Fellowship Spotlight: From Chemistry to Housing Equity

April 19, 2022

Elaine Tsui, Chemistry

In the midst of the pandemic, Elaine Tsui had time to think about life post-Ph.D. The more she thought about it, the more she realized that she wanted to pursue a career beyond academia, and beyond the chemical industries that were often the destination for Chemistry Ph.Ds.

Feeling a pull back towards a career in law, Elaine decided to take up a GradFUTURES Social Impact Fellowship to learn more about the inner workings of a nonprofit, writing for non-chemists, and contributing to a team with a social impact mission.

She found all of that and more at New America, where she collaborated with her mentor, Sabiha Zainulbhai, on a project that explored the causes and consequences of the lack of financing for small dollar mortgages (under $100K), a key issue in the larger conversation about housing equity, access, and affordability. Tsui wrote a blog post for FLH, contributed to a public-facing report, and participated in interview sessions with experts in this area of the housing market.

Elaine describes her decision to take part in the Social Impact Fellowship as one of the best decisions she’s made, and now encourages all graduate students—including those pursuing academic jobs—to take part in the program.

“I think learning to be fluent in wildly different areas of research is an incredibly important skill to have, and this fellowship allowed me to develop that flexibility.”

Elaine Tsui, GS, CHE

Read more about Elaine’s experience in our Fellowship Spotlight Series.

Elaine Tsui Fellowship Spotlight

Our Fellowship Partner

New America logo

We are dedicated to renewing the promise of America by continuing the quest to realize our nation's highest ideals, honestly confronting the challenges caused by rapid technological and social change, and seizing the opportunities those changes create. Since 1999, New America has nurtured a new generation of policy experts and public intellectuals. Today we are a community of innovative problem-solvers, combining our core expertise in researching, reporting and analysis with new areas of coding, data science, and human-centered design to experiment and innovate nationally and globally. We prize our intellectual and ideological independence and our diversity, seeking to do our best work and to reflect the America we are becoming.

Sabiha Zainulbhai

"Our team at New America hosted Elaine Tsui during the Spring of 2021. Elaine was foundational to a new research partnership between the Future of Land and Housing team and the Center for the Study of Economic Mobility at Winston-Salem State University exploring the inaccessibility of small mortgages on relatively affordable homes across the U.S. Elaine was an integral member of the small research team, providing a comprehensive summary of existing research on the topic, as well as meticulousness to our qualitative methods. Elaine assisted with several interviews with real estate agents, mortgage lenders and housing experts, and quickly became knowledgeable on the topic, contributing original questions and necessary context to our data collection efforts.

While Elaine did not have a background in housing or land policy when she started, she had an interest in learning a new field and understand how a non-profit communications and research think tank operates. Through Elaine's research, writing and substantive contributions to our team's work during her four month internship, she quickly  established herself as a pivotal member of the team, contributing to advancing New America's work in meaningful ways. This post is an example of Elaine's excellent work while at New America."

Sabiha Zainulbhai, Senior Policy Analyst, New America

Learn More About GradFUTURES Social Impact Fellowships


GradFUTURES Social Impact Fellowships are bespoke opportunities for Princeton graduate students with nonprofit organizations that have partnered with the Graduate School. Host organizations work closely with the Graduate School to determine the learning outcomes and professional development goals for these immersive experiences. Each fellowship is custom-designed for you to apply discipline-specific skills, gain interdisciplinary project team experience, and receive one-on-one mentoring while contributing to the social impact mission of the organization.