News | Announcements

Converting Food Waste into Fuel for Renewable Energy

A study by Rutgers University's Agricultural Experimental Station last year suggested that New Jersey was not utilizing the potential energy from biomass — organic materials like plants and waste that could be used to produce electricity or propel vehicles.

The food waste from a local supermarket, restaurant, or catering hall could end up being the fuel that serves a source of renewable energy for New Jersey. That's the goal of a bill moving through the Legislature, which would require large generators of garbage to separate and recycle food waste with the aim of converting it to energy... Learn more

Rutgers Awarded NSF Nexus of Food, Energy and Water Grant

Rachael Shwom, REI member, and Cara Cuite, Department of Human Ecology, are part of a multi-university team that received a grant in October 2016 from the National Science Foundation, through their Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy and Water program. The total grant was for $2,983,358, and Rutgers is receiving $419,184 for the project: Reducing Household Food, Energy and Water Consumption: A Quantitative Analysis of Interventions and Impacts of Conservation.

Cara Cuite, associate research professor, is a health psychologist who studies community food security, risk communication and public perceptions of food-related issues, including food safety and genetically engineered foods. Rachael Shwom, an associate professor, is a sociologist who is interested in how different groups of people in society make sense of and respond to energy and climate change problems.

Their project focuses on understanding and seeking ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through conservation of household consumption of food, energy and water. Experimental research will be conducted in residential households in two case-study communities, selected to be representative of U.S. suburban households.

More than 20 students and early-career scientists from underrepresented groups will join the large research team and will have the opportunity to train and collaborate with colleagues across the United States and the Netherlands, a highly industrialized nation that uses 20% less energy and water per person than the U.S.

The graduate students will be involved in multiple aspects of the grant including: 1) the development of role playing games 2) the development of household food, energy, and water consumption data collection procedures, and 3) the development and analysis of household practices to decrease household greenhouse gas emissions via food, energy and water consumption.

The project is scheduled to conclude in September 2021 and the tracking tools, impact models and role-playing software that will be developed in this research will be publicly available at the end of the project in order to inform future research, education and outreach activities.

Hiring Fall 2017: PhD Research Assistantship for Social Sciences of Energy Conservation

Drs. Rachael Shwom and Cara Cuite,  Rutgers University, Department of Human Ecology seek applicants for a fully funded three-year research assistantship positions available for students pursuing a PhD in Sociology, Psychology, or Planning and Public Policy.   Students will be involved in a National Science Foundation Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy, and Water (NSF INFEWS) “Reducing Household Food, Energy, and Water Consumption: A Quantitative Analysis of Interventions and Impacts of Conservation” funded interdisciplinary research project.

The project focuses on understanding and seeking ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through conservation of household-scale direct and indirect (via food and water) energy use.  The graduate student will be involved in multiple aspects of the grant including: 1) the development of role playing games 2) the development of household food, energy, and water consumption data collection protocols 3) development and analysis of household interventions to decrease household greenhouse gas emissions via food, energy and water consumption.  You will be part of a large research team with opportunities to collaborate with colleagues across the United States and the Netherlands in social, natural, and engineering sciences.

Successful applicants will be self-directed and have strong communication, organizational, and quantitative and qualitative social science research skills with a passionate interest in studying social dimensions of energy consumption and policy.  They should be willing to travel internationally and to work in a highly interdisciplinary scientific team.  To apply for this position, please send Dr. Rachael Shwom shwomrac@rutgers.edu your CV and a 1-page letter describing your interest and qualifications.  We will start reviewing applications November 15, 2016 and continue until the position is filled. Please put “PhD Assistantship” in the subject line. Review of applications will begin on November 2nd and continue until this position is filled. The PhD assistantship at Rutgers University includes a stipend, tuition, and most fees for three full years with two additional years of funding for a teaching assistantship in the Department of Human Ecology.

The Department of Human Ecology runs a graduate certificate in Human Dimensions of Environmental Change which the research assistant will enroll in, but Human Ecology does not run a PhD graduate program. Therefore students working with us can choose a PhD in Sociology, Psychology or Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University.  The Application process for these graduate programs is a separate process with a January 15, 2017 deadline. The start date is fall 2017. Questions are welcome – contact Rachael at shwomrac@rutgers.edu.