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.

Critical information for energy access decision-making and electricity system planning is not universally available. Decision-makers require information to determine the optimal strategies for deploying energy resources as well as to decide where to prioritize development and whether... 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."

Background By 2025, it is estimated that over 2.2 billion tons of plastics will be thrown away each year. Sadly, much of this plastic ends up in our waterways, including in enormous piles scattered throughout our oceans. 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.

No fossil fuel permeates the history of the United States like coal. During the 19th century, it became the first mineral to provide the majority of the nation’s energy and fueled the steam engines, railroads, factories and foundries that drove the Industrial Revolution. Between 1885 and 1951, coal... 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.

Background Geoengineering is the large-scale modification of the Earth’s systems to address climate change. It includes a range of speculative approaches to change the Earth’s radiative balance through solar radiation management or by extraction of greenhouse gases directly from the atmosphere –... Read more about DECIPHER: Decisions on the Risks and Benefits of Geoengineering the Climate (2019-2020) »


David Johnston catches a drone during field work in Antarctica; Rett Newton readies to catch a drone at Cape Lookout.

This is an off-cycle project team developed in response to Hurricane Florence. Applications are now closed. Background How can we quickly and effectively assess the effects of storms on our coastal environment? And how can recent technological developments in satellite remote sensing and... Read more about Deep Learning and Remote Sensing for Coastal Resilience: Rapid and Automated Coastal Monitoring to Inform Community Recovery from Storm Events (2019-2020) »


Oyster reef.

Background Oysters are ecosystem engineers that provide critical habitat for fishes and invertebrates. Oyster reefs protect shorelines, filter water and sequester carbon. Globally, oyster reefs have experienced precipitous declines, with an estimated 85% decrease in stocks in the last 130 years. 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) »


Flywheel energy storage design

Background To explore the breadth of issues that confront our society in its need for clean, affordable and reliable energy, students partner with faculty on a year-long project resulting in prototypes of 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.

Throughout the Americas, people living in the Amazon are among the most vulnerable to adverse health outcomes. Exogenous stressors, including demand for natural resources, agricultural expansion and seasonal climate events drive the health burden of malaria, dengue and leishmaniasis. Read more about Environmental Epidemiology in Latin America: Environmental Hotspots of Vector-borne Parasitic Infections (2019-2020) »


Gold mining in the Peruvian Amazon.

Artisanal, or small-scale, gold mining (ASGM) is the leading cause of deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon and one of largest sources of global mercury pollution to the atmosphere. Since 2012, Bass Connections project teams have documented high human exposures to mercury within the heavily mined... 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.

Background Evidence gap maps and evidence synthesis are emerging as important conservation tools that review existing scientific research in a creative way. Gap maps identify studies that suggest linkages between particular interventions and outcomes, while evidence synthesis explores the extent... 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.

Background The 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report states that previous climate change predictions were drastic underestimates and warming must be capped at 1.5 degrees to avoid extreme climate disruptions. There is potential for agriculture, representing 13.5% of global... Read more about Regenerative Grazing to Mitigate Climate Change (2019-2020) »


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 »