Four faculty members join the Institutes of Energy and the Environment

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Institutes of Energy and the Environment (IEE) announced the addition of four new co-funded faculty members who will join Penn State during the 2017-18 academic year. The faculty members are Kristina Douglass, Jonathan Duncan, Jillian Goldfarb and Gregory Pavlak.

The addition of these faculty members aligns with the goals of the Institutes of Energy and the Environment to strategically hire researchers who are interested in interdisciplinary work as well as fostering research, education and outreach in the areas of energy and the environment.

Kristina Douglass, assistant professor in the College of the Liberal Arts’ Department of Anthropology, is an Africanist anthropologist, focusing on the anthropology and archaeology of sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian Ocean, as well as the way humans interact with their environment. Her work aims to link anthropology, conservation and development, while addressing the insertion of archaeological narratives of human environmental impact into conservation and policy discourse. She earned her doctorate in anthropology from Yale University and is currently a Peter Buck Postdoctoral Fellow in Anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. Prior, she served as an adjunct faculty member at George Mason University.

Douglass’ current work investigates human-environment interaction in Madagascar. She uses archaeological, ethnohistorical, ethnographic and biological data to understand the dynamic relationship between communities and their environment over time. For the last five years, she has directed the Morombe Archaeological Project (MAP) in Madagascar, a project that combines regional excavations with gathering oral histories in southwest Madagascar.

Jonathan Duncan, assistant professor of hydrology in the College of Agricultural Sciences’ Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, is interested in understanding how the biophysical template of watersheds affects the hydrologic transport and biogeochemical transformations of nutrients. He uses geospatial analysis, environmental sensors and modeling approaches to answer questions about nutrient transport and the resiliency of certain watersheds. He was most recently a member of the Institute for the Environment at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he received his doctorate in watershed hydrology and biogeochemistry.

“We are excited to have Jon Duncan join the faculty here at Penn State, in the area of eco-hydrology,” said Elizabeth Boyer, assistant director of the Institutes of Energy and the Environment. “He has broad, interdisciplinary interests — in urban, agricultural and forested watersheds; in science and policy; in basic and applied research — making him a great potential collaborator for a wide range of folks across the College of Agricultural Sciences and the University.”

Jillian Goldfarb will join the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences’ John and Willie Leone Family Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering at Penn State in January 2018 as an assistant professor. Her research focuses on the issues surrounding energy generation and its impact on the environment. Her approach to the integrated biorefinery incorporates inorganic compounds into cellulosic feedstocks — or the raw materials used for an industrial process — to engineer co-products such as nanomaterials, electrodes or heterogeneous adsorbents. She received her doctorate in chemical engineering from Brown University. Her most recent position was as an assistant professor in mechanical engineering and materials science and engineering at Boston University.

The interdisciplinary opportunities afforded by IEE were key factors in Goldfarb’s decision to move to Penn State. She is looking forward to expanding her own research on biofuels and sustainable materials for environmental applications, as well as using her skills in thermal and chemical analysis, process design, and materials characterization to support colleagues across the University.

“It is very exciting that Dr. Goldfarb is joining our department and contributing to energy engineering with her interdisciplinary approach to energy problems,” said Sarma Pisupati, professor of energy and mineral engineering and the undergraduate program chair of energy engineering in the John and Willie Leone Family Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering. “She will be a great fit in the Institutes of Energy and the Environment as she works at the interface of several disciplines.”

Gregory Pavlak, assistant professor of architectural engineering in the College of Engineering, has research interests that focus on increasing the intelligence and autonomy of building energy systems and generation technologies. His past research accomplishments include optimizing commercial building participation in energy and ancillary service markets, optimal control of commercial building thermal mass portfolios, an energy signal tool for decision support in building energy systems, and Bayesian calibration of inverse gray-box building model parameters.

Prior to his position at Penn State, he was a visiting assistant professor of engineering at Hope College in Michigan and was the lead scientist for QCoefficient Inc., a smart grid engine that integrates HVAC operations in commercial buildings with electric grid operations and markets.

Pavlak received his doctorate in architectural engineering from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

IEE is one of seven interdisciplinary research institutes at Penn State. It fosters and facilitates interdisciplinary scholarship and collaboration to positively impact important energy and environmental challenges. IEE brings together more than 500 extraordinary faculty, staff and students to advance the energy and environmental research missions of the University.

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Last Updated September 05, 2017