Centre for International Environmental Studies
14 September 2021

PhD Student's Internship Experience at IMF

Interview with Laura Nowzohour about her internship experience at IMF

Laura Nowzohour is a PhD candidate and a research assistant for the project Financing Investments in Clean Technologies at the Centre for International Environmental Studies. During the summer of 2021, she completed an internship at the International Monetary Fund in the Strategy, Policy and Review Department of the Macro Policy Division. 

"The internship lasted for 3 months and, sadly, was fully remote but my colleagues and supervisors really made an effort to reach out regularly and make me feel included in the division. It was a very intense but exciting time."

What tasks and assignments did you work with?

"PhD students usually work on research projects that are related to the work of the division they are hired for. I, for example, was working on a project investigating the distributional effects of natural disasters. We looked at the evolution of disasters over time and geographic region and how this impacts income inequality. Not surprisingly, it is mostly the poor and developing countries which are frequently and severely hit by such events. But also within societies, there are important heterogeneities in terms of shock intensity and recovery time."

"A majority of the world’s poor are women who tend work in the informal economy with no access to social security. The lack of a safety net exposes people to existential risks such as food insecurity and, though we do not look at it in our paper, domestic violence in the aftermath of adverse shocks. Even in developed countries, it is often women, especially those from racial and ethnic minorities, and young individuals who are hit hardest, e.g. because additional care work during epidemics such as Covid-19 is mainly shouldered by women and because they tend to crowd in sectors particularly exposed to natural disasters, such as the service industry. Young people on the other hand struggle to build a career, as entering the labor market in recessions has been shown to lead to a persistent drop in labor income. Given that such shocks are going to become more frequent in the future, the paper definitely paints a rather gloomy picture but if it helps us identify vulnerable populations and adjust our macro policy frameworks accordingly, then it fulfils an important purpose."

What inspired you to work with the International Monetary Fund?

"I have been passionate about macroeconomics since the second year of my undergrad and, to be honest, the IMF always seemed to be this far-away amazing institution, which was completely out of reach. Part of that view was blind glorification and I now also see the problematic sides of the institution. But I still think the work they do is very important because it impacts people’s lives, potentially for the better. Getting a better idea of how the institution works and whether I could see myself being a part of it was my main motivation to apply."

Do you have any major take-aways from your experience?

"The IMF is currently undergoing some very interesting changes as part of their comprehensive surveillance review, which seeks to improve the IMF’s policy advice taking into account some pertinent issues such as climate change, inequality and gender equity. It seems that there  is some very interesting and challenging work ahead!"

Do you have other ongoing projects continuing in the autumn? 

"Yes, indeed it is very hard to write a paper within three months. We are planning to write-up our findings and publish an IMF working paper by the fall."