Below are the participants in the Workshop on Sustainability in Research, held on September 23, 2022.

Headshot of Ron Bose

Dr. Ron Bose

Professor of Practice, Management

Naveen Jindal School of Management

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Driving Sustainability Initiatives from the Outside

My work is focused on three areas:

  1. I am a member of the leadership of IEEE Smart Village (ISV) – a social venture fund supported by multiple IEEE Societies and the IEEE Foundation. ISV provides USD 25K-200K in funding to entrepreneurs in places that are not connected to an electric grid, representing a billion people worldwide – an eighth of the world’s population. ISV addresses UN Sustainable Development Goals 4 through 12, with a focus on the productive use of renewable energy. Projects in Africa and South Asia typically start with installing solar photovoltaic cells and microgrids and expand into creating sustainable businesses in agriculture, education, tourism, and health.
  2. Profs. Habte Woldu, Hubert Zydorek, and I were faculty sponsors for the first Sustainability Business Plan competition at JSOM, which culminated on Earth Day, April 22, 2022. The keynote address was by 2006 Nobel Laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus (via Zoom from Dhaka). We were supported by many student volunteers and industry sponsors. We plan to make the sustainability competition an annual event, ending around Earth Day (April 22) each year.
  3. I am a judge for the 2022 Grand Challenge sponsored by the North Texas technology organization TechTitans. It is a nationwide competition, seeking solutions, systems or applications that advance sustainability and drive technology innovation for one or more of the seventeen UN Sustainable Development Goals. Winners will be announced on October 27, 2022.
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Dr. Bin Hu

Associate Professor, Operations Management

Naveen Jindal School of Management

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Curbing Emissions: Environmental Regulations and Product Offerings Across Markets

In the US auto market, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) implements a stricter fuel economy standard in California than the federal standard implemented by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Trump administration’s 2018 announcement to freeze the EPA standard threatened to widen its gap from the CARB standard and cause a split market where automakers offer differentiated car models in CARB and non-CARB states. Inspired by this crisis, we investigate three research questions:

  • When is market unification (all vehicles meeting a common efficiency standard) attainable?
  • Is unifying a split market likely to reduce total CO2 emissions?
  • If so, what strategies can help unify the market when unification does not occur naturally?

We adopt a game-theoretical model where two regulators with different levels of environmental awareness set efficiency standards in their respective markets, a firm offers product(s) for these markets, and consumers make purchases. We find that there exist equilibria where the firm offers a unified product for both markets, a different product in each market, or only serves one market, and our analysis suggests that unifying a split market may help curb emissions. We then propose and show that horizontal negotiations (between the regulators) and vertical negotiations (between a regulator and the firm) are potentially effective strategies to unify a split market and reduce emissions.

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Dr. Giacomo Valerio lungo

Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering

Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science

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Understanding Wind Atmospheric Turbulence with LiDARs for improved Wind Power Plants

Thorough investigations of the wind field in the lowest portion of the atmosphere (up to 1000-m height) are crucial for many engineering applications, e.g. aeronautical and civil engineering, environmental transport, air quality, and wind energy. Although the wind represents a powerful source for a greener future, rapidly-changing wind conditions (in terms of wind speed, direction, thermal buoyancy, and air chemical composition) are hard to predict and, to date, the interactions between different atmospheric length and time scales (ranging from 1m to 10km and from one second to few hours, respectively) lacks of a complete understanding. Thus, from an experimental standpoint, the main challenge of atmospheric-turbulence studies is to characterize wind resources over large domains with high spatio-temporal resolution to improve the efficiency and durability of energy-harvesting infrastructures and facilities.

In this realm, the recent ground-based light detection and ranging (LiDAR) technology has shown compelling features in probing the wind field within the aforementioned spatio-temporal scales. The variety of available scanning strategies (entailing 1D, 2D, and 3D scans with user-defined scanning strategies and instrumental resolutions) allows for investigating several long-standing research patterns, e.g. wall-bounded turbulent dynamics in presence of extreme scale separation, flows around utility-scale wind turbines, and flows in presence of suspended particles, e.g. aerosol, snow, droplets.

In this presentation, a review of the latest advances and challenges in probing atmospheric flows is presented. The data have been collected through the UTD WindFluX mobile LiDAR station through field experiments performed across the United States.

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Dr. Natalia Lamberova

Assistant Professor, Business and Technology

School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences

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Sustainability Goals and Venture Funding of Start-ups

Sustainable Development Goals are more likely to be achieved when they  are incentive-compatible both for individuals and for companies. While established companies can benefit from investing in sustainability via increased brand value and goodwill, is it true for emerging companies? Specifically, does targeting sustainability-related goals (as discussed in startup prospectuses) enable start-ups to raise more VC funding? This question is especially important since start-ups in the US are responsible for much of innovation.

Using ChruchBase dataset of startup companies, I explore whether startups that had sustainability-related words in their prospectuses were more likely to attract funding from VC companies after Sustainable Development Goals were announced by the UN in 2015, or after 2017, when those goals were made actionable by listing of specific targets. I perform the analysis using trajectory-balancing approach, where treatment companies (sustainability-related) are matched to control companies (other) on pre-treatment outcomes (raised funds before 2015), age of companies, and their industry. Under the assumption that the influence of omitted variables is time-invariant, this approach allows me to capture the causal effect of announcement of sustainability goals on the ability of startups to raise funding.

Contrary to expectations, I find that sustainability-related startups are less likely to attract VC funding after the announcement of goals (but not targets). However, this is not due to the unattractiveness of such companies for investors. Rather, such startups participate in fewer VC events, possibly due to funding available through government programs. Further research is necessary to establish the possible crowing-out effect of such funding.

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Dr. David Lary

Professor of Physics, William B. Hanson Center for Space Sciences

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Sensing in Service of Society


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Dr. Susan Minkoff

Professor, Mathematical Sciences
Affiliated Professor, Geosciences Department
Affiliated Professor, Science/Mathematics Education Department

School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

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Carbon sequestration modeling and uncertainty quantification

For secure storage of CO2 within geologic formations, the integrity of caps – overlying strata that are impervious to CO2 – is an important factor. Geologic structures, notably faults and the damage zones surrounding them may provide a conduit for CO2 to escape through a cap. If the fault encounters shallower permeable formations, the CO2 rising along the fault can enter these formations. I will discuss computational models for CO2 leakage into assets such as drinking water aquifers, mineral formations, and the atmosphere, suitable for regulators certifying such formations to make decisions. I will also talk about recent work to quantify uncertainty in the output of computational models from random input parameters, and how we might perform such analyses for coupled multiphysics models such as those used for carbon sequestration modeling.

Shalin Prasad posing

Dr. Shalini Prasad

Professor and Department Head, Bioengineering

Professor, Mechanical Engineering

Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science

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Connected Health: A soil-sensor approach

We are working to build a framework for tracking soil health in real-time towards maximizing crop yield and supporting regenerative agriculture practices. We are leveraging our learnings from connected human health towards designing soil sensors to enable real-time monitoring and tracking of soil health through key soil parameters towards enabling evidence-based Ag-tech management.

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Dr. Zach Sickmann

Assistant Professor, Department of Geosciences

School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

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Sand Resource Sustainability: A Foundational Problem for Future Development

Natural sand builds the foundation of our modern world and demand for this material has accelerated since the 1980s to become the world’s most extracted solid material resource. Globally, we need approximately 20-40x more sand for construction than is produced naturally in all the world’s rivers combined. Ensuring material supply while minimizing environmental degradation and social conflicts is a major sustainability challenge that will accelerate into the future if changes are not made in monitoring and regulating sand extraction and trade.

There is currently a relative paucity of research on sand sustainability as compared to the attention given to issues like climate change and water resources. While sand may not represent an existential threat on the scale of water rights, a warming climate or rising seas, its under-recognized importance leads to opportunity for individual researchers to make a tangible impact in advancing the science.

Sand sustainability issues sit at intersections between geosciences, environmental sciences, geospatial sciences, economics, engineering, sociology, and policy. From local to regional scales, in every place on Earth where humans build, there are sand resource issues that present opportunities for impactful, collaborative, and often novel science that can make a tangible impact for a more sustainable future.

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Dr. Ron Smaldone

Associate Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry

School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

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The Chemistry of Making 3D Printable Plastics for a Better World

3D printing is promising to be a major driver of growth in the manufacturing sector and is expected to claim a significant portion of the manufacturing market over the coming decades. Conceptually, 3D printing is advantageous in manufacturing because custom or low-volume designs can be produced from digital models without the high entry cost of mold production or the waste from subtractive manufacturing methods such as milling.  However, as with any type of plastic manufacturing, the feedstocks for 3D printing are typically petroleum-based, and the products are non-degradable.  

Our research aims to develop new 3D printable, plastic materials that are made from bio-based sources and contain chemical bonds that will enable them to be repaired, recycled, or degraded at the end of their life. 

Headshot of Ramesh Subramoniam

Dr. Ramesh Subramoniam

Clinical Associate Professor, Management

Naveen Jindal School of Management

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Supply chain planning & management challenges and opportunities driven by climate change and other disruptions and how to accelerate societal transition to equitable, sustainable and livable societies

There is an urgent need to integrate climate change related changes that need to be made at all levels of all supply chains, policies, products and related sustainable production and consumption in the context of a circular economy.  The importance of the climate change dimension has grown with 81M net increase per year in the human population, more of the COVID-19’s related viruses can pass from wild animals to humans with potential for more frequent pandemics. Supply chain resilience and planning has become an important challenge because of the COVID pandemic and the resultant disruptions in supply chains throughout the world.

Typically, supply chains were based upon fixed state, deterministic approaches with the focus on product quality and cost minimization.  They were not designed to holistically address challenges such as climate change, pandemics, cyber-attacks, and other types of crises, which can cause major ruptures in supply chains.

The supply chain problems we experienced during the last decade during the COVID pandemic underscored the urgent need for new approaches. Therefore, the planners of this special issue with the Journal of Cleaner Production, Elsevier, invite prospective authors to submit articles that address innovative ways to enhance supply chain resilience, which are environmentally, economically, and ethically sound based upon integration of the growing array of digital tools and other holistic approaches into new supply chain networks.

Headshot of Aysegul Toptal

Dr. Aysegul Toptal

Clinical Associate Professor, Management

Naveen Jindal School of Management

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Two supply chain problems under carbon emission regulations

Carbon emission regulation policies have emerged as mechanisms to control firms’ carbon emissions. In this talk, I discuss part of my research that addresses two specific supply chain problems under different carbon emission regulations: (i) joint decisions on inventory replenishment and emission reduction investment, (ii) how supply chain coordination affects the environment. The results of both studies highlight the importance of why and how policymakers need to be careful in designing regulations to attain the desired goals.