Academic with Trinidadian roots wins Rhodes scholarship

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday


Justin Hadad – Photo courtesy University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Trinidadian-descended scholar Justin Hadad has won a 2022 Rhodes Scholarship. He is one of 32 recipients chosen for the prestigious honour of 876 applications.

The 22-year-old is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH), where he majored in economics and applied physics and minored in Latin. The university said while there he created SplitTime, a scheduling software that merges machine learning and economic theory to help businesses manage employees’ shifts. He also co-founded UNCUT, a storytelling platform that highlights student-athletes’ lives off the field, to address their mental health.

UNC-CH said nationally, Hadad has helped Silicon Valley companies Carbon and Zoomo design algorithms to analyse 3D printed parts and develop infrastructures for theft recovery.

“He also served as a research fellow for Louisville Forward, creating new financial policies for immigrants in the Kentucky city. After graduating, he worked at a real-time simulation software company, Unity, where he designed software for low-tech industries.”

The Rhodes Trust, which issues the scholarship, said he is also the president of The Propertius Project, which makes Elegies, a historically inaccessible text, public and free for use.

It said Hadad will be pursuing a master’s degree in economics at Oxford University, where his research will focus on helping place refugees in environments where they will thrive by using economic resource allocation algorithms.

A release from his university said with mentorship from Oxford associate professor Alex Teytelboym, the deputy director of economics of sustainability in the Oxford Martin School, and his interdisciplinary cohort of fellow Rhodes scholars, Hadad believes the experience at Oxford University will prepare him to continue his passion for improving lives, but this time on a global scale.

“There currently are as many as 20 million refugees in need of homes. Economics provides a framework for putting these refugees in places where they can find a new life and new employment. The number one person working on that algorithm is at Oxford. I love everything [Teytelboym] is doing, and I want to learn under him for as long as I can. This would be the next step that I need to serve people on a broader scope and I’m excited to take that next step because I’m confident I can be successful in that realm.”

Hadad’s parents, Christopher Hadad and Christine Abdulla-Hadeed, grew up in Trinidad. Hadad’s aunt, Joanna Joseph, said Christopher was born and grew up in Trinidad until age 11 when his family migrated to the US.

“My sister was born here, went to Holy Name Convent, and taught in Trinidad. Christopher came back for his brother’s wedding, that’s where they met, and she left Trinidad when she got married when she was 24 years old. That was 1990, the same year as the coup.”

Although Hadad is quoted as saying his family fled Trinidad to Ohio because of the unrest caused by the coup, Joseph said it was simply a coincidence.

“The year of the coup is when she got married, he used it because he’s going into the field of employment for refugees, showing that they’re refugees as well. It’s a very good field he’s going into and one that’s needed.”

Hadad is currently an academic visitor at the University of Zurich where he is researching how economic theory can optimise the placement of refugees into new communities.