NEW DELHI, India—As child in Kolkata, India, Dr. Dweepobotee Brahma witnessed poverty firsthand.
"I was lucky, I grew up in a metropolitan city," she says. "But even within the city there were pockets of poverty, poor people who lived in slums. So, I had seen it all around me, and I wanted to work toward something that would improve the quality of life of those people."
Driven to help end that suffering, Brahma is now working with various ministries in India to assess and address public health schemes and other development issues. As an associate fellow at the Brookings Institution India Center—a world renowned policy think tank—she has the opportunity to make a real impact.
"I love it. I get to work with the ministry, working hand in hand with the policymakers," says Brahma, who earned her Ph.D. in applied economics from Western Michigan University in 2019. "You get to influence policy, you get to see policy making up close and provide your input. It's very exciting."
It's an opportunity made possible, she says, by the support she received from WMU's Department of Economics.
"The department focuses on doing applied, real-world applications in terms of your research, as opposed to theoretical research that is the focus in many other departments," says Brahma, whose dissertation research included topics such as infant health, vaccination and malnutrition. "Being equipped in a skillset that is more policy relevant, or more industry relevant, makes you eligible for jobs in nonacademic settings as well."
A big draw of Western's program is the possibility of finishing in four years, as opposed to most similar Ph.D. programs that require a longer commitment. Another benefit for Brahma was ability to hit the ground running—giving her the opportunity to publish two research papers alongside her advisor, Dr. Debasri Mukherjee, while she was still a student.
"It's a little rare, because publication takes a long time. But, at Western, I started working on these ideas pretty early, and my advisor encouraged me to do that," says Brahma, whose research focused on applying new, cutting-edge machine learning and econometric tools in development economics. "Usually, people focus only on coursework first."
Brahma also had the opportunity to take some statistics courses outside of her department.
"That helped me when I applied to jobs, since there is a recent trend towards multi- and interdisciplinary research."
The work both in and outside of her department got the attention of high-level agencies, earning Brahma job offers from several research institutes and India's Central Bank—in addition to Brookings—several weeks before graduation.
"I had a wonderful experience in the economics department at Western for the four years I was there," says Brahma, who agrees with 90% of 2018-19 WMU graduates that her experience as a student prepared her for her profession. "The department provides a lot of mentoring opportunities. The faculty prepare you for the job market and interviews, teach you how to disseminate your research findings—all of that training definitely helped me get this job."
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