Sonia Aziz, Associate Professor of Economics
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the global south and the global north (Asia and North America).
What is your role at the college, and what are your research interests?
My role at the college includes teaching, research, and helping run administrative and academic college-level initiatives. My current research involves the socio-economic valuation of tracking cholera using earth observations. The earth observations come from NASA satellite data geared toward improving predictive understanding of processes modulating environmental conditions for survival and potential pathways of cholera bacteria in water. The technology can predict disease outbreak several months in advance and allows us to develop early warning systems geared toward warning the population of impending cholera outbreak. One aspect of the research involves estimating values of avoided damages given an early warning system and is likely to act as an attractive incentive for policymakers to negotiate with governing institutions for preemptive actions that improve access to safe drinking water.
One thing many of my colleagues don’t know about me outside of my Moravian College responsibilities is ______. I am sharing this with you because ______.
I would have been a literature major had I not pursued math and economics. I am sharing this with you because it illuminates that professors here, no matter what their discipline, embody the broad understanding and love of knowledge in the spirit of the liberal arts.
What is your favorite class to teach?
It’s a toss-up between intermediate microeconomics and environmental economics and policy. Environmental economics is my field of expertise, and intermediate microeconomics is commonly considered a foundational economics course introducing students to the study of rational choice behavior given scarcity.
What is your favorite book and why?
Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty by Abhijit Banerjee and Ester Duflo. This book, and Duflo and Banerjee’s work, have made a big difference to my modus operandi over the last several years. Randomized controlled trials in development economics provides the pallet for a new research paradigm helmed by the authors, one that allows us to estimate revealed preferences with a greater level of precision. It potentially provides us with higher-quality primary data than we have ever seen in the field of development economics. The revolutionary approach outlined in the book transforms the field. The authors, along with Michael Kremer were awarded this year’s Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for “their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.”
My favorite spot on campus is _____ because ____.
The hammocks by Countess Benigna on South Campus because it is a peaceful place to study.
My favorite college tradition is _____ because ______.
The faculty luncheon seminar series because it is an efficient way to catch up on my colleagues’ current research.
My favorite thing to do when I am away from campus is ______because_____.
My favorite thing to do when I am away from campus is traveling for field work because this provides good opportunities to collect data and to fill my head with ideas that I can bring home to study. For example, my current studies under the aegis of NASA provide a good research pallet to explore and study the application of advanced technologies to solve problems in heavily resource-constrained economies at a global level. In the context of the Moravian College community, the research ties particularly toward the college-level initiative, Poverty and Inequality InFocus, but spans all InFocus areas of study.
Who is your hero? Why?
Batman, because he is a superhero without superpowers.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
Sunk costs should be irrelevant in decision making.
I can never resist a good____.
What makes you happy?
Students who don’t need help with fractions.