghua University, 2016
Forestry, BAg; Environmental Science and Engineering, M.S.
Beijing, China
Liqun is a first-year Ph.D. candidate in science, technology and environmental policy at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Prior to arriving at Princeton, she earned a master’s degree in environmental science and engineering at Tsinghua University with a focus on Chinese air pollution. Her research involves residential fuel use and emission estimates, the impacts of electric vehicles on air quality, public health and economic impacts from China’s international trade and local air pollution prevention and control action plans. Liqun is interested in assessing potential co-benefits of pollutant mitigation policies to air quality, climate change and associated human health impacts.
Pooja Ramamurthi
RV College of Engineering, 2011; Royal Institute of Technology, 2013
Chemical Engineering, BEng; Mechanical Engineering, MSc
Bangalore, India
Pooja is a policy expert specializing in areas of modern energy access, climate change and sustainability. Her research focuses on finding innovative solutions to global energy and environmental challenges through rigorous cutting-edge analysis. Over the past four years, Pooja has been working on these challenges at premier think tanks. Most recently, she worked in Delhi as a senior policy analyst at the University of Chicago. Her work has resulted in her being invited to international and national conferences and published in peer reviewed journals and articles in leading newspapers. Pooja received her double master’s degree in sustainable energy from the Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden, and Instituto Superior Tecnico, Portugal, via the prestigious Erasmus Mundus Innoenergy Scholarship granted by the European Commission. Beyond her work with energy and environment, Pooja is a noted stand-up comedian who uses the platform to spread awareness about gender equality and speech impediments. Her work involves creating spaces and networks, which promote women in comedy and allow comediennes to support each other.
D.J. Rasmussen
University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2009; University of California-Davis, 2013
Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, B.S.; Civil and Environmental Engineering, M.S.
Cedarburg, Wisconsin
D.J. studies coastal storms and their economic damage and how climate stabilization targets, like the Paris Agreement, could impact projections of local sea-level rise. He builds statistical and numerical models to address these questions. D.J.’s career goal is to continue to produce tools based on the latest science to help stakeholders make decisions under evolving coastal flood risk. His hope is that these efforts will lead to planning and public policy that saves money and protects human lives. A portfolio of his work can be viewed at: