We seek to recruit a cohort of Undergraduate Energy Poverty Fellows (UEPFs) for summer 2021. Students will spend the summer (early May through mid-August) engaged in research on energy poverty in Southern Africa. Students will work with EPPSA faculty and the broader research team on social or natural science, or engineering aspects of planned impact evaluation studies in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, on population-level sociodemographic and spatial analyses, or on engineering or forest biomaterials topics related to EPPSA. We seek students from a broad range of disciplines including public policy, geography, sociology, anthropology, and environmental science, engineering, forestry, and forest biomaterials. We are open to applications from students in other disciplines, but some familiarity with the substantive topics of environment, international development, or energy is preferred. Due to the funding source, there is a strong preference for US citizens and permanent residents. Positions will be virtual for 20 hours/week and students will be paid $15/hour.

Specific job descriptions and preferred qualifications are listed below. Please clearly indicate which position you are applying to in your application.

1) Air pollution exposure in informal sector jobs in emerging economies. The student in this position will work with a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Michigan. They will be engaged in a literature review about air pollution exposure in informal sector jobs in emerging economies. These occupations include brick making, fish smoking, sugar cane processing, charcoal making, and other hazardous jobs. The student would archive and summarize approximately 200 scientific articles. They would compile data into spreadsheets and write a summary report about the findings. This may be a good fit for someone interested in the topic and/or interested in gaining experience interpreting scientific articles. Opportunity to learn Latex. Requires attention to detail and good communication skills.

2) Electricity access and forest coverage in Zambia. The student in this position would work with an Environmental Sciences & Engineering PhD student at UNC Chapel Hill to study the relationship between electricity access rates and forest coverage. The idea is to explore the relationship between electricity access rates and forest coverage. There are two main analyses that would be done with this paper. First, to explore the relationship between drought and tree cover on a national level, under the hypothesis that a large portion of the energy in Zambia comes from hydropower and that during droughts demand for wood and charcoal increases. The second analysis would require taking data from the 1992, 1996, 2001, 2007, 2013, and 2018 Zambia DHS surveys on household electrification rates by geographic regions and comparing the changes in forest coverage in those regions. The position requires GIS experience/knowledge and an interest in the relationship between energy usage and deforestation.

3) Air quality measurement for a study in Lusaka, Zambia. As part of the EPPSA project, the Grieshop Atmosphere and Environment Lab (GAEL; see: go.ncsu.edu/grieshop_lab) seeks a summer undergraduate research assistant to help coordinate an air quality measurement study being conducted in Lusaka, Zambia by project partners during Summer 2021. This study is a follow-up, using similar methods and tools, to a ‘baseline’ study conducted in Summer 2019. The research assistant will work closely with a graduate student researcher and GAEL Director Dr. Grieshop to calibrate instruments, prepare training and record keeping materials, remotely monitor and manage data collection, communicate with Zambian field staff and collaborators, conduct quality assurance checks and data analysis and documentation. The student may participate in writing and have opportunities to present activities to other members of the EPPSA and GAEL groups. The student may also participate in other research activities within GAEL as time and interest allow. Remote or partially-remote participation is possible. We encourage rising juniors and seniors from diverse disciplines to apply: engineering (environmental, mechanical, chemical, civil, electrical), environmental or earth and atmospheric sciences, chemistry, physics, computer science or statistics. Preferred qualifications include background or interest in sensors, measurements and lab work, good computing skills (MS Office, ideally a computing language such as Python, R or Matlab), good organizational and communication skills. This will be a unique opportunity to gain exposure to environmental research while taking part in an ongoing, multidisciplinary study. Interested applicants can contact GAEL graduate research assistant Stephanie Parsons (sparson@ncsu.edu) or GAEL Director Dr. Andrew Grieshop (apgriesh@ncsu.edu) or for more information.

4) Environment and poverty dynamics in Zimbabwe. The student in this position will work with a Forestry and Environmental Resources PhD student at NC State. Along with a team of students and faculty, the student will help plan and remotely supervise implementation of a household survey in Zimbabwe that focuses on environment and poverty dynamics. The position requires attention to detail, and at least one of the following skills sets: (1) data management and analysis skills, using Excel or Stata, (2) experience with survey design and implementation, e.g., as an enumerator, or (3) familiarity with Southern Africa, including household livelihoods.


  • Completion of at least 4 semesters of undergraduate coursework before commencing UEPF.
  • Good academic standing at UNC-Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, or any North Carolina based HBCU
  • Enrolled in one of the above Universities during the semester after your UEPF summer.

Preferred Qualifications

  • Coursework in research design and/or quantitative methods
  • Interest in using EPPSA data for undergraduate Honors theses.
  • Interest or prior experience working with interdisciplinary and/or intercultural teams.
  • US Citizenship or Legal Permanent Residence Status

Application Process

  • Please prepare a letter of application no longer than 2 pages explaining:
    • Interest in energy poverty in developing countries
    • Relevant coursework and experience
    • In addition, in your letter please answer the following specific questions:
      • Will you have completed at least 4 semesters of undergraduate coursework by May of your UEPF year?
      • Are you in good standing at your home institution?
      • What is your overall GPA?
      • What courses and other training do you have in research design and/or quantitative methods?
      • Are you planning to use EPPSA data for an undergraduate Honors theses?
      • What is your interest or prior experience working with interdisciplinary and/or intercultural teams?
      • Are you a US Citizenship or Legal Permanent Resident?
    • Unofficial transcripts
    • Name and email of a faculty member at your home institution who we could contact about your potential to participate effectively in research.

Submit your application letter and unofficial transcript as a single PDF with the file name “SURNAME_UEPF_position#_2021” (e.g., McCord_UEPF_3_2021) to Ms. Ryan McCord by 20 April.

If you have questions, please email eppsa@unc.edu.