When Ph.D. candidate Aspen Fryberger Underwood was looking for a compelling research topic early in her economics graduate studies at Clemson University, all it took was a chance conversation with a family member to find it.

Aspen Fryberger, econ Ph.D. candidate

Aspen Fryberger Underwood

That fortuitous decision to focus on electric vehicle charging stations was a wise one as the fourth-year graduate student from Colorado was recently named the recipient of a fellowship presented annually by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).

Aspen is one of three recipients nationwide to receive the NBER Pre-Doctoral Fellowship for the 2020-21 academic year. The other two energy economics recipients are from Harvard and the University of Michigan. The fellows receive a stipend for living expenses, a tuition payment and funds to support their research costs, including travel to professional meetings.

As one of 26 who applied for the fellowship, Aspen submitted an energy economics research paper titled, “The Effect of Subsidies, Charging Access, and Price on Electric Vehicle Driver.” Her decision to research the topic was borne out of a relative’s visit to her parents’ home in Beulah, Colo.

“My aunt was visiting from Wyoming and she was telling me about having to make two stops along the way to re-charge her electric vehicle,” Aspen said. “I started asking questions about how the charging stations worked and decided to look further into them. The topic of electric vehicles and their need of these charging stations really piqued my interest.”

It’s Aspen’s hope that her research on the EV stations and drivers’ habits using them could someday play a role in how many and where this growing technology is located.

During her time as a fellow, Aspen is expected to primarily spend time on her economic energy dissertation research. At least one paper must be completed within the academic year, and the fellowship is renewable for the 2021-22 academic year, pending the review of her work.

NBER is a private, non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to conducting economic research and to disseminating research findings among academics, public policy makers, and business professionals. Thirty-two Nobel Prize winners in economics and 13 past chairs of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers have held NBER affiliations. The more than 1,400 professors of economics and business now teaching at colleges and universities in North America who are NBER researchers are the leading scholars in their fields.

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