Interdisciplinary research addressing Utah’s natural environment


(motivational music) – Well, my PhD is in
environmental literature and my interest is in approaching
environmental problems from the perspective of the humanities. So what we do in the
environmental humanities is to try to understand
environmental issues using the tools of culture so we use aesthetics,
religion, literature, languages, history to try
to come up with solutions to sticky environmental problems. And, the university of
Utah is one of the leaders, one of the national leaders in the field of environmental humanities. – So, currently I’m a professor
at the University of Utah, I teach general chemistry so with the help of my students
both undergrad and grads. We’re trying to address two
of the biggest challenges that exist right now, so one is related to energy and the other one is
related to the environment. So, we constantly are developing
and synthesizing materials that can help us harvest
energy in a better way. Not just solar energy so we are actually trying to
harness other type of energies. And that could be the
energy of your body moving so that is mechanical energy or you can also have
energy that is related to your body heat, so in that case, that is
called thermoelectrics. So, the idea is that
it’s a materials issue, so the more materials that we get, developed to understand how these different processes behave, then the more efficient we are at harvesting these type of energy. – I think the environmental humanities is especially important right now where we have bigger storms,
more heat, rising oceans. What kinds of challenges
does this new context present to the people
who live on coastlines, the people who are in
need of water for farming, the people who are displaced
by the changing climate. And the work that the people
at the University of Utah and the heart scientists are doing to come up with solutions
to these problems is important work. The work people are doing
at the University of Utah are doing in engineering
is important work. And, we compliment and
supplement that work. – [Luisa] So, I had the opportunity to collaborate with Professor from physics, from engineering,
from biology, from math. That basically brings
another flavor to my research because now we have this
interdisciplinary network where we can address a problem from different points or
different perspectives. – Right here in Utah, we take on questions about energy, what’s our energy
future in the United States, about national parks, about
wilderness, about water use, about indigenous rights, about
pollution and air quality, these are crucial issues
happening right here. And it’s all the more important that we approach those issues from as many perspectives as possible. – [Luisa] The least amount of energy or the least amount of
products that we use in order to generate energy, the less impact we have
on the environment. – Wallace Stegner, Utah
Alum and local hero, calls the American West,
the native home of hope. And he says what we need to is, to quote “create a society
to match the scenery.” That’s exactly the work these students from the environmental
humanities are trying to do.

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