Department of Energy Grant Boosts Cornell’s Power Systems Research

Cornell has been chosen to play a leading role in the push to update America’s crumbling infrastructure. Patricia A. Hoffman, the Assistant Secretary at the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability — a branch of the Department of Energy — announced in late August that Cornell was one of five universities chosen to receive a grant for research into how to  mend America’s beleaguered power systems.

An aspect of the Department of Energy’s Grid Modernization Initiative — which, on top of striving to make baseline improvements to the nation’s energy grid also seeks to make the system more open to renewable energy sources and energy efficient structures — the grant totals $1.8 million to be split between the schools. Alison Kennedy, senior advisor at the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, summed up the GMI as “a comprehensive DOE effort to help shape the future of our nation’s electric grid and solve the challenges of integrating conventional and renewable sources with energy storage and smart buildings, while ensuring that the grid is resilient and secure to withstand growing cyber security and climate challenges.”

As stated in 2015’s Quadrennial Technology Review — a report on the nation’s energy needs produced by the DOE — recent natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy have made the need for an updated, more reliable and more responsive energy grid all the more prescience. Kennedy pointed to this need and numerous other problems currently facing America’s power systems.

“Factors include a changing generation mix, evolving consumer needs, and growing recognition of expectations for a resilient and responsive grid in face of natural, or man-made, events,” he said. He also mentioned other issues pointed out in the QTR, including the need for new manners of detecting failures in the system, as well as the adoption of smart grid technologies.

Dr. Jan Low Fights Global Malnutrition With Sweet Potatoes

While undertaking her doctoral research, in Nairobi, Kenya, Dr. Jan Low, M.S. ’85, Ph.D. ’94 realized a switch in sweet potato varieties could make major differences in the health of those living in sub-Saharan Africa. This realization, and her subsequent work for the International Potato Center on the orange-fleshed sweet potato led her to recently be named a 2016 World Food Prize co-laureate. Dr. Low — who will share her $250,000 prize with two colleagues at the CIP and Howarth Bouis at HarvestPlus — credits her time as both a masters and a doctoral student in Cornell’s Agricultural Economics program as an important stepping stone to her work in global agricultural and nutrition. More specifically, she points to her ability to minor in nutrition — while pursuing her Ph.D. in agricultural economics — for giving her the ability to work “multi-sectorally,” which, for her, entails “focusing on integrating nutritional concerns into agricultural project and program design.” It was the work of her department’s chairperson, however, that started her thinking about the projects she would eventually set out to tackle. Dr. Daniel Sisler — Low’s chairperson throughout her doctoral studies — was interested in vitamin A thanks to his work with Helen Keller International, a New York-based non-governmental organization that works to combat the causes and repercussions of blindness.

Make a Mark: Study Develops Strategies for Online Persuasion

Two of college students’ favorite pastimes — social media and arguing—were topics of a  recent Cornell study. The paper titled “Winning Arguments: Interaction Dynamics and Persuasion Strategies in Good-faith Online Discussions” was published on arXiv — an online e-print service owned by Cornell. By using the ChangeMyView debate platform on Reddit, the research team had unique access to a sample of people dedicated to reasoned debate and the exchange of ideas. Grad Vlad Niculae, one of the paper’s authors explained why CMV was a great platform to study. “CMV offers a combination of conditions that are very fortunate for our research purposes,”  Niculae said.

Students Present Research at 14th Annual BioExpo


Studies on a wide variety of subjects — on the differences between men and women in aging’s effects on skeletal muscle, vector machine learning’s use in mammographic diagnosis of breast cancer, and storm conditions’ effects on bioreactor efficiency — were on display at the 14th annual BioExpo Research Symposium. Allowing students to present research on biological and environmental engineering alike, the program, hosted by the Institute of Biological Engineering was held in Duffield Hall and included a speaker series, dinner, and research judging. As co-presidents of the IBE— Cornell’s undergraduate society for biological and environmental engineering majors —   Charlie Xu ’16 and Annie Chau ’16 led the charge in planning and running this year’s expo. They noted that the entire IBE E-Board put much effort into seeing the program through. The BioExpo, they confirmed, was IBE’s largest event of the year.