Sustainable Engineering Center Launches

Professor Patricia J. Culligan (left) launched the Education Center for Sustainable Engineering on Monday with a boost from Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs. Culligan said the center received startup funding nine months ago – in a grant from the University’s Academic Quality Fund – and has begun working with seven classes on campus.

“The vision of the center is actually quite simplistic,” Culligan said. “We want to take the enormous talent of the students … and focus them toward solving the challenges of sustainability.”

With eight investigators from six disciplines, the center provides The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science and other Columbia units with the capacity to coordinate and direct student projects involving sustainable engineering. It brings together all SEAS departments to create an innovative practicum and classroom experience in sustainable engineering design and technology for SEAS students.

Sachs gave a boost to the launch as part of his campus lecture series on sustainable development. He is Professor of Health Policy and Management and Professor of Sustainable Development at Columbia University, and the director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University. He applauded the efforts by Culligan and others for starting the center.

“It’s thrilling to see the Engineering School take up the big challenges,” he said.
Engineers are key to solving sustainability challenges, Sachs said.

“The Engineering School plays a unique role,” he said. “Technology, at the core, will be essential to finding solutions.”

Research participants in the center include Professors Culligan and George Deodatis from the SEAS Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics; Professor Upmanu Lall of the SEAS Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering; Professor Vijay Modi of the SEAS Department of Mechanical Engineering; SEAS Associate Dean Jack McGourty; Professor Kevin Griffin of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences; Stephanie Pfirman, Barnard professor and department chair of the Department of Environmental Science and chair of the Earth Institute Education Subcommittee; and Professor Richard Plunz of the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.


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