Confronting the Challenges of Climate Change

A split-frame image of an iceberg showing a small amount of ice above water and an enormous mass of ice underneath.

A symposium on the topic of energy and the environment in honor of Theodore "Ted" Brown, the Founding Director of the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018
Beckman Institute Auditorium
Register for the symposium

The Beckman Institute focuses on the issue of climate change in a tribute to Ted Brown’s 1971 book, "Energy and the Environment." Dr. Brown has long been interested in how our energy consumption is affecting the world we live in, and we invite you to take part in the discussion.

The symposium follows the annual Beckman-Brown Lecture on Interdisciplinary Science (3 pm Monday, October 15, 2018).

Please RSVP for the symposium by Wednesday, October 12, 2018.

Symposium Agenda

Tuesday, October 16, 2018, in the Beckman Auditorium and Atrium

7:45 am

8:15 am
Climate Predictions and Projections in the Coming Decades: Uncertainty due to Natural Variability
James Hurrell, Scott Presidential Chair of Environmental Science and Engineering, Colorado State University

Future climate change at local and regional scales will result from a combination of human and natural factors. In this talk, I show that unpredictable, internally generated climate fluctuations make a substantial contribution to climate trends projected for the next 50 years over North America and Europe. Results are based on large ensembles of climate change integrations with the Community Earth System Model (CESM). I also will show that the large-scale atmospheric circulation is responsible for much of the diversity in climate change projections across the individual ensemble members. I will conclude by discussing some implications of the results for model validation, intermodel comparisons, and interpretation of observed climate trends.

Speaker Biography
James (Jim) W. Hurrell is the Scott Presidential Chair of Environmental Science and Engineering at Colorado State University. He is a former director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), where he was also a senior scientist in the Climate and Global Dynamics Laboratory (CGD).

Jim received a Ph. D. (1990) in atmospheric science from Purdue University. He is also the former chief scientist of Community Climate Projects in CGD, which includes the Community Earth System Model (CESM), and a former director of CGD and the NCAR Earth System Laboratory.

Jim spent a year as a visiting scientist at the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research in the U.K. Jim's research has centered on empirical and modeling studies and diagnostic analyses to better understand climate, climate variability and climate change. He has authored or co-authored more than 100 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters, as well as dozens of other planning documents, workshop papers, and editorials. Jim has edited several books, and he has been acknowledged as a Highly Cited Researcher by Thomson-ISI. Jim has given more than 150 professional invited and keynote talks, as well as many other contributed presentations at national and international conferences.

9:15 am
A Role for Organometallic Chemistry in Sustainable Energy Accessibility: Synthetic Analogues of Hydrogenases
Marcetta York Darensbourg, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, Texas A&M University

From lessons learned in Ted Brown’s lab of the most fundamental chemistry of metal-carbon bonds in organolithium compounds, to the synthetic development of biomimetics containing carbon monoxide as ligands to iron in biology, the last half-century has provided this organometallic chemist with the background to contribute to the understanding of hydrogenases (H2ases). As nature’s masterpiece enzymes for hydrogen production and its use as an energy vector in hundreds of microorganisms, an array of enzymatic and spectroscopic probes, crowned by modern protein x-ray diffraction technology, provide opportunities for structure-function analysis of the intricate H2ase active-site molecular machinery, perhaps more explicitly than in any other known catalyst. This lecture will focus on key questions in a structure-function analysis of bioinspired electrocatalysts for the Hydrogen Evolution Reaction.

Speaker Biography
Professor Marcetta Y. Darensbourg is a native of Kentucky, with a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. Following academic posts at Vassar College and Tulane University, she joined the faculty at Texas A&M University in 1982. She holds the title of Distinguished Professor of Chemistry. Trained as an organometallic chemist at the University of Illinois in the laboratories of Professor Theodore L. Brown, and with earlier research programs in low-valent transition metal hydrides, the possibility of metal hydrides in nature, specifically as intermediates in hydrogenase enzymes lured her into the new field of bioorganometallic chemistry. She has been a leader in the development of synthetic analogues of the diiron hydrogenase active site and the insight they bring to the catalytic mechanism of these natural fuel cell catalysts. Metalloenzyme active sites that catalyze carbon-carbon coupling reactions but use abundant metals such as nickel also inspire her research activities.

She was an inaugural Fellow of the American Chemical Society in 2009 and was elected as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2011, to the Royal Society of Chemistry in 2014, and the National Academy of Sciences in 2017. Most recently, she was selected by the Southeastern Conference as the 2018 SEC Professor of the Year.

10:15 am

10:30 am
Carbon Capture and Utilization (CCU): Polycarbonates Produced from Carbon Dioxide
Donald J. Darensbourg , Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, Texas A&M University

Carbon capture and utilization (CCU) processes represent effective options for reducing CO2 emission. In this context, several processes exist that use sizeable quantities of carbon dioxide, e.g., the production of urea, methanol, cyclic carbonate, and polymers. CCU’s contribution to reducing the greenhouse effect would be greatly enhanced if the technology was available for efficiently converting CO2 into energy-rich products or fuels. The copolymerization of CO2 and epoxides to synthesize degradable aliphatic polycarbonates is a promising approach. For example, aliphatic polycarbonates have been proposed as alternatives to petro-based chemicals in automotive, medical, and electronic applications. This presentation will focus on the development of efficient procedures for the preparation of CO2-based polymeric materials for wide scale industrial use, as well as designer polymers for potential applications in the biomedical fields.

Speaker biography:
Donald J. Darensbourg was born in Baton Rouge, LA., in 1941 and received his B.S. and Ph.D. degrees from California State University at Los Angeles and the University of Illinois/Urbana, respectively. Following a nine-month period at the Texaco Research Center in Beacon, NY, he was on the faculties of State University of New York at Buffalo from 1969 to 1972 and Tulane University from 1973 to 1982. He has been at Texas A&M University since 1982 where he currently is a distinguished professor. His research interests have been in mechanistic inorganic/organometallic chemistry with an emphasis on catalytic processes. Presently, his focus is on the utilization of CO2 as both a monomer and solvent in copolymerization reactions with oxiranes and oxetanes, and the ring-opening polymerization of renewable monomers such as lactides.

11:30 am

1:00 pm
Managing World Soils for Confronting the Challenges of Climate Change
Rattan Lal, Distinguished University Professor of Soil Science and Director of the Carbon Management and Sequestration Center, Ohio State University, and Adjunct Professor of the University of Iceland.

World soils can be a source or sink of atmospheric carbon (C) depending on land use and management. The magnitude of the depletion of soil organic C (SOC) depends on climate, soil profile characteristics, landscape position, soil moisture and temperature regimes, soil texture, clay mineralogy and internal drainage. In general, the extent and severity of soil degradation (i.e., decline in soil aggregation and aggregate stability; accelerated erosion by water and wind; salinization, nutrient depletion, elemental imbalance) exacerbate the magnitude of SOC depletion. Therefore, conversion of degraded soils to a restorative land use and adoption of conservation-effective practices can create a positive soil/ecosystem C budget and make soil a sink of atmospheric CO2.

Speaker Biography
Rattan Lal, Ph.D., is a Distinguished University Professor of Soil Science and director of the Carbon Management and Sequestration Center, the Ohio State University (OSU), and an adjunct professor of the University of Iceland. He received B.S. from Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana; M.S. from Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi; and Ph.D. from OSU. He served as senior research fellow with the University of Sydney, Australia (1968-69), soil physicist at IITA, Ibadan, Nigeria (1970-87), and professor of soil science at OSU (1987-to date). He has authored/co-authored 907 refereed journal articles and 529 book chapters, has written 20 and edited/co-edited 71 books. He is included in the Thomson Reuters list of the World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds (2014, 2015), and among the most cited scientists (2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017). He received the Honoris Causa degree from five universities in Europe and Asia, Medal of Honor from UIMP, Santander, Spain (2018), the Distinguished Service Medal of IUSS (2018), and is a fellow of the five professional societies. Dr. Lal mentored 110 graduate students and 174 visiting scholars from around the world. He was president of the World Association of Soil and Water Conservation (1987-1990), International Soil and Tillage Research Organization (1988-1991), Soil Science Society of America (2006-2008) and is the current president of the International Union of Soil Sciences (2017-2018).

2:00 pm
Harnessing Plants to Fight Climate Change

Joanne Chory, Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; Professor and Director, Plant Biology Laboratory at The Salk Institute for Biological Studies

Steadily rising atmospheric carbon levels pose a significant challenge due to their effects on climate. To counteract this CO2 accumulation, technologies are needed that draw down CO2 and store it stably for centuries. Plants are a natural solution to this challenge, as their main activity is fixing CO2 and converting it into biomass. However, most of the biomaterials synthesized by plants are degraded annually, releasing the fixed carbon back into the atmosphere and limiting plants’ ability to reduce atmospheric CO2 levels. We propose to develop plant varieties that can stably sequester significant amounts of carbon in the soils of marginal lands through the production of suberin, a highly stable biopolymer.

Speaker Biography
Joanne Chory is an Investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and is a professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, where she directs the Plant Biology Laboratory. She is the inaugural chair holder of the Howard H. and Maryam R. Newman Chair in Plant Biology. She is also an adjunct professor of biology at the University of California, San Diego. Chory is interested in identifying the mechanisms by which plants respond to changes in their light environment. These studies are relevant to plant adaptation to global climate change, and have been key in elucidating the mechanisms by which plants grow.

A native of Massachusetts, Chory received an A.B. degree in biology with honors from Oberlin College, OH, a Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and conducted postdoctoral research at Harvard Medical School. In 1988, she joined the faculty of the Salk Institute. Chory has served on numerous advisory committees and editorial boards. She has been the recipient of several awards, including most recently, the Genetics Society Medal, the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, and the Gruber prize in Genetics.

Chory is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the German National Academy of Sciences (Leopoldina), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She is a foreign member of the Royal Society of London, a foreign associate of the French Academy of Sciences, and is an associate member of EMBO.

3:00 pm

3:15 pm
Can Nanotechnology Save the World?
Catherine J. Murphy, Larry R. Faulkner Endowed Chair in Chemistry, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Nanotechnology is the applied study of objects in the 1-100 nm regime, especially if the objects have size-dependent behavior in that regime. In this talk I will outline the fundamental science behind nanotechnology and describe how many scientists and engineers are using nano-enabled technologies for cleaner water, cleaner air, cleaner energy, and improved agricultural practices. But in addition to the promises of nanotechnology, there is peril in their potential environmental impacts. I will also describe work from the Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology, a consortium of universities across the country, that address the latter challenge.

Speaker Biography
Catherine J. Murphy is the Larry R. Faulkner Endowed Chair in Chemistry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). She earned two B.S. degrees from UIUC in 1986, one in chemistry and one in biochemistry, while conducting undergraduate research with T. B. Rauchfuss. She obtained her Ph.D. in 1990 at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, under the direction of A. B. Ellis. From 1990-1993 she was an NSF and then an NIH postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of J. K. Barton at the California Institute of Technology. Murphy started her independent career at the University of South Carolina’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in 1993, and rose through the ranks there, ultimately becoming the Guy F. Lipscomb Professor of Chemistry in 2003. In 2009 she returned to UIUC.

Her research interests include the synthesis, surface chemistry, optical properties, biological applications and environmental implications of colloidal metal nanocrystals, especially gold. She is the winner of the 2011 Inorganic Nanoscience Award from the American Chemical Society’s Division of Inorganic Chemistry, was named a 2011 Fellow of the American Chemical Society, a 2014 Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, and a 2017 Fellow of the Materials Research Society. She won the Carol Tyler Award from the International Precious Metals Institute in 2013, and the Transformational Research and Excellence in Education (TREE) Award from the Research Corporation for Scientific Advancement in 2015. In 2015 she was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. In addition to her research, she is well-known to the chemistry community as the Deputy Editor of the Journal of Physical Chemistry C (2011-present) and as a co-author (with Ted Brown!) of the best-selling general chemistry textbook Chemistry: the Central Science, from the 10th to the current 14th editions.

4:15 pm
TerraPower and Nuclear Energy Innovation

John Gilleland, Chief Technical Officer, TerraPower

In 2006, Bill Gates and colleagues gathered to discuss how to provide energy to the world’s population in an environmentally acceptable manner. At that time 2 billion people had little of the energy needed to support acceptable levels of wellness. Nuclear energy was identified as one of the essential elements of any low carbon global energy infrastructure. This talk will present how innovation has led to a new type of nuclear reactor operating within a greatly simplified nuclear infrastructure. This traveling wave reactor (TWR) system offers new inherent safety features, reduced waste, more efficient use of uranium resources, enhanced weapons resistance, and new carbon-free industrial applications.

Speaker Biography:
Gilleland has spent most of the past 48 years working on advanced energy systems. After studying physics at Yale University and the University of Michigan, he turned in 1969 to fusion energy research at General Atomics in La Jolla California. There he worked with Tihiro Ohkawa on new magnetic fusion concepts and helped establish the DIIID tokamak program, which is still ongoing. From 1987 to 1991, he was managing director of the International Tokamak Experimental Reactor (ITER) Program during its initial conceptual design phase. From 1991 to 1998, he was chief scientist of the Bechtel Corporation, where he had executive responsibility for numerous large and small renewable energy programs in solar, wind, geothermal and biomass as well as nuclear fission.

In 1998, he founded Archimedes Technology Group, where new plasma-based approaches to nuclear waste disposal were successfully tested.

In 2006 he joined Bill Gates and Nathan Myhrvold in an examination of new fission reactor concepts. Shortly thereafter they founded TerraPower, LLC, which Gilleland led as CEO till 2015. The company has focused primarily on the development of the traveling wave reactor, which is now in preparation for construction. He continues to work full time on several corporate initiatives as the chief technical officer of the company.

5:15 pm
Closing remarks

5:30 pm
Closing reception with audience open mic

Organizing Committee
Jeff S. Moore, Director, Beckman Institute; Jonathan Sweedler, Director; School of Chemical Sciences; Martin Gruebele, Head, Department of Chemistry; Evan DeLucia, Director, Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment; Gene Robinson, Director, Carle R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology.

Organizing Committee Point of Contact
Patty Jones, Associate Director for Research, Beckman Institute