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Plotting a Course for the Circular Economy

Melissa Bilec Receives $98K from NSF to Lead Circular Economy Workshop

PITTSBURGH (Sept. 17, 2020) — Experts in sustainability warn that the current economic model, forming a straight line from resource to product to waste, is unsustainable. Researchers are instead turning to the circular economy to disrupt that line, working toward a lifecycle of products that does not end in a landfill. Melissa Bilec, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, is currently leading a team of researchers studying the circular economy, the focus of another NSF Convergence grant, which received $1.3 million last year.

Bilec has received $98,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to convene a panel of experts to meet for a workshop on the circular economy that will help set the research agenda for years to come. The workshop brings together experts and thought leaders in academia, industry, government and nonprofits to discuss circular economy design from molecules to the built environment. In the course of three three-hour sessions over three weeks, the workshop will be an opportunity for the wide array of invited constituents to discuss and develop ideas in circular economy research.

“The NSF’s Convergence Accelerator Program selects one or two research tracks each year, and this year, and these workshops help to determine what those tracks will be,” explained Bilec, who is also the Roberta A. Luxbacher Faculty Fellow and deputy director of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation (MCSI). “This is a fantastic opportunity to build, foster and facilitate the community around this emerging area of sustainability research. It also has the potential to shape the direction of major research in the coming years.”

Bilec will team with Eric Beckman, Distinguished Service Professor of Chemical Engineering and co-director of MCSI, and Gemma Jiang, director of the Organizational Innovation Lab at the Swanson School. They are collaborating with the University of Georgia’s Jason Locklin, professor of chemical engineering and founding director of the New Materials Institute; Jenna Jambeck, professor of environmental engineering at the University of Georgia, and Gregg Beckham, senior research fellow at the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL).

The group will also call on the expertise of KnowInnovation, a company with extensive experience in virtual workshop facilitation. The workshops are taking place by invitation throughout the month of September. 

Author: Maggie Pavlick

Contact: Maggie Pavlick