Gerald Lee | Research Program

Biographical Statement

Gerald Lee is an undergraduate student at the University of California, Irvine, under the Henry Samueli School of Engineering. He is studying Biomedical Engineering with interests in developing techology to better the health and safety of local communities, and discussing the ethics inside and outside the laboratory. 

Contact Info

Email: geraldll@uci.edu

Linked In: Gerald Lee

Contributors

Research Description

Gerald is an undergraduate researcher at the University of California, Irvine. In the summer of 2020, Gerald participated in the UCI Anthropology 25A, Environmental injustice course. He assisted in developing three case studies based around the Orange County area, and now helps the Fall 2020 Anthro25A class in their use of resources. 

His research focuses on the business and economic possibilities of climate change adaptation and green transition, including the creation of new green jobs and new technologies by analyzing various government plans and observing pre-exsisting jobs. 

The outcomes of his research include various presentations relating to green jobs, career, and business opportunities that are opening up through greening initiatives. This includes examining the benefits that come with greening, and the considerable costs that may result from enacting the changes. Factors that some environmentalists forget to consider include building costs, production and resource gathering costs, and energy consumption costs. This complexity is what Gerald will investigate by accounting for results after production, the cost and resources needed to make production happen, and looking for options that create a more genuinely sustainable development pathway. 

Green Jobs, Technologies and Businesses

Green Job Sectors
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Green Job Sector: Community Development

Green Job Sector: Community Development

Slide Created By Gerald Lee

Green community development is an exciting and growing job sector.  Professionals working in this sector need to think holistically about all the components of a community and how they relate.  They also need the skills to identify long term goals and the steps needed to get there, enrolling diverse stakeholders along the way.

Aspen, Colorado

Green Job Sector: Community Development Aspen, Colorado

Slide Created By Gerald Lee

Although the climate may be cold and snowy, that did not stop Aspen, Colorado, to move to go clean. Starting 2004, Aspen CO desired to run 100% electricity from renewable resources by 2015, using hydroelectric projects and power purchase contracts. By 2014 three-fourths of Aspen’s electricity was sourced from renewables. Their goal was hit in August of 2015, becoming the third US city to go fully renewable, after Burlington VT and Greensburg KS.

Currently, Aspen runs an energy supply that is 46% hydroelectric from the Ruedi Dam and Maroon Creek Hydroelectric facility, 53% of wind power, and the rest from solar to heat water and reduce carbon footprint by estimated 9,215,000 pounds. In addition, it uses 1% landfill gas to finish off the 100% mark.

Aspen Electric is a municipal utility serving Aspen, with the residential rates being one of the lowest in CO being only about $81 for 700 kWh (typical for a month’s worth)  and upgrades to a Nebraska wind farm drops utility’s costs even lower, saving 15% annually or $475,000.

In terms of job opportunities, climate is a necessary factor to consider. Since Colorado is a place with snow, this means that the environment is cold, windy, and likely cloudy. Thus the tall task is to create a mode of energy transfer that does not freeze over due to water potentially freezing onto equipment. In Aspen, their solution is to take the wind power from Nebraska, owning a section of wind turbines in a different environment more suited for energy generation. Again, this decision was not just about technology such as water repellent to make wind turbines work in Colorado; it is also about understanding how to be cost efficient. The money should be spent smart, not spend on technology just for the sake of it. This ability to think outside the box to make sure that money is not wasted is an important skill for all jobs to take on, and something that should be considered when developing communities. 

There are various graduate programs that can help prepare you for these kinds of tasks. Penn State has a Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems Masters of Professional Studies (MPS) program, which will give you a better understanding of project development and energy economics. Similar programs are also offered by USC Viterbi, Georgia Tech, and UCI.

Read more about Aspen, Colorado:

Energy News Network

John Kaweske

City of Aspen, CO

Wind, City of Aspen, CO

Image: http://johnkaweske.com/three-american-cities-now-run-entirely-on-renewable-energy/

Green Job Sector: Community Development Architecture

Green Job Sector: Community Development Architecture

Slide Created By Gerald Lee

To build the wonderful green cities, and especially in Greensburg, the cities need to hire what are known as Green Architects. Also known as Sustainable Architects or Green Planners, their job is to make building designs that will minimize health hazards to the environment and to human life. There are many beautiful designs already in the world today, not just in Greensburg. UCI even has some LEED Platinum Buildings. (UCI Sustainability)

This job requires at least a Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture. It is encouraged to aim for a Master’s in Architecture for higher positions. Technical skills required include use of Computer Aided Design (CAD) software, while soft skills include excellent organization and a creative mindset. In addition to these requirements, U.S. States usually require a license specific to the state. Remember to check the state requirements. 

Finally, obtainment of the Green Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) or certification as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Associate will be required. This can be achieved by participating in LEED-registered projects/industry, and/or completed LEED training and exam (Study.com).

Architecture organizations such as Architects, Designers, and Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR) and USGBC are great places to begin looking for opportunities to get involved in Green Architecture. In addition, UCI Sustainability offers some Student Opportunities


Image: http://d8p.archi/design-code-green-architecture/

Green Job Sector: Vehicle Technology

Green Job Sector: Vehicle Technology

Slide Created By Gerald Lee

One of the many aspects of clean energy involves the transportation of the future: Electric Vehicles (EV). Vehicle Technologies such as EVs will help reduce emissions and save millions of dollars in the long run, and the options for expanding this sector are endless. These professional tasks do not just involve designing and wiring, but also incorporate costs and legal matters in regards to safety and obtaining rarer materials. Thus this sector requires many different skill sets and mentalities to ensure the most effective and clean route is created and executed.

Li Compared to NiMH

Green Job Sector: Vehicle Technology Lithium-Ion Battery

Slide Created By Gerald Lee

Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEV), Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV) and all-electric vehicles (EV) can feature different batteries, inclusive of Lithium-Ion, Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH), Lead-Acid, and Ultracapacitor batteries. Although there are many options for different batteries, one of the most popular battery by far is Lithium-Ion. Used in computers, phones, cars, electric skateboards, power tools, this battery is highly reliable and so far one of the most well developed types of battery. 

Lithium-Ion Batteries (LIBs) are used the most often in PHEVs and HEVs for their high energy per unit mass. Toyota began to incorporate LIBs starting as early as in the 2016 Gen 4 Prius (interchanging it with NiMH batteries at times), and the 2017 Prius Prime specifically runs a 5 LIB stack, each with an 8.8kWh Li-Ion Battery for the plug in hybrid. To see a full breakdown of the battery, see Weber State University Professor Kelly and his amazing YouTube videos. These are developed to produce high efficiency and have a low self-discharge. In addition most of the components of the LIBs can be recycled, although at a relatively high cost. Another high cost is the amount of Lithium required to create each cell, and how much it costs to mine out the resources needed to produce these in the first place. 

Research is still ongoing to see how to improve longevity of the batteries and control the temperature of the LIBs, usually using a liquid cooling system similar to some computers. Tesla and GM use these systems to regulate the temperature, especially since the life of the LIB is highly dependent on thermal management. (Torque News). A lot of jobs in this field also turn attention towards safety, where lithium batteries are notorious for presenting fire and explosion hazards when physically damaged or improperly charged or used. Although these accidents are not common, problems such as short circuiting and improper regulation of environmental factors can lead to big problems. Jobs relating to regulating and designing regulations surrounding these factors are important to consider in the fields of technology such as these. 

Battery Materials Engineer, Field Application Engineers, and Resource Project Managers are a few jobs offered in the fields of Lithium Ion Batteries and its applications. A recommendation for job opportunities is to input a keyword of what you would like to work on, for example “Lithium Ion Battery”. Most likely, jobs will come up that are related to specifically that technology. Here is an example of this search from Zip Recruiter.

Read more about Lithium-Ion Batteries:

Alternate Fuels Data Center

Automotive Li-Ion Batteries: Current Status and Future Perspectives

Nissan EV Li-Ion Battery

InsideEVs

OSHA Li Battery Safety

Image: https://insideevs.com/news/336063/disassembly-and-breakdown-of-the-2017-toyota-prius-li-ion-battery-video/

Hydrogen Fuel Cell

Green Job Sector: Vehicle Technology Hydrogen Fuel Cell

Slide Created By Gerald Lee

Hydrogen fuel is an energy source that is becoming more viable by the day. Designed to be lighter in weight and more compact than lithium battery packs, and twice as efficient as gasoline, layers of hydrogen fuel cells were estimated in 2015 to generate around 70 miles per kilogram of fuel (equivalent to roughly 70 miles per gallon). There are no harmful COx and NOx emissions that are produced, only water vapor and distilled water, which makes this system one hundred percent clean energy. And the fuel is arguably more safe than using gasoline, since hydrogen is the lightest element (14x lighter than air) and its vapors do not linger for long, unlike gasoline which will pool and have 3 to 4 times the explosive power of flammable hydrogen.

However, although the hydrogen fuel cells sound like one of the favorable efficient technologies out there, it comes at a considerable cost. Platinum is the most expensive part of this system, and is the most important part of the fuel cell since it acts as the catalyst for splitting the hydrogen molecules for the fuel-cell to work. In addition to this, the hydrogen fuel needs to be created through electrolysis from water, usually requiring a big processing plant (similar to those used in the oil industry) to create this free hydrogen, then compress and store chilled. The energy needed to power these plants, in addition to needing to mine out the platinum and build the cells, will add up costs and energy. 

Jobs in this field will need to be diligent about the cost it takes to build each cell, as well as the costs to produce the hydrogen fuel itself. Research is currently in progress to increase the efficiency of the fuel-cell system, looking for ways to increase longevity of the charge and keep it cost effective. Many fields in chemistry will benefit from research in this area, as well as other engineers to help build the cars that will use said hydrogen fuel. 

The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (Energy.gov) have options and other resources for careers in energy, as well as career map for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells. BMW also has opportunities to work as an Intern for the BMW Technology Office in Sustainable Mobility. The team works on electronic components, stationary battery storage, and other technologies based around the EV ecosystem.

Read more about Hydrogen fuel-cells:

Energy.gov

Edmunds

TenBattery

Image: http://www.tenbattery.com/LithiumBatterytechnology/a_Lithium-battery-fuel-cell-super-capacitor.html

Hydrogen Fuel Station

Green Job Sector: Vehicle Technology California's Electric Future

Slide Created By Gerald Lee

California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, in June 2020 announced the first New Zero-Emission Truck program. By 2045, every new truck sold in California must be zero emission based, including Class 4-8 and Class 2B trucks. Estimated to have high health benefits, reduce 17 million metric tons of CO2, and reduce pollution and noise from neighborhoods, this move is an encouragement to transfer to more sustainable energies in our transport of goods and people. In addition to this, Governor Newsom in September 2020 announced that California will ban the sale of new gas cars and trucks by 2035, while also signing an order to build 200 hydrogen fueling stations and 250,000 electric vehicle chargers to support this demand. 

The benefits to making such a drastic change over 15-25 years includes the reduction of a lot of carcinogenic diesel soot and smog-causing pollution, and an estimated $9 million saved in health benefits. This however comes at the construction costs and safety of many workers, especially since these changes will be rolled out with the fear of COVID-19 still prevalent.

A factor that many construction design experts need to consider is in regards to environmental disasters, for example earthquakes in California. The potential hazard that earthquakes -- especially earthquakes that are higher in magnitude -- can pose to the stability of these hydrogen stations and pipelines can be a bigger threat than many foresee, requiring proper building codes and working seismic shut off valves to mitigate a combo disaster. There are many opportunities to improve safety equipment and designs that are reliable and keep consumers safe. 

Read more about California’s move to go electric:

NPR 2035 Car Ban

NPR 2045 Truck Program

Electrek

The Detroit News

 

Image: https://www.kcrw.com/news/shows/kcrw-features/hydrogen-car-stations-california-ban-2035

Green Job Sector: Green Chemistry

Green Job Sector: Green Chemistry

Slide Created By Gerald Lee

As the machines and technology industry grow more green, there becomes a point in time where we require different materials or need to find a more sustainable source to fuel and consume. Green Chemistry attacks issues at the molecular level, designed to reduce hazards such as pollution from entering the environment in the first place. 

As defined by the U.S. Environmental Prevention Agency (EPA) there are 12 main principles to Green Chemistry. 

  1. Prevent Waste.

  2. Maximize Atom Economy.

  3. Design Less Hazardous Chemical Syntheses.

  4. Design Safer Chemicals and Products.

  5. Use Safer Solvents and Reaction Conditions.

  6. Increase Energy Efficiency.

  7. Use Renewable Feedstocks.

  8. Avoid Chemical Derivatives. 

  9. Use Catalysts, NOT Stoichiometric Reagents.

  10. Design Chemicals and Products to Degrade After Use.

  11. Analyze in Real TIme to Prevent Pollution.

  12. Minimize the Potential for Accidents. 

We will not explore every aspect of Green Chemistry, but we have already looked into some examples of technologies that run off of Green Chemistry, including Hydrogen fuel cells. Vehicle Technology relies on Green Chemistry to operate, as do many other technologies, but Green Chemistry can do so much more than what the eyes can see.

Green Job Sector: Green Chemistry A Beefy Problem

Green Job Sector: Green Chemistry A Beefy Problem

Slide Created By Gerald Lee

What do you call a cow that is grown for food? An utter (udder) waste of resources. 

 

No, but seriously. Making beef for America has never been more harmful to the environment. It takes 2,400 gallons of drinkable water to produce ONE pound of beef, and in feedlots these animals consume a ratio of grain to body weight of 3:1 or in some other studies 2:5. In general, the impact of beef per calorie requires 160 times more land than plants such as potatoes and rice, only to produce 11 times more greenhouse gasses in return. Overgrazing for grass-fed beef and removal of topsoil to create feed for feedlots can cause the soil to degrade over time, and the process of beef slaughter produces polluting organic matter, heavy metals, and hazardous waste which requires high levels of treatment to neutralize. 

There are many aspects to this sector to be worked on, with the safety of disposal of waste is a huge pressing issue. Basic waste of cow manure or “paunch” can stack up quickly, resorting to pooling in brown lakes for removal. Other byproducts are divided by liquids and solids, such as blood, gelatin, urine, biogas, waste water, tissues, bones, skin, left-over feed, and more. The sheer cleanup of this mountain of animal parts needs to find a home, and unfortunately there isn't much that can be done with the parts that are not edible for consumers. Disease and infections through this line of work are common, and just trying to compost the waste is not sustainable. There are many mass graves in the soil of just cow body parts that pollute the natural ground water, making it unsafe to drink for cows or for humans. 

Cows on their own make so much pollution that there should be research done to see what can be done to reduce the methane and greenhouse gas production of cows, to reduce the amount of combo effects such as undrinkable and blood-polluted water, and to simply make beef a more sustainable resource than spending thousands of gallons of water to make a simple steak. 

This task can be taken in fields of agriculture and sustainability, but also in businesses. The opportunity for businesses to take on include finding ways to make animal parts more marketable or create a product that relies off of these resources. Urine and paunch may not be useful, but the organic material can be donated or sold as testing material for labs, or the bones can be created into dog toys. Marketing and businesses can take advantage of these resources to make profit (which on its own, may cause some pollution during production, but can be arguably less pollution created than to let it go into the ground).

For more about the cattle problem, see below:

World Wildlife Fund

The Guardian

PETA

Beef Cattle Extension

Sustainable Dish

Crimson Publishers


Image: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-7860845/Slaughterhouse-worker-reveals-reality-killing-250-cows-day.html

Green Job Sector: Green Chemistry Fake Meats

Green Job Sector: Green Chemistry Fake Meats

Slide Created By Gerald Lee

In response to try and find a substitute for beef production, many scientists turn towards plants and vegetarian options. The result was the formation of what we know today as Fake Meats, entirely based on a vegetarian or even vegan composition of foods while still offering many of the same properties of a regular cut of beef. Many companies, such as MorningStar Farms, Beyond Meat, and Impossible Foods have already begun to mass produce and sell fake meat in the forms of burgers and breakfast patties. 

The New York Times dives into the chemistry behind these fake meats, and how Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat make “beef” patties that look, react, and taste similar to the real thing. The ingredients include, but are not limited to pea and wheat fibers are used for the fatness and springy nature of the patty, palm or coconut oils for the juice and fat, and other rice, potato or soy protein, canola oil, sunflower oil, beet extract, and mung bean protein. 

One major component is produced from a genetically modified yeast, known as Leghemoglobin (LegH). It provides the red color and meaty flavor for Impossible Foods beef, and is an FDA approved protein. This ingredient alone sparks some major job opportunities and possibilities. 

For one, the importance of FDA approval requires the use of lawyers, as well as investigators to ensure that the compound meets the FDA guidelines for the definition of a fully vegetarian/vegan alternative. In the case of LegH, the drugs used to modify the yeast are FDA approved and safe, and further research on LegH has shown that the ingredient is not toxic for the human reproductive system. So even before the ingredient can be added to the “beef” and sold to consumers, there is extensive safety testing that must occur; this testing requires investigators and researchers to test and file results so that this product may be safe for consumers to consume. 

In addition to this, there is ongoing research to see how close the “beef” patties can get to the real deal. Consideration for different ingredients include their juice, fat, flavor, solidity at room temperature, and enjoyableness to consume. Labs need to consider these factors when trying to improve the consistency and feel of the fake meat, which calls for many more researchers and knowledge in not just chemistry, but also in agriculture and in biology of plants and cells.

To read more about LegH, see below:

Product Safety Labs

The Smallest Biomolecules

 

Image: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/jan/12/mock-lamb-chops-vegan-steak-bakes-history-fake-meat

Green Job Sector: Green Chemistry Not-So Perishable

Green Job Sector: Green Chemistry Not-So Perishable

Slide Created By Gerald Lee

About 40% of the food in the United States is NEVER EATEN, even if the food is perfectly edible for consumers. According to the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), this problem is due to groceries overstocking shelves, restaurants serving too much food, households being picky about how their vegetables look like or ignore food date labels, etc. This causes a lot of food to be thrown out, whether it is for appearance or becoming rotten. 

The appearance of food is up to consumer want; there needs to be a huge advocacy for destigmatizing food that looks incorrect and trusting that it is not “unsafe” or “unhealthier” than the perfect looking options. However, the question of how to make foods last longer can be answered through green chemistry. 

Apeel is a product that helps keep fruits and vegetables fresh for an additional week, and the ripeness window open for another 2-4 days, while still being vegan and containing no GMO with no food allergy potential. Completely safe to eat with no odor, color, or taste, this coating is applied to the outside of the fruit which mimics a natural coating called cutin, which is found on every fruit found in nature. This could reduce approximately 11% of greenhouse gas emissions from food waste, and prevent food waste on a greater scale. 

The science behind this coating is based on Lipids, which are amphiphilic -- one side water resistant while the other binds to water -- and help keep the moisture inside the food while keeping out the oxygen in the air and slowing down the dehydration process. By preventing oxidation and protecting the fruit, the food will last longer on the shelf and is thus more likely to be used. 

Katy Perry and Oprah Winfrey both have invested in Apeel’s startup, and can currently be found on avocados at major U.S. grocery stores. But although the science requires researchers to create the product and apply it to life’s obstacles, marketing is equally as important as the science. Without proper advocacy and knowledge of the product, less people are inclined to trust the safety and effectiveness of the product. In addition, to be properly environmentally friendly, there cannot be any Greenwashing or misleading (to learn about greenwashing, view the Seven Sins of Greenwashing). There needs to be more people who specialize in marketing that understand and know how to properly sell a product without being false or misleading as well as making the product more noticed and invested into by celebrities and consumers, just like with Apeel. 

To read more about what Apeel does, see below: 

Fast Company

WIRED

Food Navigator

Image: https://assets.website-files.com/5f31bfa796b7553c22964294/5f4e8efc511cbbb4aaf2bfc9_Apeel%20LCA%20-%20External%20Release%20-%20August%202020-small.pdf

Green Job Sector: Safety Design

Green Job Sector: Appropriate Technology

Slide Created By Gerald Lee

Appropriate technologies as defined by Appropriate Technology Collaborative (ATC) are “small scale, environmentally-sound and locally repairable solutions that make use of local skills and resources to provide for basic human needs with dignified work” (ATC). 

There are many medical devices, sanitation devices, and anything from water purification methods to food preparation tools can be classified under this definition. Limitations to these technologies are strict, especially when considering the cost of production, resources available, and how to maintain a low carbon footprint. Jobs in this market are extensive, and are a tough task to uphold, especially when the odds are never in favor of science. This sector will explore the different aspects of what goes into Green Design, and how to make sure that the impact of these products on the environment are low while outputting higher standards and healthier livings. 

Green Job Sector: Appropriate Design The LifeStraw

Green Job Sector: Appropriate Technology The LifeStraw

Slide Created By Gerald Lee

The original LifeStraw is the result of over 25 years of development from starting with removing Guinea worms from drinking water. The company responsible for LIfeStraw is Vestergaard, devoting their platform and technologies to products and solutions for disadvantaged people. 

The main advantage of the LifeStraw is the portability and the purification power. With the filter being able to clean out bacteria, parasites, and microplastics from roughly 4,000 L total of any water source, it is a powerful product that -- at least to us -- seems cheap retailing at only $15. According to a thesis report done on the effectiveness of LifeStraw, the filtration is roughly 90-99% effective (depending on the life of the filter) and is predicted to be very effective at reducing the amount of viral and bacterial waterborne pathogens in the water to very low amounts or even uncontaminated levels (Walters). Replacement filters are only half that price, and much of their other products are reasonably priced the same way. Other products include the LifeStraw Community, designed to be stationary and provide clean water for many, many more people, and LifeStraw Bottles which provide an easy mode of portable clean water. 

Their company even strives to be more environmentally friendly, simply by making their water bottles from recycled plastics and reducing their packaging size in order to reduce waste. This information is recorded in the LifeStraw Responsibility Report, which is also a great check for those who support LifeStraw and their mission to provide clean water to everyone. 

Although their design is not exactly Appropriate Design, or at least does not meet the requirement that it must use local resources (the filters and water housings must be purchased for replacement), this technology definitely meets the other limitations in which it is easy to use, is beneficial (prevents disease from parasites and bacteria), and of a low cost amount for communities to invest in.  

LifeStraw’s team includes everything from Sales Manager to Lab Technicians to Procurement Manager. Other job options in these kinds of companies include but are not limited to Accounting Manager, Laboratory Manager, Product Performance Validation, Corporate Counsel, Human Resources Business Partner, Cause Program Coordinator, Digital Marketing Manager, and Sales and Logistics Coordinators. The full list of LifeStraw’s team is linked here

To support LifeStraw, visit their website. To read more about LifeStraw, see below:

3BL Media

Insider Reviews


Image: https://medium.com/future-today/lifestraw-drink-directly-out-of-rivers-and-streams-c8624d462f46

Past Summer Case Studies

The following are the case studies that Gerald helped build along with his peers in the Summer Session I, 2020 Anthro25A course at UCI.