Five UC Riverside Students Awarded $1,500 Sustainability Fellowships

UCR has a goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2025; Five Fellowships Will Help

A smart car drives on the UCR campus. Environmental sustainability is a goal of the UC system.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu)— What does replacing fluorescent light bulbs with LEDs have to do with solar-heated washing machines, energy audits, resin-hardened clothing or a color-coded map that illustrates air pollution? They’re all proposals from UC Riverside students to help the campus achieve the University of California’s goal to be carbon neutral by 2025.

The university received 38 proposals in less than three weeks for UC President Janet Napolitano’s new Sustainability Student Fellowship/Internship Program, the most received by any UC campus, said UCR’s Director of Sustainability John Cook.

Napolitano’s office provided $7,500 to each of the UC’s 10 campuses in February to encourage students to get involved in the UC’s carbon neutrality and sustainability goals, which include getting each campus back to the same level of emissions it had in 1990. That’s a huge task for UC Riverside, Cook said, because the campus has grown from about 6,000 students in 1990 to more than 22,000 today, with expanded research programs and new schools of engineering and medicine that didn’t exist before.

“We have the biggest challenge of all the UCs, but we can figure it out,” Cook said. “We have the willpower and brainpower on campus to do it, and that’s what this fellowship does; it puts the brainpower and student engagement together, so we can all be a part of the solution and it’s not just something that happens at the physical plant somewhere. It’s the whole campus working together.”

The five winning proposals will each receive $1,500 to complete their projects by the end of 2015, said Matt Barth, UCR professor of electrical and chemical engineering and a member of the UC Global Climate Leadership Counsel. Barth and Cook helped choose the winning proposals along with UCR Professor of Geology Mary Droser, who sits on the education subcommittee of the UC Global Climate Leadership Counsel.

“I would definitely say all the applications were great,” said Barth. “We were extremely surprised to get so many applications with such a short turnaround period. This fellowship is giving students a chance to show off their ideas while helping us meet our sustainability goals, and they’ve given us some pretty good stuff.”

The five winners are:

Salvador Ulloa, a junior studying environmental engineering, and his partners Lauro Joel Zavala and Edward Jancaitis, came up with a simple idea that could produce huge energy savings: Finding 20-watt or lower LED bulbs that can be used to replace the 32-watt fluorescent bulbs now lighting most of UCR’s buildings. “That’s a big difference in energy use in the long run,” he said. “And the average lifespan for LED’s is about 10 years, while fluorescent bulbs last two years, so in the long run UCR will be saving energy and money by not having to replace its fluorescent bulbs every two years.”

Harrison Park, a sophomore in political science, wants to make a statement about the importance of recycling by wrapping resin-dipped clothing around broken tables and chairs to create stronger, usable furniture for use in the library and other campus spots. “The scientific community has presented damning evidence that humans are hurting the earth, and we’re all going to die if we don’t change, but nobody listens because it doesn’t touch them in any real way,” he said. “Art is a way to make people care.”

Xuewei Qi, a graduate student in chemical and electrical engineering, wants to create color-coded maps to illustrate traffic-related pollution around UCR. He plans to count how many vehicles drive on campus at different times of the day, so he can calculate emissions during those times and use weather information to determine how those emissions are being distributed around the campus. Qi says he hope the information will help others make informed decisions about traffic management on campus. “My job is the collect the data, so others can make a better plan.”

Julianne Rolf, a senior in environmental and chemical engineering, is working with fellow Bourns College of Engineering undergraduates Sergio Morales, Julie Nguyen, Patrick Tan and Anna Tatyanich, to build solar-powered “closet dryers” that use hot air trapped in attics and solar collectors to dry clothes in special closets. Their “Integrated Appliance System” proposal would see whether the same solar power can also be used to heat water for washing clothes. The sun-heated water would be stored in insulated tanks, so it would require just a little electrical boost to reach the desired temperature, she said.

Partho Roy, a first-year PhD student in chemical and environmental engineering, intends to identify all the energy uses and sources on campus, to see if there are any alternatives that would be cheaper or more energy efficient. For instance, he said, when he was studying in South Korea, the university buildings had motion sensors that turned lights off and on in buildings during the night, depending on whether people were walking through. “That could be a huge energy saver.”

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Tel: (951) 827-4756
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John Cook
E-mail: john.cook@ucr.edu

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