Monday, October 5, 2015

STEP area hosts Minneapolis’ first Vertical Farming Design Workshop

On September 24-25, the STEP area hosted an interdisciplinary design workshop on Urban Farming.

The workshop brought together architects, hydroponic growers, engineers, marketing professionals, and entrepreneurs, as well as University of Minnesota students. Divided in three teams, the participants developed a model and business plan for a Food Hub and Vertical Farm sited in Richfield, Minnesota. On Friday, each team presented their plan to a panel of judges, and a winning team was chosen.

“There were moments where I thought that we had no consensus, but at the end we were able to develop a model and present it in a way that awarded us the first place in the competition,” Mauricio Leon, participating STEP student said.

“The workshop was an amazing opportunity to meet people and put skills in to practice. What made it really interesting was the seriousness and passion with which we took the challenge. Urban agriculture is a concept that is already gaining territory in developed nations that want to maximize space and be more self-sufficient. The United States is only starting, but I think urban agriculture is likely to going to gain much more attention in the future years.”

The event was organized in partnership with the Minnesota Sustainable Development Group (MNSDG), the Association for Vertical Farming and Blue Planet Consulting, and included a keynote lecture by STEP professor Anu Ramaswami.

The winning concept will be featured on See more in Murphy News Service and Minnesota Daily.

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:
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