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New Johns Hopkins Institute Studies Environment, Energy, Sustainability and Health

February 17, 2011
MEDIA CONTACT: Phil Sneiderman

Drawing on faculty expertise in environmental science and engineering, public health and other areas, The Johns Hopkins University has launched an Environment, Energy, Sustainability and Health Institute to promote research and education in topics ranging from green energy practices to climate change and related health issues.

“This kind of research right now is distributed all across the university,” said Benjamin Hobbs, director of the institute. “Because of this, it’s been a challenge to put together interdisciplinary teams to study these topics, and our profile on these issues is not as high as it should be. The institute’s goal is to encourage these research and education partnerships and to promote Johns Hopkins as a world leader in these areas.”

The creation of this institute, called E2SHI for short (and pronounced eh-shee), was a key recommendation in the university’s Implementation Plan for Advancing Sustainability and Climate Stewardship, which was drafted in 2010. The institute began taking shape last year, when the university Provost’s Office contributed startup funds. Then, the deans at Johns Hopkins’ Whiting School of Engineering, Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, and Bloomberg School of Public Health approved E2SHI’s charter and agreed to provide financial support.

Hobbs, the Theodore M. and Kay W. Schad Professor in Environmental Management, was selected as the institute’s first director. Cindy Parker, an assistant professor with dual appointments in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences and the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, was named associate director.

Ben Hobbs, seen in this file photo in front of the Homewood power plant, has been named inaugural director of the Environment, Energy, Sustainability and Health Institute. Photo: Will Kirk/Homewoodphoto.jhu.edu

Ben Hobbs, seen in this file photo in front of the Homewood power plant, has been named inaugural director of the Environment, Energy, Sustainability and Health Institute. Photo: Will Kirk/Homewoodphoto.jhu.edu

In recent weeks, activity at the institute has accelerated.

● The institute has launched an internal seed grant program, offering up to $25,000 to begin institute-related research projects that involve cross-divisional collaborations and that are likely to receive longer-term funding from outside sources.

● On its new website ( http://e2shi.jhu.edu/ ), the institute is spreading the word about other grant opportunities related to air quality, energy and environmental sustainability.

● The institute has set up a fellowship program to support graduate students who will engage in multidisciplinary research on the environment, energy supply and use, economic and ecological sustainability, or projects that have a public health link to these topics.

● Plans are under way for an April 20 kickoff event that will feature a welcome statement from university President Ronald J. Daniels and a symposium on institute-related topics.

Hobbs said that he is “immensely pleased by the interest shown in our startup and fellowship programs as the institute gets rolling. People across the university are talking about how they might work together on research in science, engineering and policy that will be critical to helping Johns Hopkins, Maryland and, indeed, the world on the path to sustainability.”

The institute’s aim is to become financially self-sufficient by obtaining grants, contracts and donations. Another goal is to establish ties to other Johns Hopkins divisions, including the Applied Physics Laboratory, School of Medicine, School of Advanced International Studies and Carey Business School. Initially, the Whiting School is hosting the institute.

“This is an area in which I believe Johns Hopkins can have a major impact,” said Nick Jones, the Benjamin T. Rome Dean of the school. “The institute provides the structure necessary to create highly complementary cross-divisional collaborations, leverage existing expertise and attract new funding and research partners as we systematically address issues of global importance.”

Institute director Hobbs said that the organization follows the general model established by the university’s Homewood campus-based Institute for NanoBioTechnology. The INBT, launched in 2006, is largely a “virtual” organization that has limited facilities of its own but promotes interdisciplinary projects involving more than 200 affiliated researchers in five Johns Hopkins divisions. Since its creation, INBT has attracted more than $25 million in interdisciplinary research funding.

In addition to fostering Johns Hopkins research in its own specialized topics, the Environment, Energy, Sustainability and Health Institute will seek to enhance and coordinate environmental curricula at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Yet another goal is to develop partnerships with the business sector, government agencies, environmental groups and Baltimore community organizations. The institute also will work with the university’s Office of Sustainability in connection with ongoing carbon reduction efforts.

“Other universities have established environmental institutes,” Hobbs said. “However, we have unique capabilities—especially in the health, space technology, green energy and policy areas—that will enable Johns Hopkins to contribute in ways no one else can. We are enthused about the quality of people and research already happening here, and we believe that working together will enable utterly remarkable things to happen.”


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