Fellow Spotlight: Benjamin Sommerkorn

Fellowship Type: Carbon Neutrality Initiative for Research

Campus: UC Riverside

Degree Objective: Mechanical Engineering Ph.D. with a Designated Emphasis in Public Policy at UC Riverside

Project Description: Ben’s project aims to collect data on water and electricity use on campus for the purpose of gaining a more detailed picture of the relationship between water and energy here at UC Riverside. From this model, Ben will develop a methodology for data collection for other campuses.

What impact does your fellowship work have on your campus, your community, the state, or the world? There is a famous quote, attributed to many, that states “You can not manage what you do not measure”. In the Water Action Plan for UCR, no actual data from the campus was used to determine our carbon footprint due to water usage. It is Ben’s intention to fill this gap and to provide the UC with one more tool to help manage our water and the electricity usage associated with it.

What is a recent success in your project? All of this data is spread across multiple agencies operating independent of one another within the campus. A university is a large place and typically built in small increments across many decades; it is no surprise the data for water and electricity is scattered. Ben’s biggest success to date has been working with agencies and bringing much of the data available together in one place, possibly for the first time.

Why are you interested in the Carbon Neutrality Initiative? Carbon Neutrality at the UC is hugely important for a variety of reasons. If it can happen at UC, it can influence the state. If California changes, the Nation can follow, and eventually the Globe. In a broader context to care about carbon neutrality is a fight to ensure a livable planet for future generations. Ben wants to leave the world a better place than he was given and that means being an active participant in the fight for a more a sustainable lifestyle.

What do you hope to do in the future using the tools you developed during the fellowship? Ben’s career goals are in science policy surrounding sustainability, renewable energy, and water conservation. Ben hopes to develop leadership skills, improve his public engagement and speaking abilities, forge connections with other students leaders who share his passions, and learn how to navigate the intricate relationship between water and energy.


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