Energizing Change: Senior Fellow Helps Student Take Energy Research to the Next Level

By Jordan Beauregard

Professors hope that their students will use the concepts taught in class to contribute to ongoing conversations about the most pressing issues of our time. Dr. Jennifer Sklarew had this opportunity to help one of her students.

Dr. Sklarew is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Energy Science and Policy, jointly run by the Schar School of Policy and Government and the College of Science. She created a new course called “Energy Policy.” With a graduate section (EVPP 533) and an undergraduate section (EVPP 432), Dr. Sklarew gives her students a semester project.

“Study the energy portfolio in any city or any country,” she says, “and look at what types of challenges would cause difficulties for transitions in energy use.”

One of these students is Alyssa Rowan, a student studying Environmental Science and Sustainability. She decided to map the energy portfolio of Bangladesh.

“As she developed her research,” said Dr. Sklarew, “I realized that she could turn it into another research project, drawing conclusions about international attention towards Bangladesh.”

With grant funding through the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program (URSP), Dr. Sklarew and Rowan are looking at transitions in Bangladeshi energy use, like electricity and fueling transport, and if the types of energy used are sustainable.

“We measure sustainability of energy portfolios in Bangladesh using the three E’s,” said Dr. Sklarew, “Energy security, Economics and the Environment.” In addition, they are looking at the political considerations in Bangladesh: decisions on energy resources, shifts in priorities, education challenges and stakeholder conflicts.

Dr. Sklarew and Rowan found exceptional difficulties for transition in Bangladesh. “There isn’t enough international attention on Bangladesh, and they have no funding to use different forms of energy.” Looking into this matter further, Dr. Sklarew and Rowan hope to examine the perceptions of Bangladesh in the U.S. government and within financial investment circles. “My perception is that there is some awareness in the United States.”

The key phrase in their research is environmental equity. “I use the phrase ‘environmental equity’ in my teaching,” said Dr. Sklarew. “I use it to refer to communities disadvantaged by policies that were supposed to be for the broader good; policies that instead led to waste and pollution.”

In light of the implications of this research, Dr. Sklarew and Rowan hope to make some recommendations and pose more questions for future study. “I encouraged Alyssa to do an exploratory project, with no preconceived notions and maybe make some conclusions along the way.” Dr. Sklarew continued, “The recommendations will hopefully be made to help Bangladeshis help themselves, but also to get the international community involved.”

URSP is aimed at teaching students about how to engage in professional research. However, Dr. Sklarew believes coaching Alyssa has given her the opportunity to see how the concepts she teaches in class are applied.

“This program, and the work I do in my Energy Policy class, give me the opportunity to learn about eight to 15 different places around the world and what their energy use is like. I have the opportunity to see how the framework I have taught is taken to the next step.”