Dear Friends and Colleagues:
Hubert Humphrey had a deep interest in the application of science to public policy and the role of public poilcy in addressing issues of science and technology. Thus, it seems particularly appropriate that the Humphrey School of Public Affairs is host to one of the most vibrant programs in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy (STEP) of any public affairs program in the nation and the world. All of our degree students benefit from our STEP program, and those with the strongest interests in this area can pursue our Master of Science degree in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy. In this edition of News from the Humphrey School, it is a joy to showcase our STEP program, in which we prepare students to assume roles in public policy development and implementation, and advance both scholarship and service in this critically important area of state, national and global policy.
Professor Anu Ramaswami to head NSF Project on Low-carbon Cities
Dr. Anu Ramaswami, one of the world’s leading scholars on sustainable urban infrastructure, joined the Humphrey School this fall as Professor and Denny Chair for Science, Technology and Public Policy. Dr. Ramaswami most recently served as Professor of Environmental Engineering at the University of Colorado–Denver, and her work has been adopted in policies and protocols for the development of sustainable cities in the United States and around the world.
Dr. Ramaswami serves as lead researcher on two new National Science Foundation (NSF) grants, a research coordination network grant on sustainable cities that connects researchers from more than 15 U.S. universities with cities and practitioner networks, and a four-year, $4.5 million Partnerships for International Research and Education (PIRE) grant to design, compare and contrast the development of sustainable cities in the United States and Asia. Through the PIRE grant, researchers will explore transformations needed to realize low-carbon, resource-efficient and healthy cities in the United States, China and India. The University of Minnesota is the lead institution for the PIRE grant, which includes researchers from Yale University, Georgia-Tech University, the NationalCenter for Atmospheric Research, the University of Colorado–Denver and the National Academyof Engineering.
The international research will focus on Asian cities in transition and compare their development to megacities with populations of morethan10 million and to smaller service economy cities in the United States. Global research partners on the grant include Tongji University,Tsinghua University, the Chinese Academy of Sciences–Institute for the Urban Environment (CAS-IUE), the Indian Institute of Technology and TERI University, as well as several nongovernmental organizations.
In Beijing, Delhi and cities around the world, air and water pollution episodes have heightened interest in win-win solutions at the intersection of public health, low carbon development and environmental sustainability.
Professor Deborah Swackhamer Leads Environmental Efforts at State and National Levels
Outgoing Denny Chair Deborah Swackhamer continues her critical research and policy advocacy efforts surrounding the integrity of the water supply in the state and nation. Professor Swackhamer recently completed a four-year term as chair of the Science Advisory Board of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Professor Swackhamer also recently served as lead author of the first-ever, comprehensive report designed to protect and preserve Minnesota’s lakes, rivers and groundwater for the 21st century and beyond. Commissioned by the Minnesota Legislature, the Minnesota Water Sustainability Framework is intended to serve as a legislative roadmap, with timelines and benchmarks for future investments in water resources. These investments include an estimated $86 million per year dedicated to the protection of water from Minnesota’s Clean Water, Land and Legacy Act.
One of Minnesota’s 10,000 Lakes
Superstorm Sandy Highlights the Need for Better Energy Systems
October’s Superstorm Sandy resulted in large-scale power outages affecting more than 8.7 million people and brought into dramatic relief the fragility of electrical grids, an issue of compelling concern to Humphrey School Associate Professor Elizabeth Wilson.
According to Professor Wilson, our complex electrical infrastructure is in need of investment and transformation. With colleagues at Clark University and Texas A & M University, Wilson is leading NSF-funded research to understand the role a smarter grid can play in addressing the challenge of transitioning the country to a more sustainable, and less carbon-intensive energy system. A smart grid—where additional sensors and communication technologies are overlain on a modernized electric grid—could allow for better integration of renewable resources and better management of electricity demand. The project is assessing how the concept of a smart grid is framed in the public media, within state-level policies and across different energy stakeholder groups. The goal is to enhance understanding about the deployment of smart grid to achieve more efficient and sustainable technologies, including more effective integration of wind and other alternative energies to more sustainably balance need with demand, as well as better planning for electricity needs in transportation (reflected, for example, in plug-in hybrid cars).
The project will build on Wilson’s previous work, in which she and colleagues developed a framework to study the social and technical factors that influence how states support and promote adoption of new technologies, like wind power and carbon capture and storage.
Electricity workers in York County, Pennsylvania,
Dizzying Rate of Change Compels New Thinking on Regulatory Structures
With support from the Humphrey School, Associate Professor Jennifer Kuzma is leading a new interdisciplinary Initiative on the Governance of Emerging Technology Systems (iGETs) at the University. The effort will connect a network of leading University scholars with policymakers, industry partners and community members to advance research, dialogue and solutions relating to the governance of a range of emerging technologies and technological systems. She and Visiting Scholar Leili Fatehi will embark on two new initiatives under the iGETs umbrella: a NSF-supported project on defining “nanotechnology” for oversight policy, and a University of Minnesota-supported project on the ethical, legal, policy and scientific issues surrounding the responsible development of social robotics. The project on social robotics, which involves the use of robots and autonomous machines that interact and communicate with humans, the environment and each other to carry out functions requiring deliberative, reflexive, adaptive or social behaviors, is funded by the University’s Consortium on Law and Values in Health, Environmental and the Life Sciences.
An artist's rendering of nanomolecules.
Research Addresses Climate Change Mitigation, Geothermal Energy and Hydraulic Fracturing
Humphrey Research Scientist Jeffrey M. Bielicki is examining the causes and consequences of emerging uses of the subsurface. One project, in collaboration with Humphrey School Associate Professor Elizabeth Wilson and colleagues at Princeton University and Brookhaven National Laboratory, considers how to develop carbon dioxide (CO2) sequestration sites in the context of other subsurface activities. In particular, Bielicki focuses on the likelihood that CO2 might leak from where it is stored deep underground and the different ways this leakage may have cost-incurring impacts on other subsurface activities (e.g., oil and gas production) or on groundwater withdrawals.
In two other endeavors, supported separately by the NSF and the U.S. Department of Energy, Bielicki is working with colleagues within the University and at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to investigate how geothermal energy production may be enhanced by storing CO2 underground, and how this coupling may enhance the efficiency of CO2 storage.
Bielicki also is seeking to understand risk associated with hydraulic fracturing activities. This research is a part of a cross-University study on mitigating the environmental and health effects of hydraulic fracturing. The technology, otherwise known as “fracking,” is a method to extract gas and oil from shale layers. The process raises some of the most important energy, environmental and human health issues confronting policymakers.
A 1.6 gigawatt coal-fired power plant in Michigan
Science, Technology and Classroom Reform
Under the direction of Senior Fellow Steve Kelley, the Humphrey School’s Center for Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy is working to narrow the achievement gap in STEM education and to improve technology use in the classroom.
Over the past year the center has held a series of Education Innovation events for teachers, administrators and other practitioners. Attendees explored the use of iPads for faster evaluation and individualized lesson plans for mathematics students, discussed how current science standards align with the skills needed to address the grand challenges of the current decade, and debated methodologies for teaching problem solving skills, among other topics. The center also has continued to provide leadership for the Minnesota STEM Network, which works to ensure top-quality education to all students in Minnesota and encourage women and other underrepresented groups to pursue STEM careers.
An all-girls robotics team, the Robettes, give a demonstration of their
The Humphrey School of Public Affairs inspires, educates and supports innovative leaders to advance the common good in a diverse world. The School offers five graduate public affairs degree programs, including Master of Public Policy; Master of Development Practice; Master of Science in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy; Master of Urban and Regional Planning and a mid-career Master of Public Affairs degree.