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PODS Spotlight: Sara Mohammadi

Hi everyone! My name is Sara. I’m double-majoring in Economics and Political Science with a Minor in Arabic and this summer, I am one of the PODS fellows.

As part of the program, I am interning with Ajah and working with the organization and Professor Elizabeth Bloodgood from Concordia University on an analysis of the donor-recipient networks within the non-profit sector. Ajah runs different projects with the aim to hold non-profit organization more accountable for their work and help the sector succeed. As a personal research project, I am measuring the impact of the donor’s membership in community foundations on the donation size.

I became interested in Social Sciences in high school, when I discovered it as a means to increase the efficiency of resource allocation. What excited me about politics and economics (and still does!) is the idea that starting from one baseline situation, varying levels of welfare may be achieved simply through the implementation of different policies.

One of the biggest policy challenges of my generation is the consolidation of our striving for an improvement of living standards with the limited resources that our planet provides us. An area, in which this conflict is especially salient, is energy. With an energy demand that is ever-increasing and emissions from fossil fuel extraction and consumption getting out of hand, it becomes apparent that an eventual switch to novel energy sources is inevitable. But what alternatives are there to conventional energy sources and how can we realize a transition? Technological innovation and individual action alone are not enough to shift away from fossil fuels in a timely manner and government action is needed to promote change. Personally, I believe that international collaboration in the development of new energy infrastructure can counterbalance many disadvantages of renewable energy sources and is therefore key to ensuring energy security in the coming energy age. This is what I want to work towards.

Data science can contribute immensely to the implementation of informed energy policies, so I decided to start learning programming. The PODS program had already been recommended to me by an Economics professor in the previous year; however, I did not apply, because I did not think that they would ever select me, until this year, when I applied and got in (so go ahead and do apply to this position you think you cannot get!).

Apart from the hard skills, PODS has taught me that data analysis does not need to be rocket science and most things in R Studio can be learned relatively easily after one has developed a certain level of intuition for the programming language. Thanks to the program I gained the confidence to take more quantitative courses in the future and will probably also learn other programming languages. I am extremely grateful to have the opportunity to participate in such a rich summer program and get to know exceptional instructors as well as co-fellows that truly want each other to succeed.


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Policy & Data Science Program 


McGill University 

Montreal, Quebec 


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