Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Meet STEP's New Faculty Member: Gabe Chan

We are very excited to welcome our new faculty member Gabe Chan! He agreed to let us interview him so that our Humphrey community can get to know him a little better before he arrives on campus this fall.

Q: What's your story?

I was born and raised in San Francisco, California, the son of an immigrant artist from Taiwan and an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher. I’ve had an interest in public affairs for as long as I can remember. When I was in kindergarten, my mom took me around our neighborhood to sell campaign posters for the Clinton 1992 campaign. I’ve also had an interest in science since the time when I could sit around all day and watch Bill Nye the Science Guy and Beakman’s World. In college, I found the perfect opportunity to merge these two passions in climate change policy. For the last ten years, I’ve lived in Boston, Massachusetts, where I’ve soaked up all of the knowledge that I could on climate change science, policies, and energy technologies.

Q: How did you first get involved with science policy?

While I’ve always been interested in science and in policy, I only found a way to combine these interests in college. It sounds kind of hokey, but my passion for climate change mitigation really developed overnight one day in my sophomore year. I accidentally stumbled on a film screening of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, knowing virtually nothing about global climate change. After the screening, three professors held a panel discussion on the documentary and made the case that the science of climate change was compelling and that facing this challenge would be at least a lifetime of work. I pulled an all-nighter that evening and read everything that I could on the topic. While my thoughts on the issue have evolved over time through coursework in the natural sciences, experience interning at the U.S. Department of Energy, and starting my own research projects in this topic, I would probably be in a very different place had the theater been showing a different movie that night.

Q: What was your first impression of Humphrey? 

In my first few hours on the Humphrey campus, I was taken by how warm and welcoming the faculty, staff, and students are. I got an immediate sense that morale at the school was super high and that I could fit right in. I was drawn to Humphrey for the friendliness and openness of the school’s community. I’m excited to learn and teach in a place filled with such curious and excellent scholars who are also grounded and humble.

Q: Why did you decide to join the Humphrey Community?

Professionally, I decided to join the Humphrey community because of its strengths in the STEP (Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy) area. Humphrey’s strong and integrated connections between science, technology, and environmental policy reflect both the way that these issues are intertwined in the real world and the type of interdisciplinary research that I want to do in my career. I’m also excited about the broader University of Minnesota campus and the wide array of other researchers and students that I’ll get to meet and interact with as a member of the Humphrey community.

Q: How do you hope to connect with students?

Climate change, energy, and many other issues in science, technology, and environmental policy are at the forefront of some of the biggest sub-national, national, and international political debates. I hope to connect with students with experience and interest in these issues and who want to discuss and debate how scholarship and practice can have an impact.

Q: What research would you like to pursue at the Humphrey school?

I have two active research strands that I will continue to tackle at Humphrey. First, I am interested in the economics and policy of public energy innovation organizations, such as the U.S. National Laboratories. I am deeply curious about how policy shapes the direction and effectiveness of research and development within these organizations and how policy shapes the interactions between these public organizations and the private sector.

Second, I have several research projects forming around the issue of wind energy deployment in China. As the largest national greenhouse gas emitter, but also the largest market for many renewable energy sources, understanding how national and international policies can shape an energy transition in China is of global importance. Outside of these two research strands, I plan to develop new project ideas in other areas of energy technology innovation policy, including in collaboration with University of Minnesota faculty and graduate students.

Q: What do you do when you aren't working?

I love cooking and experimenting with new recipes, and I’ve gotten really into barbecuing in the last couple of years (which actually benefits from a good understanding of the science). I’m also into wine (reading, collecting, and of course drinking).

I’m a nerd at heart and am always up for a discussion of Game of Thrones (a parable about climate change: “winter is coming”) or Star Wars (an exploration of the environmental consequences of large-scale technologies: see Alderaan). I’m also a diehard San Francisco Giants fan.

Q: What are you most looking forward to about living in Minneapolis (aside from the winters, of course)?

I’m excited for the beautiful lakes, bike paths, and craft beer scene.

Q: Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about yourself?

My door is always open. Come by and say hi.
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