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


Stories of failing and inadequate water infrastructure in urban areas of the U.S. have caught the attention of the media and the public. Less attention has been paid to the ways in which the absence or poor quality of existing infrastructure can undermine health and economic opportunities in rural... Read more about ACRE-Duke Partnership to Improve Sanitation Access in Lowndes County, Alabama (2018-2019) »

Coal mining town

An historically important energy resource, coal remains important in many parts of the country, but has experienced a severe decline. The advent of inexpensive natural gas has been a significant factor behind coal’s decline, but environmental regulations have likely played a role as well. However,... Read more about Coal in America: Chronicling and Analyzing Its Economic and Social History (2018-2019) »

Person holding plastic cup of water for testing

The technologies, processes and products we develop have impacts on our environment and health. Some impacts are intended; others are not. Policies adopted to regulate the risks of such developments may themselves pose unintended consequences. These complexities pose challenges for private... Read more about DECIPHER: Case Studies in Drinking Water Quality (2018-2019) »

Coastal scenes

Coastal habitats such as oyster reefs, salt marshes, seagrass and mangroves are essential for resilient communities but under threat from sea-level rise and anthropogenic disturbance. Our traditional reaction to encroaching seas is to modify the shoreline through the use of hardened structures.... Read more about Developing Rapid, Cost-effective Methods for Evaluating Coastal Biodiversity and Resilience (2018-2019) »

Bass Connections team outcomes

This project explores the breadth of issues that confront our society in its need for clean, affordable and reliable energy by partnering students with faculty on projects resulting in prototypes of new energy technologies, systems or approaches. Last year’s team focused on the potential of... Read more about Energy and the Environment: Design and Innovation (2018-2019) »

Satellite images of rooftops

Over 15% of humanity has no access to electricity, and far more have unreliable access that precludes most productive energy uses that are beneficial for improving economic prosperity, health and education. Decision-makers require information to determine the optimal strategies for deploying energy... Read more about Energy Data Analytics Lab: Energy Infrastructure Map of the World through Satellite Data (2018-2019) »

Truck in Peruvian Amazon

Artisanal and small-scale gold mining is the largest source of global mercury pollution and the leading cause of deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon. This type of mining emits large amounts of mercury directly into atmospheric, terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and impacts human and wildlife... Read more about Environmental Epidemiology in Latin America: Impacts of Artisanal Gold Mining in the Peruvian Amazon (2018-2019) »

Energy access

Access to electricity and other forms of modern energy is crucial to development. Yet about 1.1 billion people lack access to electricity, and another billion have unreliable access. While a number of public and private actors have entered the market, a substantial investment gap remains.... Read more about From the Ground Up: The Business and Policy Landscape for Energy Access in Zambia (2018-2019) »

Scenes from Madagascar

Research has documented conflicting associations between land use change and infectious disease risk, with some studies finding that deforestation increases disease risk for humans, while other studies find the opposite pattern. It is critically important to make sense of these conflicting patterns... Read more about How Do People Affect Zoonotic Disease Dynamics in Madagascar? (2018-2019) »


Climate, energy and food security are three of the greatest challenges we face in this century. Large-scale industrial cultivation of marine microalgae has been shown to be a promising, environmentally-favorable approach for society to meet its climate goals by sustainably coproducing liquid... Read more about Marine Microalgae for Sustainable Production of Food and Fuel (2018-2019) »

Forest elephants

Elephants are ecological engineers that create and maintain forest habitat. However, poaching is wiping out African forest elephants, which will result in dramatic ecological changes. Through collaboration with the Gabon Parks Agency, Duke researchers have two years of data on hourly movements of... Read more about Mega-gardeners of Tropical Forests: Modeling Seed Dispersal by Forest Elephants (2018-2019) »

Ocean scenes

Evidence gap maps are emerging as conservation tools that synthesize scientific research in a creative way, in order to guide decision-making and identify areas where more targeted research is needed. Gap maps also help identify studies that suggest linkages between particular interventions and... Read more about Ocean Evidence Gap Map (2018-2019) »

People using map

The U.S. Endangered Species Act is one of the world’s most important conservation laws—and one of its most controversial. Because most listed species have much of their habitat on private lands, improving the Act’s performance on working farms, ranches and forests is critical to its success and... Read more about Rethinking the Endangered Species Act's Implementation on Private, Working Lands (2018-2019) »

Garden planted in bathtub.

In a time when neighborhoods are rapidly changing, gardens have become a place where history, contention, expression, resistance and negotiation meet. At the same time, the presence of an immigrant workforce—landscaping companies largely staffed by migrant Latinos—means that the country’s divided... Read more about Sowers and Reapers: Gardening in an Era of Change (2018-2019) »

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 »