Grand Challenges News

Carol Peters ・ Princeton Environmental Institute

Siebel Energy Challenge

On October 17, 2011, the Siebel Energy Challenge program announced four New Investigator Awards for 2011-2013. Elie Bou-Zeid and Alexander Smits will investigate the potential of vertical axis wind turbine farms using laboratory experiments and numerical simulations. John Higgins will probe weathering reactions that are thought to regulate the flow of CO2 through Earth’s surface reservoirs. David Medvigy and Lars Hedin will create a tropical rainforest research community called the PIRANHA Consortium (see pages 12-13). Gerard Wysocki and Yiguang Ju will develop a novel in-situ sensing method to detect key species in biofuel combustion.

PECS social on October 11, 2011. (Photo: Hang Deng)
PECS social on October 11, 2011. (Photo: Hang Deng)

This fall, the Oil, Energy and the Middle East Program coordinated a talk titled “The Hidden Hand of US Hegemony: From Petrodollars to Sinodollars” by Adjunct Associate Professor David E. Spiro from Columbia University and one titled “Do Global Shale Liquids Spell a Threat to the Middle East Oil Dominance?” by Adjunct Faculty Asif Gangat from New York University.

In May of 2011, the Princeton Energy and Climate Scholars (PECS) welcomed new faculty board members Elie Bou-Zeid, Alexander Glaser, David Medvigy, and Gerard Wysocki. On October 4, 2011, PECS announced the selection of six new graduate student members whose thesis research deals with climate science and closely related fields. With the addition of the new members, the group regained a balanced membership across the areas of energy technology, carbon policy, and climate science. The selected students are: Sarah Batterman, Hang Deng, Minghui Diao, Mary Kang, Joe Majkut, and Geeta Persad.

During the fall semester, participants in the weekly Energy Table reconvened for a series of discussion-based dinners in Mathey College on topics ranging from wind energy, international trade and impacts on carbon emissions, mitigation strategies and carbon stabilization wedges, grid energy storage, progress in climate science, and the risks of nuclear power.

Development Challenge

In the spring of 2012, the Development Challenge is launching a Graduate Student Initiated Roundtable to invite experts to speak on a variety of topics including: conservation biology; ecology, land use and conservation of African landscapes; climate change and agriculture; ecohydrology; environmental education and entrepreneurship; and sustainable technologies.

Health Challenge

This fall the Health Challenge co-sponsored a new graduate seminar series: “Research at the Interface of Economics, Ecology, and Health.” The series highlighted interdisciplinary work addressing some of the greatest social, environmental, and economic issues of the coming decade. The aim of the series was to share examples of research that utilizes theory or methodology that may be applicable to seemingly disparate areas of research. Participating departments include the Office of Population Research, the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton Environmental Institute, and the Department of Economics.

Seminar speakers’ research includes innovative techniques to tackle questions spanning disciplinary areas. In September, Dr. Matthew Bonds, from Harvard University and Partners in Health, spoke about the interplay between the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), biodiversity, and infectious disease burden. The following month, Dr. Nim Pathy from Princeton University, used ecological theory to evaluate the impact of bank size and connectivity on global financial system stability. The November seminar speaker, Dr. Timothy Reluga, Pennsylvania State University, reviewed recent research exploring behavioral aspects of infectious disease management, with particular emphasis on the use of population games to merge epidemiology with economics.

The graduate seminar series was conceived and orchestrated by graduate students Audrey Dorelien (Office of Population Research) and Christina Faust (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology), with generous funding support from the Office of Population Research and the Health Grand Challenge.