With Paasha Mahdavi, assistant professor, Department of Political Science
1. He’s an expert on natural resources. Mahdavi’s research, which explores the political and economic consequences of natural energy resources in a global context, lies at the intersection of climate, policy, and political economy, all bolstered by his expertise in statistics and political methodology. “The question driving my research has been, what are the consequences of natural resource wealth?” he explains. “I’m interested in the ways in which having extractive resources—such as petroleum, minerals, and other commodities—affect politics, society, and the environment.” He is currently working on a book that examines how leaders seize control of both energy resources and the money generated by them to increase their political power.
2. He was drawn to his field by two family members. Mahdavi credits his personal interest in energy at least in part to two family members: an uncle on his mother’s side who was a pioneer in solar thermal energy, and an uncle on his father’s side who worked as a commodities trader in Iran and Central Asia. “That personal connection has always bled into my work,” Mahdavi says. “It’s always been clear to me that, in the threat of global climate change, energy resources are a big driver, and one that we could change through policy.”
3. He’s a trusted advisor on the future of energy. In his work with the non-profit Natural Resources Governance Institute, Mahdavi has been involved in helping governments figure out what to do if (and when) they discover oil. He has consulted with both Lebanon and with Nigeria, giving them suggestions about how to govern their natural resources. He also just completed a term on the World Economic Forum’s Global Futures Council on the Future of Energy, in which he and his colleagues advised governments and Fortune 50 companies about the possible outcomes of the upcoming energy transition.
4. He has lived all over California. A native of San Diego, Mahdavi got a master’s degree in international policy at Stanford and a Ph.D. (along with an M.S. in statistics) at UCLA. Having lived in many different parts of the California coast, he appreciates both the natural beauty and the vibe of Santa Barbara. He says: “I like how in touch UCSB is with the community. I grew up living next door to a university but I never felt the same connection. My feeling here is that UCSB is very much connected to the city. I see my former students everywhere.”
5. When he’s not on campus, you can find him enjoying Santa Barbara. In his spare time, Mahdavi enjoys hiking local trails with his wife and son and the more urban scenery of the Funk Zone and the farmer’s market. While he loves local spots like Tyger Tyger and Helena Avenue Bakery, he is still searching for the perfect burrito.