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Problem, Meet Solution

Yukyan Lam

CLF-Lerner Fellow Yukyan Lam seeks research skills that can make a difference.


Although a law degree empowered Yukyan Lam to stand up for vulnerable populations, she knew she needed some extra know-how to help communities affected by complex problems, like climate change and environmental degradation. So, to learn the craft of evidence-based solutions, she turned in 2012 to the Bloomberg School. 

“I’m here to gain research skills,” says Lam, now a fourth year PhD student in International Health. “I want to be sure that any solution I’m advocating for is truly effective.”

With funding from the Center for a Livable Future (CLF), this CLF-Lerner Fellow is exploring her inter-related interests in human rights, public health and the environment all in one doctoral dissertation.

Since January 2015, she has been based in the southwest coastal region of Bangladesh, where saltwater has been seeping into groundwater and surface water, like rivers and lakes. This issue of salinity intrusion has been threatening local food security and food production.

Among the faculty members who have provided insight on the project is Peter Winch, director of the Social and Behavioral Interventions program. “If it weren’t for Peter’s guidance and contacts in Bangladesh, I wouldn’t have been able to get this far,” Lam says.

With the help of research assistants, she is testing water and soil samples, as well as interviewing locals, government officials and NGOs. Lam expects that the combination of qualitative and quantitative data will help her understand salinity and how it’s been addressed so far. Her goal is to provide evidence that can be incorporated into interventions to help affected communities.

“I think CLF is really unique,” she says, “because research is not just about generating knowledge. It’s about leveraging that knowledge to make a difference in the world.”

—Salma Warshanna-Sparklin