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Behavior Energy Economics Sustainability & Technology

From large-scale technological advancements in energy and sustainability to personal behavioral decision-making opportunities, the intersection of energy, technology and behavior is a critical juncture for understanding and achieving a sustainable and resilient society. BEEST provides an interdisciplinary place for undergraduate and graduate students to explore specific topics within this broader research area, including topics such as scalability of energy efficiency, management and stewardship of water resources, environmental and policy influences on electricity markets, medical technologies as models for sustainability practices, water infrastructure disparities, resilient communities, integration of greenways/nature with smart grids, smart cities, and techno-behavioral influencers on energy decision-making.

Faculty Heading link


Elizabeth A. Kócs, PhD, Director, Partnerships & Strategy, UIC Energy Initiative

Partner Alumni Members Heading link

Brooke Ousterhout 

Coming from an environmental geography background, Brooke is fascinated by the interconnectivity between space and people.  Brooke loves observing the factors that drive people to manipulate their environment and understanding the short and long-term effects of those decisions. She is also deeply concerned with our energy future. As our global impact has breached unsustainable limits, we need to quickly and thoughtfully reconsider our energy decisions.  The drive to understand people, geography, and energy has led Brooke to pursue a Master’s of Urban Planning with a special focus on energy planning. Brooke is exploring the possibilities of microgrids, renewable energy, and battery storage systems for a variety of geographical areas, beginning with Chicago. Brooke has been granted a fellowship by the Advanced Energy Group that will allow her to further explore these interests in a workshop setting. Each quarter, a group of multi-disciplinary energy stakeholders gather to flesh out various topics from microgrids to on-site renewable energy generation

Dhruti Patel 

Dhruti Patel is a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Chicago pursuing her Masters in Energy Engineering. She started her professional path within the power industry as a structural engineer designing power plants and then disrupted her career to seek opportunities within the field of sustainability, energy and technology. Now, she is an Energy Engineer at Goby Inc., a sustainability technology firm head-quartered in downtown Chicago. As an energy engineer, Dhruti works with the commercial real estate industry to reduce buildings energy usage and improve energy related operations and maintenance. She believes the path to strategic energy management should entail data analytics, innovative technologies and a collaborative approach amongst various stake holders. She knows the future of energy efficiency is thinking beyond mechanical systems and incorporating grid dynamics in every day operations and maintenance. Her interest is in researching the applications of engineering within the energy industry while investigating the wider social response. Dhruti’s writing is motivated by the impact of new energy related technologies on the socio-economic environment of the United States. Her research with the University of Illinois at Chicago is understanding the hurdles for retail spaces to achieve energy efficiency, exploring the influencing factors for sustained behavioral change between owners and tenants, and studying various technologies in the market place that aid in advancing energy consumption visibility. The goal of her current paper is to identify a scalable retail energy efficiency model that can grow organically, expand to achieve energy efficiency at strip malls and encourage market transformation.

Former Members Heading link

Alysha Mancha

Alysha’s interests are in big data, public health/water treatment, and student visibility in sustainability. Her research took a look at the visibility of sustainable practices in SEL classroom wet labs from the students’ perspective at UIC. The data was collected from January 2015- April 2015. A miniature research literature review was created to explore various topics with consultation from Green Labs and the faculty department heads approval. Along with that, a social media plan was constructed for SISE and other programs related to the UIC Energy Initiative via Twitter, Facebook, and the Energy Initiative blog on the website. She also wrote a research paper taking a look at global initiatives from the US, EU, and China regarding Li-ion batteries and recycling. Her goals are to attribute the data in a way to improve scientific literacy and health literacy in the age of the Internet and the Internet of things.

Paule Nguendang

Paule’s research explores health and society. Hundreds of years ago, medicine was at a rudimentary stage and practice was done firmly on believes. It was until the 19th century that change in the practice of medicine was apparent as the machine began to be increasingly used for diagnosis and therapeutic regimens. Since then, advancement in medical technology has continuously improved over the year with old technology been enhanced and new technology been developed. The increased demands of these technologies caused a shift in the atmosphere leading to climate change; and one of the factors that cause climate change is the upsurge usage of energy. Hospitals are energy and resource enterprise that contribute significantly to climate change while unintentionally contributing to many other illnesses. By reducing the amount of energy through more sustainable new medical devices and greenish infrastructure, the health sector will play a leadership role in advocating for a healthy and sustainable future. Therefore, her paper is intended to promote sustainable technological innovation through energy efficiency and its diffusion throughout developed and developing countries.

Rajas Gupta

Rajas wishes to contribute to the field of environmental economics, especially renewables and work in the the sector of sustainability focusing on energy policies, both on a micro and a macro level.

Jashaun Bowens

Jashaun’s current research is concentrated on water systems and the water distribution process here in the United States. To go more in depth, he would like to understand how certain socioeconomic factors contribute to the quality of water in different demographic areas, and how government and industry play a crucial role in the distribution process. His interest in the topic of water started after understanding the lead crisis in Flint, Michigan. It shocked him that a place in a country like the United States could not have access to safe drinking water, it made him very anxious to understand why problems like these occur and how to prevent them from happening in the future.


Schaudieh Samadi

Her research project on community resilience will explore convergent and divergent themes on community resilience and place them in context within a present-day example. More so than any other time in history, communities and people are disconnected from the sources and production of basic human needs – food, energy, and water. As the world looks to change its present human impact on the globe, opportunities are emerging for re-envisioning how society, communities, and individuals positively influence those changes, from the use of renewable and sustainable resources to localization of production and consumption. A resilient community is one that is able to sustain itself through the use of existing available sources in response to, as well as to overcome, harsh climate conditions. With the increasing impact of climate change, understanding key components of communities considered to be resilient can offer insight into how present-day communities can potentially structure themselves to deal with increasing populations in urban areas while being mindful of valuable resources. This research project will explore and characterize the factors for community resilience, and make recommendations for defining characteristics of resilient communities of the future.

Undergraduate Member Heading link

Ruxandra Griza

Ruxandra’s interests lies in food packaging and society. Food packaging is meant to contain and protect food, extend its shelf life, maintain food safety, and provide information about the food. Recent technological developments in active and intelligent food packaging have expanded on the ability of packaging to relay information about the product’s condition and to maintain optimal quality for longer periods of time. These improvements are key, given that billions of pounds of food are wasted every year in the United States alone, causing wide ranging social and environmental ramifications. Even though these technologies exist, they are not currently widely used. Therefore, this literature review explores not only the specific smart food packaging applications that exist, but also the extent to which they are used and their potential to reduce food waste. The review also touches on the social aspect of food waste and packaging technologies, such as the social consequences of food waste, the causes of wasteful behaviors, and possible consumer reactions to smart packaging applications.