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Four Ph.D. Students Awarded PEI-STEP Fellowships

Four graduate students have been awarded 2012 PEI-STEP Environmental Policy Fellowships by the Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI) and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs: Celeste Alexander from the anthropology department and Carole Dalin, Hang Deng, and Mary Kang from civil and environmental engineering.

Through the PEI-STEP Fellowship Program, Ph.D. students in departments outside of the Woodrow Wilson School receive funding for two-years to enable them to explore the environmental policy dimensions and implications of their doctoral research through supplementary course-work and policy-oriented research. Many PEI-STEP students are pursuing Ph.D.’s in science and engineering, but the program also includes students in the humanities and social sciences. Upon completion of the program, the students will graduate with the Graduate Certificate in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy (STEP).

The goal of the PEI-STEP Program is to help these graduate students develop the skills necessary to become more effective and more versatile in their careers as scientists, teachers and leaders in the public and private sectors, and to increase awareness among the STEP students and faculty of how their discipline-based skills can be brought to bear on environmental problems.

To meet the requirements of the PEI-STEP Certificate, the PEI-STEP students normally take three courses on aspects of science policy related to science, technology, or the environment. In addition, they must produce a paper or incorporate a policy component of publishable quality into their dissertations.

2012 PEI-STEP Fellows

Celeste Alexander

Celeste Alexander

Ph.D. thesis: An ethnography of community engagement with conservation and development in the Ikona Wildlife Management Area, Tanzania, Africa. Adviser: Joao Biehl, Anthropology.

PEI-STEP Environmental Policy Topic: The production and reception of expert knowledge practices in a Tanzanian Wildlife Management Area. PEI-STEP Adviser: David Wilcove, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Explaining how the PEI-STEP Fellowship Program will assist her research, Alexander said, "The PEI-STEP coursework will inform my understanding of how knowledge on conservation is produced and put into practice in policy work. Through engagements with PEI, the Woodrow Wilson School, and my STEP and dissertation advisers, I hope to develop the skills to be able to more effectively communicate with policy makers, and to find a common ground between people-centered ethnographic research and scientific and policy-making efforts. More specifically, a study of expert knowledge practices in Tanzanian community conservation will compliment and inform my community-centered research on the Ikona Wildlife Management Area."

Carole Dalin

Carole Dalin

Ph.D. thesis: Water for food. Adviser: Ignacio Rodriguez-Iturbe, Civil and Environmental Engineering.

PEI-STEP Environmental Policy Topic: Promoting environmentally sustainable agricultural productivity in China through water management and agricultural policies. PEI-STEP Adviser: Denise Mauzerall, Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Regarding the relevance of her PEI-STEP Project to her dissertation, Dalin said, “Complementing my engineering Ph.D. with environmental policy research through the PEI-STEP fellowship will enable me to improve my understanding of the policy Implementation and enforcement mechanisms and thus provide sound policy-oriented scientific Information and recommendations. I am currently focusing on water use in agriculture and I am interested in pursuing my work on this topic with a water and agricultural policy perspective for China. The PEI-STEP program will give me the opportunity to delve into the relevant economics and regulatory aspects of agricultural management.”

Hang Deng

Hang Deng

Ph.D. thesis: Evaluation of caprock integrity and its evolution due to brine-CO2-rock interactions. Adviser: Catherine Peters, Civil and Environmental Engineering.

PEI-STEP Environmental Policy Topic: Incorporation of carbon capture and storage (CCS)- and nuclear-energy related risks in current energy economic models and their implications to energy policy.

Framing her project, Deng explained, “Combating global climate change requires reduction of CO2 emissions using a portfolio of technologies. Nuclear energy and CCS have been identified as two especially promising technologies. However, they both share one critical common feature – the inherent risks. For instance, in the case of geological storage of CO2, injected CO2 may leak into the overlying formations or back into the atmosphere, causing adverse effects to subsurface resources and human health, and reducing storage efficiency. The risk of a nuclear facility has been fully unfolded before the public owing to the recent accident at Fukushima Daiichi. Even though the existences of CCS- and nuclear-related risks and serious consequences that may follow are widely acknowledged, they are rarely or incompletely included in current energy economic models. As a result, the guidance that these models provide to decision-makers is limited.”

Deng said her PEI-STEP research project aims to: quantify the costs of risks associated with failures of CCS projects and nuclear facilities; incorporate the cost evaluation into current economic modeling; and compare the economic competitiveness of the two technologies under different risk and policy scenarios, in order to provide valuable information for energy policy making.

Mary Kang

Mary Kang

Ph.D. thesis: Modeling fluid leakage through faults in subsurface environments. Adviser: Michael Celia, Civil and Environmental Engineering.

PEI-STEP Environmental Policy Topic: Methane leakage due to hydraulic fracturing operations: Exploring technical and policy mitigation options. Adviser: Denise Mauzerall, Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Describing the context of her PEI-STEP project and her goals, Kang said, “Recently, hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" for shale gas has received media attention due to its wide- spread and growing deployment and its potential to cause environmental damage. Academic research activity into the environmental implications of hydraulic fracturing is currently at a nascent stage. Much of the concern arises from water contamination risk from leakage of fracking fluids and other gases including methane, and higher greenhouse gas emissions. The objective of my PEI-STEP project proposal is to synthesize existing technical and policy-related information on methane leakage and similar leakage problems to develop an environmentally and economically sustainable hydraulic fracturing research and development strategy and policy framework.”

Kang’s technical background in engineering, work experience, and personal connections in the hydraulic fracturing industry position her well for this project. She said, “I will also draw on courses and other resources in the Woodrow Wilson School and the Princeton University community to strengthen and fill gaps in my knowledge and skill set.”