Principal Investigators

Dr. Devesh Kapur, PhD

Devesh Kapur has a distinguished background in research and academia. He joined the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in July 2018 from the University of Pennsylvania, where he was a professor of Political Science and Director of the Center for the Advanced Study of India, holding the Madan Lal Sobti Chair for the Study of Contemporary India. Prior to his tenure at Penn, he was the Frederick Danziger Associate Professor of Government at Harvard. Kapur received the Joseph R. Levenson Teaching Prize, awarded to the best junior faculty at Harvard College and Outstanding Teaching in Political Science by the American Political Science Association, in 2005.

His book, Diaspora, Democracy and Development: The Impact of International Migration from India on India (Princeton University Press) earned him a 2012 Distinguished Book Award of the International Studies Association.

Dr. Kapur holds a BTech in Chemical Engineering from IIT (BHU) Varanasi, an MS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Minnesota, and a PhD from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton.

Dr. Milan Vaishnav, PhD

Milan Vaishnav is a senior fellow and director of the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His primary research focus is the political economy of India, and he examines issues such as corruption and governance, state capacity, distributive politics, and electoral behavior.

He is the author of When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics (Yale University Press, 2017) and co-editor (with Devesh Kapur) of Costs of Democracy: Political Finance in India (Oxford University Press, 2018) and (with Devesh Kapur and Pratap Bhanu Mehta) of Rethinking Public Institutions in India (Oxford University Press, 2017). His work has been published in numerous scholarly journals and he is a regular contributor to several Indian publications.

He is an adjunct professor in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and holds a Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University.

Sumitra Badrinathan

Sumitra is a fourth year Ph.D. student in Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research interests include studying misinformation, media effects and comparative politics, with a regional focus on India.

Sumitra uses experimental and survey methods to study the relationship between newer forms of social media like WhatsApp and their effect on fake news, polarization, political participation and quality of democracy.

Sumitra holds an M.A. in Political Science from the University of Chicago and a B.A. in Psychology from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai.

Research Assistants

Sameer Nair-Desai

Sameer is a recent graduate of the University of Southern California, where he was awarded a B.A. in Economics and a B.A. International Relations and Global Business with honors. Sameer’s research interests center around economic development, education economics, and political economy. He has recently published in the National Bureau of Economic Research and VoxEU on works relating to the spread and severity of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At USC, Sameer was a lead research assistant for Professor Jacques Hymans of the International Relations department, where he constructed several datasets analyzing shifts in global banknote iconography. He also served as a research assistant at USC’s Program for Environmental and Regional Equity, under Professor Manuel Pastor.

Sameer is currently a student at the University of Michigan, studying Mathematics and Statistics, and hopes to pursue a PhD in Economics in the future.

Srividya Dasaraju

Srividya Dasaraju graduated from the University of Southern California with a B.A. in International Relations and a M.A. in Public Diplomacy. Her research focus has been on the topics of civil war, political violence, and terrorism. At USC, she was a research assistant for the Security Political Economy Lab and the Gould School of Law, where she co-authored academic papers studying civil conflict and corruption. In addition, she was a member of Delta Phi Epsilon and on the Trojan Policy Debate Team.

Srividya previously interned for Senator Chuck Schumer, at the Atlantic Council, and the US Department of State. She graduated with honors and was awarded a Boren National Security Scholarship to study in Indonesia. Srividya currently works on Congresswoman Sharice David’s re-election campaign and hopes to pursue a career in foreign policy, focused on conflict prevention and peace-building.

Sahit Menon

Sahit Menon believes in working at the intersection of empathy and innovation for social good. He is an alumni of the University of Southern California, where he studied Biomedical Engineering and Nonprofits, Philanthropy and Volunteerism. At USC, he developed a tobacco de-addiction and oral hygiene campaign for villagers in Naga Valadia, India through Project RISHI. He also volunteered at refugee camps in Lesvos, Greece, an experience that inspired him to co-create Duet, a platform that connects donors directly to refugees on the basis of refugees’ expressed needs.

After graduating, Sahit spent a year in Kampala, Uganda as a Global Health Corps Fellow. Through the fellowship, he worked as a data analyst at LifeNet International, a nonprofit that provides continuing medical education to rural health facilities in East Africa. He is an incoming medical student at the University of California, San Diego, where he hopes to explore advocacy, data science, and multimedia storytelling to advance healthcare.