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Addressing environmental challenges such as climate change, fresh water scarcity, and sustainable food production is essential for the well-being of current and future generations.  This is motivating a lot of engineering research and development, but history indicates that there is no guarantee that the resulting technologies will truly address these challenges.  While technologies greatly enhance human well-being, they also contribute to the degradation of ecosystems: the very systems that sustain our well-being.  This talk will argue that engineering will not be able to deliver technologies for sustainable development without a paradigm shift toward respecting nature.  This is because the underlying reason for environmental side-effects of technological advances and their large-scale adoption is that engineering takes nature for granted by considering it to be an infinite source and sink.  Furthermore, environmental problems tend to shift across time, space, disciplines and types of flows into domains that are outside conventional engineering.  We will describe on-going research to overcome these shortcomings, and show how learning from nature and seeking synergies between technological and ecological systems can result in innovative process and supply chain designs that are economically and environmentally superior to conventional designs.  We will describe a multiscale modeling framework to ensure that technologies do not just shift problems outside the system boundary.  This framework connects models from molecules to processes to the economy and is useful for advancing life cycle assessment and progress toward a sustainable circular economy.  These efforts are steps toward the eventual convergence of engineering with ecology and economics.


Bhavik Bakshi is the Richard M. Morrow Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at The Ohio State University.  His research is motivated by the need for an engineering that enhances human well-being, is societally acceptable, and respects ecological limits.  To meet this challenge his work integrates across disciplines such as process systems engineering, systems ecology, environmental economics, energy policy, and applied statistics.  In addition to many papers and invited talks, his contributions across these disciplines include a textbook on sustainable engineering, user-friendly software for life cycle assessment, editorial board memberships of several multidisciplinary journals, and short courses taught at institutions such as MIT and IIT-Bombay.  His work has been recognized by awards that include research excellence and education awards from the Sustainable Engineering Forum of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), the Lawrence K. Cecil Award for environmental research from the Environmental Division of AIChE, the CAREER award from the U.S. National Science Foundation, and several best paper awards from journals and conferences. He has also served on task forces of the United Nations Environment Program and for campus sustainability at OSU.  Prof. Bakshi received his Bachelor of Chemical Engineering degree from the Institute of Chemical Technology in Mumbai, MS in Chemical Engineering Practice and Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with a minor in Technology and Environmental Policy through courses and research conducted at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

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