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A 2006 UMass President’s Office Public Service Award recipient, Prof. John Duffy of Mechanical Engineering is an expert on solar power and how to make it work in the real world. He heads biannual trips to Peru with engineering students to bring light, water, communication, and refrigeration ߝ particularly needed to store vaccines ߝ to remote Andean Mountain communities. Many of these communities have no electricity, no running water, no telephones, no space heating, and depend on subsistence farming. The students learn how engineering theory must be adapted to local needs, and many find it a life-changing experience. The Peru trip this semester runs from Jan. 7 to 21.
Duffy also heads the University’s Center for Sustainable Energy, whose goal is to “develop systems to provide energy for various end uses in an environmentally and economically sustainable manner.” Under the auspices of the Center, UMass Lowell students have worked with Habitat for Humanity to build/retrofit energy efficient houses in Lowell, among other service activities. He also coordinates the solar engineering graduate program. Many of the graduates work for local and international renewable energy companies and labs.
Duffy says, “We can, and do, help local companies make solar devices to help the world's poor develop in an environmentally and economically sustainable way. We also try to start microenterprises in remote villages in Peru to do the same, in a manner similar to the Grameen Bank, which just this week received the Nobel Peace Prize for microlending."