Energy & Environment

Interdisciplinary Themes

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

Led by the Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability

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

Beluga whale underwater.

This project seeks to better understand how marine ecosystems are evolving in the face of climate change, using belugas in the Churchill region of Hudson Bay in Canada as model organisms. Read more about Belugas: Sentinels of Climate Change in the Arctic (2023-2024) »

Chameleon on a thin branch at night.

This team will study lemur and tree interaction networks, model the feedbacks among land use, socioeconomics and nutritional health with communities in Madagascar, and evaluate and refine the strategic conservation plan co-created with local stakeholders. Read more about Biocultural Sustainability in Madagascar (2023-2024) »

Graphic showing outlines of plastic items

This project team will work to optimize its newly generated microbial systems for high-efficiency plastic degradation and explore the harmful effects of plastic on cellular health. Read more about Bioremediation of Plastic Pollution to Conserve Biodiversity (2023-2024) »

ECS 590 Geothermal Topics and Practice.

This project team will build on prior exploratory drilling on Duke's Central Campus to establish if local rock formations can be used as Aquifer Thermal Energy Storages to cool and heat Duke and Durham buildings. Read more about Duke University Central Campus Geothermal Test (2023-2024) »

Exterior view of Duke Smart Home with raised bed gardens.

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 Environment: Design and Innovation (2023-2024) »

Research team.

The goal of this project is to enhance career readiness for high school students from groups who have been systematically prevented from pursuing STEM careers, using a comprehensive year-long curriculum that also includes college- and career-readiness training and mentorship.  Read more about Enhancing Diversity in STEM Careers Through Mentored Training (2023-2024) »

Close up of person's hands holding small amphibian.

The scientific goal of this project is to measure wildlife habitat and occupancy/abundance. In the process, the team will test, for the first time, the ability of combining data from camera traps, acoustic recorders and terrestrial LiDAR to improve estimates of species occupancy. Read more about Innovations in Research Technology to Assess Forest Wildlife (2023-2024) »

Several whales seen from above, swimming in ocean.

This project seeks to enhance understanding of whale behavior and molecular/genetic responses for marine mammal conservation genetics and medical advances in the study of hypoxia on living tissues. Read more about Learning from Whales: Oxygen, Ecosystems and Human Health (2023-2024) »

Utila Reef.

This project team will develop evidence maps for tropical marine conservation and develop a curriculum to help build student capacity in evidence synthesis methods. Read more about Marine Conservation Evidence and Synthesis (2023-2024) »

Solar panels.

This project aims to develop a computational tool that can calculate the best geometrical and operational conditions for a vibrating structure to enhance energy harvesting. Read more about New Technology to Expand the Use of Energy Harvesting (2023-2024) »

Closeup of adult hand holding tube of green liquid.

This project builds on a large Department of Energy-funded project called MAGIC (Marine Algae Industrialization Consortium), in which marine microalgae are being grown at commercially relevant scales toward the sustainable production of numerous bioproducts and durably sequestering carbon dioxide. Read more about Optimization of Microbiomes for Large-Scale Algae Cultivation (2023-2024) »

View of wetlands in the rain.

This project aims to develop a CO2 flux data product for southeastern U.S. wetlands and quantify whether, where and when the wetlands will change from carbon sinks to sources due to climate change. Read more about Quantifying Wetland Carbon Emissions in the Southeastern United States (2023-2024) »

Satellite view of glacier.

This team will create a “foundation model” to enhance climate change mitigation and adaptation planning that can be used to monitor a broad range of climate change contributing factors and impacts. Read more about Tracking Climate Change with Satellites and Artificial Intelligence (2023-2024) »

Energy & Environment Courses

Gateway Courses

EGR 95FS: Emerging Materials and Technologies for Energy Future

Fall 2023
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 178FS: Energy Policy for a Changing World

Fall 2023
Instructor: Brian Murray

This course establishes a broad introduction to contemporary energy topics related to power generation, delivery, energy conversion and efficiency. Read more about Energy Policy for a Changing World »

ENERGY 188FS: History of Energy Use and Power Generation

Fall 2023
Instructor: Tom Cinq-Mars

In this course, students will consider the development of different primary energy sources over time, the history of various energy conversion and storage technologies and the establishment of modern thermal sciences. Read more about History of Energy Use and Power Generation »

Other Undergraduate Courses

ENERGY 89S: Energy & Society

Spring 2024
Instructor: Tom Cinq-Mars

This course explores those questions by examining the interplay between energy and society from the origins of a fossil-fueled society to the present. Read more about Energy & Society »

ENVIRON 201: Integrating Environmental Science and Policy

Spring 2024
Instructor: William Pan

This course explores the interaction between the natural and the social systems as they relate to the environment. Read more about Integrating Environmental Science and Policy »

ENVIRON 245: The Theory and Practice of Sustainability

Spring 2024
Instructor: Charlotte Clark

This course explores theories and practices of sustainability with application to the Duke campus environment, including economic, social and environmental factors, and a local to global reach. Read more about The Theory and Practice of Sustainability »

ENVIRON 335A: Drones in Marine Biology, Ecology and Conservation

Spring 2024
Instructor: David Johnston

In this course, students will explore the applications of drones in coastal biological and ecological research. Read more about Drones in Marine Biology, Ecology and Conservation »

ETHICS 288S: Ethical Dimensions of Environmental Policy

Spring 2024
Instructor: Brianna K. Jowers

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

ENERGY 588: A Practical Introduction to Solar Energy Project Development in The U.S.

Spring 2024
Instructor: Luana Lima, Scott Newell Starr

While most of the electricity in the U.S. is generated using fossil based fuels, there is growing demand for power from renewable sources. Market factors and societal pressures are pushing electric utilities to consider, and in some cases, embrace renewable power generation throughout the U.S. Read more about A Practical Introduction to Solar Energy Project Development in The U.S. »

ENVIRON 554: Rainforest Engineering

Spring 2024
Instructor: Martin Brooke, Stuart Pimm

This is an open-format, project-based class for graduate student interested in environment, engineering and design with a focus on rainforests and related environments. Read more about Rainforest Engineering »

ENVIRON 592: U.N. Climate Change Negotiation Practicum

Fall 2023
Instructor: Jackson Ewing, Gabriela Nagle Alverio, Ina Liao

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 »

ENVIRON  558L: Remote Sensing for Environmental Analysis

Fall 2023
Instructor: Jennifer Swenson

The course spans current and emerging remote sensing applications for ecology and conservation, with in-depth treatment of satellite and drone apps in coastal biological and ecological research through client-based group research projects. Using current platforms and sensor technologies e.g. Read more about Remote Sensing for Environmental Analysis »