Student Affiliates

Lauren Fischer

Lauren Ames Fischer is a Ph.D. candidate in Urban Planning. Her major fields of study are transportation, and economic and community development. She holds a B.S. in Sociology, Political Science and a M.S. in Public Policy. Lauren’s research interests center around the relationship between transportation infrastructure investments and urban development, the role of informal transport systems in developing and declining urban areas and the impact of transport systems on neighborhood development. She has also conducted considerable research documenting the development of the curbside bus industry in the United States. Lauren has a background in political organizing and public policy research which she hopes to leverage to support the work of CSUD.


Eric Goldwyn

Eric Goldwyn is a doctoral candidate in Urban Planning.  He is working on his dissertation which examines non-traditional forms of transit, such as jitneys and unlicensed taxis in New York.  Thanks to the generosity of the Volvo Research and Education Foundations (VREF) and the Earth Institute’s Center for Sustainable Urban Development at Columbia University, he will study transit networks in Cape Town, South Africa this Winter. He has a B.A in history from Bowdoin College, an M.U.P. from New York University, and an M.Phil from Columbia University.


Sophonie Joseph

Sophonie Joseph is pursuing a Ph.D. in Urban Planning, her major fields of study are community development and transnational planning. She received her B.A. in Planning & Public Policy with a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies from Douglass College at Rutgers University. She also received her Masters of Urban Planning from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. Sophonie’s research focuses on transnational planning, specifically the role of immigrant transnational groups in community-based planning in their origin and destination countries. She hopes to incorporate social network analysis in future transnational research projects. Research she is working on includes fieldwork and representing CSUD in its work in Southern Haiti.


Amiel Melnick

Amiel Melnick is doing a Ph.D. in Anthropology, with a focus on the politics of infrastructure. She did her undergraduate degree in Comparative Literature at Columbia College, studying francophone West African theater. Her current research is an investigation of the social and political dimensions of roads, traffic, and accidents in Kenya. She’s interested in the ambivalent position of roads and mobility in postcolonial contexts, in which mobility is at once required, desired, and risky.


Anna Oursler

Anna is a graduate student at Columbia University’s School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP), working towards a duel degree in Urban Planning and Architecture.  Anna joins us with five years of experience working on the development and installation of small scale renewable energy technologies in East Africa.  Anna spent two years working as a research analysis for Global Footprint Network, using the Ecological Footprint to evaluate human development projects in Africa.  Anna has worked to develop waste-to-energy technologies in Nairobi, Kenya and to install photovoltaics, biogas and energy efficient cook stoves in Tanzania. She managed the design and implementation of a series of community centers that allowed local residents to learn about, construct and purchase a wide range of appropriate technologies and alternative fuels.  Anna holds a Bachelors degree from UC Berkeley and has studied as a post-graduate fellow at the University of Nairobi.  In her spare time, Anna enjoys outdoor activities such as mountain climbing and camping.


Xiaohong Pan 

Xiaohong Pan is pursuing her Ph.D in Urban Planning.  She holds dual Master’s Degrees, one in Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the other in Transportation Engineering from National University of Singapore.  Prior to joining the urban planning doctoral program at Columbia, she worked as an assistant development engineer/policy analyst at the California Center for Innovative Transportation of the University of California, Berkeley, and a graduate research assistant at the Department of City and Regional Planning and the Highway Safety Research Center of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Xiaohong is particularly interested in areas related to sustainable transportation and planning such as Transportation and Land Use Integration; Travel Behavior and Transportation Policy; GIS Applications for Transportation and Planning.


Alexis Perrotta

Alexis Perrotta is pursuing a PhD in Urban Planning. Her research interests include the provision of public transportation and other fee-for-service public goods to income disparate populations; scalar effects of income segregation; and patterns of mode shift and trip generation in low- and high-income neighborhoods. Alexis has a B.A. from Wheaton College and an M.P.A. from the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. She has over 10 years of professional experience in New York City, including as a policy analyst for Regional Plan Association and as an affordable housing developer for several nonprofit organizations.


Danielle Petretta

Danielle Petretta is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Urban Planning. Her research interests include transport finance and infrastructure investment and the potential for value capture mechanisms to sustainably fund transport.  Danielle has a background in planning and research having acted as Assistant Director for Technology Transfer for the University Transportation Research Center for USDOT Region 2 and as Vice President of the Research Group at Landauer Associates, a national commercial real estate consulting firm. She  has also spent time at regional non-profits and public agencies. She holds an MS in Urban Planning from Columbia and a BA in Urban Design from NYU. At CSUD, she has supported Professor Sclar’s research on “Economically Sustainable Transport” as part of his contribution to the 2013 UN -HABITATGlobal Report on Human Settlements.