What is your main research topic?
My research focuses on the political economy of violence in the Naxalite conflict in India. I am attempting to study the causes of the unprecedented escalation of the ongoing conflict in the Indian heartland. Other projects involve (a) studying how land and community rights affect violence in this area (b) identifying the role of information and networks in the rights based approach to development.
Did this visit help you to advance your research project(s)?
I am visiting UC Berkeley for the spring semester this year. The faculty at UC Berkeley is vast and diverse and one has access to people from departments other than economics. Many people here work on India and it has been useful to talk to them. Since my research studies political violence, I have benefitted from the Political Science department a lot. The faculty at the Center for Effective Global Action at UC Berkeley has helped me in my methodological issues. I found my meetings with different professors especially helpful.
Did you like the academic environment there? Is it very different from that of TSE? What are the main differences?
I like the academic and general environment at UC Berkeley. The faculty is very open and friendly. One big difference from TSE is that at UC Berkeley one has access to courses and people from other departments like law, political science, math etc. There are also many RA opportunities available for PhD students here. Most students in their first two years are doing part time RA work for a professor or an institution. The library is phenomenal here with a huge collection of books on economics and related fields. It opens untill 2 am on weekdays and 12 am on weekends and one can issue 200 books at a time. The PhD students also get 24/7 access to the department. The economics department is not as big as TSE but each week we have at least 10 seminars. My development group meets every week for a lunch talk where students and faculty present their ongoing work and there is another seminar for finished papers. Similar structure exists for other sub fields also.
Overall, have you enjoyed this experience? Would you recommend to other TSE students to visit another university for some months during their PhD studies? Do you want to add anything else about your experience?
I am enjoying my stay at UC Berkeley. Apart from the academics, the campus also offers many cultural events. I have an interest in western classical music and each week the department of Music offers quality free concerts. UC Berkeley has an excellent sports and recreation center. The bay area in general has many opportunities for music, hiking, good food etc. I would surely recommend other PhD students to visit another University during their PhD studies.