June 13, 2016
Jo is currently an associate professor of technology at Illinois State University and the associate director at the Center for Renewable Energy. In February 2016, he and two other faculty members at Illinois State University were recipients of the Outstanding Cross-Disciplinary Team Research Award.
Why did you choose the School of Sustainability at ASU?
I did my master’s degree at Columbia University, then applied for PhD programs at a few different places, including Columbia and Princeton. Although I was admitted to another university, I found the School of Sustainability was a perfect fit for what I had in mind – to explore a variety of strategies to achieve urban system sustainability.
Until one of my friends introduced me to the School of Sustainability, I hadn’t thought about applying to Arizona State University. The program ended up being a great place for me, and I was able to complete it in three years. The faculty challenged me, supported me and helped me frame out my research direction.
How are you leading the way to a sustainable future?
I consider myself a sustainability scientist and energy planner – a change agent working in the energy field. I try to use the sustainability framework to achieve things in the energy field and provide a different view on energy issues. I wouldn’t be able to achieve this without the help I got while pursuing my doctorate degree at ASU.
I focus most of my studies on renewable energy, and go back and check the sustainability framework to measure the things I am doing against it. Often, you can work on something that can be very complex; the systemic approach helps me go back and see how it is working out, and how the strategy would create a subsequent impact on different scales.
Since joining ISU, I helped reshape the renewable energy program and developed more than five new courses. The department started with 40-50 students. Now, we have around 80 undergraduates, but we really want to expand to the graduate level. This would make the program more interdisciplinary, encompassing business, technology and economics, for example. I am one of the few who strongly believes in the power of interdisciplinary approaches.
I have completed a couple of grant projects, both at the state and federal levels. One is the ongoing work here on campus known as the Solar Pathways Project, which was funded by the Department of Energy. This project has supported a sustainable energy initiative on campus through which we planned large-scale solar implementation. I have collaborated with different stakeholders – the student body, administration, staff and different departments –and the project team will eventually come up with an energy roadmap for the university.