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  • Biological and Environmental Engineering
  • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Three faculty at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) were among 11 Cornell assistant and associate professors who have recently received National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Awards.

Over the next five years, each will receive approximately $400,000 to $600,000 from the program, which supports early-career faculty “who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization,” according to the NSF. Each funded project must include an educational component. 

CALS recipients include: 

Jillian Goldfarb, associate professor in biological and environmental engineering, will use her funding to design next-generation processes to transform organic wastes into liquid biofuels via hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL), which directly treats wet wastes without an energy-intensive pre-drying step by processing the waste in water at high temperature and pressure. The educational components include a redesign of BEE 2510 (Sustainable Engineering Design) and original public survey research on biomass-based fuels. In a first-of-its-kind survey, Goldfarb will uncover how scientists can frame messages to garner public support for green energy implementation.

Meredith Holgerson, assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, will use her award to further study pond ecosystems, which are globally abundant and ecologically significant. Ponds have higher rates of biogeochemical activity (nutrient recycling, greenhouse gas emissions) compared to lakes, which may be related to their small size and shallow depths. This research will examine the mechanisms driving ponds’ high biogeochemical activity, using field surveys and whole-pond manipulations, and includes training of undergraduates, graduate students and a postdoctoral researcher. A key feature of this project is the close interaction of researchers with public agencies that regulate aquatic habitats.

Scott Steinschneider, assistant professor of biological and environmental engineering, will use the award to further his studies of sustainable water resources planning and management in the 21st century, which requires adaptation strategies aimed at future climate and environmental change. This work – which will be applied in the Lake Ontario eco-hydrologic system – will develop innovations in physics-informed machine learning that will enable process-guided climate simulation and hydrologic prediction that support risk-based adaptation planning. The educational component will include community engagement and knowledge-sharing with Great Lakes communities, students and other stakeholders.

A version of this story originally published in the Cornell Chronicle.

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