Growing up in Cameroon, West Africa, Bineh Ndefru saw many of her relatives who rely on farming for their livelihood suffer the negative impacts of climate change, from drought and displacement to climate-induced violence.
“My understanding of the world from this perspective led me to think about sustainability and resource management in a global way,” the UCLA doctoral student in materials science and engineering said.
It also led her to INFEWS at UCLA, a National Science Foundation–funded program that has helped students in the sciences and engineering connect their research to sustainability and trained them to tackle challenges related to urban food, energy and water systems as cities adjust to the growing pressures of global climate change.
“I am a materials scientist, but I am passionate about energy and climate issues and the intersection of technology and society,” Ndefru said. “INFEWS seemed like a great opportunity to engage with work and conversations about these issues more directly.”
Over five years, INFEWS (pronounced “infuse,” for Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy and Water Systems) has provided more than 60 UCLA graduate students with the knowledge, tools and hands-on experiences to begin developing sustainable solutions that can be implemented in Los Angeles and beyond.
Under the tutelage of a multidisciplinary team of UCLA faculty whose expertise runs from environmental research and nanoscience to engineering, public health and public affairs, program participants have visited aqueducts, ports, waste treatment plants, cleantech incubators and other sites in the city, gaining a firsthand perspective on the workings of urban systems to complement their classroom instruction.
“We educate the INFEWS scholars to solve societal problems via integrated urban solutions,” said Laurent Pilon, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and head of the INFEWS program at UCLA. “We want their story to be told to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers to join their future efforts.”