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Upcoming Events

Office Hours for CESR Strategic Planning Input

October 10th-13th, 2022

9:00 - 10:30 AM

No signup required


CESR Director Jennifer Dunn would like to invite CESR affiliates and other McCormick faculty member, to join her for drop-in Office Hours October 10-13 from 9 to 10:30 in her office, E248, during which light refreshments will be available.  No appointment necessary, just drop in!  Please feel free to stop by and share your thoughts on how CESR can support your research, teaching, and leadership in engineering sustainability and resilience.  We also welcome suggestions pertaining to our work with graduate and undergraduate students with whom we’ll hold a separate consultation.  We will be using this input to inform a strategic plan which we will vet with our Advisory Board and McCormick Leadership before releasing.  Providing suggestions by email by Oct 13 is also welcome.  Please include in copy.

Northwestern Sustainability Lecture Series

October 31st, 2022

Louis Room, Norris University Center, Northwestern University



The Northwestern Sustainability Lecture Series is a 1-day summit at Northwestern University wherein world-renowned experts discuss “Earth-Human Interactions: Sustainability and Development.” In this event, six Northwestern Sustainability Lecturers are selected to talk about critical challenges and advances related to energy, climate and the environment, and urban transformations, as well as to be recognized for their prominent contributions in these fields. The summit addresses the analysis of questions, problems and solutions that result from human interactions with the Earth both above and below the surface, while aiming at expanding the educational and cultural experience of a large audience. Conceptually developed for the undergraduate and graduate students of Northwestern, this event also targets its faculty members, and aims at involving the industry, other stakeholders, and the general public. Conceived within the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering of the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science at Northwestern University, this event is sponsored by The Alumnae of Northwestern University, the Center for Engineering Sustainability and Resilience, and the Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern. The ultimate goal of this summit is to inform and inspire present and future leaders while recognizing excellence across the fields of applied sciences and engineering, physical sciences, social sciences and architecture. This event will be delivered in a hybrid form and is open to the public.

Learn More

Sustainability Week: Countdown to COP27 Host: Economic Impact

October 3rd –6th, 2022

Virtual Registration


In an evolving world, humanity needs to adapt to thrive. After the COP26 conference on combating climate change, we now have eight short years to meet some of the most ambitious collaborative goals in history, with many countries and organizations aiming to halve their greenhouse-gas emissions by 2030. But how solid were the promises made at COP26? How can companies ensure they deliver on them and prepare for more commitments at COP27? When an ever-widening pool of standards and regulations is being developed, which ones should you follow? And how should you start getting ready to adapt your business in case climate targets are not met?

Over four days, you can experience around 65 sessions, 150 speakers and more than 8,000 virtual and 5,000 in-person attendees. Sustainability Week: Countdown to COP27 will gather experts to provide practical ideas to help you move faster and prepare for COP27 with a packed agenda including panels, interviews, networking and closed roundtables.

View the event website for the latest speaker list and agenda.

STEMtember Sessions: Careers in Clean Energy

Thursdays in September 2022


This September, join the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) for a weekly virtual career fair, the STEMtember Sessions: Careers in Clean Energy. These are networking opportunities during which EERE team members will discuss their diverse roles in renewable power, sustainable transportation, energy efficiency, and business operations.

You do not need a degree in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) to work in clean energy, so come with questions and get ready to learn about how you can help build a clean energy future as a Clean Energy Champion. Register today:

Sept. 8, 12–2 p.m. ET – Careers in EERE: Sustainable Transportation
Sept. 15, 12–2 p.m. ET – Careers in EERE: Renewable Power
Sept. 22, 1–3 p.m. ET – Careers in EERE: Energy Efficiency
Sept. 29, 12–2 p.m. ET – Careers in EERE: Business Operations

Past Events

ACS: Sustainability in a Changing World

August 21st through 25th, 2022

Chicago, IL and Online

 With over 11,000 oral and poster technical presentations, ACS Fall 2022 promises to have something for every chemist! Access cutting-edge research while sharing your work with colleagues from across the globe.  In-person and hybrid attendance options are available.

Life Cycle Assessment Workshop

August 9th - 11th, 2022

Evanston, IL

The Center for Engineering Sustainability and Resilience (CESR) hosted a three-day workshop on Life Cycle Assessment in August 2022.  The event brought together graduate students and early career researchers from 15 institutions, providing the foundation needed to apply life cycle assessment as part of their ongoing research.

NSF Convergence Accelerator Expo

July 27th and 28th, 2022


 A virtual exhibition event was hosted by the NSF Convergence Accelerator on July 27-28, 2022. The event provided opportunities to connect with NSF-funded Convergence Accelerator research teams, view live presentations and demos, and network with other researchers. Learn more about the event here.

CESR Poster Session

May 17, 2022 | 3:00PM – 5:00PM

RECEPTION 5:00 - 6:00PM


CESR invites you to its inaugural poster session

The Center for Engineering Sustainability and Resilience has seeded three rounds of interdisciplinary collaborations, enabling new partnerships in innovative and high-risk projects to develop preliminary data for more established funding opportunities and to promote complementary research teams in areas of sustainability.

Supported by funding from Leslie and Mac McQuown, thirteen teams of faculty members have been awarded $60,000 each to support 18-month collaborative research projects. Read about the teams and their projects here.

Join us as they present their research

Present a poster

Open call to share your work in topics related to CESR research areas

In addition to seeing the work of CESR’s seed grant winning teams, please consider sharing your research, to network and find potential collaborators

Topics may include but are not limited to:

Sustainable manufacturing, processes, and materials
Sustainable and resilient cities
Sustainable water systems and reuse
Climate change mitigation and adaptation
Sustainable and resilient infrastructure
Nature-based solutions
Process and systems analysis


CESR Symposium 2021: Technology, Policy, and Individual Actions: Three approaches to address climate change

October 29, 2021 | 9:05AM – 3:05PM CDT

Advances in technology alone will not be sufficient to successfully overcome the challenges posed by climate change. A major objective of this symposium is to help engineering researchers place their energy- and climate-related research in the context of other drivers of change such as policy and business considerations, as well as provide updates on the latest in technology development for addressing climate change.

This symposium will be remote. The keynote speaker and panelists will be in-person with one another on the Evanston campus, and their presentations and conversations will be streamed to our participants. We will also invite you to participate in a Q&A during each session. A Zoom link will be provided via email to registrants.


Karen Weigert, Executive Vice President, Slipstream; Sustainability Contributor for Reset, WBEZ Chicago


Jeff Richards, Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Northwestern University
Amgad Elgowainy, Senior Scientist, Argonne National Laboratory
Kim Suiseeya, Assistant Professor; Environmental Policy and Culture Program; Faculty Affiliate at the Center for Native American and Indigenous Research, Northwestern University
Melissa Rosenzweig, Assistant Professor of Instruction in Anthropology and Environmental Policy and Culture, Northwestern University, Indigenous Environmental Institute, Trent University
Megan Kashner, Clinical Assistant Professor within Kellogg's Public-Private Interface Initiative (KPPI); Director of Social Impact, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University
Meghan Busse, Associate Professor of Strategy, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University
Jennifer Dunn, Associate Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering; Associate Director, Northwestern Argonne Institute of Science and Engineering; Associate Director, Center for Engineering Sustainability and Resilience
William Miller, Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering; Director, Center for Engineering Sustainability and Resilience


Angelina Galiteva, Founder and Board President at Renewables 100 Policy Institute, Chair of the California Independent System Operator
Hossein Ghezel-Ayagh, Vice President of Advanced Technology Programs, FuelCell Energy Inc
Hannah Friedman, Investment Associate, Closed Loop Partners
Erin Newman, Environmental Scientist, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 5
Dany Robles, City Energy Policy Coordinator, Illinois Environmental Council
Victoria Zimmerman, Director of ESG & Sustainability Strategy Alignment, McDonald's
Dan Nielsen, Impact and Sustainable Finance Expert
James Margolis, Senior Partner, ERM, Environmental, Safety and Sustainability Management Consulting
Cristina Negri, Division Director, Environmental Science (EVS), Argonne National Laboratory
Klaus Weber, Thomas G. Ayers Chair in Energy Resource Management; Professor of Management & Organizations, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University
Tyler Barron, Policy Advocate, Environmental Law and Policy Center


Co-sponsored by:

The Center for Engineering Sustainability and Resilience (CESR)

The Institute for Sustainability and Engineering at Northwestern (ISEN).


Dr. Dominique David-Chavez

Enhancing Climate Science & Environmental Justice Efforts Through Indigenous Research Governance

Tuesday, May 25th

The Program in Environmental Policy & Culture invites Dr. Dominique David-Chavez:

Arawak Taino

Post Doctoral Indigenous Data Sovereignty Fellow, Native Nations Intstitute, University of Arizona

Post Doctoral Research Fellow, Forest and Rangeland Stewardship Dept., Colorado State University & National Science Foundation

Co-Sponsored By:





Dina Gilio-Whitaker

Indigenizing and Decolonizing Environmental Justice

Tuesday, May 18, 2021, 3PM CST

Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences Program in Environmental Policy & Culture presents Indigenizing and Decolonizing Environmental Justice with indigenous author and activist Dina Gilio-Whitaker.

Co-Sponsored By:


Arun Majumdar

Energy, Climate, and Sustainability: The Defining Issue of the 21st Century
Dean's Seminar Series: Monday, May 10, 2-3 PM CDT

The 20th century was marked by dramatic innovations in medical care, transportation, food production, communications, computing, aerospace technology, and the built environment. This has led to remarkable improvements in our quality of life, brought billions of people out of poverty, and supported a four-fold increase in global population and seven-fold increase in GDP per capita. The fundamental infrastructure to enable these historic changes was energy, but the use of fossil fuels and the associated greenhouse gas emissions have made last century’s approach unsustainable.

We are now witnessing a global economy undergo a once-in-a-century shift to chart a sustainable course. Will this happen fast enough to address climate change? What are the innovations needed? Will it happen uniformly around the world? What are the roles of academic institutions, government, business, and non-profits? Do we have the domestic and global institutions to support this massive endeavor? And could the current economic and health crisis of COVID-19 play a role in this global transformation?

Arun Majumdar
Jay Precourt Provostial Chair Professor at Stanford University, a faculty member of the department of mechanical engineering

From 2009 to 2012, Majumdar served as the founding director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, and from March 2011 to June 2012, he was the Acting Under Secretary of Energy. After leaving Washington, Majumdar was the vice president for energy at Google. Majumdar is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He also served as the vice chairman of the advisory board to former US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, was a science envoy for the US Department of State, and serves on the advisory board of numerous energy businesses and non-profits.

The seminar was co-sponsored by the Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern (ISEN), and the Center for Engineering Sustainability and Resilience (CESR).

The event also included a panel discussion with Jennifer Dunn, director of research, Northwestern-Argonne Institute of Science and Engineering (NAISE), co-director of CESR, research associate professor, chemical and biological engineering;  William Miller, professor of chemical and biological engineering, co-director of CESR; and Michael R. Wasielewski, Clare Hamilton Hall Professor of Chemistry at the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, executive director of ISEN.

Topic: "Research design and codes of practice for maximizing the impact of energy and climate social science"

Abstract:  Researchers today need to secure funding, collaborate, share data, publish results, commercialize research, and demonstrate impact. Early career researchers in particular are faced with multiple pressures around these challenges. This presentation will help scholars, especially early career researchers, gain an understanding of how to design their research more effectively, and how to improve your chances to get your work published. Using examples from the energy and climate social sciences field, it will bring attention to the importance of clearly articulating research questions, objectives, and designs. It will provide a framework for conceptualizing novelty. It will suggest codes of practice to improve the quality and rigor of research. It will provide guidelines for improving the style and communication of results. It will lastly discuss what academic (and non-academic) impact are and propose ways to enhance it. In doing so, the presentation will give you first-hand insights into successful research methodologies, what journal editors (and reviewers) look for, as well as advice on how to successfully promote your work.


Topic: "Decarbonisation and its discontents: A critical justice perspective on four low-carbon transitions"

Abstract: What are the types of injustices associated with low-carbon transitions?  Relatedly, in what ways do low-carbon transitions worsen social risks or vulnerabilities?   Lastly, what policies might be deployed to make these transitions more just?  The presentation answers these questions by first elaborating an “energy justice” framework consisting of four distinct dimensions—distributive justice (costs and benefits), procedural justice (due process), cosmopolitan justice (global externalities), and recognition justice (vulnerable groups). It then examines four European low-carbon transitions—nuclear power in France, smart meters in Great Britain, electric vehicles in Norway, and solar energy in Germany—through this critical justice lens. In doing so, it draws from original data collected from 64 semi-structured interviews with expert participants as well as five public focus groups and the monitoring of twelve internet forums.  It documents 120 distinct energy injustices across these four transitions.  It then explores two exceedingly vulnerable groups to European low-carbon transitions, those recycling electronic waste flows in Ghana, and those mining for cobalt in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The presentation aims to show how when low-carbon transitions unfold, deeper injustices related to equity, distribution, and fairness invariably arise.


Biosketch: Dr. Benjamin K. Sovacool is Professor of Energy Policy at the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex Business School in the United Kingdom. There he serves as Director of the Sussex Energy Group. Professor Sovacool works as a researcher and consultant on issues pertaining to global energy policy and politics, energy security, energy justice, climate change mitigation, and climate change adaptation. More specifically, his research focuses on renewable energy and energy efficiency, the politics of large-scale energy infrastructure, designing public policy to improve energy security and access to electricity, the ethics of energy, and building adaptive capacity to the consequences of climate change.

Josiah Hester

CESR and Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering Seminar

November 12, 2020 @ 1 pm

Batteries Not Included: Reimagining Computing for the Next Trillion Devices

For decades, smart device (i.e. wireless sensing and computing systems) have relied primarily on battery power. However, batteries are not a viable energy storage solution for the tiny devices at the edge of a sustainable Internet of Things. Batteries are expensive, bulky, hazardous, and wear out after a few years (even rechargeables). Replacing and disposing of billions or trillions of dead batteries per year would be expensive and irresponsible. By leaving the batteries behind and surviving off energy harvested from the environment, tiny intermittently powered sensors can monitor objects in hard to reach places maintenance free for decades. Batteryless sensing will revolutionize computing and open up new application domains from infrastructure monitoring and wildlife tracking to wearables, healthcare, and space exploration. However, these devices intermittent power supply make power failures the common case; requiring a rethinking of hardware and software design, tool creation, and evaluation techniques. In this talk, I will I will discuss the broad implications of what a battery-free, trillion device IoT means, outline previous work on the topic, and discuss late breaking devices and approaches to mobile computing such as soil powered sensors and the world’s first battery-free Nintendo Game Boy.

Josiah Hester is an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Computer Science at Northwestern University. Josiah joined Northwestern in Fall 2017 after completing his PhD in Computer Science at Clemson University. He works broadly in mobile and pervasive computing, i.e. the Internet-of-Things, wireless sensor networks, and embedded systems. He specifically investigates battery-free smart devices that harvest energy from ambient sources like the sun, human action, and wireless power. His work is involves the design of computer systems that are resilient to frequent and unpredictable power failures. He works towards a sustainable future for computing and applies these techniques to mobile healthcare, infrastructure monitoring, and conservation based applications. His work has received a Best Paper Award and Best Paper Nomination from ACM SenSys, two Best Poster Awards, and has been covered by the Wall Street Journal, The Verge, CNET, the BBC, and many others.

April 24, 2020

Evanston, IL

This past January, Northwestern, Argonne, and the University of Illinois proposed an AI for Sustainability center planning grant to the National Science Foundation.  The proposal process created a series of ideas that we would like to pursue regardless of the proposal outcome. Central to those is to roadmap research needs in AI for Sustainability.

To this end, Bill Miller and Jennifer Dunn organized a half-day workshop on April 24 to begin the roadmapping process, and was co-sponsored by Northwestern’s Center for Engineering Sustainability and Resilience and the Northwestern-Argonne Institute for Science and Engineering. 

The workshop attracted over 60 participants and featured Simge  Küçükyavuz, Luís Amaral, and Aaron Packman as speakers in addition to Raj Sankaran and Prasanna Balaprakash of Argonne.  Matt Turk of the University of Illinois also contributed a talk.  Niraj Swami of The Nature Conservancy served as the keynote speaker.  The workshop resulted in a synthesis of research needs and questions in topic areas including data needs, advances in AI to advance sustainability research, integrating human-based domain expertise into AI approaches, building trust with stakeholders, and communicating results to policy makers.  We expect there will be follow on workshops to address several of these topics as CESR and NAISE collaborate towards developing a roadmap for AI for Sustainability.  A two-page summary of the workshop is in the CESR library.

Kate Marvel, NASA GISS & Columbia University

Earth and Planetary Sciences seminar speaker, March 6th, 2020

Understanding Climate Change Past, Present, and Future: New Methods for Signal Detection and Attribution

How is climate change affecting aspects of the Earth system beyond global average temperature? And what can we expect in the future? Currently, the detection of a human fingerprint on many variables is complicated by several factors: methodological uncertainties, large internal variability, errors in the computer models used to estimate natural climate variability and future climate trajectories, and fundamentally unresolved science questions.  In this talk, I’ll explain how new methods can help to identify clear signals amidst the noise.  I’ll begin in the past, using tree-ring reconstructions of last-millennium hydroclimate to show that humans were very likely influencing global drought risk as early as the first half of the twentieth century.  Moving to the present, I’ll show how improved fingerprinting techniques reveal a detectable human influence on global and regional precipitation patterns.  I’ll end with a cautionary tale for the future, showing that estimates of future warming or “equilibrium climate sensitivity” inferred from recent observations are likely biased low,  because the cloud changes we've experienced are not necessarily predictive or reflective of the cloud changes expected in the future.  This means that conclusions inferred from past and present data cannot be simply extended to the future, but this improved understanding can help to narrow uncertainties in future climate projections.  

Dr. Kate Marvel is an Associate Research Scientist at NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University where she studies Earth’s climate system, forcings, and feedbacks. Her work is particularly adept at fingerprinting the causes of observed climatic change, and exploring the implications of these changes for the future. Kate is one of the world’s pre-eminent climate communicators – with regular pop-sci contributions to Scientific American, a much viewed and lauded TED main stage talk, and a massive social media following. She holds a B.A. in physics and astronomy from U.C. Berkeley  and a PhD in theoretical physics from the University of Cambridge where she was a Gates Scholar and member of Trinity College. Prior to joining NASA GISS, Kate was a Postdoctoral Science Fellow at the Carnegie Institution for Science in the Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University and at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. 

 Please e-mail if you have any questions.

Dr. Wendy Shaw, Physical Sciences Division Director at PNNL

LEAP Center seminar speaker, March 5th, 2020

Using an Outer Coordination sphere with molecular catalysts to enhance small molecule conversions

Enzymes are capable of shuttling gases, protons and electrons with great speed and precision.  Enzymes are also capable of very specifically controlling the local environment around the catalytic active site.  Using the large range of functional groups available with the 20 naturally occurring amino acids, and the structural control of the protein architecture, precise placement of hydrophobic or hydrophilic groups is achieved which control the enzyme active site hydrophobicity, charge, steric accessibility and electronic character. Furthermore, enzymes are dynamic molecules that can control the desired environment by a subtle or significant change in structure.  The superior rates and specificity of enzymes as compared to homogeneous catalysts demonstrate that the outer coordination sphere is as essential as the active site for efficient function.

Our program focuses on trying to capture these desirable enzymatic traits in homogeneous catalysts.  Dynamics, active site environment and proton channels are the features of the OCS that are the focus of these studies.  We are developing redox active catalysts which oxidize and produce H2 and also thermal catalysts for CO2 reduction.  Our initial work in this area has focused on incorporating small peptides around the active site of functional molecular complexes to explore how the local environment can influence catalytic rates. Amino acids and peptides enhance activity, and importantly, provide a scaffold upon which a more complex outer coordination sphere can be designed and added. Our most current studies focus on creating artificial enzymes by immobilizing our complexes within a stable protein. We use a combination of computational and experimental approaches to understand the interactions controlling these complex systems. Combining these approaches allows us to explore and develop a mechanistic understanding of the role of the scaffold in both enzymes and molecular catalysts, allowing us to capture the essential features into homogeneous catalysts, with the potential of enhancing the rates, selectivity and specificity of the catalyst.

Chris Rahn, PhD , J. Lee Everett Professor and Associate Dean for Innovation, Penn State

Seminar speaker on March 2, 2020

Battery Systems Engineering Enabling Mobility and Grid Independence

Batteries enable mobile and un-plugged electronics with applications ranging from cell phones to solar homes. Batteries are being widely adopted to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of hybrid and electric vehicles, including electric aircraft. Cost and life of the energy storage system, however, are concerns that limit the desirability of battery powered devices. This seminar introduces the electrochemistry, dynamic modeling, and controls associated with the emerging field of battery systems engineering. The governing partial differential equations are derived, simplified, discretized, and reduced in order to develop efficient and accurate models that include important aging and thermal effects. Model-based state of charge and state of health algorithms are derived that predict the remaining charge and capacity evolution of a battery pack, respectively. Dynamic current limiters and thermal management algorithms are shown to maximize power and minimize degradation. New research directions in active safety and multifunctional battery systems are described.

Alaina Harkness, Executive Director of Current

Seminar speaker, December 20th, 2019

Alaina Harkness, the new Executive Director at Current, brings a background in economic development.  She was previously at the MacArthur Foundation, where she was involved in providing early financial support for the Array of Things project.  Alaina has been at Current since September 2019 and is still working to connect with potential partners.  Alaina would like to meet and develop collaborations with NU faculty doing research broadly related to water.  

SUSPIRE Workshop

SUSPIRE workshop was held July 16th and 17th, 2019, on Northwestern's Chicago campus.  This workshop was organized by Northwestern University, Argonne National Laboratory, the University of Chicago, Illinois CURES, and many other partners with support from the National Science Foundation.

Learn more

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