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Nichola Lowe is an Assistant Professor in City and Regional Planning at UNC-Chapel Hill. Her work focuses on regional economic and labor market adjustment, industrial upgrading and workforce development. She is particularly interested in the role that more open, inclusionary channels for knowledge sharing and knowledge creation play in processes of local economic development. Since joining UNC in 2005, she has conducted extensive research on North Carolina’s life science industry. While many studies of “high-tech” industry focus narrowly on gains for highly educated individuals, Dr. Lowe’s examines how policy interventions guide the development of the knowledge economy in more socially inclusive ways. For the case of North Carolina this includes coordinated efforts by the state that result in jobs in biopharmaceuticals for displaced textile, tobacco-processing and microelectronics workers and in the process encourage greater skills transference between the traditional and emerging industrial base.


Her research also examines the knowledge contribution of Latino immigrant construction workers, often as a result of their prior work experience in sending communities in Mexico and Central America. In collaboration with GRI Fellow Natasha Iskander, she is exploring the institutional differences across local labor markets that shape how Latino immigrants apply and continue develop skill, yet also determine the localized obstacles they face in demonstrating and harnessing their expertise for industry advancement. As a GRI Fellow she is extending this line of research to examine two emergent pathways for revealing and defending immigrant skill. First, the role of safety training as a circuitous route for technical skill development. Second, the role of immigrant work teams in promoting both mastery of building tasks and problem-solving skills. By studying these pathways together, Dr. Lowe and Dr. Iskander will consider formal policy and advocacy supports for enhancing their visibility and also their industry and labor market impact.


Nichola Lowe received her Ph.D. in economic development and regional planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2003. She holds a Masters in International Development from the University of California, Davis and a BS in Political Economy of Natural Resources from the University of California, Berkeley.