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An Economist’s Fight Against Inequity

As a young boy in Western India, Karthik Muralidharan noticed the sharp contrast between the haves and have-nots. After receiving a scholarship to study abroad in Singapore, he marveled at how the country had been able to transform from poverty to prosperity in the space of a couple decades. The experience prompted him to shift his career path from engineering to economics.

Now a faculty member in the UC San Diego Department of Economics, Muralidharan is passionate about getting out into the field—running experiments and testing policies to improve the lives of people in developing countries. His most influential studies to date concern India’s education system, ranging from exploring teacher pay and school choice to the use of technology in learning.

Muralidharan is among the scholars selected to conduct research as part of the new Tata Institute for Active Genetics and Society. The initiative was launched by a $70 million commitment from the India-based philanthropic Tata Trusts, $35 million of which will support the new institute at UC San Diego. The goal is to push the boundaries of bioscience in support of human needs, as well as leverage experts in health, policy, economics and ethics to drive societal progress.

“It’s an amazing time to be doing economics—at the confluence of rigor, relevance and impact,” said Muralidharan. “We are privileged to be in a position to do both academically cutting-edge research and to work on alleviating problems that directly affect the lives of hundreds of millions of people in the poorest parts of the world.”