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Annual Summit: April 18, 2018

Sustainable Solutions and Champions of Change (A Gender Perspective)

To coincide with Earth Day, this year’s Summit celebrates women’s contributions to advancing sustainability. Join us for an unforgettable keynote interview between SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson and Liesl Folks, Dean of UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Discover what’s current in sustainability, science and policy with local thought leaders who are building sustainable solutions and influencing sustainable change. Meet organizations that support diversity and sustainability initiatives at our Information Fair. Don’t miss this opportunity to be inspired, grow and connect with us!

The Program

8:30 - 9 a.m.


Outside Student Union, 2nd Floor

9 - 9:10 a.m.


Student Union Theater

Kathleen Murphy, EdM, MBA | Cofounder, UB Women in STEM Cooperative

9:10 - 9:15 a.m.

First Nations Blessing

Student Union Theater

9:15 - 10:15 a.m.

Keynote Interview

Student Union Theater

  • Kristina M. Johnson, PhD | SUNY Chancellor
  • Liesl Folks, PhD, MBA | Dean, UB School of Engineering & Applied Sciences
  • Kristina M. Johnson, PhD

    portrait of Kristina M. Johnson

    Dr. Kristina M. Johnson joined The State University of New York as its 13th chancellor in September 2017. With 64 college and university campuses located within 30 miles of every home, school, and business in the state, SUNY is the nation’s largest comprehensive system of public higher education. It serves more than 1.3 million students annually, employs more than 90,000 faculty and staff, and connects more than 3 million alumni around the world.

    Immediately prior to joining SUNY, Dr. Johnson was co-founder and CEO of Cube Hydro Partners, LLC, a clean-energy infrastructure company focused on building and operating hydropower plants in North America. Dr. Johnson grew the company from one plant to 19 plants on 10 rivers in five eastern states—enough to power 150,000 homes with clean energy. Prior to Cube Hydro, Dr. Johnson served as Under Secretary of Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy. As Under Secretary, she was responsible for unifying and managing a broad $10.5 billion energy and environment portfolio, including an additional $37 billion in energy and environment investments from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009.

    Read more about Dr. Johnson on the SUNY website.

    Liesl Folks, PhD, MBA

    portrait of Liesl Folks

    Liesl Folks, PhD, MBA, dean of UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, is an internationally recognized expert in nanotechnology and magnetism. She holds 12 U.S. patents and is the author of more than 50 peer-reviewed technical publications. She is also a professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering.

    Folks served as president of the IEEE’s Magnetics Society (2013/2014) and was a member of a congressionally mandated panel for the Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative, facilitated by the National Academy of Sciences, in 2012.

    She has an exemplary record of support for STEM education initiatives, from her promotion of innovative programs at the PreK-12 level, to her role in launching a magnetics summer school program through the IEEE, which provides summer study opportunities each year to nearly 100 graduate students from around the world. In 2013, Folks was recognized for her mentorship of science and engineering students with the national AVS Excellence in Leadership Award.

    Prior to arriving at UB in January of 2013, Folks worked for more than nine years at Hitachi Global Storage Technologies, a hard disk drive company in San Jose, California. Before that, she worked at IBM Almaden Research Center, also in San Jose, for six years.

    A native of Australia, Folks earned a BSc (1989) and a PhD (1994), both in physics, from The University of Western Australia in Perth, where she subsequently worked as a research fellow. She also holds an MBA from Cornell University (2004).

10:15 - 10:30 a.m.


10:30 - 11:30 a.m.

Session 1: Building Sustainable Solutions

Student Union Theater


  • Sara Behdad, PhD | Assistant Professor, UB Department of Industrial & Systems Engineering; UB Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering
  • Martha Bohm, MArch | Assistant Professor, UB Department of Architecture
  • Sara Metcalf, PhD | Associate Professor, UB Department of Geography
  • Lina Mu, PhD, MD | Associate Professor, UB Department of Epidemiology & Environmental Health
  • Tonga Pham | Associate Vice President, UB Facilities
  • Elizabeth Thomas, PhD | Assistant Professor, UB Department of Geology
  • Sara Behdad, PhD

    portrait of Sara Behdad

    Sara Behdad is assistant professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University at Buffalo (UB). She received her PhD in Industrial and Systems Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2013. She is the founding director of Green Engineering Technologies for Community of Tomorrow (GETCOT) research lab at UB. Her recent research focuses on electronic waste management, design for consumer behavior change, and modeling complex socio-economic systems. Her research is mainly funded by NSF. Her work has been covered in media in outlets such as PBS, Daily Mail, The Chicago Tribune, and Motherboard. She is the recipient of the 2017 International Life Cycle Academy Award for her contribution to sustainable consumption field.

    Martha Bohm, MArch

    portrait of Martha Bohm

    Martha Bohm is an assistant professor teaching design, ecological practices, sustainability, resilience and environmental systems. She was the faculty lead on UB’s GRoW Home, the 2nd-prize winner in the 2015 US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon. She is the co-editor with Joyce Hwang of the book Beyond Patronage: Reconsidering Models of Practice, published in 2015 by Actar. Previously she was Sustainable Design Coordinator at William McDonough + Partners, and taught at Cornell. She was a Ginsberg Research Fellow at USGBC and authored the USGBC Research Committee’s National Green Building Research Agenda. She earned her MArch at the University of Oregon, and before graduate school she worked as a Natural Resource policy analyst at the National Governors’ Association Center for Best Practices. She earned her BA in Earth and Planetary Sciences from Harvard.

    Sara Metcalf, PhD

    portrait of Sara Metcalf

    Dr. Metcalf uses systems science approaches in her health geography and sustainability research to identify and implement feedback mechanisms with dynamic simulation models. She takes an integrative approach to interdisciplinary collaborative research that leverages her broad educational background in geography as well as chemical engineering, biochemistry and management science. Dr. Metcalf’s longstanding interest in sustainability was originally expressed in her undergraduate pursuit of a chemical engineering major as an avenue toward environmental remediation. In her graduate studies, this orientation expanded to address social challenges of sustainability. Dr. Metcalf’s shift toward the social side of sustainability was enabled by her exposure to system dynamics while a master’s student at MIT as a means of mathematically and visually representing social structures underlying problematic behavior over time. She has applied this approach in working with collaborators to consider the impact of increased risk perception on social behaviors that could mitigate climate change. Dr. Metcalf is an MPI on 2 NIH grants that employ systems science to explore ways to promote oral health equity for underserved minority populations. She is an advisor to several graduate students who are conducting research using systems modeling to examine ways of promoting societal benefits such as health equity, food justice and resilience. She teaches courses in dynamic modeling, transportation and human geography.

    Lina Mu, PhD, MD

    portrait of Lina Mu

    Lina Mu, PhD, MD, joined the department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health in June 2008 as an assistant professor. She was promoted to associate professor in August 2013. Previously she was an AACR scholar in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at Yale University School of Medicine. Dr. Mu currently serves as the Director of Graduate Studies, MPH Program; MPH Concentration in Epidemiology; and Office of Global Health Initiatives. Her research interests include environmental epidemiology; air pollution; water pollution; cancer molecular epidemiology (primarily lung cancer, breast cancer and upper-GI cancers); gene-environment interaction; cancer survival.

    Tonga Pham

    portrait of Tonga Pham

    Tonga Pham, as associate vice president for UB University Facilities, leads an organization whose mission is to maintain a safe, healthy and attractive campus environment by providing direct and advisory services in the design, construction and maintenance of the university’s new and existing facilities. Tonga, with over 20 years of experience in various management and technical positions, comes to UB from Ryerson University in Toronto where she monitored the management of the physical infrastructure of the university and ensured the functional, social and aesthetic aspects of the physical campus and its relationship to the community. As a business person, she has been responsible for managing both capital and operational budgets of increasing size and maintaining a four million square foot campus located in the urban center of Toronto.

    Elizabeth K. Thomas, PhD

    portrait of Elizabeth Thomas

    Dr. Thomas is a geologist and paleoclimatologist, studying how temperature and precipitation changed in the past in the Arctic, Asia, and the Great Lakes region. She and her students get to do fieldwork in these beautiful places and then bring samples back to study in UB’s Organic and Stable Isotope Biogeochemistry Lab, which Dr. Thomas directs.

    A year abroad in New Zealand, where Antarctic research is strong, piqued her interest in polar research. She spent a summer field season studying glaciers and climate change in Svalbard, an island archipelago north of Norway. This work inspired her to continue Arctic climate research, as a lab technician and master’s student in the UB Geology Department. She then got a PhD at Brown University and did post-doctoral research at the Climate Change Research Center at UMass Amherst. Dr. Thomas started as an assistant professor at UB in fall 2016.

    Dr. Thomas teaches GLY102: Climate Change, which is open to all UB students. You can follow her on Twitter @IsotopeThomas.


Sarah Muldoon, PhD | Assistant Professor, UB Department of Mathematics

11:30 - 11:45 a.m.


11:45 a.m. - 12:45 p.m.

Session 2: Influencing Sustainable Change

Student Union Theater


  • Ingabire Adam | Student, WNY Environmental Alliance
  • Susan Clark, PhD | Policy, Planning & Sustainability Specialist, UB Renew Institute
  • Trina Hamilton, PhD | Associate Professor, UB Department of Geography
  • Alexandra McPherson | Principal, Niagara Share
  • Yeeli Mui, PhD, MPH | Visiting Scholar, UB Department of Urban & Regional Planning
  • Ingabire Adam

    portrait of Ingabire Adam

    Ingabire Adam was born in Congo, raised in Kenya and moved to the United States when she was thirteen. She currently is a junior at the Emerson School of Hospitality in downtown Buffalo. Ingabire started working at the Massachusetts Avenue Project, an urban farming program for youth located on Buffalo’s west side, when she was 14. It transformed her into a confident individual by providing opportunities for public speaking and food advocacy work. She is also part of the Western New York Environmental Alliance’s Youth in Climate Justice fellowship program where she was instrumental in hosting a panel on meaningful youth engagement in the environmental movement at the Buffalo Humanities Festival this past year. She eventually wants to pursue a career as a fashion and media blogger.

    Susan Spierre Clark, PhD

    portrait of Susan Spierre

    Dr. Susan Spierre Clark is the Policy, Planning and Sustainability Specialist at the Institute for Research and Education in eNergy, Environment and Water (RENEW) at the University at Buffalo. Her multi-disciplinary work focuses on decision-making for improving the sustainability and resilience of critical infrastructure systems to climate change. She also teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Sustainability Science.

    Trina Hamilton, PhD

    portrait of Trina Hamilton

    Trina Hamilton is an associate professor of Geography and co-director of UB’s Center for Trade, Environment and Development (CTED). She is a human geographer with expertise on corporate social and environmental responsibility, urban sustainability and ethical markets. She is interested how government regulation, social and environmental activism, and market mechanisms such as ethical consumerism drive corporate change and sustainable development. Trina’s research and commentary has been featured in The Guardian, The Huffington Post, The Washington Post and other media outlets, and her first book, co-edited with Winifred Curran at DePaul University and entitled Just Green Enough: Urban Development and Environmental Gentrification, was published at the beginning of this year.

    Alexandra McPherson

    portrait of Alexandra McPherson

    Alexandra McPherson, principal, Niagara Share. Ms. McPherson has spent the last twenty years leading innovative environmental initiatives that leverage the collective creativity of communities and industries. Niagara Share builds cross sectoral partnerships that advance social and environmental entrepreneurship. She co-leads the Collaborative for the Regenerative Economy (CoRE) with the University at Buffalo’s Materials Design and Innovation Department and Clean Production Action (CPA). CoRE is investing in new material innovation, and clean production solutions for our renewable energy economy. Ms. McPherson also leads the Investor Environmental Health Network (IEHN), an investor collaborative housed at CPA, an organization Ms. McPherson co-founded and led for over a decade. IEHN builds corporate support for green chemistry initiatives in partnership with its membership network of 30 investment organizations managing over $55B in assets.

    Yeeli Mui, PhD, MPH

    portrait of Yeeli Mui

    Yeeli is a postdoctoral associate in the Community for Global Health Equity and the UB Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab. Her research interests encompass community planning and design to promote healthy living and reduce health inequities. Yeeli holds a PhD in Nutrition from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where she completed her dissertation focusing on the role of crime and abandoned homes in an urban food system.

    Currently, Yeeli works with an interdisciplinary team seeking to advance equitable food systems through the lens of planning and policy in the Global South. In the US context, Yeeli is exploring the public health implications of targeted neighborhood revitalization in Baltimore, MD, by developing case studies of the Vacants to Value Program.

    Yeeli also holds a MPH in Health Policy and Administration from the Yale School of Public Health. Prior to her graduate studies, she worked at FHI 360 in Washington, DC, as a marketing and communications officer for the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research.


Derek Nichols, MA | Sustainability Engagement Coordinator

12:45 - 1 p.m.

Closing Remarks

Student Union Theater

Ryan A. McPherson, JD | Chief Sustainability Officer

1 - 2 p.m.

Reception and Information Fair

Student Union Lobby

Register today »


Wednesday, April 18, 2018
Student Union,
UB North Campus

Free and open to the public.

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Thank you to our Summit sponsors!

  • UB Women in STEM Cooperative
  • UB Sustainability
  • American Association of University Women (AAUW) Buffalo Branch
  • Blackstone LaunchPad at UB
  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Buffalo Section
  • Phi Sigma Rho Colony
  • Rich Products Corporation
  • Society of Women Engineers
  • UB Collegiate Science & Technology Entry Program (CSTEP)
  • UB Department of Mathematics
  • UB Environmental Network
  • UB Institute for Research and Education on Women & Gender
  • UB Intercultural and Diversity Center
  • UB Office of the Chief Information Officer
  • UB Professional Staff Senate
  • UB School of Engineering & Applied Sciences
  • UB School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences
  • UB Women in Science and Engineering (WISE)
SA Student Association