Ana Inés Torres, assistant professor in chemical engineering, was awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER grant for her research in circular economies (CEs). The CAREER award is NSF’s most prestigious award in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as leaders in research and education within their department or organization.
Torres earned her Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities and completed her postdoctoral studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She then went on to become faculty at the Department of Chemical Engineering, Universidad de la República, Montevideo, Uruguay before coming to CMU. Her research interests broadly include sustainability and process systems engineering.
The five-year grant will help Torres in her goal of investigating modeling, optimization, and equilibrium formulations that are necessary for creating and analyzing CE networks. Current supply chain paradigms have major environmental and socioeconomics impacts, but Torres hopes to redesign the consumption process by developing and implementing CE strategies that will reduce waste and pollution and use fewer new resources.
The second part of Torres’ proposal is integrating the results of the research into schools’ curricula. CMU undergraduate and graduate-level process design courses will encourage circular and sustainable thinking as students engage in project-based learning while K-12 audiences will hopefully be able to learn about this research through STEM-oriented children’s journals and workshops.
As a whole, this project will not only help policymakers and industry workers improve our consumption habits, but also prepare the incoming generation of scientists and engineers to continue tackling this issue that impacts our environment, society, and economy.