Exploring new sides of climate and sustainability research

When the MIT Local weather and Sustainability Consortium (MCSC) launched its Climate and Sustainability Scholars Program in fall 2022, the aim was to supply undergraduate college students a novel strategy to develop and implement analysis tasks with the robust assist of one another and MIT college. Now into its second semester, this system is underscoring the worth of fostering this type of community — a neighborhood with MIT college students at its core, exploring their various pursuits and passions within the local weather and sustainability realms.

Impressed by MIT’s profitable SuperUROP [Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program], the yearlong MCSC Local weather and Sustainability Students Program features a classroom element mixed with experiential studying alternatives and mentorship, all centered on local weather and sustainability subjects.

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“Harnessing the innovation, ardour, and experience of our gifted college students is crucial to MIT’s mission of tackling the local weather disaster,” says Anantha P. Chandrakasan, dean of the Faculty of Engineering, Vannevar Bush Professor of Electrical Engineering and Pc Science, and chair of the MCSC. “This system helps prepare college students from a wide range of disciplines and backgrounds to be efficient leaders in local weather and sustainability-focused roles sooner or later.”

“What we discovered inspiring about MIT’s present SuperUROP program was the way it gives college students with the steerage, coaching, and sources they should examine the world’s hardest issues,” says Elsa Olivetti, the Esther and Harold E. Edgerton Affiliate Professor in Supplies Science and Engineering and MCSC co-director. “This unimaginable stage of assist and mentorship encourages college students to assume and discover in inventive methods, make new connections, and develop methods and options that propel their work ahead.”

The primary and present cohort of Local weather and Sustainability Students consists of 19 college students, representing MIT’s Faculty of Engineering, MIT Schwarzman Faculty of Computing, Faculty of Science, Faculty of Structure and Planning, and MIT Sloan Faculty of Administration. These college students are studying new views, approaches, and angles in local weather and sustainability — from one another, MIT college, and {industry} professionals.

Tasks with real-world functions

College students in this system work immediately with college and principal investigators throughout MIT to develop their analysis tasks centered on a big scope of sustainability subjects.

“This broad scope is necessary,” says Desirée Plata, MIT’s Gilbert W. Winslow Profession Improvement Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering, “as a result of local weather and sustainability options are wanted in each aspect of society. For a very long time, individuals have been looking for a ‘silver bullet’ resolution to the local weather change issues, however we didn’t get so far with a single technological determination. This downside was created throughout a spectrum of sociotechnological actions, and essentially completely different pondering throughout a spectrum of options is what’s wanted to maneuver us ahead. MCSC college students are working to supply these options.”

Undergraduate pupil and physics main M. (MG) Geogdzhayeva is working with Raffaele Ferrari, Cecil and Ida Inexperienced Professor of Oceanography within the Division of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, and director of the Program in Atmospheres, Oceans, and Local weather, on their undertaking “Utilizing Steady Time Markov Chains to Undertaking Excessive Occasions underneath Local weather.” Geogdzhayeva’s analysis helps the Flagship Climate Grand Challenges project that Ferrari is main together with Professor Noelle Eckley Selin.

“The undertaking I’m engaged on has the same method to the Local weather Grand Challenges undertaking entitled “Bringing computation to the local weather problem,” says Geogdzhayeva. “I’m designing an emulator for local weather extremes. Our aim is to boil down local weather data to what’s essential and to create a framework that may ship particular data — in an effort to develop precious forecasts. As somebody who comes from a physics background, the Local weather and Sustainability Students Program has helped me take into consideration how my analysis suits into the true world, and the way it could possibly be carried out.”

Investigating expertise and stakeholders

Inside expertise growth, Jade Chongsathapornpong, additionally a physics main, is diving into photo-modulated catalytic reactions for clear vitality functions. Chongsathapornpong, who has labored with the MCSC on carbon capture and sequestration by way of the Undergraduate Analysis Alternatives Program (UROP), is now working with Harry Tuller, MIT’s R.P. Simmons Professor of Ceramics and Digital Supplies. Louise Anderfaas, majoring in supplies science and engineering, can be working with Tuller on her undertaking “Sturdy and Excessive Sensitivity Detectors for Exploration of Deep Geothermal Wells.”

Two different college students who’ve labored with the MCSC by way of UROP embody Paul Irvine, electrical engineering and pc science main, who’s now researching American conservatism’s present relation to and views about sustainability and local weather change, and Pamela Duke, administration main, now investigating the usage of simulation instruments to empower industrial decision-makers round local weather change motion.

Different tasks specializing in expertise growth embody the experimental characterization of poly(arylene ethers) for energy-efficient propane/propylene separations by Duha Syar, who’s a chemical engineering main and dealing with Zachary Smith, the Robert N. Noyce Profession Improvement Professor of Chemical Engineering; growing strategies to enhance sheet metal recycling by Rebecca Lizarde, who’s majoring in supplies science and engineering; and ion conduction in polymer-ceramic composite electrolytes by Melissa Stok, additionally majoring in supplies science and engineering.

At a table in a classroom, Melissa Stok leans forward, speaking to someone whose back is to the camera

Melissa Stok, supplies science and engineering main, throughout a classroom dialogue.

Picture: Andrew Okyere

“My undertaking could be very intently related to growing higher Li-Ion batteries, that are extraordinarily necessary in our transition in direction of clear vitality,” explains Stok, who’s working with Bilge Yildiz, MIT’s Breene M. Kerr (1951) Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering. “At the moment, electrical vehicles are restricted of their vary by their battery capability, so working to create simpler batteries with larger vitality densities and higher energy capacities will assist make these vehicles go farther and quicker. As well as, utilizing safer supplies that would not have as excessive of an environmental toll for extraction can be necessary.” Claire Kim, a chemical engineering main, is specializing in batteries as nicely, however is honing in on giant type issue batteries extra related for grid-scale vitality storage with Fikile Brushett, affiliate professor of chemical engineering.

Some college students in this system selected to deal with stakeholders, which, on the subject of local weather and sustainability, can vary from entities in enterprise and {industry} to farmers to Indigenous individuals and their communities. Shivani Konduru, {an electrical} engineering and pc science main, is exploring the “backfire results” in local weather change communication, specializing in perceptions of local weather change and the way the messenger could change outcomes, and Einat Gavish, arithmetic main, on how completely different stakeholders understand data on driving habits.

Two college students are researching the influence of expertise on native populations. Anushree Chaudhuri, who’s majoring in city research and planning, is working with Lawrence Susskind, Ford Professor of City and Environmental Planning, on neighborhood acceptance of renewable vitality siting, and Amelia Dogan, additionally an city research and planning main,is working with Danielle Wood, assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics and media arts and sciences, on Indigenous information sovereignty in environmental contexts.

“I’m interviewing Indigenous environmental activists for my undertaking,” says Dogan. “This course is the primary one immediately associated to sustainability that I’ve taken, and I’m actually having fun with it. It has opened me as much as different elements of local weather past simply the humanity aspect, which is my focus. I did MIT’s SuperUROP program and beloved it, so was excited to do that related alternative with the local weather and sustainability focus.”

Different tasks embody in-field monitoring of water high quality by Dahlia Dry, a physics main; understanding carbon launch and accrual in coastal wetlands by Trinity Stallins, an city research and planning main; and investigating enzyme synthesis for bioremediation by Delight Nweneka, {an electrical} engineering and pc science main, every linked to the MCSC’s influence pathway work in nature-based solutions.

The wide selection of analysis subjects underscores the Local weather and Sustainability Program’s aim of bringing collectively various pursuits, backgrounds, and areas of examine even inside the identical main. For instance, Helena McDonald is finding out air pollution impacts of rocket launches, whereas Aviva Intveld is analyzing the paleoclimate and paleoenvironment background of the primary peopling of the Americas. Each college students are Earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences majors however are researching local weather impacts from very completely different views. Intveld was lately named a 2023 Gates Cambridge Scholar.

“There are college students represented from a number of majors in this system, and a few individuals are engaged on extra technical tasks, whereas others are interpersonal. Each approaches are actually essential within the pursuit of local weather resilience,” says Grace Harrington, who’s majoring in civil and environmental engineering and whose undertaking investigates methods to optimize the facility of the wind farm. “I feel it’s one of many few courses I’ve taken with such an interdisciplinary nature.”

Shivani Konduru rests her hands on a closed laptop while paying attention to an off-camera speaker

Shivani Konduru, electrical engineering and pc science main, throughout a classroom lecture

Picture: Andrew Okyere

Views and steerage from MIT and {industry} consultants

As college students are growing these tasks, they’re additionally taking this system’s course (Local weather.UAR), which covers key subjects in local weather change science, decarbonization methods, coverage, environmental justice, and quantitative strategies for evaluating social and environmental impacts. The course is cross-listed in departments throughout all 5 colleges and is taught by an skilled and interdisciplinary crew. Desirée Plata was central to growing the Local weather and Sustainability Students Applications and course with Affiliate Professor Elsa Olivetti, who taught the primary semester. Olivetti is now co-teaching the second semester with Jeffrey C. Grossman, the Morton and Claire Goulder and Household Professor in Environmental Methods, head of the Division of Supplies Science and Engineering, and MCSC co-director. The course’s writing instructors are Caroline Beimford and David Larson.  

“I’ve been launched to numerous new angles within the local weather house by way of the weekly visitor lecturers, who every shared a special sustainability-related perspective,” says Claire Kim. “As a chemical engineering main, I’ve largely regarded into the applied sciences for decarbonization, and the right way to scale them, so studying about coverage, for instance, was useful for me. Professor Black from the Division of Historical past spoke about how we are able to analyze the effectiveness of previous coverage to information future coverage, whereas Professor Selin talked about framing completely different local weather insurance policies as having co-benefits. These views are actually helpful as a result of irrespective of how good a expertise is, you want to persuade different individuals to undertake it, or have robust coverage in place to encourage its use, to ensure that it to be efficient.”

Bringing the {industry} perspective, company have offered from MCSC member companies akin to PepsiCo, Holcim, Apple, Cargill, and Boeing. For example, in a single class, local weather leaders from three firms offered collectively on their approaches to setting local weather targets, obstacles to reaching them, and methods to work collectively. “After I offered to the category, alongside my counterparts at Apple and Boeing, the scholar questions pushed us to elucidate how can collaborate on methods to attain our local weather targets, reflecting the broader alternative we discover inside the MCSC,” says Dana Boyer, sustainability supervisor at Cargill.

Witnessing the cross-industry dynamics unfold at school was significantly partaking for the scholars. “Probably the most useful a part of this system for me is the variety of visitor lectures who’ve are available to the category, not solely from MIT but additionally from the {industry} aspect,” Grace Harrington provides. “The varied vary of individuals speaking about their very own fields has allowed me to make connections between all my courses.”

Bringing in views from each academia and {industry} is a mirrored image of the MCSC’s bigger mission of linking its company members with one another and with the MIT neighborhood to develop scalable local weather options.

“Along with specializing in an unbiased analysis undertaking and fascinating with a peer neighborhood, we have had the chance to listen to from audio system throughout the sustainability house who’re additionally a part of or intently related to the MIT ecosystem,” says Anushree Chaudhuri. “These alternatives have helped me make connections and study initiatives on the Institute which are intently associated to present or deliberate pupil sustainability tasks. These connections — throughout subjects like waste administration, survey finest practices, and local weather communications — have strengthened pupil tasks and opened pathways for future collaborations.

Basuhi Ravi lectures in front of a classroom, leaning against a table, her hands clasped in front of her.

Basuhi Ravi, MIT PhD candidate, giving a visitor lecture

Picture: Andrew Okyere

Having a constructive influence as college students and after commencement

Firstly of this system, college students recognized a number of targets, together with growing centered unbiased analysis questions, drawing connections and hyperlinks with real-world challenges, strengthening their crucial pondering expertise, and reflecting on their future profession ambitions. A typical thread all through all of them: the dedication to having a significant influence on local weather and sustainability challenges each as college students now, and as working professionals after commencement.

“I’ve completely beloved connecting with like-minded friends by way of this system. I occurred to know many of the college students coming in from varied different communities on campus, so it has been a very particular expertise for all of those individuals who I could not join with as a cohesive cohort earlier than to come back collectively. Every time now we have small group discussions at school, I am at all times grateful for the time to study concerning the interdisciplinary analysis tasks everyone seems to be concerned with,” concludes Chaudhuri. “I am trying ahead to staying in contact with this group going ahead, since I feel most of us are planning on grad college and/or careers associated to local weather and sustainability.”

The MCSC Local weather and Sustainability Students Program is consultant of MIT’s bold and daring initiatives on local weather and sustainability — bringing collectively college and college students throughout MIT to collaborate with {industry} on growing local weather and sustainability options within the context of undergraduate training and analysis. Study how one can get involved.


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