Nicholas Institute, Energy Initiative to Merge

EI and NIEPS to merge.

Two of Duke’s interdisciplinary units will be merged as the university continues its efforts to address climate change and its impacts.

The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and Duke University Energy Initiative will begin the merger process at the start of Duke’s fiscal year on July 1. Energy Initiative director Brian Murray, Ph.D. will assume the interim directorship of the newly formed unit at that time.

“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.”

Originally posted on the Duke Today website

The Clean Energy Prize Returns! Duke Students, Send Us Your Ideas

Clean Energy Prize.

Deadline: May 28, 2021

The Duke University Energy Initiative (EI) and Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative (I&E) announce the return of the Clean Energy Prize to support the development of energy technologies, products and services at Duke.

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.

Learn more and download the application instructions.

Questions? Contact Suellen Aldina (suellen.aldina@duke.edu), Director of Engagement and Administration, Duke University Energy Initiative.

Find and Fund Your Summer Energy Internship

Zoom call.
“In 11 weeks, I got to source and connect with amazing teams of entrepreneurs solving the most pressing challenges in the energy world. These were PhDs, reinvented athletes, single mothers, emeritus professors, all driven by their unique stories to tackle climate change.” – Elena Cavallero, T’21 on her summer 2020 remote internship with Prime Impact Fund

Deadline: Rolling

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.

FIND YOUR INTERNSHIPView summer 2021 internship opportunities for Duke undergraduate and graduate students (NetID log-in required). Welll be adding new internships throughout the spring, so check back here regularly and keep an eye on our weekly newsletter.

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).

Learn more.

Join the Energy Humanities Working Group at Duke

Energy Humanities Working Group.

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 (jon.free@duke.edu), assistant director for research development at the Energy Initiative.

Ph.D. Students Can Power Up Their Summer

Energy Data Analytics Ph.D. Student Fellows.

Deadline: December 11, 2020

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.

Learn more on the Energy Initiative website.

Energy Research Seed Fund Awards Six Grants to Duke Faculty to Kickstart Projects

Energy Research Seed Fund.
The Energy Research Seed Fund has a strong track record of investing in early-stage projects that go on to secure external support.

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

Seed Grants

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.

Project Team:
Stefan Goetz: Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesDuke University School of Medicine and Electrical and Computer EngineeringPratt School of Engineering [Member of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences]
Miroslav Pajic: Electrical and Computer EngineeringPratt School of Engineering and Computer Science, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
Jingyang Fang: Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University School of Medicine

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.

Project Team:
Po-Chun Hsu: Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, Pratt School of Engineering
Cristian Badea: Radiology, Duke University School of Medicine and Biomedical Engineering, Pratt School of Engineering

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.

Project Team:
Erika Weinthal: Nicholas School of the Environment and Sanford School of Public Policy [Affiliate of Duke Science and Society]
Jeannie Sowers: Political Science, University of New Hampshire

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.

Project Team:
Jie Liu: Chemistry, Trinity School of Arts & Sciences
Stefano Curtarolo: Mechanical Engineering and Material Science, Pratt School of Engineering and Physics, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences

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.

Project Team:
Avner Vengosh: Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke Global Health Institute, and Duke Kunshan University
Adrian Bejan: Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, Pratt School of Engineering

Stage-Two Grants

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.

Project Team:
Cynthia RudinComputer Science and MathematicsTrinity College of Arts & SciencesElectrical and Computer Engineering, Pratt School of Engineering
Sudeepa Roy: Computer ScienceTrinity College of Arts & Sciences
Alexander Volfovsky: Statistical Science, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences

Originally posted on the Duke University Energy Initiative website

Start or Advance an Innovative Project through the Energy Research Seed Fund

Energy Research Seed Fund.

Deadline: February 14, 2020

Since 2014, the Duke University Energy Initiative’s Energy Research Seed Fund has kickstarted new interdisciplinary research teams to launch innovative projects—sparking collaboration among scholars from the basic sciences, engineering, social sciences, humanities, and other disciplines. The fund helps Duke researchers obtain important preliminary results they can use to secure external funding or otherwise expand future scholarly collaboration.

Thanks to generous support from the Office of the Provost, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, and the Pratt School of Engineering, we are pleased to invite proposals from Duke faculty to any of the following grant categories:

  • Stage-One Grants will provide up to $45,000 for Duke faculty embarking on new interdisciplinary projects. At least two members of the proposed research team must represent different disciplines, schools, or departments. The performance period for Stage-One Grants is 12 months.
  • Stage-Two Grants will provide up to $35,000 to carry projects currently supported by the Energy Research Seed Fund into their next research phase. Applications for Stage- Two grants should indicate successful completion of work conducted under the current grant and outline how additional funding will help make the team’s research more compelling to external funders.
  • Proposal Development Grants will provide up to $25,000 for past Energy Research Seed Fund grantees to develop proposals for external funding. Applicants for these grants should provide a one-page proposal indicating how the funds will be used (acceptable uses include travel to meet with potential sponsors, support for Ph.D. student assistants, etc.), and how those uses will improve the likelihood of external funding.

Proposals are due Friday, February 14, 2020 (see submission details below).

The Seed Fund program is open to proposals on energy-inspired research topics from researchers across a full spectrum of disciplines. This year, we particularly welcome proposals in the following areas:

  • Energy humanities
  • Energy data analytics and big data, especially projects that build on results from previous/existing Data+ teams or that are well-positioned to develop data that can be analyzed in a future Data+ project
  • Energy materials, advanced alternative fuels, and renewables
  • Energy markets, regulatory tools, and standards
  • Grid reliability and resilience
  • Energy access and inequality

Requirements

Eligible Applicants

The Principal Investigator must be a regular-rank faculty member at Duke University, but other investigators on the proposing team can be Duke faculty, staff, or students. Likewise, the proposed team may include external collaborators, but funding may only be used to cover the logistics (travel, etc.) of the collaboration.

Budgets

The budget for an Energy Research Seed Fund research team (or working group) can include supplies, salary support for research assistants, students, and technicians, and other justifiable research expenses. Faculty salary, tuition remission, and indirect costs are not allowable expenses. Travel expenses are allowable only if essential to conducting the proposed research activities and cannot include travel to scientific conferences. All proposal budgets must be submitted using this template provided or they will not be considered.

Application Content (Stage-One Grants and Stage-Two Grants)

Cover Page. Must include the following information:

  • Proposal title
  • Name, title, departmental affiliation, address, e-mail address, and telephone number of all proposed investigators
  • Designation of a Principal Investigator or Co-Principal Investigators

Abstract (250 words maximum)

Research plan (3 page maximum – single spaced, 12 point font, 1” margins all the way around) Must include the following information:

  • Statement of research objectives and their significance
  • Work already completed related to the proposal, and any relevant preliminary results (Stage-Two Grant proposals should indicate how the project’s second year will build on results of research supported by the prior Stage-One Grant)
  • Description of the research team (working group) and research setting
  • Proposed methods and plans for data analysis
  • Potential for sustained collaboration beyond the project term (Stage-Two Grant proposals should discuss the likelihood of external funding)

Appendix materials (1 page maximum each– single spaced, 12 point font, 1” margins all the way around) Must include the following information:

  • Research schedule and milestones
  • Collaborative nature of the project
  • Relevance to mission of the Duke University Energy Initiative (energy.duke.edu/about)
  • Budget and justification (1 page maximum)
  • Curriculum vitae OR NSF/NIH biosketch including current grant support limited to 4 pages for each investigator
Application Content (Proposal Development Grants)

A one-page proposal describing the project and indicating how the funds will be used to increase the likelihood of external funding.

Submission Format and Deadline

Please combine all required elements into a single PDF document and submit via email—with ERSF Submission in the subject line—by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, February 14, 2019 to: Will Niver, Duke University Energy Initiative via email at will.niver@duke.edu.

Review Criteria and Selection Process

Proposals will be reviewed by an ad hoc review committee consisting of faculty with a broad range of expertise in energy-related fields. The reviewing committee’s goal is to identify the proposals that best meet the objectives of the Energy Initiative’s Energy Research Seed Fund: interdisciplinary collaborative research projects that will address crucial questions related to energy. The review process will consider: (1) the significance and potential impact of the research program; (2) the degree of innovation; (3) the scope of the interdisciplinary collaboration and relevance for the goals of the proposed research; (4) feasibility of the research project: (5) likelihood of development into a sustained collaboration; and (6) (for Stage-Two and Proposal Development Grants) likelihood of obtaining external funding. Final selections will be made by the Energy Initiative Director in consultation with the faculty review committee and other stakeholders, with the goal of applying the fund (approximately $200,000 for this round of awards) toward a diverse group of projects with a strong likelihood of success.

Awards will be announced in April 2020.

Reporting Requirements

Recipients will be expected to report on the project’s status and any related outputs (journal articles, conference presentations, external grants, etc.) at the end of the performance period.

Inquiries

Please direct questions to Will Niver, Research Analyst, Duke University Energy Initiative via email at will.niver@duke.edu.

See further information: energy.duke.edu/research/resources/seed-fund

Kyle Bradbury on Improving Global Energy Access through Machine Learning and Collaboration

Kyle Bradbury and Bass Connections team members.
Kyle Bradbury (far left) and members of the 2018-19 Bass Connections project team Energy Data Analytics Lab: Energy Infrastructure Map of the World through Satellite Data (Photo: Energy Initiative)

Kyle Bradbury is managing director of the Energy Data Analytics Lab at the Duke University Energy Initiative. Recently, the Rhodes Information Initiative at Duke (iiD) asked him to explain what he works on and how he involves students through the Data+ and Bass Connections programs. Here are excerpts from their conversation:

Locating Energy Infrastructure Using Satellite Imagery

My research focuses on how we can make energy systems more affordable, accessible, reliable, and clean using machine learning and data analysis tools. The team that I work with, we’re working on questions around understanding where energy infrastructure is using satellite imagery. One of the challenges in this space is called geographic domain adaptation. If I have an algorithm that’s able to find solar panels in California and I train my algorithm there, how am I able to then use that to find solar panels in Africa, Asia, or Europe? Being able to transfer that can really increase the impact of the research that we’re doing, but it leads to a lot of challenging technical issues.

Energy Access

Another research area that I’ve been working on with other members of the team is looking at how we can use data to address some of the challenges in the energy access space. Right now there are close to a billion people around the world that don’t have access to electricity, but we don’t necessarily know which specific communities lack access, and we don’t always know where the grid infrastructure is that could potentially provide access to electricity.

Student Engagement

iiD has been a fantastic resource, especially with their program Data+. Data+ is a ten-week summer program for undergraduates to deeply engage in a data-focused research project. Over the last few years, we’ve engaged numerous undergraduates to help us with our research. They produced datasets and laid the foundation for dozens of research papers that have been able to answer some of these really challenging questions at the intersection of energy systems and machine learning.

This year, Bradbury is leading a Bass Connections project team, A Wider Lens on Energy: Adapting Deep Learning Techniques to Inform Energy Access Decisions, which builds on the work of last summer’s related Data+ project.

Video by the Rhodes Information Initiative at Duke (iiD)