By Katie Neitz
Kira Lawrence, John H. Markle professor of geology and department head, was recently awarded an Eagleton Science and Politics Fellowship for 2020-2021.
The program, which is administered by the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, enables Ph.D.-level scientists the opportunity to share their expertise with New Jersey state policy makers and government officials to advance state initiatives and enables fellows to learn about how public policy takes shape.
Lawrence, a climate scientist and New Jersey resident, is working to help inform climate-related policy within the Division of Clean Energy at the state’s Board of Public Utilities, which has been tasked with many of the elements of New Jersey’s clean-energy transition.
The Murphy Administration has declared an ambitious goal of transitioning the state to 100-percent clean energy by 2050 and an 80-percent reduction in emissions relative to 2006 levels. Lawrence’s expertise will help develop and shape some of the policies that will be implemented to support that transition.
As part of the fellowship, Lawrence will work on projects that support the development of offshore wind installations and research renewable energy storage approaches which will help provide a backstop against the intermittency of renewable energy generation and stabilize electric distribution systems.
“This is a first-hand opportunity for me to see how science interacts with public policy,” says Lawrence, who is completing the fellowship while on sabbatical during the 2020-21 academic year.
“This experience will enrich my teaching of my climate change class and provide experiences and expertise that will help me develop new curricular opportunities in Lafayette’s environmental science and studies programs,” she says. “In the years to come, there will be a huge demand for people who understand renewable energy and energy policy and who have the skills to help implement clean-energy transitions. Because of our unique identity as a small liberal arts college with a robust engineering division, there is a real opportunity for Lafayette students to be leaders in these fields, and this fellowship will enable me to better prepare our students to embrace those opportunities.”
Lawrence is also passionate about this work on a personal level.
“I feel a deep sense of wanting to contribute to this cause and help this dedicated group of people do this very important work on behalf of our state and our society,” Lawrence says. “I’m proud of Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration’s ambitious Energy Master Plan. I am appreciative of the opportunity to participate in this effort to help confront the climate crisis, and I am hopeful that states like New Jersey that are breaking new ground in transitioning away from a fossil fuel-based approach can build models that help other states and governments rapidly make this necessary transition in the future.”