SPURS Fellows 2017-2018

From left to right: P. Foley (Adm. Asst.), S. Reinach (Brazil), C. Cruz (Mexico), C. L. Navas Duk (SPURS Associate), B. Shrestha (Nepal), B. Torres (Mexico), U. D. Dahal (Bhutan), E. T.  Gbeckor-Kove (Ghana),  L. Elving (SPURS Lecturer), L. Fernando Couto (Argentina), Prof. B. Sanyal (Director), N. Binakaj (Kosovo), Y. Chen (China), V. Tairi (Macedonia), A. Palrecha Rawal (India), F. J. Siddiqi (PHD Associate), N. T. Shrestha (Nepal), G. Rodinone (Argentina), Y. Hasan Kareem (Iraq), N. de Leon (Asst. Director)

Nol Binakaj (Kosovo)

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Nol Binakaj is an architect and works as a program coordinator for local development at Cultural Heritage Without Borders Kosovo, where he focuses on conservation and adaptive reuse of buildings and sites. He graduated as a diploma engineer of architecture from the University of Prishtina. He also specialized in conservation and management of historic buildings at Lund University, Sweden. At MIT, he will focus on urban regeneration and regional planning policies.

Contact:
nbinakaj@mit.edu

Yulin Chen (China)

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Yulin Chen is an associate professor in the Department of Urban Planning within the School of Architecture at Tsinghua University, China. She received her bachelor’s degree in architecture and PhD in urban planning from Tsinghua University and previously worked there in the Department of Sociology as a postdoctoral research fellow. With a background in urban planning and sociology, she studies migrants’ integration and spatial responses. At MIT, she will focus on urban governance in megacities and housing policy for migrants.

Contact:
yulinc@mit.edu

Luis Fernando Couto (Argentina)

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Luis Fernando Couto is a professor of macroeconomics and economic growth at the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he received his undergraduate and master’s degrees in economics. He is also president of a nongovernmental organization that works to improve education in poor neighborhoods. At MIT, he anticipates studying topics related to development and poverty.

Contact:
fcouto@mit.edu

Cesar Cruz (Mexico)

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Cesar Cruz is advisor to Mexico’s parliamentary Drinking Water Committee, where he specialized in environmental legislation and water issues. He previously worked at the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, and at The Honorable Senate of the Republic, where he designed environmental policies and law. He has a bachelor’s degree in international relations and an MSc. in innovation and quality engineering from Universidad Iberoamericana. At MIT, he will focus on binational groundwater spaces in the U.S.A.-Mexico border region.

Contact:
cesarcru@mit.edu

Ujjwal Deep Dahal (Bhutan)

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Ujjwal Deep Dahal works as a general manager for the Bhutan Power Corporation. His professional experience has been in rural electrification, power system planning and operation, smart grids, and project management. He has an electrical and electronics engineering degree from PSG College of Technology, Bharathia University, India and an MSc in electricalengineering from the University of New Brunswick, Canada, and is a certified Project Management Professional. At MIT, he will focus on energy policy, accessibility, and sustainability. He is also interested in working toward establishing a long-term research collaboration between MIT and Bhutan related to energy and relevant areas.

Contact:
ujjwald@mit.edu

Eden Tekpor Gbeckor-Kove (Ghana)

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Eden Tekpor Gbeckor-Kove is head of the town and country planning department at the Accra Metropolitan Assembly in Ghana. He is responsible for preparing and revising spatial plans. He is secretary to the spatial planning committee that vets and issues planning permits for prospective developers and participated in the land use planning and management project under the land administration project in Ghana as a pilot project manager. He has a bachelor’s degree in planning from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana, and studied for a master’s degree in human settlement at KU Leuven in Belgium. At MIT he intends to study urban design, regeneration and the integration of land-use and transportation planning.

Contact:
edenkove@mit.edu

Yaseen Hasan Kareem (Iraq)

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Yaseen Kareem is a director of the Planning and Research Department in the Ministry of
Electricity, Kurdistan Region, Iraq. He previously worked as a director of the dispatch control
center in Slemani. He has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and an MSc in power
system engineering from the University of Slemani in Iraq. At MIT, he plans to take courses and attend seminars and workshops in power system planning, energy efficiency, demand-side management, and smart grid.

Contact:
ykareem@mit.edu

Alka Palrecha Rawal (India)

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Alka Palrecha Rawal is director of the People in Centre Consulting, which provides consulting services for developmental programs. She holds a master’s degree in landscape architecture from the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi. She has been involved for more than 20 years in community development with a focus on water resource management. She is currently interested in policies and institutional processes for the safe reuse of urban wastewater for agriculture in peri-urban India. Through the Humphrey Program, she hopes tolearn about safe reuse of wastewater for irrigation, and how best wastewater irrigation can be incorporated as a policy statement.

Contact:
alka@mit.edu

Bernardo Antonio Perez (Nicaragua)

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Bernardo Perez is an architectural consultant from Nicaragua. His areas of expertise are in
architectural design, project planning, and management. Most recently, he worked as a planner on an archeological site heritage project that was disconnected from the city and facing severe contamination problems. Before that, he worked on an infrastructure project aiming to connect a Nicaraguan touristic volcano site to its surrounding rural communities around the Volcano National Park. He has a BA in architecture from Central American University. At MIT, he aims to acquire urban design skills developing strategies to help developing economies.

Contact:
perezba@mit.edu

Sofia Reinach (Brazil)

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Sofia Reinach is a project coordinator and researcher at the Brazilian Forum for Public Safety.
Her professional experience mostly focuses on the government in Brazil, and recently she has worked with the Brazilian Forum of Public Safety dealing with violence and public safety. She has a bachelor’s and a master’s in public administration from Fundação Getulio Vargas, and a specialization in legal studies and human rights from Harvard Extension School. At MIT, she will study the different international practices that show how a municipality can take innovation actions to control violence through urban interventions.

Contact:
reinach@mit.edu

Gonzalo Rondinone (Argentina)

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Gonzalo Rondinone is an economic consultant and researcher with experience in applying
financial instruments to local and regional development. He performs his research at Buenos
Aires University, Argentina, and has participated in projects related to macroeconomic risk and climate risk. As a consultant, he worked for 10 years helping several top consulting financial firms on the design and execution of risk management programs for regional farmers and local governments. He holds a master´s degree in economic and financial risk management from Buenos Aires University. At MIT, he will explore financing mechanisms for climate-risk infrastructure adaptation policies

Contact:
grondi@mit.edu

Bindu Shrestha (Nepal)

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Bindu Shrestha is an associate professor at Kathmandu Engineering College and a PhD
student at the Institute of Engineering, Nepal. She previously worked as a consultant for the
Department of Urban Development and Building Center and volunteered in the Nepal
Engineers’ Association as treasurer for engineering professional enhancement. She has a
bachelor’s degree in architecture from the Institute of Engineering, an MSc in urban planning
from the University of Hong Kong, and an MA degree in sociology from Nepal. At MIT, she will focus on the relationship between sustainable urban development and energy planning to improve energy efficiency in the community.

Contact:
bshresth@mit.edu

Valdet Tairi (Macedonia)

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Valdet Tairi is a senior urban planner in the Municipality of Gostivar with a focus on urban
growth, illegal construction, and infrastructure projects. He is also a visiting lecturer for urban design at the University American College Skopje. He previously worked at a spatial planning agency in Skopje and participated in various governmental projects. He has a bachelor’s degree from the Faculty of Architecture City and Regional Planning at the Middle East Technical University in Turkey. He also studied for a master’s of urban planning and design at the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden. At MIT, he will focus on urban housing policies, street design, and participation planning.

Contact:
valdet@mit.edu

Nilima Thapa Shrestha (Nepal)

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Nilima Thapa Shrestha is an urban planner at the Kathmandu Valley Development Authority in Nepal specializing in disaster risk management; climate change adaptation and mitigation; and smart city planning. She previously worked as a lecturer at the Department of Architecture at Acme Engineering College, Nepal, where she volunteered and co-organized programs for disaster risk management. She has a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Tribhuvan University and an MSc in urban planning and management from ITC, University of Twente, the Netherlands. At MIT, she will focus on smart ecological planning, urban and environmental policies, urban governance, and financing development works.

Contact:
nilima@mit.edu

Braulio Torres (Mexico)

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Braulio Torres is a principal investigator at Fundacion IDEA, a think tank based in Mexico City. He leads monitoring and evaluation for an array of policy projects. He previously served as the Mexico country director for Innovations for Poverty Action, a research and policy non-profit that evaluates solutions to global poverty problems. Mr. Torres has a bachelor´s degree in psychology from Universidad de las Americas in Mexico and a master’s degree in public policy from the University of Chicago. At MIT, he will focus on prediabetes, food policy, and urban resilience.

Contact:
btorres@mit.edu