SYLFF Fellowship

2014 SYLFF Recognition Ceremony Group Photo

Group Photo of the SYLFF Award Recepients

Nitya and Linda

Sreyoshi Das receives her SYLFF Recognition Award from Professor Linda Tesar

Ryoko and Sylff

Ryoko Sato discusses her new project with Tomoko Yamada and Takashi Suzuki both present from the Nippon Foundation

Lin Ma and Linda Tesar

Lin Ma Receives his SYLFF Recognition Award from Professor Linda Tesar

Tomoko and Anne

Tomoko Yamada, a SYLFF representative and Anne Fitzpatrick discuss her ongoing project in Uganda

Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Fund 


The Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Fund was launched in 1987 by the Nippon Foundation (formerly, The Japan Shipbuilding Industry Foundation or The Sasakawa Foundation). The goal of the SYLFF Program is to nurture future leaders who will overcome geopolitical, religious, ethnic, and cultural boundaries and actively participate in the world community for peace and the well-being of humankind. Under the SYLFF Program, The Nippon Foundation has endowed one million dollars to each institutions of higher learning, from which fellowships are awarded to graduate students enrolled in social sciences and humanities fields. To date, endowments of one million dollars each have been presented to 69 universities and consortia in 44 countries. About 15,000 students have received fellowships since the launch of the program in 1987. These SYLFF Fellows have been active in a diversity of fields following their graduation. The Economics Department at the University of Michigan is honored to be a recipient of the SYLFF endowment.

As part of the SYLFF program, The Economics Department offers two different types of fellowships for students.   The first is used as a recruiting tool for incoming Ph.D. students. This fellowship offers students tuition, healthcare and a generous stipend to support them during the first full year as a graduate student in Economics. The second SYLFF Fellowship supports students who have reached Ph.D. candidacy. This one-term funding opportunity provides tuition, stipend and health insurance to provide a semester of dedicated research time to these students. Priority is given to students who are in the final stages of their dissertation research and plan to go on the job market within the next year.  A competition is held for both Fall and Winter semesters. For more information on this please contact Mary Braun.

Current SYLFF Fellows 

Bhanu Gupta is a graduate student in economics at the University of Michigan. He has strong research interests in development, political economy, labor and public policy. He gained research experience in political economy by working for India's National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. Prior to starting his studies, Mr. Gupta received a BA and MA in economics from the University of Delhi and worked as a Research Associate at the Indian Statistical Institute-Delhi. 


Anne Fitzpatrick is a Ph.D. candidate in Economics and Public Policy at the University of Michigan. Her interests are in development economics, specializing on issues of health care in developing economies. For her dissertation she conducted a field experiment in partnership with professors of Pharmacy at Mbarara University, Uganda. Ms. Fitzpatrick tests whether customer information changes the likelihood that a customer receives a counterfeit anti-malarial drug by sending mystery shoppers to purchase drugs using randomly assigned scripts. The purchased drugs are then tested with a handheld spectrometer to determine the quality. She pairs that analysis with a survey of drug shops and interviews with customers at the same jobs. In addition, she has coauthored work with her advisor, Dr. Rebecca Thornton, on the impact of health insurance on children’s healthcare utilization in Nicaragua. Prior to starting her Ph.D., Ms. Fitzpatrick graduated with honors from Cornell University with a B.S. in Industrial and Labor Relations and worked at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve as a Research Assistant. She is expected to obtain her Ph.D. in May 2015.


Vybhavi Balasundharam is a Ph.D. student in Economics at the University of Michigan with research interests in Development Economics and International Economics.  She is interested in policy – oriented research. Prior to joining the Department of Economics, she received her BA in Economics from The University of Western Ontario.



Tejaswi Velayudhan is a graduate student at the Economics department at Michigan. Prior to starting her PhD., she worked as a research assistant at the Center for Global Development in Washington, DC. Her work there centered on the economics of immigration and HIV/AIDS. Tejaswi’s research interests include labor, public finance, development and applied microeconomics. She received a B.A. in Economics and Mathematics from Wellesley College.


Max Risch is a graduate student in economics at the University of Michigan with interests in economic development and labor economics. Primary research interests in these areas include local responses to national redistributive policies and perceived poverty/inequality and human capital investment. Prior to starting his Ph.D., Max worked as a NBER research assistant and served in the Peace Corps in Latin America. Max received a BA in political science from University of Michigan and a MPA in international economic policy from Columbia University.


Pieter DeVlieger holds a Master in Business Engineering from the University of Leuven and an MSc Economics from University College London. In between he worked as a research assistant at the London School of Economics, a quantitative analyst for the ONDD in Brussels, and as a freelance data consultant and programmer. His current fields of interest are econometrics and labor economics, particularly topics addressing wage inequalities and intergenerational mobility. Other interests include computational methods and programming.



Dimitrije Ruzic   Dimitrije’s research interests span international trade and macroeconomics. In particular, he seeks to understand how distortions in domestic labor and capital markets affect the flows of goods abroad. Through the support of the Sasakawa Fellowship in his first year, he was able to focus on mastering the economic theory and the econometric tools that comprise the building blocks of his future work. In the process, the fellowship facilitated his preparation both for tackling more advanced coursework and for building and estimating models of his own.


Bryan Stuart  Bryan Stuart entered the University of Michigan Ph.D. economics program in the fall of 2011. He received a B.A. in mathematics and B.S. in business (specializing in economics) from Indiana University.  His research interests span labor, public, and urban economics. Prof. David Albouy and Bryan Stuart study equilibrium household location decisions in the United States in “Urban Population and Amenities.” In joint work with Evan Taylor, he explores the role of social networks in determining location decisions during the Great Migration of the twentieth century. With Eric Chyn, he studies how West German firms and markets responded to immigration-induced labor supply shocks.


Michael Zabek  Michael’s primary interests involve how individuals and families make lasting decisions in their personal and financial lives, and how those decisions can drive inequality.  Recently, he has begun research working on a project examining how workers trade off connections to family with opportunities for higher wages in areas further away from family members.  He is interested in how these connections differ across educational and income levels, possibly leading less-educated workers to accept lower wages than they otherwise would.  The SYLFF award has given Michael valuable assistance in his first year that has allowed me to focus on my coursework and learn skills that will help him to further develop his research.  He is very grateful for the support the Fellowship has provided.


Yun Chen  Yun’s research compares mortgage markets across different countries using household-level data. Residential mortgage reforms constitute an important part of the US financial reforms after the 2008 crisis, embodied in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.  Motivated by part of the reforms that attempt to restrict the specific forms a mortgage could take, her research aims to provide answers to the following questions:  First, how do different legal institutions in different countries such as mortgage interest deduction rules and foreclosure laws impact the families’ home buying decisions?  Second, how do mortgage choices relate to the households’ characteristics and their expectations about the key macroeconomic variables?  Third, whether the formality of different mortgages is decisive for those households that have got into financial trouble as observed in the data?  The potential research outcomes would improve the current understanding on households’ home financing decisions and an international comparison would hopefully lead to better policy-making.

Sreyoshi Das  In macroeconomic forecasting, we often have data sets with large number of series but not nearly as many time period observations. In the past few years, there has been rising interest in forecasting macroeconomic variables using such data sets.  Large scale models like factor models or large scale Bayesian VARs are increasingly used for forecasting in macroeconomics. While factor models or structural VARs augmented with factors (FAVAR) rely on extraction of a few factors that can explain most variation in the series in the data, large scale Bayesian VARS apply Bayesian shrinkage to analyze large data sets. Real price of oil is a variable of interest in model-based macroeconomic projections. Central banks, private sector forecasters, international organizations commonly generate forecasts of real price of oil based on oil price futures. Sreyoshi’s current research focuses on comparing forecastibility of real price of oil using large scale models with that of small scale VARs and other commonly used measures.  


Students awarded SYLFF Small Grants for travel and research

Students apply for the small grants up to three times a year for awards in Spring/Summer, Fall and Winter. Students submit an application, budget and research information on an online application which are reviewed and awarded by the Graduate Education Committee. Please contact Mary Braun for more information. 

Chenyue Hu is a Ph.D. candidate in economics at the University of Michigan with interests in international economics and macroeconomics.  Her research focuses on the interplay between international trade and international finance. Her most recent work studied how defaults of sovereign debt affect trade volumes. Her next plan is to study the effect of international trade on the allocation of financial resources. Prior to starting her Ph.D., Chenyue received a BA in economics with a focus on world economy from Fudan University in Shanghai, China.

Ryoko Sato is a Ph.D. candidate in Economics at University of Michigan. She studies development economics focusing on health behavioral change. She has been conducting a field experiment to examine what kind of incentive generates changes in health behaviors. Her projects include research in rural Nigeria on whether emotional message increases the vaccination take-up among women. Prior to joining Ph.D. program, Ryoko received a BA in International Studies and a MA in Economics in Japan.

Notable SYLFF Fellows

Jordan Matsudaira, PhD (2005)  Dissertation: Essays in Labor and Family Economics

Melinda Miller, PhD (2008)  Dissertation: Essays on Race and the Persistence of Economics Inequality

SYLFF Fellows earning a PhD in Economics (in the past 10 years)

Molly Saunders-Scott, PhD (2014) Three Essays on Profit Shifting

Evan Starr, PhD (2014) Three Essays on Covenants Not to Compete

Lin Ma, PhD (2014) Three Essays in International Trade and Macroeconomics

Catherine Ambler, PhD (2013) Dissertation: Essays on Houshold Economics and Remittances

Emily Beam, PhD (2013) Dissertation: Information and Labor Markets in the Philippines

Jessica Hoel, PhD (2013) Dissertation: Essays on Household Economics in Kenya

Christian Gillitzer, PhD (2013) Dissertation: Essays in Macroeconomics and Public Finance

Noah Smith, PhD (2012)  Dissertation: Essays on Expectations

Doug Smith, PhD (2011)  Dissertation: Essays on Mechanism Design

Isao Kamata, PhD (2008)  Dissertation: Essays on Patterns of International Trade

Rebecca Gunnlaugsson, PhD (2007)  Dissertation: Essays in Education and Inequality

Curtis Lock Reynolds, PhD (2007)  Dissertation: Three Essays on Policies and Politics in Higher Education

Osamu Aruga, PhD (2006)  Dissertation: Economic Growth Models with Capital Heterogeneity and Vintage Specific Technological Change 

Daehaeng Kim, PhD (2005)  Dissertation: Essays on Growth, Stabilization, and the Business Cycle

William Powers, PhD (2005)  Dissertation: Essays on the International Location of Production and Trade in Factor

Kenji Moriyana, PhD (2004)  Dissertation: Essays on Capital Income Taxation and Fiscal Adjustment

Thomas Bishop, PhD (2004)  Dissertation: Precautionary Saving and Risk Preferences