Thursday, September 10, 2015

Happiness is a Good Risk Assessment

September 21, 2015
12:00-1:00 PM
(there will be pizza!)
HHH Room 170

Please join us for our first STEP-FAR seminar of the semester with Professor Peter Calow. 

This presentation will explore the connection between risk assessment and cost-benefit analysis as an important basis for managing risks.The context will be chemical legislation in Europe (that is up and running) and TSCA in the US (that is under revision) but the aim will be to establish broader principles for the better use of science advice in public policy. An important conclusion will be the need for improving the relevance of what we do through more effective interaction with stakeholders.

Future Events

Dr. Gabe Chan
October 5, 2015
12:00-1:00 PM

Vivek Bhandari
October 19, 2015
12:00-1:00 PM

About the STEP-FAR Seminar Series

STEP FAR (Science Technology and Environmental Policy Feedback and Research) is designed for students, staff, faculty, and fellows to get together in an informal setting to discuss their projects, research-in-progress, opportunities, and a variety of other issues related to science, technology, environment, energy, and policy. It is a bi-weekly seminar taking place throughout the academic year. Learn more about STEP-FAR.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Life in the Arctic: Welcome Reception Keynote by Will Steger

September 22, 2015
4:30 - 6:00 pm
Cowles Auditorium
Humphrey School of Public Affairs

The Humphrey School of Public Affairs M.S. in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy (MS–STEP) and International Fellows programs invite you to join us and welcome the 2015-16 cohorts of Hubert H. Humphrey Fulbright International Fellows, the Government of India MPA Fellows, and the International Visiting Scholars.

Will Steger, world-renowned polar explorer, educator, photographer, writer and lecturer will present a retrospective of a life in the Arctic regions of the world. He has logged thousands of miles of travel by dogsled and has become a voice calling for understanding and the preservation of the Arctic. The presentation “Eyewitness to Global Warming,” is his vivid account of the changes that he has witnessed firsthand, caused by global warming pollutants, in Arctic regions over four decades of polar exploration. Steger shares stunning photographs from his expeditions along with compelling data and satellite imagery to document the deterioration in the polar ice caps. While the issue is critical, and the presentation is dramatic, Steger’s message is one of hope and empowerment.

Monday, August 31, 2015

PIRE Workshop on Urban Infrastructure Transformations in China, India and the US

On August 23-24, the PIRE program hosted a workshop at the National Academy of Engineering in Washington DC. The focus of the workshop was on "Urban Infrastructure Transformations in China, India and the US: Connecting Local Priorities with Global Carbon Targets." STEP students and faculty were joined by policy experts from the Department of Energy, the Department of Homeland Security, ICLEI, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Department of State, and the World Bank.

The Partnership for International Research and Education (PIRE) project is a part of the Center's Sustainable Cities Initiative. This interdisciplinary education program was developed that explores how the intersection of engineered infrastructures with social and natural systems shapes urban sustainability outcomes pertaining to resource management, environmental pollution, climate change, and public health.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Humphrey Students and Faculty Join Network of Nine Universities at Workshop in Georgia

Last week a number of Humphrey faculty, staff, and students participated in a week-long interdisciplinary course and workshop hosted at Georgia Institute of Technology. The workshop was a part of our new network aimed at building environmentally sustainable, healthy, and livable cities.

The course was co-led by Dr. Nisha Botchwey from Georgia Tech and Dr. Anu Ramaswami from the University of Minnesota. Students learned how to design interdisciplinary environmental studies, share best practices to work together across disciplines, explore the use of models, experiments, quasi-experiments, and case studies to address the overarching policy challenge of developing sustainable cities.

Humphrey Faculty/Staff
Anu Ramaswami
Elizabeth Wilson
Jerry Zhao
Jason Cao
Yingling Fan
Luke Hollenkamp
Brianna Menning
Ajay Nagpure

Rahul Sharma
Mauricio Leon
Jill Rook
Victoria Fiorentino
Halston Sleets
Peter Nixon
Olivia Yang
Yunlei Qi
Kate Gurke
Shai Fogelson
Andrew Fang
Dana Boyer
Kangkang Tong

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

STEP Area Leads a $12M Research Network to Build Health, Sustainable, and Livable Cities

The University of Minnesota has received a $12 million dollar award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to bring together a unique network of scientists, industry leaders, and policy partners committed to building better cities of the future.

The project is directed by Anu Ramaswami, professor at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, with co-directors Patricia Culligan at Columbia University and Armistead Russell at Georgia Institute of Technology. The network will connect across nine research universities, major metropolitan cities in the U.S. and India, as well as infrastructure firms, and policy groups. The project includes 25 faculty members across the nine universities, and will involve more than 40 graduate students conducting research in cross-university interdisciplinary teams.

The network is the first of its size to focus on ways to reimagine infrastructure—energy grids, road networks, green spaces, and food and water systems—to create cities that are highly functional, promote the health of residents and the environment, and have that intangible “vibe” called livability, that makes cities desirable places to live and work.

Estimates indicate that by 2050, three billion more people will live in cities, resulting in two-thirds of the world’s population inhabiting urban areas. A majority of the future infrastructure required to accommodate that growth has yet to be built, or will need to be rehabilitated from existing systems. With business-as-usual trajectories, such growth will continue to exert tremendous pressure on water, energy, and land resources, creating traffic congestion, air pollution, and urban inequity that already affects the health of millions of urban residents today.

“We have to think in new ways about a city’s physical infrastructure to develop sustainable solutions,” says Professor Anu Ramaswami, of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, who is lead investigator and director for the project. “Understanding that these systems are interconnected, serves as a foundation for this work. For example, urban farms wouldn’t work very well without thinking about water, energy, and transportation infrastructure, as well as people, markets, and policies.”

Funded by the NSF’s Sustainability Research Network (SRN) program, the project, titled “Integrated Urban Infrastructure Solutions for Environmentally Sustainable, Healthy, and Livable Cities,” will focus on a new movement gaining momentum in cities around the world toward “distributed,” or more local, infrastructure. Until now, development trends have resulted in very large infrastructure systems—large power grids, large roadway networks, complex systems that pipe water from distant rivers, and supply food from faraway states and countries. Emerging trends suggest cities may be better off building more local systems—urban farms, local solar generation, bike share systems, and more. This network will try to identify the best mix of local and large to achieve urban sustainability, health and livability goals, by examining infrastructure in diverse cities in the U.S. and India. The team will also explore the public attitudes and policies that can help achieve such urban transitions. Read more.

To learn more about the network visit:

Monday, July 13, 2015

We're Hiring a STEP Coordinator

We are looking for a STEP (Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy) Coordinator to assist with event planning, logistics, and communication. The STEP Coordinator will be responsible for overseeing planning, implementation, and all other aspects of STEP events and workshops, as well as events and workshops for projects associated with the STEP area. In addition to event coordination, the position assists with communications and marketing (including web and media skills) for the STEP area, and associated projects, and assist with basic office and project coordination skills.

Check out our job posting:

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Meet Our PhD Student: Kangkang (KK) Tong

Q: What's your story?

I was born in a city where the Yangtze River runs through in China. Our family used to live on growing rice. My childhood experience living in a rural area drove me to choose environmental science as an undergraduate. After I gained my bachelor degree, I went to the Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences to pursue a masters degree in ecology. After living in Beijing, one of the biggest cities in the world, for about four years, I decided to travel around a little bit, since I did not know what I should do for my rest of life. In the tradition of young people in China, I traveled to Tibet and then went to Nepal. I enjoyed hiking in the Mt. Everest area, and then I went to New Zealand. After travelling for about one year, I decided to come back to school and pursue my PhD degree, hoping to become a faculty member in the future.

Q: How did you end up in the PhD program at the Humphrey School?

When I pursued my master's degree I read Professor Anu Ramaswami’s paper about urban greenhouse gas emission footprints. After I decided to come back to school, I emailed Professor Ramaswami to ask whether she would be my adviser. I enrolled in the Master of Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy program for my first year, since the PhD program did not exist. One year later, I applied to the PhD degree program at the Humphrey School.

Q: What projects are you currently working on?

My PhD program is largely supported by NSF-PIRE (Partnership for International Research and Education): Developing Low-Carbon Cities in the US, China, and India Through Integration Across Engineering, Environmental Sciences, Social Sciences, and Public Health. I’m working under this program and focus on studies of Chinese cities. My work is to explore the environmental impact of urban activities from the perspective of infrastructure. In addition to environmental impact, I’m also looking at financial data to explore how public finance systems work around Chinese urban infrastructure systems.

Q: Have you participated in any cool events or conferences since joining the PhD program?

Last year, I went to Australia for an industrial ecology conference. It was my first time attending an international conference and I presented my four Chinese cities paper in front of a number of experts. I was happy that everything went well and I had chance to meet scholars doing environmental research from other institutes.

This June, I worked as a volunteer for the Public Management Research Association Conference at the Humphrey School. I was really happy to participate in the sessions and to learn  how scholars from public management/administration do research. As a PhD student, I had conversations with both junior and senior researchers about how to conduct research. Their suggestions on what I should do to prepare for my future career were very helpful. The real bridge between my environmental science background and public policy study has been forming gradually through listening to presentations and discussing issues with other researchers.

I also had the chance to be a student facilitator guiding conversations about climate change, at the World Wide Views on Climate Change event. The attendees' opinions on climate change will be integrated with citizens from other 130 cities and presented at the UN Climate Change conference in Pairs, France this December. This was my first time to listening to the public’s voice on climate change and I really enjoyed it.

Q: Have you recently published any research?

During my master's study, I published three Chinese papers. I recently submitted a group paper on estimating the infrastructure based greenhouse gas footprint of four Chinese cities and I’m preparing to submit another paper about the Chinese five-year plan.

Q: What are your future research plans?

As I mentioned above,  I’ve almost finished two projects and I’m doing another group project about city typology. In addition,  I’ll look at the financial data of urban infrastructure to understand how Chinese urban infrastructure systems are funded and what the influential factors are for deciding how much money is spent on these systems. The results can potentially shed some light on what we can do if we decide to fund a sustainable infrastructure. This discussion will be a part of my dissertation.

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