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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Health Without Borders

Climate Change, Energy Transition and Equity

Climate change has wide-reaching effects, including limiting access to electricity and life-saving medical care in low-income communities around the world. As we transition to green, renewable energy sources, healthcare professionals and engineers face the challenge of finding ways to make basic resources such as electricity and healthcare accessible to all.

Under the guidance of PhD student researcher Vivian Ogechi Nwadiaru, high school students will use hands-on research methods to investigate the links between climate change, the green energy transition, and access to medical care, and envision new solutions to existing inequities. The focus of this course will be on practical applications of engineering in the healthcare industry. The course will also draw on lessons from ongoing research conducted through UMass Amherst’s ELEVATE program.

Participants will explore pertinent questions like:

  • Which communities are affected when a new energy source is utilized?
  • What kind of costs are involved?
  • Does everyone derive benefits?
  • Who makes the decisions? 
  • What is the role of health care professionals?

Students will complete at least four labs consisting of renewable energy site visits on campus, data collection, and analysis using the R programming language. In order to understand electricity access and its impact on people's lives across the globe, we will also work with data from countries outside the U.S. Students will then manipulate this quantitative energy data to infer demand patterns, and will present their findings through research posters.

Participants will come away with a greater understanding of the challenges faced by communities with limited access to electricity, and the ability to calculate the trade-offs involved in making decisions about green energy technology investments. The theories and methods taught in this class are based in engineering economics and decision analysis. However, the skills and concepts learned can be applied to many other disciplines, and are crucial for ensuring a sustainable future.

Students interested in engineering, healthcare, programming, or economics are invited to apply. You will need a computer or smartphone to analyze data. No previous programming experience is required.


This course is offered at the UMass Amherst campus as a residential program. Local students may apply to attend as a commuter.

Vivian Ogechi Nwadiaru received a BEng in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering  and an MS in Energy Engineering. Prior to joining UMass as a PhD student, she completed an International Climate Protection Research Fellowship funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation at the Technical University of Berlin and University of Oxford investigating Nigeria's energy transition and proliferation of fossil backup generators. Her research with ELEVATE explores equitable demand response strategies such as pricing schemes for the deployment of solar and storage technologies to reduce cost and improve reliability in low-income communities. Vivian enjoys threading the line between engineering and policy and is also dedicated to bridging the skills gap for STEM students in Nigeria through STEMJets, an NGO she co-founded. Learn more