Undergraduate Research Assistant Positions with Environmental Frontiers Campus

Opportunity Description:


The new Environmental Frontiers Initiative invites applications for EFCampus Research Assistants beginning in Summer Quarter 2020. Positions will no longer be offered in Spring Quarter due to the transition to remote learning. EFCampus is designed to bring together a variety of campus stakeholders – students, faculty, and administrators – to collaboratively explore issues of campus sustainability, and provide a unique research opportunity for students interested in environmental conservation and broader climate change goals. Research assistant positions will be full-time roles for 10 weeks during the Summer and will receive a stipend of $5,000. Environmental Frontiers is a partnership between the Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation, the Program on the Global Environment (PGE), the Center for Robust Decision-making on Climate and Energy Policy (RDCEP), and the Offices of Facilities Services and Campus Planning + Sustainability at the University of Chicago.

EF partners will be offering an online session on March 25 from noon-1:30pm to give an overview of the RA positions and answer any questions. RSVP for the online EFCampus RA Positions briefing here.

About Environmental Frontiers and EFCampus

Environmental Frontiers focuses on issues at the intersection of environmental sustainability and urban development, enabling research and curricular opportunities that provide UChicago students a scientific and practical understanding of sustainable urban development.  Environmental Frontiers spans the physical sciences and social sciences, complementing existing and emerging course curriculum in Environmental and Urban Studies, Environmental Sciences, and other programs, and serving as a platform for the University of Chicago to advance sustainability through collaboration between faculty, students, and staff.

EFCampus is the campus-based component of the Environmental Frontiers initiative, enabling students to use campus data as a case study for understanding a path to a more sustainable future, on campus and beyond. EFCampus provides undergraduate students opportunities to advance research and applied projects that explore campus sustainability, with an eye toward transferable knowledge to inform strategies in neighborhoods and whole urban areas. These data-driven projects will analyze campus building utility data, engaging students in using rigorous quantitative methods to understand campus energy use and opportunities to increase efficiency. Students will work on research projects in partnership with the Program on the Global Environment, the Center for Robust Decision-making on Climate and Energy Policy (RDCEP) and UChicago’s Offices of Facilities Services and Campus Sustainability, using new energy system data developed for Facilities to think critically about what the data suggests are the most effective interventions to create energy-savings and reduce unnecessary consumption.   

Primary Responsibilities: 

EFCampus student research opportunities will begin in Summer Quarter 2020. Undegraduate RA’s will be selected from a campus-wide call to work in teams on structured projects identified by the Office of Facilities Services, faculty, and staff, with structured mentorship provided by a graduate student RA, as well as additional guidance from faculty. Anticipated student work under pilot projects includes laboratory building benchmarking using the University of Chicago energy management information system (EnergyCAP), development of campus energy dashboards, and a sustainability app and tool. Students will also explore examples of peer institutions with similar highly effective programs. Undergraduate student RA’s will be granted access to campus EnergyCAP data and will be expected to keep this data confidential during and after the Research Assistantship.These pre-identified and scoped research projects ensure that student research will be aligned with existing campus data efforts and have the potential to lead to actionable energy-savings.

The Research Assistants will work in project teams full-time.  Student teams will meet regularly with the EF Graduate Student mentor, who will ensure that communication across units (campus Facilities Services, Mansueto Institute, and the Program on the Global Environment) keeps all partners abreast of student work and any issues arising with campus data collection and dissemination. 

Following these pilots, EFCampus aims to offer augmented research opportunities involving more extensive campus data access and student engagement.  Future EFCampus projects will explore and enhance additional aspects of campus evironmental sustainability, with an eye toward broader impact and applicability beyond the campus context. In Summer 2020, the EF leadership committee will evaluate the success of the pilot and use its outcomes as a guide to further recommendations.

Minimum Qualifications and/or Eligibility Requirements: 

Applicants must be a current undergraduate student in the University of Chicago. Preference will be given to candidates who have demonstrated ability in/knowledge of some or all of the following:

  • Environmental issues/challenges, including energy and water systems
  • Sustainable urban development practices
  • Data visualization
  • Data management
  • Coding and programming experience a plus
  • Communication and presentation skills 
  • Statistics
  • Sustainability finance
  • Professionalism, reliability and ability to work as part of at team

Application Process: 

Please submit the following in a single PDF document saved as "LASTName_FIRSTName_EFCampusResearch Opportunity":

  • Current CV with the names and contact details of two academic references;
  • A copy of your unofficial transcript; and
  • 350-word statement of interest in the research opportunity that indicates your project preference among the following options:
    • Evaluate the energy performance of  UChicago laboratory buildings
    • Benchmark the performance of UChicago LEED certified buildings
    • Design a UChicago Sustainability App or Dashboard, including incorporation of information currently included in the Sustainability Map
    • Conduct a cost-benefit analysis for potential energy conservation measures to be implemented on campus
  • In your statement of interest, please also indicate availability to conduct project work in Spring, Summer or either quarter.

Application Deadline EXTENDED: Thursday, March 26th, 2020 

Anticipated Start Date: in summer Quarter, 2020. Final start and end dates will be mutually agreed to with successful applicants. 

Submit your complete application file by email directly to the CCRF at ccrf@uchicago.edu. You may contact Tracy Nyerges, CCRF Assistant Director for Undergraduate Research with any questions. 

EF partners will be offering an online session on March 25 from noon-1:30pm to give an overview of the RA positions and answer any questions. RSVP for the online EFCampus RA Positions briefing here.

Application Deadline: 

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Application Requirements: 

  • Submit CV
  • 350 Word Statement of Interest
  • Names of Two References
  • Unofficial Transcript