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People > student Profies > Xin Li

Q. Why did you come to DUSP?

Li: The most important reason was the wide coverage of research areas of DUSP faculty members and the combination of theory and practice. In particular, I was attracted by Professor Karen Polenske’s works on regional economics, which have substantial overlaps with my academic interests – the development of backward regions.

Q. Did you have any experience in the field of development that prepared you for what you are doing here?

Li: I had some experiences in both public and private sectors related to real estate development before coming to the United States. Those experiences, although less than a year, helped me recognize urgent need for more professional and integrated planning in China. At the University of Michigan, I developed an advanced agenda on regional development for my future Ph.D. studies from various courses and field research experiences. Also, my summer internship at the Washtenaw county property tax office triggered my interests in the public finance field.

Q. What has surprised you most about the program?

Li: One is the flexibility of the program in terms of curriculum design and research affiliation. All Ph.D. students in DUSP are allowed to initiate their own curriculum based on individual research interests with few restrictions. In addition, MIT provides various options for research projects, which are not limited to one department but often involve multiple programs. This flexibility encourages an inter-disciplinary way of thinking for issues such as energy, environment, and social problems.

Q. Have your ideas changed at all since arriving?

Li: Yes. Before I came to MIT, my definition on development was confined to economic terms. The definition, however, has been constantly updated since I arrived at DUSP. Development does not simply mean a higher per capita income. It instead embraces various aspects of quality of human life such as environmental conditions, social justice, public health, education, etc.