Melissa Dell is a PhD student at MIT on the job market this year. Her research is extremely interesting, already published in Econometrica, and, guess what, useful! Indeed, her job market paper,"Trafficking Networks and the Mexican Drug War", might help Mexican government officials map probable trafficking routes and identify locations in the road network where interdiction efforts would force the costliest redirection of drug shipments.
How did she do it? She played with Google maps. Read Ray Fisman's on Slate for a nice and simple summary of her paper. Not only is she the next big forensic economist, she also seems to be an economic artist, judging by her maps and graphs (see map below taken from her paper). Respect!