Seminars & Workshops



Click here to view the Spring 2015 GIS Graduate Seminar schedule


The Periodic Table of Criticality

May 11, 2015, 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., in the GIS Auditorium
Dr. Thomas Graedel, Professor, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University

Abstract: Potential resource scarcity is increasingly in the news – lithium, indium, rare earths, and so forth. The stories typically identify one or more metals as “critical” and then go on to discuss issues that challenge availability. However, determining criticality is a complex and sometimes contentious challenge. To explore criticality determination from the perspective of rigor and breadth, a comprehensive methodology has been applied to 62 elements of the periodic table. This presentation will present the results of this work by discussing the more critical metals that are identified by the analysis, the potential for substitution, and anticipated supply and demand issues for the future.

 Bio: Dr. Thomas Graedel is Clifton R. Musser Professor of Industrial Ecology in the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University. His research is centered on developing and enhancing industrial ecology, the organizing framework for the quantification and transformation of the Anthropocene. His textbook, Industrial Ecology and Sustainable Engineering, coauthored with B. R. Allenby, was the first book in the field and is now in its third edition. His current interests include studies of the flows of materials within the industrial ecosystem, and of evaluating the criticality of metals. He was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Engineering in 2002 for “outstanding contributions to the theory and practice of industrial ecology,” and he recently chaired the National Research Council committee on Linkages of Sustainability in the Federal Government.


The Continuing Need for a Systems Approach to Sustainable Design and Manufacturing

May 4, 2015, 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., in the GIS Auditorium
Dr. Bert Bras, Professor, Mechanical Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology

Abstract: The environmental problems from our current products and process systems are probably not solvable by a “silver bullet” technology. Rather, systems-based solutions are needed that require a comprehensive systems approach in which multiple stakeholders from various disciplines like engineering, environmental science, management, economics, and policy all work together. Although lot of progress has been made in sustainable design and manufacturing over the past 20+ years, some fundamental problems seem to be recurring and remain unresolved. In this presentation, we emphasize the need for considering sustainable design of products and processes from a systems perspective. Critical elements needed to achieve a systems view for sustainability are life-cycle thinking, systems modeling and assessment, inclusion of geospatial locality information, and understanding societal and human behavior. We will use examples from past and present projects to illustrate the importance of these elements. Especially proper systems modeling and life-cycle assessments are needed in order to avoid unintended consequences, also because products are starting to become much more part of larger product systems. For example, an electric vehicle now shares the electrical energy infrastructure with a house and connects to telecommunication products and systems. Proper design of products as parts of a larger product system for a consumer may lead to larger “game-changing” sustainability gains than designing the each product separately. We will also present ongoing work in biologically inspired design aimed at identifying recurring principles in Nature that could provide fundamentally new engineering design principles for achieving sustainable designs.

 Bio: Dr. Bert Bras is a Professor at the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology since September 1992. His research focus is on sustainable design and manufacturing, including design for recycling and remanufacture, bio-inspired design, and life-cycle analyses with applications in energy and mobility systems. He has authored and co-authored over 150 publications. His work is funded by the National Science Foundation, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Boeing, among others. Some of the work done with Ford was featured at the 2013 and 2014 Consumer Electronics Shows (CES). He was named the 1996 Engineer of the Year in Education by the Georgia Society of Professional Engineers, received a Society of Automotive Engineers’ Ralph R. Teetor Award in 1999, and the 2007 Georgia Tech Outstanding Interdisciplinary Activities Award. From 2001 to 2004, he served as the Director of Georgia Tech’s Institute for Sustainable Technology and Development. In 2014, he was named a Brook Byers Professor of Sustainability. Dr. Bras has Master of Science (“Ingenieur”) degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Twente (The Netherlands) and a Ph.D. in Operations Research from the University of Houston. Prior to his Ph.D., he worked at the Maritime Research Institute Netherlands (MARIN).


Sustainability Indicators for Coupled Human-Earth Systems

April 30, 2015, 4:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m., in the GIS Auditorium
Dr. Safa Motesharrei, University of Maryland

Abstract: Over the last two centuries, the impact of the Human System has grown dramatically, coming to dominate the Earth System. Both population and per capita consumption have grown extremely fast, especially since about 1950. We therefore argue that Human System Models must be included into Earth System Models through bidirectional couplings representing the positive, negative, and delayed feedbacks that exist in reality. In particular, population should be modeled endogenously, rather than exogenously as done currently in most Integrated Assessment Models. We propose a set of Ecological and Economic “Sustainability Indicators” that can employ large data-sets for developing and assessing effective mitigation and adaptation policies. Using the Human and Nature Dynamical Model (HANDY) and Coupled Human-Climate-Water Model (COWA), we carry out experiments with this set of Sustainability Indicators and show that they are applicable to various coupled systems including Population, Climate, Water, Energy, Agriculture, and Economy. Impact of nonrenewable resources and fossil fuels could also be understood using these indicators. We demonstrate interconnections of Ecological and Economic Indicators. Coupled systems often include feedbacks and can thus display counterintuitive dynamics. This makes it difficult for even experts to see coming catastrophes from just the raw data for different variables. Sustainability Indicators boil down the raw data into a set of simple numbers that cross their sustainability thresholds with a large time-lag before variables enter their catastrophic regimes. Therefore, we argue that Sustainability Indicators constitute a powerful but simple set of tools that could be directly used for making policies for sustainability.

 Bio: Dr. Safa Motesharrei is a Systems Scientist at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC), and a PhD candidate in Physics (Econophysics) at the University of Maryland (UMD), College Park. He has Bachelor degrees in Electrical Engineering and Physics, Masters degrees in Physics and Mathematics, and PhD in Applied Mathematics/Public Policy from UMD. The focus of his work is on integration of the Human System and Population into the Earth System Models. He works with a cross-disciplinary team of renowned scientists. Dr. Motesharrei has developed a minimal dynamical model of Human and Nature, HANDY, which is the first mathematical model of this kind that shows not only ecological strain, but also economic stratification, can lead to a societal collapse. The paper on HANDY was published in the Journal Ecological Economics, and received widespread attention from media around the world, including The Guardian and NPR. Within a few weeks from its publication, the paper on HANDY became the most downloaded article of Ecological Economics, a position it continues to hold. Dr. Motesharrei also plays a leading role in the development of the five-sector Human-Earth System model, which includes Population, Climate, Water, Agriculture, and Energy. This project has received support from NASA.


Rising to Global Challenges: 25 Years of Industrial Ecology

April 27, 2015, 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., in the GIS Auditorium
Christopher Kennedy, Professor, Civil Engineering, University of Toronto

Abstract: Industrial ecologists have been conducting rigorous scientific analysis of the Earth's resource challenges and environmental stresses for 25 years. Industrial Ecology is, in short, the study of energy and material flows – and their environmental impacts - in socio-industrial systems. Emerging from several influences in the 1970s and 80s, early work in Industrial Ecology was centered around eco-industrial parks, dematerialization of the service sector, and industrial metabolism. The field has since expanded to more comprehensively address issues of global sustainability. Industrial Ecologists have developed and extended methods of material flow analysis and life cycle assessment to provide means of assessing and reducing the environmental impacts of systems at multiple scales. This includes work from products and processes, to urban infrastructure, industrial sectors and entire economies. Industrial Ecology is expanding knowledge at the intersection of engineering and the natural world, while creating the green industries and jobs of the future. A new publication "Rising to Global Challenges: 25 Years of Industrial Ecology" describes some of the impacts and achievements of the field. Industrial Ecologists have written the guidelines behind the ISO standards for Life Cycle Assessment, and have furthered the development of environmentally extended input-output models for assessing economy-wide environmental impacts. The standard approaches to material flow accounting now used in the Environmental Accounts of OECD member countries were largely developed by industrial ecologists. Eight members of the United Nations International Resource panel are ISIE members – authoring key reports on topics such as resource decoupling, metals, biofuels, global land use change, and environmental impacts of production and consumption. With respect to global climate change, many members of the Industrial Ecology community led or contributed to chapters of the IPCC’s 5th Assessment Report released in 2014. New standard approaches for inventorying greenhouse gas emissions for cities were also largely developed within the field of Industrial Ecology. Research in Industrial Ecology is booming, with substantial funding in many countries, including Australia, China, Japan, Korea, Austria, Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United States, amongst others. Industrial Ecologists are now consistently publishing in top scientific journals. The task now at hand is to take the huge amount of knowledge and experience generate through 25 years of work and translate it into new educational programs in Industrial Ecology.

 Bio: Christopher Kennedy is a Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Toronto. His research applies principles of Industrial Ecology to the design of urban infrastructure, including the study of urban metabolism and its relationship to global resource challenges and environmental stresses. He is author of "The Evolution of Great World Cities: Urban Wealth and Economic Growth." Holding qualifications in Civil Engineering, Economics and Business, he has conducted professional work for several organizations including the Ontario Ministry of Finance, Infrastructure Canada, Clinton Climate Initiative, and the World Bank. In 2011/12, he was seconded to the OECD to work on Cities, Green Growth and Policies for Encouraging Investment in Low Carbon Infrastructure. He has been a visiting professor at Oxford University and ETH Zürich, and is President of the International Society for Industrial Ecology.


Sources of Cost Reductions in Solar Photovoltaics

April 20, 2015, 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., in the GIS Auditorium
Dr. Unni Pillai, Assistant Professor, University at Albany, SUNY

Abstract: The solar photovoltaic industry has expanded rapidly in the last few years. Annual production of solar panels has increased by a factor of sixteen during the period 2005-2012, growing at an average annual rate of 56% during the period. In this talk, we will examine the factors that have contributed to the decline in the cost of producing solar panels, based on results from an empirical study that uses a new dataset of costs, output, sales, technical characteristics and capital expenditures of firms in the solar industry during 2005-2012. While previous studies have attributed learning-by-doing and economies of scale as important drivers of cost reduction, these do not have any significant effect on cost once four other factors are taken into account, namely, (i) reduction in the cost of a principal raw material, (ii) increasing presence of solar panel manufacturers from China, (iii) technological innovations, and (iv) increase in investment at the industry level. These findings suggest that the upstream industries that supply the solar panel industry with raw materials and capital equipment have been important contributors to the reduction in the production cost of solar panels.

 Bio: Dr. Unni Pillai is an Assistant Professor at the Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, SUNY Polytechnic Institute. He received his Bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering from Nanyang Technological University (Singapore), Masters degree in Economics from London School of Economics and Political Science (UK) and Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Minnesota. Dr. Pillai's research focuses on the economic drivers of technological change. His recent work has focused on the semiconductor industry and renewable energy industries, including solar, batteries and wind. Dr. Pillai builds empirical models to understand the effect of competition, industrial structure and government policies on the rate of technological change in these industries.


Accessibility, Vulnerability, and Resilience in a Stochastic Model of Sustainable Ecotourism

April 13, 2015, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., in the GIS Auditorium
Dr. Amit Batabyal, Arthur J. Gosnell Professor of Economics, Department of Economics, RIT

Abstract: We show how the notions of accessibility, vulnerability, and resilience can be used to shed light on the sustainable management of a natural area that is used for ecotourism. To this end, we construct and analyze two queuing-theoretic models that approach the problem of sustainable management in different ways. In the first model, there is a capacity constraint on the number of ecotourists that are permitted to visit the natural area and the optimal rate at which an ecotourist agency manager provides service to the ecotourists is endogenously determined. In the second model, there is no capacity constraint but the manager endogenously ascertains the optimal number of ecotourists who are allowed into the natural area before he provides service to these ecotourists. The sustainability aspect of the management problem is addressed in two ways. First, the conceptualizations of accessibility, vulnerability, and resilience we propose depend on certain long-run metrics. Second, the objective functions in the two models that the manager optimizes are formulated using these long-run metrics..

 Bio: Amitrajeet A. Batabyal is Arthur J. Gosnell Professor of Economics at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). He obtained a B.S. with Honors and Distinction in Applied Economics and Business Management from Cornell University in 1987, a M.S. in Agricultural and Applied Economics from the University of Minnesota in 1990, and a Ph.D. in Agricultural and Resource Economics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1994. He uses microeconomic theory and mathematical techniques to model and better understand problems in natural resource, environmental, and regional economics. Dr. Batabyal has broad research interests and he has worked on problems as diverse as the design of international environmental agreements, the conduct of trade policy by developing nations when their export goods are polluting, the properties of alternate decision making rules in arranged marriages, the management of invasive species, and economic growth in innovative regions. He has published over 500 papers, books, book chapters, and book reviews in a variety of refereed scholarly outlets in ecology, economics, mathematics, operations research, and political science. He is the recipient of numerous awards including the Geoffrey J. D. Hewings Award from the North American Regional Science Council in 2003, the Moss Madden Memorial Medal from the British and Irish Section of the Regional Science Association International in 2004, the Outstanding Achievement in Research Award from the Society for Range Management in 2006, the Trustees Scholarship Award from the RIT Board of Trustees in 2007, and the Mattei Dogan Foundation Prize from the International Social Science Council in 2013


Life Cycle Assessments for Sustainable Transportation: Ford Approach

April 6, 2015, 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., in the GIS Auditorium
Dr. Hyung Chul Kim, Ford Motor Company

Abstract: Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a useful tool to understand and assess the environmental sustainability of a product and to reduce adverse impacts. At Ford Motor Company, research teams and engineers are using LCA to filter and prioritize projects and to help select one material or design alternative over another. In this talk, the approaches used in key LCA projects at Ford will be presented. The topics include LCA of lightweighting materials and bio-materials for auto application, cradle-to-gate environmental impact of Focus EV lithium-ion battery, and life cycle water usages of Focus gasoline and battery electric vehicles. The methods and results of the Ford LCA studies will be compared with existing LCAs. In addition, sustainability implications of the research findings and future directions of LCA at Ford will be discussed.

 Bio: Dr. Hyung Chul Kim is a Life Cycle Assessment Specialist at Ford Motor Company. He has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Materials Engineering at Seoul National University in Korea and a Ph.D. (2003) in Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan. Prior to joining Ford in 2011, he worked at the Brookhaven National Laboratory and Columbia University in New York as a research scientist. His research interests cover a broad spectrum of life-cycle studies on technologies with climate change implications such as renewable energy technologies, nano-technologies, lightweighting vehicle materials, bio-based vehicle materials, and electrified vehicles. He has published about 30 peer reviewed journal papers on these areas.


State Energy Programs: Opportunities and Future Developments

March 30, 2015, 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., in the GIS Auditorium
Larry Simpson, Willdan Energy Solutions, Webster, NY

Abstract: While every state has an annual budget for energy improvement programs, there is a large variability in the type and quantity of funding available based on location. New York State has one of the largest budgets in the nation and as the energy industry undergoes a fundamental change, this budget and the associated energy markets are likely to improve. This talk will give an overview of New York’s energy policy and programs in the context of future developments in the energy industry including the recent “Reforming the Energy Vision” publication by the PSC. The talk will conclude by describing Willdan’s placement in the market and their place in the future energy industry.

 Bio: Larry Simpson is currently a Program director at Willdan Energy Solutions in Webster, NY. He has founded multiple companies offering products and services in energy for decades and has had success dealing with local and regional government entities. His interests include Energy Policy, biking, and skiing, and has been deeply involved with the energy industry in New York for many years.



Global integrated modeling of economy, resources and emissions

March 13, 2015, 3:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m., in the GIS Auditorium
Dr. Koji Tokimatsu, Associate Professor, Tokyo Institute of Technology

Abstract: One of the well-known approaches in sustainable development is the “limits to growth” model, a global dynamical model combining economics and material use. While the Limits to Growth model has been influential, it has also been criticized. One criticism is that the model is not based on standard economics, in particular the shape of its production function. A second criticism is its mineral commodity appraisal, which did not account for technological progress. An integrated assessment model developed by the speaker addressing these criticisms is presented to illustrate future paths of various kinds of sustainability indicators. The global model is based on the Ramsey model (used in the DICE/RICE climate model by W.D. Nordhaus in Yale university), incorporating resource balance models for energy, minerals, and biomass, and an impact assessment model based on damage function approach. Examples of the indicators treated in this model are Genuine Savings (or Inclusive Wealth) based on “weak sustainability” the main focus of this talk, human appropriations of net primary productivity (HANPP), which can be considered as a proxy of “strong sustainability” and intensity-based indicators such as “Eco-efficiency” and “Factor 4 (resource productivity)”. The talk also addresses how the paths are changed by the income elasticity of “benefit transfer” used for the impact assessment model, whose valuation of environmental impact is based on conjoint analysis via social survey. The presenter and his co-workers carried out social surveys within recent few years in some 30 cities in G20 countries and in Asian countries, found both trends of positive and negative sign of the elasticity. Simulation results incorporating the both signs of the elasticity as well as value transfer functions will also be provided..

Bio: Dr. Tokimatsu is Associate professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Technology at the Tokyo Institute of Technology in Japan. With B.S., M.S. and PhD degrees in electrical engineering, Dr. Tokimatsu's research areas include energy technology assessment, energy systems analysis, life-cycle impact assessment, and environmental economics.


Tethered wings for high-altitude windpower and low pressure-head hydropower

March 3, 2015, 1:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m., in the GIS Auditorium
Dr. Mario Gomes, Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, RIT

Abstract: Traditional wind turbines are a well-established technology. Since the technology for conventional wind turbines is relatively mature, dramatic improvements are unlikely. However, recently developed airborne wind-energy systems have the potential to significantly reduce cost, improve efficiency, and increase the number of viable installation sites. There are many designs for airborne wind-energy systems but the most efficient designs use a tethered wing moving in a cross-wind manner. The dynamics and control of these systems is complex. To gain insight into the design of these systems, we have developed several simplified dynamic models of these systems. We have applied our understanding of these systems to the design of a novel hydropower system which is capable of efficiently harvesting energy from low-pressure headwater flows such as rivers or tides.

 Bio: Dr. Gomes’ research focuses on the application of rigid-body dynamics to energy systems with the goal of developing new renewable energy sources and exploiting natural dynamic behavior to conserve energy in existing systems. He has studied the dynamics of bipedal walking, long-armed ape-brachiation, and highly efficient (collisionless) walking robots. His current research interests are in areas of, dynamics and design of tethered airfoils (kites) for energy production, locomotion mechanics, mechanical energy storage systems, and engineering education (competition and cooperation in learning).


Behavioral Science and Sustainability

February 23, 2015, 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., in the GIS Auditorium
Dr. Judy F. Graham, Professor, School of Business, St. John Fisher College, Rochester, NY

Abstract: It is commonly understood that human behavior is the world’s primary threat to sustainability. A 2014 industry agenda report from the World Economic Forum challenges organizations to engage consumers in ways that trigger simple behavioral shifts that will lead to more sustainable practices. During the keynote address of a 2014 international sustainability conference, Mark Tercek, CEO, The Nature Conservancy, emphasized that we can no longer assume that educating and scolding people will lead to significant behavior change in the area of sustainability. The explosion of interest in Behavioral Economics, as evidenced by books like Nudge and Thinking Fast and Slow, points to two distinct ways to influence human behavior: through their “reflective mind” by influencing what people consciously think about; and through their “automatic mind” by focusing on those aspects that are non-consciously processed – in effect, changing behavior without changing minds. Many current theorists believe that the vast majority of decisions regarding human behaviors are influenced by the non-conscious or “automatic mind.” This seminar will provide some examples of ways in which behavioral science has been used to encourage more sustainable practices, and will discuss a number of specific “nudges” that have proven effective. In addition, participants will be encouraged to think creatively about how specific behavioral science concepts such as social proof, information and choice overload, loss aversion, status quo/default, and others might be implemented within their own areas of interest.

 Bio: Dr. Graham’s doctorate from Syracuse University is in Marketing/Business, and she is a recognized expert in the area of Consumer Behavior. Her text, Critical Thinking in Consumer Behavior: Cases and Experiential Exercises (Pearson Prentice Hall, 2010) is in its second edition, with the third in the works. She has been hired as a visiting professor of Consumer Behavior in Europe and Asia, most notably for the top-25 ranked CEIBS MBA program in Shanghai, China. Dr. Graham publishes in such outlets as the Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice, Psychology and Marketing, the Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, the International Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Marketing, and others. Her interests are quite diverse, and her scholarship often spans disciplinary boundaries, incorporating such areas as finance, accounting, and psychology. Her current research interests involve using behavioral science to encourage sustainable practices.


Genetic Redundancy: Organically Inspired Building Systems

February 16, 2015, 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., in the GIS Auditorium
Amber Bartosh, Assistant Professor, School of Architecture, Syracuse University

Abstract: "Genetic redundancy" is a term used to describe biochemical functions encoded by more than one gene. Although it defies the Darwinian notion of natural selection, it is responsible for the robustness of biological systems. The strength of genetic redundancy is that it is not a matter of simple duplication, but a result of interaction between unrelated genes and convergent evolutionary processes. Traditionally, architectural construction is manufactured as physical layers of individual function –which perform collectively but not interdependently. Using Genetic Redundancy as a model, existing construction methodologies, building systems and design practices will be investigated to identify opportunities for more resilient and sustainable design. The session agenda engages redundancy as a design potential and explores the applications of smart and bio-inspired materials, both artistically and scientifically, at the level of the architectural section and its apparent surfaces.

 Bio: Amber Bartosh is currently an Assistant Professor at Syracuse University where she teaches a second year undergraduate design studio with a focus on architecture and biological landscapes in artificial terrains as well as a digital representation core course for graduate students. Her academic research interest delves into the space between digital visualization tools and technical fabrication. Following her cum laude double major in art and architecture at Rice University she went on to graduate work in the M.Arch2 program at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) and as a teaching assistant for SCI-Arc’s Applied Studies program. She completed her work at SCI-Arc with a Masters in Architecture and the Alpha Rho Chi medal. She has designed and managed award-winning projects for competition, bid & design build processes in the United States, China, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates. Recent design work saw exhibition at SPECIMEN (Facoltà di Architettura “Aldo Rossi,” Università di Bologna, Cesena, Italy), the Milan Furniture Fair 2010, and at Design Miami 2009.


Overview of Major Biofuels Issues, and Potential for Aviation Biofuels

February 9, 2015, 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., in the GIS Auditorium
Dr. Wallace Tyner, James & Lois Ackerman Professor of Agricultural Economics, Purdue University

Abstract: Professor Tyner will cover the U.S. biofuels program, its history, and current status. He will focus on the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard, how it works, what are some key issues in its implementation, and possible future directions. He will also present some of his research on stochastic techno-economic analysis of aviation biofuels. The aviation sector is perhaps the best prospect for biofuels in the future because there are no other options for reducing GHG emissions. On the ground, we have electric vehicles, compressed natural gas, possibly hydrogen, and other options. None of those are feasible in the air.

 Bio: Professor Tyner is an energy economist and James and Lois Ackerman Professor of Agricultural Economics, Purdue University. He received his B.S. degree in chemistry (1966) from Texas Christian University, and his M.A. (1972) and Ph.D. (1977) degrees in economics from the University of Maryland. He has over 325 professional papers that have been cited 3,452 times. Of these there are 110 journal papers, books, and book chapters. His past work in energy economics has encompassed oil, natural gas, coal, oil shale, biomass, ethanol from agricultural sources, and solar energy. In June 2007, Senator Richard G. Lugar of Indiana named Tyner an “Energy Patriot” for his work on energy policy analysis. In 2009 he received the Purdue College of Agriculture Outstanding Graduate Educator award and was part of a group that received the College Team award for multidisciplinary research on biofuels. In 2013, he received the Agricultural and Applied Economics Distinguished Graduate Teaching award. In 2011, he served as Co-chair of the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Economic and Environmental Impacts of Biofuels.


The Many Sustainability Challenges to Improving Global Sanitation Coverage

February 2, 2015, 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., in the GIS Auditorium
Sarah Brownell, Lecturer, Kate Gleason College of Engineering, RIT

Abstract: Although the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goal for access to improved drinking water was met ahead of the 2015 deadline, the world is not on track to meet goals for access to sanitation. Approximately 2.5 billion people still use inadequate facilities with 1 billion practicing open defecation. Many factors affect the long-term impact of sanitation interventions along the triple bottom line of social, economic, and environmental sustainability, including varying taboos and customs, lack of value placed on sanitation in aid and development agencies, costly infrastructure for waste treatment, logistics issues, varying climatic and geographic conditions, and inadequate tools for assessing sustainability. This seminar will expose the many challenges to providing sustainable sanitation systems globally–including important challenges for the developed world–and provide some examples of innovative solution concepts for increasing access in developing countries. Examples from my work in Haiti will also be presented.

 Bio: Sarah Brownell is a Lecturer for the Design, Development and Manufacturing Department of RIT's Kate Gleason College of Engineering. She focuses on developing student technology design projects in collaboration with non-profit organizations that do not have their own resources for product design. She has worked with Cantaro Azul in Mexico, Sosyete Oganize pou Lanati and Kolaborasyon Gwoupman Peyizan O’Boy in Haiti, B9 Plastics, St. Joseph’s House of Hospitality, House of Mercy, and Rochester Roots. She then guides RIT student teams working on these projects through the year-long Multidisciplinary Senior Design Course. She also developed and teaches the multidisciplinary courses “Engineering and the Developing World,” “Wicked Problems,” and “Sustainable Sanitation Design.” Prior to working at RIT, Sarah lived in Haiti where she co-founded the non-profit Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL). SOIL introduced the concept of ecological sanitation to Haiti and operates many public toilets (some in earthquake survivor camps) and a household toilet service in Cap Haitien. Toilet contents are composted at a municipal compost site. At SOIL, Sarah was responsible for finances, technology design and participatory community education programs. Before moving to Haiti she was a live-in community member at St. Joseph’s House of Hospitality where she helped run the shelter and soup kitchen.


Changes in New York's Energy Industry and the Effect on Sustainability Careers

January 28, 2015, 11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m., in the GIS Auditorium
Schuyler Matteson, GIS Ph.D. Candidate, RIT

Abstract: New York State’s energy industry is on the verge of a revolutionary change. This presentation will overview the NYS Public Service Commission’s recent proceeding entitled “Reforming the Energy Vision,” or REV. There is expected to be significant change in the way utilities operate as well as a transformation in how energy is generated and delivered. The goal of this presentation is to discuss how REV may affect jobs and research in sustainability over the next 5 years, and the current state of employment within the energy industry.

 Bio: Schuyler Matteson’s experience includes research and analysis of current energy issues. His academic work focused on sustainable energy, energy storage, and building energy systems, and he has authored numerous peer-reviewed scientific articles. His publications are policy-centered, providing quantitative and qualitative assessments and recommendations on a variety of contemporary energy issues, including microgrid deployment, grid reliability improvement, technological progress of lithium-ion batteries and plug-in hybrid vehicles, alternative fuel transport, and public subsidies for energy technologies. His current position as Project Manager at Willdan Energy Solutions allows him to manage energy projects for commercial and municipal clients and develop the next generation of energy policies in New York State.


Corporate Social Responsibility: A Business Perspective

December 3, 2014, 1:00-2:00 p.m., in the GIS Auditorium
Prof. Clyde Hull, Associate Professor, Saunders College of Business, RIT

Abstract: This presentation will briefly review the current state of research on strategic Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) before exploring three themes of current interest: 1) How environmental CSR is affected by having operations in countries with different regulatory climates, 2) Social responsibility in non-profit organizations as opposed to for-profit organizations, and 3) Policy implications of what we know about how CSR and Corporate Social Irresponsibility interact with each other and with financial performance.

 Bio: Dr. Hull is an Associate Professor in RIT's Saunders College of Business, where he teaches classes in Strategy and Innovation and Technology Management at the undergraduate and graduate levels. He has served as a strategy consultant and a high-technology consultant domestically and internationally for established high-technology firms, those in the pre-IPO stage, and start-ups, as well as for the United States Government. He has also been part of the startup team for several entrepreneurial ventures. He has delivered invited presentations on the topics of entrepreneurship, corporate entrepreneurship, strategic management, business ethics, and ethics in a high-technology environment in Singapore, Germany, and the United States, and he has presented at conferences throughout the world. He earned his BA degree in philosophy from Yale University and his MBA and PhD degrees from Indiana University. Dr. Hull's research interests include innovation strategy and new product introduction in high-technology settings, digital entrepreneurship, the effects of ecologically-friendly strategies on firm performance, and global strategy formulation.


An Emphasis on Simplicity: A Tale of Two Digesters

November 19, 2014, 1:00-2:00 p.m., in the GIS Auditorium
Jacob Deyo, Environmental Services Professional Rochester, N.Y; Scott Fonte, Project Manager, Larsen Engineers, Rochester, NY

Abstract: Key points of discussion will center around comparisons between two 500 kW anaerobic digester projects. These will include: helpful tips for specifying equipment; effective methods for streamlining process flow; benefits of modular components; discussions about new engine options.

Bios: Jacob Deyo is a co-founder of In the City, Off the Grid ( ), a sustainable design-build collective in Rochester which focuses on grass roots efforts to incorporate green infrastructure, including solar technologies, and modular aquaponics and hydroponic farms. He graduated from RIT in 2010 with a Civil Engineering degree. He has worked as Project Manager on two anaerobic biogas digesters. Scott Fonte, PE is a Project Manager in Civil / Environmental / Municipal Engineering at Larsen Engineers in Rochester (


Novel Materials and Nanostructures for Photovoltaic Energy Conversion

November 12, 2014, 1:00-2:00 p.m., in the GIS Auditorium
Dr. Seth Hubbard, Assistant Professor, NanoPower Research Labs, GIS

Abstract: Third-Generation Photovoltaics (PV) encompasses a broad area of solar cell research including high efficiency III-V materials, organic semiconducting materials and various types of nanomaterials. At RIT, our groups efforts seek insight into the material, optoelectronic and reliability aspects of using nanomaterials for application in III-V PV both for terrestrial and extra-terrestrial (space power) applications. Specifically, we are looking at incorporation of quantum dots and wells within III-V solar cells to provide higher efficiency, more favorable temperature coefficients and less sensitivity to changes in spectral distribution. This talk will give an overview of PV research at RIT, a discussion of the nanomaterials approach and specific results using quantum dot (QD) superlattices. The QD systems have been proposed as a means to harness the lower energy photons normally lost to transmission, extending the absorption range of solar cells and thus increasing the short-circuit current. Two specific applications for this effect have emerged, namely, bandgap engineering of multi-junction solar cells and as a miniband in the intermediate band solar cell. A key drawback to the QD approach has been both increasing the absorption cross section of the QD layers (and thus the photocurrent enhancement) as well as mitigation of the open circuit voltage loss often observed in QD solar cells. During the talk, we will show the effects of QD solar cell design on both absorption and open circuit voltage and discuss the nature of carrier escape and recombination paths inherent to QD solar cells. Finally, we will suggest alternative strategies to enhance both optical escape and overall absorption from QD solar cells using both new materials systems and novel device designs.

 Bio: Dr. Hubbard received his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor in 2005. His doctoral research consisted of studying the effects of materials properties and epitaxial device design on high-power heterojunction field-effect transistors grown using vapor phase epitaxy. Dr. Hubbard currently leads the NanoPower Research Labs'™ PV team, working on the epitaxial growth, fabrication and characterization of nanostructured solar photovoltaic devices. He has co-authored over 34 journal publications on quantum electronic and photovoltaic devices. Prior to RIT, Dr. Hubbard was a National Research Council (NRC) Postdoctoral Research Associate at NASA Glenn Research Center. Dr. Hubbard also serves as an Editor of the IEEE Journal of Photovoltaics and the Publications Chair of the 38th IEEE Photovoltaics Specialist Conference. He is also a 2009 recipient of the prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER award.


Driving Pollution: Specifying and Estimating the Environmental Kuznets Curve

November 5, 2014, 1:00-2:00 p.m. in the GIS Auditorium
Prof. Lawrence Rothenberg, Department of Political Science, University of Rochester

Abstract: Over the years, scholars have vigorously debated claims that an Environmental Kuznets Curve (EKC), specifying an inverted U-shaped relationship between prosperity and environmental pollution, exists. Skeptics focus on two issues: problematic assumptions made in estimating the EKC curve and omissions of key, principally political, variables. While some have attempted to address methodological shortfalls, most notably using semi- or non-parametric techniques, and others have incorporated political variables to buttress explanatory power, research jointly dealing with such considerations is sparse. We bridge this divide and analyze the mechanism behind any EKC by estimating a Generalized Additive Model, including key political variables. Using data on Nox and SO2 for 155 countries between 1970-2008 we find that, while the income-pollution relationship is robust to estimation method and additional controls, income’s effect is contingent on democracy level, but not necessarily in a manner consistent with an EKC.

 Bio: Lawrence Rothenberg (Ph.D., Stanford University) is Corrigan-Minehan Professor of Political Science and Director of the W. Allen Wallis Institute at the University of Rochester. He has also been a member of the Social Science faculty at the California Institute of Technology, was the Max McGraw Distinguished Professor of Environmental Management at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School where he directed the Kellogg’s Ford Center for Global Citizenship, and was the Bradley Fellow in Political Economy at the Carnegie Mellon’s Graduate School of Industrial Administration (Tepper School). Rothenberg’s teaching and research have centered on various issues involving American politics, political economy, and public policy, with an emphasis on environmental policy, management, and sustainability. He has published extensively in a variety of relevant academic journals and has authored four books: Linking Citizens to Government: Interest Group Politics at Common Cause, Regulation, Organizations, and Politics: Motor Freight Policy at the Interstate Commerce Commission, Why Governments Succeed (and Why they Fail), and Environmental Choices: Policy Responses to Green Demands.


Leveraging Large-Scale Vehicle Registration and Inspection Data to Improve Understanding of Energy Use, Emissions, and Public Policy

October 30, 2014, 11:00-11:50 a.m., in the GIS Auditorium
Dr. Scott Matthews, Carnegie-Mellon University

Abstract: The transportation engineering world is undergoing significant changes in recent years as higher resolution data is available in support of decisions. For 30 years the main types of data on vehicle use have been from telephone or diary surveys of small samples of drivers. Results are seen in products like the National Household Transportation Survey. However, as state and federal government agencies increasingly move towards open data initiatives, datasets of similar information for each vehicle have been closely held are becoming more accessible. We have been working with data from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to analyze registration and safety inspection data for vehicles. In this talk I will discuss two separate but related projects leveraging this data. In the first, I discuss an analysis of the safety inspection data with an expanded view of failures in annual passenger vehicle safety inspections. Conventional wisdom suggests that only 1 or 2% of vehicles fail these tests, which has caused various states to avoid or eliminate safety inspections. In the second project, we leverage the registration and inspection data to estimate annual VMT by zip code, and are able to compare results across urban-rural, low-high income, and other levels. Results from these studies are compared to what is available from the national level surveys, and newer in-vehicle technology will continue to promote emerging novelty in data and decision making.

 Bio: Dr. Scott Matthews is the research director of the Green Design Institute and professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Department of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University. The Green Design Institute is an interdisciplinary research consortium at Carnegie Mellon focused on modeling energy and environmental problems as systems, building decision support tools, and supporting robust policy decisions under uncertainty.


FXFOWLE Days Roundtable: GIS Post-occupancy Evaluation (POE) Panel
  Lessons Learned and Learning Lessons

Thursday, October 23, 2014, 12:30-2:00 p.m., in the GIS Auditorium

Representatives from FX Fowle, SWBR, M/E Engineering and RIT


Game Theory and Disaster Management

October 15, 2014, 3:00-4:00 p.m., in the GIS Auditorium
Dr. Jun Zhuang, Associate Professor, SUNY University at Buffalo

Abstract: Society is faced with a growing amount of property damage and casualties from man-made and natural disasters. Developing societal resilience to those disasters is critical but challenging. In particular, societal resilience is jointly determined by federal and local governments, private and non-profit sectors, and private citizens. We will present a sequence of games among players such as federal, local, and foreign governments, private citizens, and adaptive adversaries. In particular, the governments and private citizens seek to protect lives, property, and critical infrastructure from both adaptive terrorists and non-adaptive natural disasters. The federal government can provide grants to local governments and foreign aid to foreign governments to protect against both natural and man-made disasters; and all levels of government can provide pre-disaster preparation and post-disaster relief to private citizens. Private citizens can also, of course, make their own investments. The tradeoffs between protecting against man-made and natural disasters, specifically between preparedness and relief, efficiency and equity, and between private and public investment, will be discussed.

 Bio: Dr. Zhuang has been a faculty (Associate Professor, 2014-present; Assistant Professor, 2008-2014) of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University at Buffalo, the State University of New York (UB, or SUNY-Buffalo), since he obtained his Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering in 2008 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Zhuang has a M.S. in Agricultural Economics in 2004 from the University of Kentucky, and a bachelor's degree in Industrial Engineering in 2002 from Southeast University, China. Dr. Zhuang's long-term research goal is to integrate operations research, game theory, and decision analysis to improve mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery for natural and man-made disasters. Other areas of interest include applications to health care, sports, transportation, supply chain management, and sustainability.


Faculty Research Overview and Open Forum

October 8, 2014, 1:00-2:00 p.m. in the GIS Auditorium
Dr. Eric Williams, Associate Professor, GIS


Faculty Research Overview and Open Forum

October 1, 2014, 1:00-2:00 p.m. in the GIS Auditorium
Dr. Callie Babbitt, Assistant Professor, GIS


Faculty Research Overview and Open Forum

September 24, 2014, 1:00-2:00 p.m. in the GIS Auditorium
Dr. Gabrielle Gaustad, Assistant Professor, GIS


Faculty Research Overview and Open Forum

September 17, 2014, 1:00-2:00 p.m. in the GIS Auditorium
Dr. Thomas Trabold, Associate Professor and Director, Center for Sustainable Mobility, GIS


Faculty Research Overview and Open Forum

September 10, 2014, 1:00-2:00 p.m. in the GIS Auditorium
Dr. Roger Chen, Assistant Professor, GIS

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Resulting from Alternative Fuel Vehicle Incentives in Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards

September 2, 2014, 5:00 p.m., in the GIS Auditorium
Dr. Alan Jenn, Post-Doctoral Researcher, Carnegie-Mellon University

Abstract: Greenhouse Gas Emissions Resulting from Alternative Fuel Vehicle Incentives in Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards

 Bio: Postdoctoral Researcher Carnegie Mellon University May 2014 – Present. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Transportation Policy Research, Alternative Fuel Vehicles.


Introduction to Library Services & Resources

August 27, 2014, 1:00-2:00 p.m. in the GIS Auditorium
Linette Koren, Engineering Librarian, Wallace Center

Abstract: Thesis Document Preparation

subramoniam Bio: Linette Koren is the Librarian/Liaison for KGCOE/GIS and CAST/ET at RIT's Wallace Center.


    Note: An archive of 2013-2014 GIS seminars and workshops is available here.


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