CEE Professor and Governor’s Chair for Environmental Biotechnology is making a difference in the lives of student researchers in Puerto Rico. Using his connections at the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, he was able to bring students who had lost all of their research in the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Maria to UT. Now, the students are on track to finish their degrees and collaborate in research led by Hazen’s group.
In recent years, the Arctic sea ice cover has a strong decrease and ice albedo feedback could be amplified by global warming from recent studies. NASA’s up-to-date satellite observations in the Arctic have shown the ice coverage declined faster than expected. Joshua Fu, John D. Tickle Professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, has been invited to serve in the Arctic Council’s Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) Short-lived Climate Pollutants Expert Group.
Fu has conducted black carbon from anthropogenic emissions in Russia, typically estimating black carbon from oil and gas productions in the world. Those works have been published in the Journal of Geophysical Research – Atmospheres and Nature’s Scientific Data. Fu joined the emission and modeling subgroup to provide his expertise on black carbon emissions and modeling to impact Arctic ice pack and its ecosystems in Arctic.
The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) is a programme designed to deliver sound science-based information for use in policy- and decision-making. Its assessment activities are internationally coordinated, subject to rigorous peer-review and make use of the most up-to-date results from both monitoring and research.
The Board of Directors of the Air & Waste Management Association has selected CEE’s John D. Tickle Professor, Joshua Fu, to receive the Association’s 2018 Lyman A. Ripperton Environmental Educator Award. He is to be recognized at our 111th Annual Conference & Exhibition in Hartford during the Honors & Awards Luncheon and Ceremony, which will be held on Friday, June 28, 2018.
The Lyman A. Ripperton Award, established by resolution of the Board of Directors on November 13, 1980, is for distinguished achievement as an educator in some field of air pollution control. It is awarded to an individual, who by precept and example, has inspired students to achieve excellence in all their professional and social endeavors. It recognizes the abilities that only a few in the education profession possess – to be able to teach with rigor, humor, humility, and pride. The recipients of this award are representative of the educators we would have chosen if we had a choice. They are known by the accomplishments of their students.
CEE Professor Thanos Papanicolaou and his team have published a new study entitled “Flow Resistance Interactions on Hillslopes With Heterogeneous Attributes: Effects on Runoff Hydrograph Characteristics.” Other contributors include Professor Dimitrios Dermisis at McNeese University, Dennis Flanagan and James Frankenberger at Agricultural Research Service and Ken Wacha at USDA-National Laboratory for Agiculture and the Environment, along with UT graduate students Benjamin Abban and Christos Giannopoulos.
The team devised an improved modeling framework for capturing the effects of space and time-variant resistance to overland flow for intensively managed landscapes. The enhanced model accounts for spatiotemporal changes in flow resistance along a hillslope due to changes in roughness, in profile curvature, and downslope variability. The model is used to quantify the degree of influence — from individual soil grains to aggregates, “isolated roughness elements,” and vegetation — on overland flow characteristics under different storm magnitudes, downslope gradients, and profile curvatures. The new modeling contribution can incorporate satellite or hyperspectral data along with LiDAR to be able to model changes in the landscape at high resolution. The practical of the study is that the model can be used to determine the placement of BMPs and quantify the downstream effects of practices.
Liam Weaver graduated from the CEE Department in 2016, earned an MS degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and then was hired by the California Public Utilities Commission conducting engineering analysis behind California’s renewable energy, smart cities, and electric vehicle infrastructure policies. We caught up with him to find out more about his new position and how UT prepared him for this exciting career.
What does your job at the CPUC entail?
Weaver: I am an engineer working for the state of California to advocate for California ratepayers and help achieve California’s renewable energy and electric vehicle goals.
My day-to-day is extremely varied. I do everything from technical engineering analysis to presenting my recommendations to decision makers and testifying in hearing.
Here’s a short breakdown of tasks:
Power system analysis: running and interpreting optimization models for renewable energy and energy storage procurement
Electric vehicle grid integration: working with industry experts to develop communication protocols between electric vehicle inverters, charging infrastructure, and grid aggregators or operators
Distributed Energy Resource Interconnection: developing phased smart inverter functions to provide automated reliability controls for DERs.
There is also a lot of reading and writing, articulating technical concepts to non-technical people, deciphering acronyms, cost estimating, and elements of negotiation. I represent the citizens and ratepayers of California and advocate for the most societally beneficial and cost-effective decisions.
Can you give an example of a recent project that posed a unique challenge or is otherwise notable?
Weaver: A recent, long-term challenging project I’ve been working on is Vehicle Grid Integration (VGI). The goal of VGI is to ensure the electric grid can accommodate the governor’s planned 5 million electric vehicles on the road by 2030. Electric vehicles use a lot of energy, and an increasingly renewable grid dictates when energy is readily available. As part of addressing these challenges, I help oversee billions of dollars in potential funding for EV charging infrastructure projects and the communications pathways and load management plans for those vehicles.
The goal is to enable EVs to consume energy when it’s being produced by the sun and the wind without disrupting transportation. There’s even a potential to store this energy in the EV batteries when the sun is shining and then discharge back to the grid when people come home at night and ramp up their energy use. What makes this ongoing project so challenging is there’s no clear black-and-white solution; it’s often not clear what the exact problem or solution will be since this has never been done before.
What do you love most about your position and where you work?
Weaver: What I love most about my job is the impact and significance of this work. Much of the world is watching and learning from us to see if we can achieve a clean energy system of 100% renewable energy and zero emission vehicles – something that has literally never been done before in the history of humankind. As a result of this unique grand engineering challenge, I am able to work alongside experts and have the potential to influence the outcome of important decisions regarding the future of our energy system.
How did UT set you up for both landing the job and being successful in your position?
Weaver: I owe a lot to UT’s professors. I was fortunate to have some amazing mentors throughout my time at UT that pushed me and advised me to land my graduate school position at UC Berkeley and then jumpstart my career afterwards. UT helped me to build a well-rounded portfolio of practical skills including leadership, communication, problem-solving, project management, and cross-disciplinary teamwork, skills which are transferrable to any career. All of these aspects of practical, problem-solving thinking, excellent mentorship, and well-rounded communication I experienced at UT have supported my career success.
CEE Professor Thanos Papanicolaou was recently appointed to serve as co-chair of the Surface Water working group of Governor Bill Haslam’s TN H2O Project, established to develop a statewide water plan to better understand strategic water resource needs and priorities for the state. The project will address several issues which highlight the need for a comprehensive assessment of water resources in Tennessee, include water claims, droughts, failures of aging drinking water and wastewater infrastructure and contentious interstate battles over rights to water. The Surface Water task force will focus on future water resources available in the states lakes, streams, rivers, and wetlands.
CEE Governor’s Chair for Environmental Microbiology, Terry Hazen, is a contributor to newly published research in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution. The article is entitled, “Community proteogenomics reveals the systemic impact of phosphorus availability on microbial functions in tropical soil,” and shares results from a 17-year fertilization experiment in a tropical forest.
Among the research findings was that phosphorus deficiency enhanced the gene abundances of specific phosphatases for phytate, nucleic acids and phospholipids. This supports the hypothesis that phosphorus deficiency drives soil microbial communities to extract phosphorus from more recalcitrant substrates.
This result highlights the importance of microbial degradation of phytate—relative to other organic phosphorus compounds—in phosphorus-deficient soils, and provides a mechanism to explain low concentrations of phytate in lowland tropical forest soils.
Professor Thanos Papanicolaou is the 2018 recipient of the Hans Albert Einstein Award from the American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE). Papanicolaou was selected for this award for his work “connecting upland erosion to in-stream transport and geomorphology; new theories on source provenance and connectivity predicting stochastic transport, bedload turbulent interactions, cohesive sediments, and sensor technology for prediction of movement.” The committee noted that his extensive research has advanced the understanding of complex sediment phenomena. The award will be presented at the Environmental Water Resources Institute Congress (EWRI), June 3-7.
Dean Wayne T. Davis is set to retire this year after spending 47 years on campus. In his time with the Tickle College of Engineering, Davis oversaw incredible enrollment growth and a growth in the facilities for the engineering campus.
WalletHub interviewed David Greene, CEE research professor and senior fellow of the Howard H. Baker, Jr. Center for Public Policy at UT for an article entitled 2018’s Best & Worst States to Drive in.
In it, Green imparts advice to consumers who are looking for ways to keep the costs of car ownership low, as well as gives insight into policies, safety infrastructure and other matters important to drivers.