Energy & Environment

Interdisciplinary Themes

Bass Connections projects, courses and summer programs are aligned with the following themes:

Led by the Duke University Energy Initiative

Bass Connections in Energy & Environment cuts across business, engineering, policy and science to educate tomorrow’s energy leaders, create new options through research and improve decision-making about energy.

Students at all levels and in all programs of study gain the knowledge, skills and experience needed to play leadership roles in a rapidly evolving energy future. Bass Connections in Energy & Environment raises the stakes for students and faculty by crossing boundaries through problem-focused education—boundaries among disciplines, educational levels and schools; geographic boundaries; and boundaries between the university, business, civil society and government.

Students can apply to be a part of a project team, register for a course, enroll in a curricular program, participate in energy events and join a student club.

Energy & Environment Project Teams

Box Springs Wind Farm securing financing through a public private partnership, by Green Energy Futures.

This project will work to enable the automatic, global collection of data on multiple types of energy infrastructure and electricity access measures using satellite imagery and remote sensing data obtained through deep machine learning techniques. Read more about A Wider Lens on Energy: Adapting Deep Learning Techniques to Inform Energy Access Decisions (2019-2020) »


Smithsonian’s National Zoo presents “Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea."

This project will test and optimize a new system for plastic bioremediation that uses bioengineered laboratory strains of E. coli to express plastic-degrading enzymes. Read more about Bioremediation of Plastic Pollution to Conserve Marine Biodiversity (2019-2020) »


Coal train, by Chris Collins, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

This project aims to analyze coal’s rise and subsequent fall through the lenses of history and economics, with emphasis on how coal entwined energy, the environment and community over the past 200 years. Read more about Coal and America: Coal Communities in Transition (2019-2020) »


Seagram Lake outflow.

This project will advance education and public literacy in aquatic science by leveraging data-enabled approaches to detecting and understanding lake stressors and their effects on aquatic ecosystems. Read more about Data-driven Approaches to Illuminate the Responses of Lakes to Multiple Stressors (2019-2020) »


Save Planet Earth.

This project will examine a series of risk-based decision scenarios involving geoengineering technologies to support a projection of the consequences of large-scale modification of the Earth’s systems to address climate change. Read more about DECIPHER: Decisions on the Risks and Benefits of Geoengineering the Climate (2019-2020) »


Salt marsh.

Background This fall, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) and the Governor’s Office initiated the Natural and Working Land Stakeholder Group (NWL) to promote ecosystem resiliency, sequestration/avoided carbon emissions and adaptation to climate change on state, federal... Read more about Developing Implementation Strategies that Maximize Carbon and Resiliency Benefits of Hurricane Recovery Efforts (Spring 2019) »


Oyster reef.

This project will explore novel methods and new technologies to help produce robust, rapid, cost-effective methods to assess oyster reef ecosystem health, habitat health and biodiversity. Read more about Developing Rapid Remote Assessments of Oyster Reef Health and Biodiversity (2019-2020) »


Duke Building Use Report.

This project will create a report that illustrates the energy used within Duke business units over time with the aim of helping leaders understand their energy use and take simple steps to reduce consumption. Read more about Duke Building Energy Use Report (2019-2020) »


Scenes from Hurricane Florence.

This project seeks to address the chemical, biological, economic, infrastructure and human impacts of Hurricane Florence as well as the post-hurricane recovery process. Read more about Ecological and Social Time Scales in Hurricane Response and Recovery (2019-2020) »


Flywheel energy storage design

This project aims to identify, design and prototype new energy technologies, systems or approaches. Read more about Energy and the Environment: Design and Innovation (2019-2020) »


A la vuelta, by Sergio Ubaldo Rios Bardalesm.

This project will build on studies of vector-borne diseases, such as malaria, dengue and leishmaniasis, to improve research, communication and education of the risk of parasitic infections. Read more about Environmental Epidemiology in Latin America: Environmental Hotspots of Vector-borne Parasitic Infections (2019-2020) »


Gold mining in the Peruvian Amazon.

This project seeks to understand the impacts of small-scale gold mining on aquatic ecology and communicate these impacts with policymakers and local communities. Read more about Impacts of Artisanal Gold Mining in the Peruvian Amazon on Aquatic Ecosystem Biodiversity (2019-2020) »


Second Longest Coral Reef in the World.

This project will synthesize and assess evidence-related conservation interventions for coral reefs, mangroves and sea grasses. Read more about Ocean Evidence Gap Map and Synthesis (2019-2020) »


Fogarty NIH 50th symposium cookstoves.

This project will develop an alkaline water electrolyzer and hydrogen storage system that can provide fuel for cooking and heating at a lower cost than using electricity. Read more about Providing Clean Fuel for the Developing World: Technology Is Not Enough (2019-2020) »


Rocks and cows, by Bob White, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

This project will research the policy, history and market contexts that inform farming systems; implement and assess a pilot carbon offset project; and develop a carbon offset protocol for pasture-based rotational grazing systems. Read more about Regenerative Grazing to Mitigate Climate Change (2019-2020) »


Waves crash at Atlantic Beach, NC, during Hurricane Florence.

This project team will study the cascading disasters that occurred in North Carolina as a result of Hurricane Florence, with a focus on widespread power outages, coal ash spills and hog-waste lagoon overflows. Read more about Understanding Natural and Human Initiation and Transmission of Cascading Hazards (UNHITCH) (Spring 2019) »


Energy & Environment Courses

Gateway Courses

EGR 190FS: Sustainable Energy Project: Engineering Design and Communication

Fall 2018
Instructor: Sophia Santillan, Ann Saterbak

In this course, students learn and apply the engineering design process to solve an authentic energy design problem. A variety of local and international nonprofits, companies, medical facilities and organizations pose real-world design questions related to sustainable energy. Read more about Sustainable Energy Project: Engineering Design and Communication »


EGR/Energy 190FS: Modern Energy Systems for a Changing World

Fall 2018
Instructor: Walter Neal Simmons, Josiah Knight

This course establishes a broad introduction to contemporary energy topics related to power generation, delivery, energy conversion and efficiency. Both well-established and new methods of energy generation and conversion are discussed, focusing on electricity generation by fossil fuels, nuclear,... Read more about Modern Energy Systems for a Changing World »


EGR/Energy 190FS: Emerging Materials and Technologies for Energy Future

Fall 2018
Instructor: Nico Hotz

This course explores novel materials and technologies that have the promise to fundamentally transform the current energy infrastructure. With the ever-growing global demand for clean, efficient and affordable energy, entirely new approaches are needed to solve the potential energy crisis humanity... Read more about Emerging Materials and Technologies for Energy Future  »


ENERGY 190FS: History of Energy Use and Power Generation

Fall 2018
Instructor: Jonathon Free

Students will explore the use of energy throughout human history, starting from the earliest beginnings of humanity to modern power generation. This course will consider the development of different primary energy sources over time, the history of various energy conversion and storage technologies... Read more about History of Energy Use and Power Generation »


Other Undergraduate Courses

ENERGY 89S: Energy & Society

Spring 2019
Instructor: Jon Free

How do the production, transmission and consumption of energy shape human society? Conversely, how do cultural, political and economic structures inform the decisions societies make about energy? Read more about Energy & Society »


ENVIRON 201: Integrating Environmental Science and Policy

Spring 2019
Instructor: William Pan

This course explores the interaction between the natural and the social systems as they relate to the environment, focusing specifically on ecological and earth system cycles, processes and fundamental relationships; the environmental impact of human-induced change at the local, regional and global... Read more about Integrating Environmental Science and Policy »


ENVIRON 245: Theory and Application of Sustainability

Fall 2019
Instructor: Charlotte Clark

This course has three interwoven objectives. First, at a personal scale, students will consider the sustainability impact of their own behavior choices. Second, on a campus scale, students will engage in a specific sustainability project related to the Duke Campus. Read more about Theory and Application of Sustainability »


ETHICS 288S: Ethical Dimensions of Environmental Policy

Spring 2019
Instructor: Kay Jowers, David Toole

This course uses case studies from different arenas of environmental policy (e.g. climate and clean air, water and waste, forests, oceans, energy) to surface normative assumptions often implicit in policy design and implementation. Read more about Ethical Dimensions of Environmental Policy »


Undergraduate/Graduate Courses

ENVIRON 593.65: U.N. Climate Change Negotiation Practicum

Fall 2018
Instructor: Billy Pizer, Jonathan Wiener

This course offers a unique opportunity for students to gain hands-on, applied experience learning about international climate policy and the negotiations process. Students will explore the intricacies of climate diplomacy, including the history of global negotiations, key issues, the current... Read more about U.N. Climate Change Negotiation Practicum »


Graduate Courses

ENERGY 790-02: Renewables and the World's Poor

Fall 2018
Instructor: Tim Profeta, Jim Rogers

About 1.2 billion people do not have access to electricity. Their ability to be lifted from poverty is severely constrained by this fact. The objective of this class will be to define the solutions that can provide electricity to these 1.2 billion people without exacerbating the daunting challenge... Read more about Renewables and the World's Poor »