The Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability welcomes Professors Christine Goodale, the Frank H.T. Rhodes Professor of Environmental Science in the College of Arts and Sciences and K. Max Zhang, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering in the College of Engineering, as faculty directors. Beginning July 1, they will begin three-year terms to advance research efforts, strengthen cross-college collaborations, and guide the development of new programs.
“The faculty directors are critical to our distinct model of interdisciplinary research and training programs. Christy and Max have a long history of innovative approaches and engagement with the center, says David Lodge, the Francis J. DiSalvo Director of Cornell Atkinson. He added, “Their leadership in their fields and enthusiasm to drive university-wide efforts will fulfill key aspects of our knowledge-to-impact mission.”
Christine Goodale will be the inaugural holder of the new, fourth faculty directorship to include strategic growth of programming for students and postdocs at Cornell Atkinson. She studies how human-driven changes in climate, land use, and atmospheric chemistry influence the cycling and storage of carbon and nitrogen in forests.
“The increasing urgency and scope of the climate challenge require that we train the next generation of scholars in leadership and engagement across disciplines and with external players, in order to connect science to policy at global and local levels,” says Goodale. “This an excellent chance to expand opportunities and training for Cornell students and early career scientists in sustainability.”
Goodale served as principal investigator for a multi-year National Science Foundation Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) training grant. The program trained Cornell graduate students on the microbial- to global-scale drivers and feedbacks between climate change and biologically driven greenhouse gas fluxes, building on interdisciplinary measurement and modeling approaches as well as training in science communication. She also chaired the committee that created the cross-college Environment & Sustainability Sciences undergraduate major. Her research excellence, thought leadership, commitment to diversity and inclusion, and success in building innovative graduate and postdoctoral training align with this new faculty director role at the center.
K. Max Zhang will succeed Lindsay Anderson as the Kathy Dwyer Marble and Curt Marble Faculty Director. He studies the potential for energy technologies to influence the transition to renewable energy. He also studies the effects of airborne particulate matter and gaseous pollutants on ambient air quality and indoor environmental quality, using numerical models and experimental techniques.
“We strive to decarbonize the energy system on a very accelerated timescale. As a research institution, this is a big opportunity but finding ways to engage a host of stakeholders in creating solutions is key,” says Zhang. “Programs at Cornell Atkinson support faculty-led projects to connect with communities to do just that. This is an exciting time for this work and I look forward to scaling up interdisciplinary efforts at the center to even greater impact.”
Zhang is recognized as a leader in integrating multiple disciplines, community engagement and shaping practical approaches to complex challenges. The ambitious renewable energy goals of NY State’s 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act are the challenge that has driven him to shape innovative and scalable approaches at the community level in hopes that Cornell research can shape the new regulations. For example, his work as part of a 2017 Cornell Atkinson Academic Venture Fund to determine optimal placement of solar panels on farmland is inspired by community-based partnerships that can lead to the adoption of renewables and create co-benefits. He is the recipient of the 2017 Cornell Engaged Scholar Prize that recognizes a faculty member who inspires others with innovative integration of teaching, learning and research involving public or community-based partnerships.
Fifteen faculty members from six colleges have now served as faculty directors at Cornell Atkinson. To build on key tenets of the center’s strategic plan, faculty directors act as associate directors, emphasizing intellectual leadership. Faculty directors report to the director of Cornell Atkinson and work collaboratively as part of the center’s Executive Committee. Each faculty director is a tenured faculty member—typically a full professor--who has proven intellectual leadership in her/his/their field, an appreciation for interdisciplinary research, excellent organizational skills, intellectual integrity and diligence, a record of inclusivity, and an ability to see opportunities and challenges from a university-wide perspective.
C. Lindsay Anderson, who served a full term as faculty director from 2019-2021, is currently Interim Director of the Cornell Energy Systems Institute and will continue to co-lead the Increasing Energy Transitions Working Group at Cornell Atkinson.
John McKain is the Cornell Atkinson Director of Strategic Communications.