April 4, 2008

Cornell Brings in New Sustainability Prof

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“Cornell is very progressive in its commitment to sustainability,” said Whitney Larsen ’10, the outreach coordinator for the student-run Sustainability Hub.
While the Sustainability Hub and other student groups work to make the Cornell campus as sustainable as possible, the administration is trying to widen the scope on Cornell’s impact on sustainability.
With the creation of the Cornell Center for a Sustainable Future, the administration is trying to bring together Cornell professors and faculty to enact change far beyond the Cornell campus.
“[This is a great] opportunity for this University to be a model for others to follow,” said Dean of University Faculty Charles Walcott Ph.D ’59.
One way the CCSF and Cornell has shown their determination to the nationwide sustainability effort is by bringing in esteemed professors to teach at Cornell and to take on leadership roles in the CCSF.
One of these professors is Jefferson Tester Ph.D ’67, the current H.P. Meissner Professor of Chemical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who will be the first Croll Professor of Sustainable Energy Systems at Cornell. Tester will be returning to his alma mater where he received a bachelor’s degree in 1966 and a master’s of science in 1967.
While Frank DiSalvo, director of the CCSF, did not have a direct role in the appointment of Tester, he was in constant communication with Tester throughout the process, telling him of the opportunities at Cornell to create real sustainability reforms.
DiSalvo said he believes Tester will be a great asset to the Cornell faculty. With Tester, he brings years of knowledge and experience, not only as a professor, but as a researcher as well.
“He is very passionate about the whole issue,” DiSalvo said. “He is very passionate about teaching.”
While the faculty involved in the CCSF is extremely excited to be working with someone of Tester’s expertise and enthusiasm, Tester is just as enthusiastic about the opportunities that lay ahead.
“I could hardly imagine a place that was better suited to take this on,” Tester said.
On March 27, Tester came to Cornell and gave a presentation about geothermal energy. He discussed some of the advantages of this particular type of energy and explained some of the new technologies that have been developed in order to harness the geothermal energy most effectively.
While some of his work at Cornell will revolve around studies and research, Tester stressed that Cornell is so compatible to the type of change he foresees coming from the CCSF. Even though the CCSF will instigate new research and studies, its compatibility for change stretches beyond those capabilities.
“[We] need to look beyond whether or not we can just do it technically,” Tester said.
The issues confronting the world today in terms of energy and sustainability stretch far beyond the realms of adequate technology, according to Tester. He explained that in order for serious change to be enacted, people from government, environmental groups and economic groups all need to come together to work out ways to fix the problem at hand.
“This is very multi-disciplinary,” he said.
According to Tester, Cornell is a tremendous location to work on this problem is because of the wide variety of academic disciplines at Cornell and the prestige and capabilities of the faculty in each one. Working with faculty from the University’s various colleges, the CCSF can work with people from the wide array of disciplines to create change.
This was a statement reiterated by DiSalvo: “What’s different about Cornell is our breadth and the depth to that breadth.”
While Tester is eager to work with his fellow faculty members, he did not discount the importance of the students in the sustainability movement. It is the responsibility of professors, he said, to “help students become better at this than we are.”