Seaver News

Training a Generation of Green Engineers


Faculty Achievements

Green EngineersEric Strauss, one of seven President’s Professors at Loyola Marymount, sees great potential for sustainability programs in the Frank R. Seaver College of Science and Engineering. An expert in urban ecology, Strauss’ No. 1 goal at LMU is to start a graduate program in urban ecology. He describes his work at LMU as “engaging the Jesuit mission and using science and engineering to transform communities.” After 15 years as founding director of environmental studies and a biology professor at Boston College, Strauss was appointed a President’s Professor at LMU in fall 2010. Strauss is collaborating with faculty in Seaver College to create urban ecology and sustainability programs for undergraduate and graduate students. An urban ecology track is now part of the systems engineering program. Historically, LMU engineering graduates went into the aerospace industry. Today, LMU engineering graduates are “excited about options for green jobs,” said Strauss. Job prospects in the field are very good, the professor added. “We can train a new generation of engineers to be experts in green engineering,” said Strauss. “There are as many entrepreneurial, socially conscious opportunities for engineers as any other profession.” Strauss believes “huge contributions to sustainability can be made by engineers.” Hybrid cars are an excellent example of sustainable engineering. Converting the heat energy in brakes into electrical energy that in turn saves fuel is an “engineering miracle,” said Strauss. Using scientific research to formulate creative solutions is a big part of urban ecology and engineering. One challenge facing engineers and urban ecologists today is how to “respond to effects of climate change,” said Strauss. He noted that desertification — the degradation of land in arid and semi-arid areas — is one byproduct of climate change that affects California, and in turn, the entire country. Engineers also have a hand in agricultural matters. StraussQuoteAs a result of decentralized farming in the United States, 80 percent of winter vegetables come from California. “One of the biggest demands on the water supply in California is agriculture,” Strauss said. Drip irrigation is an engineering solution that allows farmers to use less water. Strauss pointed out that current means of delivering California-grown vegetables across the country could be more efficient as well, and he believes that it’s up to engineers to solve this transportation puzzle. Strauss earned a doctorate in biology from Tufts University and taught at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, for five years before joining the faculty at Boston College. In addition to creating interdisciplinary programs in urban ecology at LMU, he plans to create a research center at the university. “LMU is taking the issue of sustainability very seriously,” Strauss said.