Program Promotes Environmental Stewardship

Asst. Prof. of Economics Kelly Hellman, plastics engineering major Kerry Candlen and chemical engineering major Maria Fonseca-Guzman

The inaugural RISE fellowships were awarded to, from left, Economics Asst. Prof. Kelly Hellman, plastics engineering major Kerry Candlen and chemical engineering major Maria Fonseca Guzman.


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LOWELL, Mass. – UMass Lowell faculty and students pursuing climate education or sustainability research that seeks to improve the environment have received funding to support their work through a university initiative dedicated to these issues.

The funding for the projects was presented by UMass Lowell’s Rist Institute for Sustainability and Energy (RISE), a collaboration between the university’s Climate Change Initiative, Energy Engineering Program and Office of Sustainability. Founded in 2019 with the support of UMass Lowell graduate UMass Lowell Brian Rist ’77 and his wife Kim, the institute recently named its inaugural class of fellows to honor and advance their work. They are Economics Assistant Prof. Kelly Hellman, along with Kerry Candlen, a plastics engineering major from Westford, and Maria Fonseca Guzman, a chemical engineering major from Roswell, Ga.

Hellman was awarded a $15,000 faculty fellowship to create a new course, “The Economics of Climate Change,” which will examine how the phenomenon is affecting the economy, human health and the environment. Students will also study economists’ predictions for future impacts in the class.

“As climate change now plays a large role in many companies’ decision-making processes, students in any discipline – business, engineering, science, public policy, health – will benefit from this course in their future careers,” Hellman said.

Hellman, who joined UMass Lowell’s faculty last year, said she was inspired to create the course after learning about the diverse research projects taking place around campus through her involvement with the Climate Change Initiative.

“I would like to introduce students to various UMass Lowell faculty members’ climate change research to both facilitate learning and create a bridge between that research and instruction,” she said.

Candlen received a $12,000 fellowship to support her work developing biodegradable films that can be used for many applications, including to package items such as food and mulch.

“If successful, this project can touch upon everyone’s daily life, improving the environment by preventing plastic waste from entering landfills or being incinerated,” Candlen said.

Candlen plans to complete her bachelor’s degree in plastics engineering this month and continue on at UMass Lowell to pursue an advanced degree through the university’s Bachelor’s-to-Master’s program. She will conduct the research with her faculty mentor, Plastics Engineering Assistant Prof. Wan-Ting Chen.

Fonseca Guzman received a $5,000 fellowship from RISE to support research she is conducting with UMass Lowell Chemistry Assistant Prof. Michael Ross. In that work, she is investigating the properties of metallic nanoparticles made from an alloy of tin and gold that can absorb ultraviolet light. She helped synthesize the nanoparticles in Ross’ lab and hopes to use them to power sustainable, clean energy.

The research could lead to “carbon-neutral solutions to our energy and environmental problems,” Guzman said.

UMass Lowell is a national research university offering its more than 18,000 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be leaders in their communities and around the globe.