Top Priority

Solving problems related to energy and the environment is at the top of Syracuse University’s research agenda.

John Lui
John Liu, Syracuse University vice president for research

As John Liu sees it, the fundamental objective of science is to generate knowledge to help solve real-world problems. “As a research university, we need to align ourselves with major societal challenges,” says Syracuse University’s vice president for research.

“Issues in energy and the environment impact many sectors.”

He views environmental sustainability and climate variability as perhaps the greatest challenges of the coming century. While seeking extramural funding, the University has committed substantial internal funds to research in seven areas, energy and environment among them.

Liu sees Maxwell as a major partner in those research efforts. "Issues in energy and the environment impact many sectors that pose policy challenges and questions," says Liu. "The Maxwell School has the framework and expertise to reach out to all those areas."

University funding includes grants through the Campus as a Lab for Sustainability program, which funds projects that engage the campus in ad-dressing climate change and sustainable systems. Eleven projects have been funded since 2016.

The Collaboration for Unprecedented Success and Excellence (CUSE) Grants fund collaborative, interdisciplinary research and seminars, particularly in priority areas, of which environment is one. At Maxwell, seven researchers received funding in 2018 related to environment.

An interdisciplinary faculty initiative will support the hiring of 100 new professors across SU, serving seven prioritized research clusters. “We have allocated 10 hires in energy and environment in round one,” says Liu, including a geographer who is expert in climate change modeling, to be hired in 2019-20. “Maxwell is one of the University’s strength areas so we want to continue to bolster that reputation,” he says.

Special Series: Environment, Energy, Sustainability

Liu is committed to amplifying SU’s research centers in this area, namely Maxwell’s Center for Environmental Policy and Administration, which fosters interdisciplinary student and faculty research on environmental topics; and the Syracuse Center of Excellence, SU’s hub for research and industry collaboration in the area of environment/energy.

“In the long term,” says Liu, “energy and environment will be a major focus in terms of funding, research, scholarship, and societal impact.”


This article appeared in the spring 2019 print edition of Maxwell Perspective © Maxwell School of Syracuse University. To request a copy, e-mail