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Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

Syracuse Hosts EMPOWER Advisory Committee

NSF-sponsored program supports water-energy research on campus

Sept. 21, 2015, by Sarah Scalese

Laura Lautz G'05
Laura Lautz G'05

Last April, an interdisciplinary team of Syracuse University professors was awarded $3 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support a new graduate-level training initiative called the Education Model Program on Water-Energy Research (EMPOWER).

Before EMPOWER goes into effect, the University will host a two-day meeting with an External Advisory Committee (EAC) to discuss the program’s design and implementation.

EAC consists of some of the biggest names in energy, advocacy, government research, environmental consulting, and STEM education. They are Kevin Bohacs, a senior research scientist at ExxonMobil; Gillian Daly, a risk assessor at Golder Associates Ltd.; Steven Hamburg, a chief scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund; William Kappel, a hydrogeologist emeritus with the U.S. Geological Survey; and Aisha Morris, director of the Research Experiences in Solid Earth Science for Students, an internship program managed by UNAVCO, a nonprofit university-governed consortium.

Committee members will arrive on Monday, Sept. 21, to participate in a variety of roundtable conversations, where they will discuss how EMPOWER can help graduate students succeed in STEM. They also will be involved with a graduate student-led panel discussion on career pathways in science and engineering.

Principal investigator Laura Lautz G’05, associate professor of Earth sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S), calls the meeting the “official kick-off” of the project.

“We are honored to host this impressive array of teachers, scientists, and scholars,” says Lautz, also an adjunct assistant professor at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. “I am confident that we will walk away from the meeting with a headful of ideas and strategies that will help us execute EMPOWER successfully.”

Charles Driscoll
Charles Driscoll

In addition to A&S, EMPOWER involves faculty from the College of Engineering & Computer Science (ECS), the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. They are Charles Driscoll, University Professor of Environmental Systems and a Distinguished Professor in ECS; Chris Johnson, professor of civil and environmental engineering in ECS; Christopher Junium, assistant professor of Earth sciences in A&S; Tara Kahan, assistant professor of chemistry in A&S; Christopher Scholz, professor of Earth sciences in A&S; Donald Siegel, chair and professor of Earth sciences, as well as the Jessie Page Heroy and Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professor in A&S; Donald Torrance, associate professor and director of science communications in the Newhouse School; and Peter Wilcoxen, associate professor of public administration & international affairs and director of the Center for Environmental Policy and Administration in the Maxwell School.

EMPOWER is the latest in a string of successes for the University’s Water Science and Engineering Initiative, jointly funded by the Office of the Provost, A&S, and ECS. The team’s proposal was one of only eight funded, from an application pool of nearly 260.

The grant award provides a one-year, $32,000 stipend for up to 46 students. It also underwrites the development of various domestic and international field courses, including one in Rwanda, and a seed-grant training program.