AFRE Outstanding M.S. Thesis and Outstanding Ph.D. Dissertation 2018 Winners

Ari Kornelis, recipient of the Outstanding M.S. Thesis Award, and Maolong Chen, recipient of the Outstanding Ph.D. Dissertation Award, share the motivation behind their research and career goals.

Ari Kornelis, recipient of the Outstanding M.S. Thesis Award, and Maolong Chen, recipient of the Outstanding Ph.D. Dissertation Award, share the motivation behind their research and career goals.

AFRE graduate students Ari Kornelis and Maolong Chen are the recipients of the 2018 Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics (AFRE) Outstanding Master’s Thesis Award and Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award.

Each year, the department’s M.S. Thesis Selection and Ph.D. Dissertation Selection committee members review students’ papers and select the best written, most impactful, and relevant research at each level. The committees selected this year’s papers for their clear theoretical foundations, articulate writing, succinct understanding of the research, and methodological contributions toward implementing and developing empirical approaches.

ariM.S. Thesis Award

Ari Kornelis was awarded the 2018 Outstanding M.S. Thesis Award for his paper, “Irrigation Water Demand: Price Elasticities and Climatic Determinants in the Great Lakes Region.” Kornelis contributes his award to supporting faculty throughout his career as a graduate student.

“I’m honored to have received this award,” said Kornelis. “I’m so thankful for the guidance and support I got from my advisor, Pat Norris, my committee members, Cloé Garnache and Joe Herriges, and many other faculty throughout my time at MSU.”

Kornelis’ interest in irrigation and economics can be traced back to his upbringing in Michigan.

“I was born and raised in the Great Lakes state,” said Kornelis. “The region is often characterized by its abundant water resources — yet, there are areas in Michigan and the neighboring states where water users are competing for diminished resources. I was interested in understanding how these water users might be affected by increasing competition and a changing climate.”

In his research, Kornelis found correlation between temperature and irrigation behavior in the region and how the crop substitution effect is likely to reduce water scarcity issues during extreme heat events. Now in a consulting role, Kornelis evaluates the impact and effectiveness of energy efficiency and energy demand management programs around the country.

“I hope I can use my work to contribute to the global effort to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.”

maolongPh.D. Dissertation Award

Maolong Chen was awarded the 2018 Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award for his paper, “Understanding Transient Technology Use Among Smallholder Farmers in Africa.”

“I was surprised and pleased to receive the award,” said Chen. “I had a great cohort of researchers, and it's a great honor to have been selected from that group.”

Chen selected transient tech among small holder farmers in Africa as the topic of his dissertation in order to discover new insights regarding the process of technology adoption.

“We observe the behaviors of switching between two or more technologies back and forth in some technology adoption environments,” said Chen. “This is at odds with traditional view that technology adoption is a one-time decision.”

Chen’s findings concluded that switching costs play a key role in preventing households from adopting new technologies despite if they appear otherwise profitable.

“The adoption process is very complicated and driven by multiple factors,” said Chen. “These factors include profitability and switching costs.”  

Chen now works as a faculty member at Southwestern University of Finance and Economics in China.

“Exploring interesting and unexplained phenomenon or questions and seeking the answers is what I hope to continue to do,” said Chen. “My career goal is to be an independent researcher and contribute my work and efforts to a better world.”

The Department intends on submitting both papers as nominations to the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (AAEA)’s Outstanding Master’s Thesis and Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Awards. The winners of these awards will be announced mid-April to winning nominees and nominators.

The AFRE M.S. Thesis Selection Committee members include Dave Tschirley (serving as chair), John Hoehn, and Veronique Theriault, and the AFRE Ph.D. Dissertation Selection Committee members include Songqing Jin (serving as chair), Frank Lupi, and Michael Olabisi.


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