Fellows Feature: Rebecca Stewart, Pratik Mahajan & Kate Marr-Laing

As we enter April, there are only three months left in the 2023-24 training program. This month, the Fellows will be diving into Machine Learning as well as starting to prepare for the annual CAnD3 Dragon's Den competition! It's inspiring to see their growth and accomplishments unfold as they continue through the training program.

We caught up with three of our current Fellows, Rebecca Stewart, Pratik Mahajan, and Kate Marr-Laing, to ask about their experiences with the CAnD3 program thus far. Continue reading to discover more about their research and their aspirations for the rest of the program and beyond.

Feature image: Rebecca Stewart (left) Pratik Mahajan (Middle) and Kate Marr-Laing (right)

Rebecca Stewart (she, her, hers)

Rebecca Stewart is an urban studies researcher particularly focusing on how cities are designed for leisure, particularly in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states. The GCC states have been building new infrastructural projects over the past three decades, which are spectacular in scale and investment, in their major urban areas to foster secular leisure activity. From creating healthier and more livable communities to contributing to the growth of a country's tourism industry. “I work to discover what actors, forces, and rationales are pushing forward these projects, and what political, religious, demographic, and sociocultural impacts they have in the region,” she shares.

Rebecca explores her professional experiences in research assistant positions where she explored topics ranging from walkability evolution in Canadian cities to the geopolitical functions of new cities built in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Her fascination with urban topics led her to co-found and serve as a senior editor of Pulse: McGill’s Urban Studies Journal, where she honed her editing, communication, and organizational skills while being exposed to various urbanism topics from multiple disciplinary perspectives.

Rebecca's bachelor's degree and teaching assistant positions in upper-level urban geography courses at McGill University have further strengthened her expertise in understanding how different populations influence the built environment of cities. She always wondered "Who the city is (not) planned for?" serves as a guiding question for her research and future career ambitions.

In her free time, Rebecca enjoys outdoor activities, experimenting with arts and crafts, reading, and exploring the city of Montreal. She is also passionate about physical fitness and is currently training for her first marathon, scheduled for May 2024.

As a CAnD3 fellow, she expects to gain quantitative skills, such as proficiency in coding languages like R, Python, and data visualization techniques through the CAnD3 training program. With these skills, Rebecca aims to inform data-driven decision-making and create tangible public policy recommendations in her population research. “I am eager to learn how quantitative methods could be used in population research to inform data-driven decision making and create tangible public policy recommendations.” she says.

Learn more and connect with Rebecca.

Pratik Mahajan (He/Him/His)

Pratik Mahajan is a final year master’s student in the Department of Political Science, McGill University. Pratik’s research interests lie in exploring the challenges to and conditions for better electoral representation and development outcomes for marginalized groups in rural and semi-urban India. “I am particularly interested in studying Scheduled Tribes and OBCs, through political behaviors, political economy, and nested identity lenses,” Pratik shares.

His current research explores the electoral shift of the Bhil, a Scheduled Tribes group in western India, toward the Hindu-nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). Relying on fieldwork including intensive interviews and quantitative survey experiments in 40 villages, “I argue that tribal identity and material interests remain salient amongst Bhils despite increasing Hindu nationalist mobilization,” Pratik says.

Incorporating population dynamics into his research has marked a novel phase in Pratik's academic journey, significantly influenced by engagement with colleagues at CAnD3. This interdisciplinary program bridges demography and data science with population dynamics. “Joining CAnD3 has expanded my analytical toolkit and enriched my investigations into electoral representation and development outcomes for marginalized groups in India,” Pratik shares.

After graduating from McGill this semester with a Master’s, Pratik plans to work on multiple research projects in India focusing on the involvement of civil society organizations during state and local elections in Maharashtra. Additionally, he intends to apply for doctoral programs in political science for the 2025-26 cycle.

Outside academia, Pratik has a passion for his bike, Pegasus, with which he has shared experiences of broken wheels and teeth. He also enjoys playing the djembe, influenced by Indian classical music since middle school. Furthermore, he indulges his love for movies by curating Philm nights for the Philosophy Students’ Association at McGill.

Learn more and connect with Pratik

 

Kate Marr-Laing (any pronouns)

Kate Marr-Laing is a passionate researcher with a keen focus on how social policy influences the formation of social connections and networks of care. Their research endeavors are driven by a deep-seated interest in designing social programs that promote community health and well-being. “I am interested in how social policy shapes the way we form social connections and networks of care, and in turn, how we can best design our social programs,” they share.

Kate's academic journey has led them to specialize in participatory, community-based research methods, which they view as instrumental in ensuring that the voices and priorities of those impacted by social policy changes are heard and integrated into decision-making processes.

Their research spans various policy areas, including community outreach programming, healthcare, education, and non-profit sector regulation. Kate enjoys working across a variety of subject-areas from an interdisciplinary lens. “Working in multi-disciplinary teams can challenge me to work through problems with more flexibility and creativity, ” they say.

Kate recently graduated from MA in political science at McGill University. Their involvement with numerous non-profit organizations has deeply influenced their research and career trajectory, fostering a commitment to research and policy advocacy aimed at supporting community initiatives and enhancing social support networks.

Currently engaged in the CAnD3 training program, Kate sees it as a transformative opportunity to enhance their skills in population research and knowledge mobilization. “The program so far has been hugely rewarding, it has provided me with fantastic examples of how professionals have applied these expertise in their respective careers,” Kate says. They aim to apply the insights gained from the program to her ongoing studies, career pursuits, and research endeavors, with a focus on contributing meaningfully to projects aimed at improving social service systems.

Outside of their academic and professional pursuits, Kate enjoys spending time outdoors, particularly in Montreal parks during the summer months. Whether they’re sharing a picnic with friends or embarking on hiking, paddling, or skiing adventures in the backcountry, Kate finds solace and inspiration in nature.

Learn more and connect with Kate.

 

About the training program

The Population Analytics in an Aging Society Training Program is a rigorous one-year fellowship hosted by the Consortium on Analytics for Data-Driven Decision-Making (CAnD3), funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and based at McGill University. The program upskills rising researchers in Master's, PhD, and postdoctoral programs in the areas of population data science and computational population social science from a multidisciplinary lens. It also connects Fellows to experiential learning opportunities, which include hands-on research projects and internships with government, not-for-profit, and private sector CAnD3 partners. Since the first year of the program in 2020, CAnD3 has trained 52 Fellows and welcomes 22 new Fellows for the 2023-24 Academic Year.

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