Luskin Center for Innovation welcomes new project manager for environmental data science

Get to know Ruth Engel, our newest team member

We are delighted to welcome Ruth Engel to our team! Ruth’s work will focus on the relationships between people and their environments in urban settings — with an overarching goal to advance environmental justice.

As an environmental data scientist, Ruth analyzes large amounts of data to explore complex questions. She uses tactics like remote sensing, physical modeling and deep learning, and she brings a breadth of knowledge about research design and methodology to this role.

Ruth has been working in environmental policy research for more than a decade, including in Washington D.C. Most recently, she completed a Ph.D. in geography at UCLA, where she investigated unequal distributions of urban heat, vegetation and residential water use throughout Southern California. Ruth also holds a bachelor’s degree in government from Harvard University.

Get to know more about Ruth:

Why is environmental policy important to you?

Our interactions with the natural world affect everyone’s well-being, but environmental policy involves long-term planning around complex questions. There are so many ways to make tangible progress toward climate resilience, and they all depend on understanding the intersections between human systems and the natural world. I’m interested in exploring what it means for cities to be sustainable and how best to build institutional capacity that can promote ecosystem services.

What are you most looking forward to in this role?

Joining the community of researchers at the Luskin Center and in partner organizations. There is so much collaborative work happening, and I’m excited to be a part of big, interdisciplinary research projects.

What types of research do you most enjoy?

I like research that supports community efforts and solutions. Science is constantly evolving — we’re always evaluating new evidence and methods — but it can still produce actionable conclusions. Initiatives like the Transformative Climate Communities program allow researchers to contribute directly to organizations that are working on the climate crisis at a local level, and I’m glad for the chance to work on these projects with civic partners.

How did you get involved in environmental data science? Is there something specific that sparked your interest?

I’ve always liked maps. Growing up, I wanted to be a cartographer, and I started to learn GIS when I was in high school. Eventually, I started to build tools that could help support research and policy questions. Data science work is enjoyable because it lets me approach a question using a variety of methods and learn about how best to find results.

What are a few things people should know about you?

You can count on me for a strong opinion about the following: Jane Austen novels, pickled vegetables of all sorts and who will win next year’s Tour de France.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I spend my free time outside running, climbing and going on backpacking trips whenever I get a chance. I also like cooking and baking, and I do a lot of experimentation with recipes (which would ideally be scientific, but mostly it’s just trial-and-error).

To get in touch with Ruth, contact her at or connect on LinkedIn.