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10 October 2011
Left to right, Julian Beresford-Pierse, Dow Chemical Company,
Robert Pott, Alison Banwell, Alexandra Pearson, and Marcos Pelenur
Photo by Han Hutton, CPSL
The Dow Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge has awarded £18,500 to four outstanding Cambridge students for their efforts to address urgent global problems.
Two of the prize winners are from the Department of Engineering; Marcos Pelenur a PhD student from the Centre for Sustainable Development, will receive £6,000 through the award. Alexandra Pearson, an MPhil student, receives £500 as runner-up.
Marcos was awarded the prize for his outstanding research on a socio-technical approach towards creating behavioural change, reducing energy demand, and improving well-being. He investigated the social and technical context of domestic housing retrofits. Marcos asked why housing – which emits 45 per cent of the UK’s CO2 – consumes so much energy.
His highly original approach explores the cultural factors affecting home energy use, by combining sociological methods with an engineering focus. Marcos said: “This prize will have an immediate impact on my research. I hope my results will help the UK meet its sustainability goals.”
Alexandra Pearson, working on a critical review of sustainability in new product development, was appointed the single outstanding runner-up. Her work looks at how companies embed sustainability goals when developing new products. She told judges that “being recognised by Dow will allow me to extend my research to include a greater number of UK base design and manufacturing organisations.”
Developed alongside Dow Chemical Company’s 2015 Sustainability Goals, the Student Challenge rewards innovative research and celebrates the energy, commitment and enthusiasm of those working on today’s most pressing social, economic and environmental problems.
The University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership (CPSL) focuses on building awareness of social and environmental challenges among senior business leaders. For the past three years CPSL have administered this global prize at the University of Cambridge on behalf of Dow. Cambridge is among seven universities taking place worldwide; each year, three prizes worth £6000 are awarded to three students from each university.
This year, the scheme attracted 80 applications from 15 different schools and departments – highlighting the range of outstanding research taking place across Cambridge.
Neil Hawkins, Dow’s vice-president of Sustainability and Environment, Health and Safety, said: “This programme helps foster creativity and inspires a spirit of collaboration between industry and universities, while helping to address important world challenges.”
Shortlisted Engineering students included Kristen MacAskill an Engineering for Sustainable Development MPhil student, who is developing a model for businesses to integrate sustainability risks; Manjusha Thorpe, an MPhil student researching ways to scale up sustainable biotechnology processes; and also José Vallejo, an Engineering for Sustainable Development MPhil student who leads the 'Eco House Initiative' – a consortium of 100 students working together on a proposal for low-cost and sustainable housing for the developing world.
“This was a very difficult decision to make,” said Mike Peirce, CPSL’s director of strategy and communications and chair of the judging panel. “The students’ presentations brought their projects to life and demonstrated the exceptional quality of their work. We would have been delighted for any of the shortlisted applicants to represent Cambridge internationally.”
Cambridge is one of seven universities taking part in Dow’s Student Challenge globally – alongside the University of Michigan, the University of California, Berkeley, Tufts University, Northwestern University, Peking University and the University of Sao Paulo.
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