Duke University is offering faculty and research staff the first in a series of opportunities to shape a university-wide research agenda for confronting climate change.
The new grant program is part of the university’s broader effort to accelerate sustainable and equitable solutions to the climate crisis while developing the next generation of thought leaders. The climate initiative will build on Duke experts’ track record of substantial contributions to understanding and addressing climate change and its impacts.
Duke will provide funding up to $5,000 for faculty and staff who are interested in collaborating with colleagues—either within or across disciplines—around a shared intellectual interest that targets a climate-related challenge. Each selected group will also be able to propose an idea and to suggest speakers to include in one of several Duke-hosted climate symposia over the next few years. The symposia will engage Duke experts and invited partners in designing research priorities with linked external engagement and funding strategies.
Proposals should focus on one or more of the initiative’s priority areas:
Natural Climate Solutions
Climate & Data
Climate & Social Justice
As many as five rounds of collaboration grants will be offered to Duke faculty and research staff over the next three years. Additional seed funding opportunities are expected to become available in 2023. Faculty and staff who receive collaboration grants will be well-positioned to access additional seed funding as it becomes available.
Any Duke faculty member or Duke research staff member, from any discipline, is eligible to propose and form a new collaborative group. Additional eligibility information, selection criteria, and proposal requirements are available in the request for proposals (RFP).
Submissions for the first round of grants are due by Friday, February 18, 2022. The newly merged Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and Duke University Energy Initiative, with advice and counsel of senior university leadership, will review proposals and select grantees. First-round grant recipients will be notified of awards on or about March 15, 2022.
Are you a full-time Ph.D. student interested in energy and data science? The Duke University Energy Data Analytics Ph.D. Student Fellows Program is accepting applications for its Summer 2022 cohort. Fellows will receive financial support to pursue summer research projects applying data science techniques to energy application areas. Cross-disciplinary workshops with faculty and peers will help strengthen fellows’ research, enrich their understanding of energy and data science topics, and boost their scholarly communication skills.
The program is open to doctoral students at Duke University, North Carolina A&T State University, North Carolina State University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
About the Fellows Program
The recent growth of energy-related data and evolution of data science techniques have created promising new opportunities for solving energy challenges. Capitalizing on these will require scholars with training in both data science and energy application domains. Yet traditional graduate education is limited in its ability to provide such dual expertise. In 2018, the Duke University Energy Initiative established the Energy Data Analytics Ph.D. Student Fellows program, preparing cohorts of next-generation scholars to deftly wield data in pursuit of accessible, affordable, reliable, and clean energy systems. This program is funded by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
Each Ph.D. Student Fellow in the program conducts a related research project, working with faculty from multiple disciplines and receiving financial support for 3 months of summer support and $1,500 in research funds for computation and professional development. The fellows take part in regular mentorship and training workshops to improve their understanding of energy systems and data science tools and practices as well as to enhance their skills at collaborating and communicating across disciplines.
The first three cohorts of fellows have included doctoral students from degree programs in civil and environmental engineering, computer science, earth and ocean sciences, electrical and computer engineering, environmental policy, and parks, recreation, and tourism management. The program welcomes applications from doctoral students at Duke University, North Carolina A&T State University, North Carolina State University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
The program is affiliated with the Energy Data Analytics Lab, a collaborative effort of the Duke University Energy Initiative (which houses it), the Rhodes Information Initiative at Duke, and the Social Science Research Institute. (Note: Conclusions reached or positions taken by researchers or other grantees represent the views of the grantees themselves and not those of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation or its trustees, officers, or staff).
Learn More and Apply
Learn more, then submit your application to Trey Gowdy (firstname.lastname@example.org) as a PDF by 5:00 p.m. ET on Dec. 10, 2021 and ask your faculty project advisors to submit their nomination letters by the same date.
Contact Trey Gowdy (email@example.com), Program Coordinator for the Energy Data Analytics Lab.
“Duke is creating an ambitious strategy for accelerating sustainable, equitable solutions to the climate crisis and for equipping our students, faculty, and staff to drive the conversation around climate change,” said Duke University President Vincent E. Price, Ph.D. “We are grateful to the visionary supporters who have made this work possible and are proud that Duke is leading the way.”
“Our climate research, education and policy engagement endeavors will build on Duke experts’ track record of substantial contributions to the understanding of energy and environmental challenges,” said Duke University Provost Sally Kornbluth, Ph.D. “As Duke University heightens its commitment to climate solutions and sustainability, combining the strengths of the Nicholas Institute and Energy Initiative will accelerate the university’s ambitious vision.”
Founded in 2005, the Nicholas Institute has been a bridge between Duke’s scholarly research and policymakers to create timely, effective and economically practical solutions to critical environmental and energy challenges. The Nicholas Institute’s core team of policy experts, economists, scientists and attorneys develops non-partisan research and analysis, as well as convenes federal, state and global officials for dialogue around environmental issues.
The Energy Initiative, founded in 2011, has been Duke’s hub for education and research around accessible, affordable, reliable, and clean energy systems. The Energy Initiative offers undergraduate and graduate courses, seminars and networking opportunities for students and faculty. It also connects with Duke alumni, potential employers, industry partners and policymakers.
“The Nicholas Institute and the Energy Initiative have highly complementary strengths, and each has built sustained, productive relationships with diverse stakeholders within the university and beyond,” noted Murray, who directed the Nicholas Institute’s environmental economics program for 11 years before becoming director of the Energy Initiative. “We’re confident this merger will bring even more value to these stakeholders while extending Duke’s reach and societal impact.”
Tim Profeta, the Nicholas Institute’s founding director, will step down from the director’s role on July 1. As the United States’ focus on climate change intensifies, Profeta will spend the next year on academic leave directly engaging in the design of policies to meet the country’s climate change ambitions, after which he will return to Duke to continue his work on climate and energy policy at the university.
“Over the last 16 years, I was proud to build and lead a unique institution that bridges the academic and policy worlds to effect meaningful solutions to the complex challenges that threaten our globe,” Profeta said. “With his experience at both the Nicholas Institute and the Energy Initiative, Brian is ideally suited to leverage the success of both institutions to create a new, powerful organization that will help position Duke at the forefront of the fight against climate change.”
“Under Tim’s and Brian’s direction, the Nicholas Institute and Energy Initiative have established Duke’s leadership in these vital areas,” said Kornbluth. “Now we have the opportunity to integrate their tremendous intellectual resources and work closely with other schools and programs across Duke to advance data-driven discovery of energy and environmental solutions.”
The Prize makes a $10,000 award to support novel ideas, potential products and services that advance an accessible, reliable, affordable and clean energy future. The Prize is separate and distinct from other Duke funding.
Proposals may be submitted by undergraduate, graduate and professional students at Duke, including May 2021 graduates. Proposals are encouraged for innovative projects that could lead to new products or services that will advance a clean energy future, including but not limited to:
Demonstrating the feasibility of an idea or innovation for a commercial or social venture
Developing a working software, service, or device prototype
Developing new applications or markets for a technology under development.
DEADLINE FOR 2021 SUBMISSIONS: Friday, May 28, 2021, 11:59 p.m. EDT.
The Energy Internship Program connects Duke students from all majors, backgrounds and degree programs to summer internship opportunities across the energy sector, including at start-ups, utilities, renewable energy developers, large firms, government agencies and nongovernmental organizations.
FUND YOUR INTERNSHIP— Duke undergraduate and graduate students (excluding those who will be graduating in May 2021) may apply for supplementary funding through the Energy Internship Program once they have been offered an energy-related internship. This funding can be used to turn an unpaid internship into a paid internship or increase the stipend for a low-paying internship.
The internship does not have to be included on the Energy Initiative’s list of opportunities for you to be eligible for funding.
The amount of financial support will be negotiated with both student and employer, based on numerous factors, including the extent of compensation (if any) indicated in the internship offer letter. Funding decisions are made on a rolling basis, so apply ASAP after receiving your internship offer!
Thanks to a partnership with the Energy Access Project at Duke, some funding is reserved for internships related to energy access or energy transitions in low- and middle-income countries.
Note: Internships funded by the Energy Internship Program in summer 2021 may need to be conducted remotely if Duke University’s evolving pandemic policies require it.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES— Explore other Duke-affiliated programs on our summer experiences page. And of course, the career center affiliated with your Duke school has information about other potential opportunities and is an excellent source of advice on interviewing and other career development skills.
QUESTIONS? Contact Stacy Peterson (Assistant Director for Student and Alumni Engagement, Duke University Energy Initiative).
Scientists, engineers, policymakers, and activists are grappling with anthropogenic climate change and generating solutions to halt its progress. But humans’ relationships with energy and the environment are also important. Energy and its uses are deeply embedded in our lived experiences, relationships, identities, understandings, and narratives. Proposed changes in energy systems and practices must take these factors into account.
The Duke University Energy Initiative and the Franklin Humanities Institute invite faculty and graduate students from all disciplines to join an interdisciplinary community of scholars interested in exploring energy through the lens of the humanities. This working group will explore the emerging field of Energy Humanities through monthly discussions of shared readings and conversations with authors.
Questions to be examined may include (but are not limited to):
How do the forms of energy a society harnesses (and the means by which it does so) shape the environment, social relations, cultural practices, and humans’ relationships to their bodies, to space, and to time?
In the words of Imre Sizeman and Dominic Boyer, how have the fossil fuels that undergirded modernity for the past two centuries “pumped and seeped into the groundwaters of politics, culture, institutions, and knowledge in unexpected ways?”
How can scholars in the humanities apply their skills and expertise to help guide efforts to manage the challenges presented by anthropogenic climate change and to transition the global energy system away from fossil fuels?
What are the methodological boundaries of the Energy Humanities? How do they differ from other relatively new subfields such as Environmental/Ecological Humanities?
Scholars from all disciplines are welcome. Previous scholarship on energy-related topics is not required—participants need only possess an interest in exploring questions such as those above.
Are you a faculty member or graduate student who is interested in the working group? Complete this survey to receive more information about upcoming activities, including the Zoom link for an initial meeting on Mon., Nov. 19, 3-4:30 p.m. EST. Regular meetings will begin in January 2021.
Questions? Email Dr. Jon Free (firstname.lastname@example.org), assistant director for research development at the Energy Initiative.
Supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Energy Data Analytics Ph.D. Student Fellows program at Duke University readies emerging scholars to apply cutting-edge data science techniques to energy challenges.
The program has recently expanded and is currently accepting applications for its 2021 cohort from doctoral students at Duke University, North Carolina A&T State University, North Carolina State University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
In 2020-2021, the Duke University Energy Initiative’s Energy Research Seed Fund will support projects addressing renewable energy’s integration into the grid, battery performance, electrochemical catalysts, utilities’ decision-making, the energy-water nexus, and energy’s connections with war and health.
The program will award six grants to projects involving thirteen faculty members from five Duke schools, investing a total of $249,590 in promising new energy research.
In this—the seventh annual round of funding—the Energy Initiative awarded five seed grants for new interdisciplinary projects and one stage-two grant to support the next phase of a previously funded project.
The first six rounds of funding from the Energy Research Seed Fund totaled $1,458,491. As of fall 2019, those rounds had generated more than three times their value in follow-on awards for Duke research.
“Even as we experience a period of social distancing, scholarly collaboration is still thriving at Duke, as these promising projects demonstrate,” notes Dr. Brian Murray, director of the Energy Initiative. “We look forward to the continued progress—and the potentially transformative outcomes—of these early-stage efforts to address our world’s energy challenges.”
The 2020 round of awards is co-funded by the Energy Initiative, the Office of the Provost, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, and the Pratt School of Engineering.
Funded Projects in 2020-21
Generating Virtual Inertia through Crowds of Photovoltaic Inverters
More electric power systems are relying on renewable energy coupled with power electronics, which has led to the retirement of synchronous generators. The resulting loss of inertia (energy stored in a rotating mass) threatens power systems’ stability and renewables’ continued growth. This project will develop a novel distributed control framework that operates on existing photovoltaic (PV) inverters to contribute virtual inertia and other grid-supportive functions. A 100% renewable, proof-of-concept microgrid will be used to demonstrate the framework’s effectiveness.
Developing Computed Tomography-Based 3D Temperature Mapping for Battery Failure
Overheating of lithium-ion batteries can lead to premature degradation and catastrophic failure, including explosions. But current methods of measuring battery temperature are far from ideal. This project will develop a new method—X-ray thermal computed tomography— to more accurately map the temperature profile of lithium-ion batteries at the resolution of tens of microns.
The Energy-Health Nexus in Wars in the Middle East
The destruction of civilian infrastructure, particularly energy infrastructure, is a prevalent feature of war-making in protracted conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa. This project will examine health impacts of the destruction of energy infrastructure as well as efforts to restore and rebuild it. The project will advance understanding of the connection between energy access and health outcomes and will identify best practices for energy infrastructure maintenance and reconstruction in countries affected by conflict.
AI-Assisted Design and Synthesis of High-Entropy Materials
High-entropy materials offer unique, otherwise unattainable surface atomic structures that can help solve long-standing catalysis problems. This project will combine rapid synthesis and AI-based materials design to demonstrate the use of high-entropy materials as electrochemical catalysts, with the potential to impact a broad class of chemical reactions.
The Energy-Water Nexus in India
Electricity is crucial to economic development but expanding its use can lead to severe environmental issues. This is especially true in countries like India, where a primarily coal-based electrical system contributes to air pollution (from the emission of fly ash) and water contamination (from acid mine drainage). This project will address some of these key issues by evaluating the potential uses of natural gas found in shallow groundwater, of geothermal groundwater for heating, and of coal ash to neutralize and remove toxic metals from acid mine drainage.
Enabling Better Energy Decisions through Better Interpretable Causal Inference
As power grids age, demand grows, and power becomes less reliable, power companies must adapt legacy grids and create new programs to cope with changing times. But those companies are currently struggling to determine what types of changes will produce their desired outcomes. This project builds on a previous seed grant to combine causal inference methods with ideas from machine learning to produce an approach for matching in causal inference that is substantially more accurate, interpretative, and scalable than any other method.