A Collaborative Approach to Energy Systems and Policy Research

October 15, 2018

Dalia Patino-Echeverri

Dalia Patino-Echeverri is the Gendell Family Associate Professor of Energy Systems and Public Policy at Duke. For three years, she led a Bass Connections project team that designed open source research tools for investigating how to integrate wind and solar power into the electric grid. The team modeled electric power systems and market interactions; developed user-friendly tools; and evaluated regulatory constraints, new technologies and market clearing tools in the U.S. and abroad. Last year she led a project team that projected China's electricity demand from the residential sector through 2050.

Below are excerpts from Patino-Echeverri’s remarks at a Bass Connections information session for faculty.

I have been leading Bass Connections projects since 2013 and love project-based education. I think students benefit greatly from being in an interdisciplinary setting, especially when they can be the experts in a particular skill or discipline. This is especially true for undergraduate students. For example, one of our undergraduates had the most knowledge about coding and really flourished on our team when he realized he had so much to teach and communicate to more advanced students.

These projects also give you the chance to examine the relevance and applications of your research. They’re where all the pieces get connected and become something tangible and shared. This kind of project-based research also gives your work a sense of urgency, especially when someone else can benefit from what you’re developing. They can also be a great way to interact with colleagues. We have had so much fun on our teams, and they’ve given us a chance to choose to explore topics that exist outside what we normally do.

In addition to exploring topics outside your normal areas of expertise, this kind of project gives team members new ways of being social. If you engage in team-building exercises or social events early on, students often become friends, and younger students become less intimidated working beside older undergrads and grad students.

These kinds of teams give each student the opportunity to be the expert at least once and allow for a more fluid balance of power. We also had a great time on our team having lunch together and working on campus over the summer.

Proposals for 2019-2020 Projects Due by November 5

Bass Connections is accepting proposals for 2019-2020 team-based research projects that engage faculty, undergraduates and graduate/professional students in interdisciplinary exploration of big, unanswered questions about major societal challenges. Please see the project proposal guidelines. The deadline is November 5 at 5:00 p.m.

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