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Faculty debate focus areas for RENEW

By RACHEL STERN

Published May 28, 2015

“Selected focus areas will be ones that have the potential to propel UB into international research prominence and that make strategic sense for UB to invest in.”
Amit Goyal, director
UB RENEW

Potential next areas of focus for RENEW were proposed and debated during a two-day faculty workshop held May 18 and 19 in the Student Union Theater.

Just over 100 faculty members from six schools and colleges attended the workshop. The goal was to gather input for the selection of potential focus areas that RENEW (Research and Education in eNergy, Environment and Water) will hone in on as the initiative progresses forward.

“The workshop was exciting and all the key objectives were reached,” said Amit Goyal, RENEW’s director. “There is clearly a genuine desire by the faculty to take UB to new heights and I hope RENEW can serve as a platform for this engagement.”

RENEW is the model for UB’s new Communities of Excellence. It brings together faculty from across the university to focus on complex energy and environmental issues, as well as the social and economic ramifications. It helps develop and coordinate innovative research, education and outreach programs.

“Selected focus areas will be ones that have the potential to propel UB into international research prominence and that make strategic sense for UB to invest in,” Goyal said. “The workshop was valuable because anytime you get faculty together from diverse backgrounds, the expectation is rich conversation and debate.”

RENEW evolved from the UB 2020 plan to position the university as one of the world’s leading universities by investing in and harnessing UB’s research strengths to bring positive changes to the world. Launched in February 2014, RENEW aims to place UB at the forefront of research focused on sustainability, climate change and natural resources.

RENEW’s focus areas will be interdisciplinary and address pressing challenges around energy, the environment and water. The workshop discussions will influence focus areas that are eventually selected down the line, Goyal said.

“We will now take what was proposed and dig deeper and seek input from other stakeholders,” Goyal said. “We are looking to address grand challenges and build upon UB’s existing faculty strengths, interests and research facilities.”

RENEW is engaging more than 100 faculty members from six university schools and colleges — the School of Architecture and Planning, College of Arts and Sciences, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Law School, School of Management and School of Public Health and Health Professions.

Four seed research projects are already underway. The projects share $120,000 in university funding and involve:

  • Developing a cost-effective way to turn salt water into drinking water.
  • Studying offshore wind energy.
  • Tracking emerging sources of water pollution.
  • Examining how the demand for renewable energy is affecting farmland.