Investigating the Impacts of Power Outages in Puerto Rico

Blue tarps as temporary roofs in the Caño Martin Peña neighborhood 3 weeks after hurricane Maria. Photo by Pablo Marvel.

Are you looking for an opportunity to do applied research related to community resilience? We need Spanish speaking students to help us contact households in Puerto Rico impacted by Hurricane Maria in 2017. The results of this research will inform investments in energy resilience for real communities, vulnerable to future disruptions.

Project description

This project is all about understanding the impacts of power outages on households. Currently, our ability to measure the social aspects of disasters is lacking. Often the impacts are reported in deaths and/or hospitalizations and/or number of customers without power. Although these metrics are important they tell us nothing about the consequences of power outages on the ability of households to meet critical needs (such as access to drinking water, staying warm, or cooking food). To address this gap, this research project will inform a new metric that quantifies the social impact or human well being implications of infrastructure disruptions.

We are specifically looking for Spanish speaking students to help our research team recruit participants in Puerto Rico to take our digital questionnaire. It will involve making phone calls and helping the participants walk through the survey. Each student will receive training and support to do this effectively, including working with our community partners in San Juan, PR. The results of the data collected through the survey will inform the communities that we are working with about how to make their community more resilient to future hurricanes and other disaster type events.

Project outcome

  • The research team will work with the student to set goals for recruiting participants.
  • The outcomes of the student engagement will be a summary report of what you learned from your experience working on this project.

Project details

Timing, eligibility and other details
Length of commitment Less than a semester (0-2 months)
Start time Any time
Level of collaboration Small group project (2-3 students)
Benefits Volunteer experience
Who is eligible All undergraduate students 

Core partners

  • Dr. Michael Shelly, RENEW Institute
  • Sara Peterson, PhD Candidate, conducting dissertation research on this important topic

Project mentor

Susan Clark

Assistant Professor

Environment and Sustainability

Phone: (716) 645-1403


Start the project

  1. Email the project mentor using the contact information above to express your interest and get approval to work on the project. (Here are helpful tips on how to contact a project mentor.)
  2. After you receive approval from the mentor to start this project, click the button to start the digital badge. (Learn more about ELN's digital badge options.) 

Preparation activities

Once you begin the digital badge series, you will have access to all the necessary activities and instructions. Your mentor has indicated they would like you to also complete the specific preparation activities below. Please reference this when you get to Step 2 of the Preparation Phase. 

  • Cultural competency training