Campus Group Wins NSF Support for National Energy Workshops

Dhandaipani “DV” Venkataram,
Dhandaipani “DV” Venkataram,

Five researchers from campus have been selected to receive a one-year, $100,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s “10 Big Ideas for Future NSF Investments” series to conduct a series of national workshops to identify research challenges associated with transitioning to an equitable and sustainable energy system.

The grant is the second this year from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to researchers at UMass for a similar purpose, says project leader and chemistry professor Dhandaipani “DV” Venkataram, evidence of a growing worldwide interest in developing sustainable energy systems that consider and even prioritize the resources and needs of all communities.

“A transition toward a less carbon-intensive energy system is underway globally,” Venkataraman points out. “The challenge is to envision how the energy system might evolve in a way that is consistent with resources and needs.”

Further, he explains, “When we are thinking about the emerging energy technologies landscape, we need to incorporate equity as an intrinsic design component. This requires energy scientists, equity scholars and other stakeholders who normally work independently to come together and identify the priorities and needs.”

In addition to Venkataraman, the interdisciplinary research group includes Mark Tuominen, physics professor and associate dean for research and innovation, Erin Baker, industrial engineering and associate dean for research, Michael Ash, professor of economics, and Alison Bates, a lecturer in environmental conservation.

Participants in the program will come from diverse backgrounds in energy science, technology, social science and the humanities who will participate in two face-to-face workshops and several virtual meetings over the year. A major goal for the series is to highlight a wide range of voices not always heard in STEM research, Venkataraman says.

NSF awarded 21 research and four conference projects totaling over $6 million to scientists, engineers and educators from 27 institutions across the country in interdisciplinary teams in the recent announcement. The agency received 800 ideas from nearly every state; all were reviewed by experts and 33 ideas were selected for timeliness, ambition, potential scientific and societal impacts, and potential for interagency, international and public-private partnerships.