Lehigh University
Lehigh University


A consensus takes shape on environmental research

Among the participants in the roundtable discussion in the STEPS building were (l-r) Oliver Smith of Air Products; Joan Ramage, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences; Tinku Khanwalkar of PPL; and Dork Sahagian, professor of earth and environmental sciences.

In the soon-to-be dedicated STEPS building, 15 faculty members recently met with leaders from Air Products and Chemicals Inc., PPL Corp. and the Wildlands Conservancy to discuss how they could collaborate on environmental issues.

Frank Pazzaglia and Derick Brown, the codirectors of Lehigh’s Environmental Initiative, began the discussion in the Air Products Seminar Room by thanking Air Products, PPL and the Wildlands Conservancy for ongoing partnerships with Lehigh.

Air Products also supports a chemistry briefing classroom in STEPS. PPL supports two labs where, Pazzaglia noted, researchers examine watersheds as mechanisms for passive carbon sequestration and for related ecosystem services. Pazzaglia noted that Lehigh works with the Wildlands Conservancy, which is based in Emmaus, Pa., on water research projects.

The discussion focused on water and ways of reducing its consumptive use, treating high flows of gray water and managing watersheds to maximize water quality and quantity. 

“This discussion was extremely enlightening and I’d love more such roundtables in the future,” said Tinku Khanwalkar, senior director of environmental management at PPL. “It will benefit everyone to form strong relationships to conduct research on environmentally important concerns. This will improve our industry practices, and enable us to inform Lehigh faculty about ways to educate students to succeed in today’s competitive global market.”

The first of many discussions

Lehigh’s STEPS (Science, Technology, Environment, Policy and Society) building is part of an $85-million initiative to assemble engineers, natural scientists and social scientists to tackle problems in energy and environmental sustainability.

The STEPS building will be dedicated at 5:45 p.m. on Tuesday, March 29, with an open house beginning at 5 p.m.

Air Products officials who took part in the recent discussion included Pat Loughlin, vice president for environment, health, safety and quality; Julie O’Brien, corporate sustainability manager, Annamarie Ott Weist, manager of water research and development; Oliver Smith, senior engineering associate for HYCO plant process engineering; and Katie Wiseman, an environmental engineer.

PPL was represented by Tinku Khanwalkar, senior director of environmental management; George Kuczynski ’74, director of engineering, procurement and construction with PPL’s nuclear development division; and Don Bernhard, manager of community and economic development.

Christopher Kocher, president of the Wildlands Conservancy, also attended.

Lehigh faculty participants were Pazzaglia, Brown, Arup SenGupta, Breena Holland, Dork Sahagian, Joan Ramage, Al Wurth, Robert Booth, Bruce Hargreaves, Donald Morris, Steve Peters, Rick Weisman, Al Bodzin, Zicheng Yu and Edward Evenson.

“This roundtable was a great first step. I think we can all see the research potential in partnering with Lehigh,” said Loughlin. “I’d like us to meet at least once a semester.”

The community partners also offered thoughts on how Lehigh could best prepare students to enter the workforce. Suggestions ranged from additional Lehigh internships at their organizations to having roundtable participants visit Lehigh as guest lecturers or professors of practice.

Pazzaglia also appreciated the groups’ willingness to meet again.

“It was a fruitful first roundtable,” said Pazzaglia. “Building even stronger partnerships benefits everyone—Lehigh and its students, Air Products, PPL, the Wildlands Conservancy, and ultimately, the planet—as we pursue collaborations on really meaningful research projects.”

Story and photos by Bill Doherty


Posted on Thursday, March 17, 2011

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