Research with a public purpose

Complex problems require complex solutions. 

Our experts collaborate across disciplines to ensure that holistic approaches address deep rooted social inequalities that affect every aspect of human and natural worlds. 

Faculty Spotlight

Parfait Eloundou-Enyegue

As a global expert on demographics, sociology and development, Parfait Eloundou-Enyegue advises the United Nations and national governments on the relationship between demographics, inequality and development. He is the co-founder of PICHNET, which seeks to transform Africa's largest generation through youth capacity development, research and policy communication in Cameroon. 

Food justice

Rachel Bezner Kerr

Rachel Bezner Kerr's collaborative research program advocates for localized food justice in New York and around the world. She has united communities across Malawi and Tanzania, culminating to a 10,000 member nonprofit, numerous farmer-led training programs and internationally acclaimed expertise in agroecology. 

Environmental Sociology

Jack Zinda

As an environmental sociologist and professor of global development, Jack Zinda analyzes global challenges surrounding relationships between human groups and environments. Zinda makes in-depth explorations of locales across the globe, from rural communities in China to metropolitan areas straddling the Hudson River in New York State. 

Global food security

KV Raman

As an expert in international agriculture and rural development, KV Raman has facilitated over a dozen international collaborative projects, fostered numerous public-private partnerships and led engaged learning opportunities for 1,000+ undergraduate and professional students at both Cornell and other international universities. 

Political ecology

Jenny Goldstein

As a political ecologist, Jenny Goldstein studies the intersection of power dynamics, the environment, and the meaning of place and space. Her research has taken her across Southeast Asia, Africa and the United States to study the role that environmental conservation and development play in terms of governance, data, human health and ecological change. 

Parfait Eloundou-Enyegue headshot
Three women hug and smile in a field
Jack Zinda headshot
A group of students and professors stand in front of university in India
Head shot of Jenny E. Goldstein

Polson Institute for Global Development

Research Program Highlights

Explore a few of our faculty's research programs

Parfait Elloundou-Enyegue gives a presentation
Map of New York State
A faculty member conducts fieldwork in a forest.
Thomas Hirschl
Coral underwater
corn plants against the sky

Student Research Spotlight

Learn more about our next-generation leaders who are at the forefront of compelling research in and out of the classroom.

Food & community solidarity

Louise Erskine MPS '21

Louise Erskine MPS ’21 utilizes photography to tell the stories of rural and agricultural communities across Canada, the United States and Mexico. Behind the lens and on the global stage, Louise advocates for the need to build solidarity within and across communities. 

Racism in academia

Ben Fields '20

Inspired by his personal experience as a Black student in the Ivy League, Ben analyzed how racism, micro-aggressions and human behavior contribute to the academic career of Black students. His research is not only an important contribution to academia, but also offers a new perspective on how a sense of belonging and engagement play a critical role in diversity and inclusion on college campuses.

Gender & income inequality

Elena Setiadarma ’21

The intersection between agriculture and technology drove Elena to explore innovative ways to take her passion for issues of gender and income inequality and transform her ideas into reality. “Conducting global research means overcoming language barriers, practicing how to ask thoughtful questions, and presenting and consolidating findings from the field,” Elena said.

Climate change & agriculture

Keelin Kelly ‘20

With a goal to better understand how climate change impacts farmers and agriculture, Keelin travelled to Armenia to speak directly with farmers, hear their experiences and concerns, and find ways to involve them in climate change decision-making. “Making connections with people, sharing resources and knowledge and working together towards a better solution is truly irreplaceable,” Keelin shared.

Louise Erskine looks off into the distance holding a camera
Ben Fields graduation
Headshot of Elena Setiadarma
A woman in a red jacket smiles as she is photographed in front of water

Our Approach is Transdisciplinary

Food Security

Averting hunger in sub-Saharan Africa requires data and synthesis

As COVID-19 disrupts food systems around the world, a pivot to more agile and inclusive data collection and analysis is critical to avert widespread hunger, according to Cornell Global Development experts in a comment piece published Aug. 5 in Nature.

Global health & Nutrition

Children in refugee camps get better health, nutrition via e-vouchers

Research shows that electronic food vouchers provide families more effective ways to purchase a greater range of nutritionally diverse foods, boosting the overall health of children in their development.


Gender-sensitive farmer training program transforms Kenya’s households

The Gender-responsive Researchers Equipped for Agricultural Transformation (GREAT) team analyzes imbalances on farms in sub-Saharan Africa to reveal new ways to increase women’s participation in agriculture. 

Data & machine learning

Project partners researchers, librarians & AI to fight hunger

Climate-resilient crops are at the center of one of Ceres2030’s eight research questions, which seek to identify interventions that will improve the lives of the world’s poorest farmers while preserving the environment. 

Agriculture & food systems

Studying crop establishment to improve harvests and diversify crops

Experts in the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) use agro-ecological methods to increase the productivity of rice with African farmers in upstate New York by changing the management of plants, soil, water and nutrients. 

Climate Change

Studying solar leasing on farmland in New York to better understand issues

New York state has set ambitious goals to wean its economy off fossil fuels by 2050 while cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 85%. To help reach those goals, researchers in Global Development are studying ways the state’s mix of sun and farmland will factor into plans.

Plant Science

NextGen Cassava research accelerates cassava breeding worldwide

“A complete understanding of cassava’s genetic architecture is the critical step needed to accelerating genetic improvement and bring lasting benefits to farmers and consumers who depend on this crop for food and income throughout the world,” said Chiedozie Egesi.


Researchers develop market for East Coast broccoli

New research demonstrates that the way in which you communicate where products were grown has an impact on consumer habits

Wheat growing in a field
Tents housing children at a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh.
Farmers stand outside their house
A man walking through a field of wheat with a stick slung over his shoulder carrying several bags
A man working in a rice field on a sunny day.
Dryden solar farm
A man walks through a cassava field
Miguel Gomez draws on a whiteboard.