Born and raised in West Virginia coal country, Katherine Moses ’12 witnessed the fossil fuel industry’s impact not just on the land, but also on the people who worked in the mines.
“The coal companies were not always necessarily good stewards. They’d file for bankruptcy and workers would lose pensions,” Moses says. “I always thought that was very sad. West Virginia is a beautiful place with hardworking people. So I’ve always had this drive to make a difference in the natural environment — to find ways that people can have good lives and good jobs while making the planet a better place.”
She’s doing so through her work as energy manager for the City of Lowell, a position she landed in 2014 — shortly after earning a master’s degree in energy engineering (with a solar concentration) from UML’s Francis College of Engineering.
In her role, Moses oversees the city’s energy budgets and renewable energy portfolio. She’s also responsible for energy-efficiency projects like the installation of LED streetlights and gas boiler monitoring systems in public buildings, as well as overseeing Lowell’s Strategic Energy Management Partnership with National Grid.
“My job combines two things I love and am passionate about: the City of Lowell and energy,” she says.
Moses, who majored in chemistry at Denison University in Ohio, came to Lowell by way of Atlanta, where she worked for the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority’s weatherization program.
“When I was 33 years old, I had what I call a third-of-life crisis,” she says. “I was just processing a lot of paperwork, and I wanted to do something a little more tangible. I wanted to learn more about renewable energy.”
She researched graduate programs around the country and found that UML had just what she was looking for. She especially appreciated the engineering school’s emphasis on service-learning projects in developing communities around the world — an appreciation that only grew under the tutelage of her advisor, Prof. Emeritus John Duffy.
“He was a big influence on me. From the first day of our Intro to Solar class, he got you thinking about what you can do about these challenges in the world,” she says.
As the city’s energy manager, Moses finds that her work increasingly overlaps with the university. She is part of the Lowell Green Community Partnership, a collaboration between UML and the city that funds sustainability projects, and she recently spoke to students in a climate change class about their projects to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
“One of the things I’ve always appreciated about UMass Lowell is how it applies what you learn in a real-world project,” she says. “It makes me proud to be an alum.”
She’s also proud to call herself a resident of Lowell.
“One of the first things I saw downtown was someone riding a unicycle to an organic cafe. I just thought, ‘This is an interesting place to be,’” she says. “As I got to know Lowell better through various festivals and the different arts scenes, and through all the interesting things going on at the university, I realized I have a heart for this city. I’ve come to think of Lowell as my adopted hometown.”