Carnegie Mellon University
June 11, 2021

Junior Energized About Sustainability

Lauren Janicke awarded a NOAA Hollings Scholarship

By Heidi Opdyke

Daniel Carroll
  • College of Engineering
Abby Simmons
  • Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences
  • 412-268-6094

Lauren Janicke arrived at Carnegie Mellon University with the intention of studying sustainability.

"I understood that this was a big area to look at. But I narrowed it down to energy," said Janicke, who is pursuing a degree in civil and environmental engineering, an additional major in statistics and data science, and a minor in environmental and sustainability studies. "I learned about sustainability in high school, and it spoke to me. It affects us now and will affect us in the future."

This passion for sustainability and increasing the well-being of society has driven Janicke to participate in challenging research projects. With two more years until graduation, she is already conducting graduate work.

The summer after her first-year of college, Janicke participated in CMU's Summer Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship (SURA) course as part of Destenie Nock's Energy, Equity and Sustainability Group where she led multiple analyses, investigating everything from air pollution associated with transmission and distribution systems to the compounding effects of poverty at a national scale.

"Lauren is not afraid to dive headfirst into the unknown," said Nock, an assistant professor of engineering and public policy and civil and environmental engineering. "A great researcher is defined by their ability to cut through the uncertainty and complicated nature of social and technical decision making, which Lauren does masterfully."

As part of her work with Nock, Janicke created a risk assessment model to quantify the amount of carbon dioxide, atmospheric pollutants and particulate matter emissions associated with the transmission and distribution of electricity in the continental United States.

"She continued working with me during the semester to expand the work to a global analysis for 146 countries," Nock said. "Over the course of the SURA program her work was of such high quality that she is now a coauthor on an academic research paper."

During a virtual energy hackathon hosted by Carnegie Mellon's Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation, Janicke, a rising junior, worked with doctoral candidates to create an interactive dashboard to inform renewable energy investments in Uganda based on insights from data available on World Bank websites. The team's project examined power plants — in various stages of development — as well as transmission lines, population density, current electrification, wind potential and solar potential. The team provided statistics about Uganda, costs of potential renewable energy projects, social and political factors. Janicke created a graph showing the carbon dioxide offsets compared to using biofuels for potential projects as part of her contribution. The team took first place.

Recently Janicke's achievements have entered the national stage. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration awarded Janicke an Ernest F. Hollings scholarship. The award provides up to $9,500 for each of two years of study and a 10-week, full-time paid internship at a NOAA facility.

"I applied because I wanted to have a chance to learn more about how climate modeling works within the government and learn how to educate others about science," Janicke said.

In anticipation of the work at NOAA next year Janicke continues to build her research skills this summer at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Colorado. While at NREL she will build her data science skills.

"Lauren has exhibited a motivation and enthusiasm for her academic pursuits that I believe is noteworthy," said Glenn Clune, academic adviser in the Department of Statistics and Data Science. "She's passionate about what she's doing and has made a personal connection to her work. I am fully confident in her ability and I'm personally excited to see what she accomplishes next."

Abigail Owen, the director of education of CMU's Steinbrenner Institute for Environmental Education and Research and an assistant teaching professor in the Department of History, is the faculty adviser to CMU's minor in environmental and sustainability studies.

"Lauren chose a minor that combines science with humanities, and a focus on environmental justice," Owen said. "I'm excited for Lauren and how she includes humanity and the environment in her work."

— Related Content —