Speakers and Session Leads


This site provides historical information about the 2023 Climate Solutions Symposium. Please visit the Penn State Climate Consortium website to learn more about the 2024 Climate Solutions Symposium.

2024 Climate Solutions Symposium

Invited Speakers and Panelists

Richard Alley

Richard Alley is an is Evan Pugh University Professor of Geosciences at Penn State. He studies the great ice sheets to help predict future changes in climate and sea level.

Russell Armstrong

Russell Armstrong is the policy director for climate and environment at the Hip Hop Caucus where he works on federal policy that provides climate justice and environmental justice and for marginalized communities most impacted by climate change and institutional racism.

Reid Berdanier

Reid Berdanier is an associate research professor in the Steady Thermal Aero Research Turbine (START) Laboratory at Penn State. He is also a member of the Graduate Faculty for Mechanical Engineering and the Additive Manufacturing and Design (AMD) program. His research is currently active in the development and demonstration of novel experimental techniques for turbomachinery applications

Lisa Bolton

Lisa Bolton is professor of marketing who research includes judgment and decision-making by managers and consumers, with substantive interests in new products, pricing, risk perceptions, health marketing, marketing strategies and consumer spending and finances.

Ryan Burke

Ryan Burke is a professor and deputy department head in the Department of Military & Strategic Studies at the U.S. Air Force Academy. His research emphasizes military strategy and defense policy across the spectrum of conflict.

Guangqing Chi

Guangqing Chi is a professor of agricultural economics, sociology and education. His research is focused on socio-environmental systems, aiming to understand the interactions between human populations and built and natural environments and to identify important assets to help vulnerable populations adapt and become resilient to environmental changes.

Rob Cooper

Rob Cooper was the senior director of engineering and energy for the Office of Physical Plant at Penn State.

Lisa DePaoli

Lisa DePaoli is the communications manager for the Center for Coalfield Justice where she works to understand issues from the local to the global, seeks to make a positive difference, and loves to talk to people about what interests or concerns them.

Suvrat Dhanorkar

Suvrat Dhanorkar is an associate professor of supply chain and information systems at Penn State. His expertise includes sustainable supply chains, environmental operations, and the circular economy.

Karen Fisher-Vanden

Karen Fisher-Vanden is a professor of agricultural economics, sociology and education. Her research includes economic and integrated assessment modeling for climate change impact and policy analysis; economic instruments for pollution control; and technology development in developing countries (in particular, China) and implications for energy use and carbon emissions.

Lara Fowler

Lara Fowler is the interim Chief Sustainability Officer for Penn State and the interim director of the Sustainability Institute. She is a senior lecturer for Penn State Law and an attorney and mediator focused on environmental and natural resource law, including water rights, water quality, flooding, tribal law, and Endangered Species Act issues.

Matthew Gustafson

Matthew Gustafson is an associate professor of finance whose research examines topics in corporate finance, financial intermediation, and the economic impacts of the climate and weather.

Antonia Hadjimichael

Antonia Hadjimichael is an assistant professor of geosciences. Her interests range from water resources planning to human-environment interactions. More broadly, she is specifically interested in the role of uncertainty in these domains. Her toolkit includes many-objective evolutionary optimization, machine learning, visual analytics, and high-performance computing.

Casey Helgeson

Casey Helgeson is an assistant research professor of earth and environmental systems and philosophy. His research areas include climate change, decision making, risk, and uncertainty.

Maria Herrmann

Maria Herrmann is a professor of meteorology and atmospheric science who specializes in marine biogeochemistry, an interdisciplinary study of the chemical, physical, geological, and biological processes that determine the chemistry of the ocean. 

Johann Hoschtialek

Johann Hoschtialek is the founder of 195in365, an organization bringing worldwide attention to climate change, the world’s sustainability and its regenerative capacity.

David Hughes

David Hughes is a professor of entomology, the Huck Chair in Global Food Security at Penn State University, director of USAID Innovation Lab on Current and Emerging Threats to Crops, and founder of PlantVillage and Carbon4Good. His research focuses on global food security.

Robert Hughes

Robert Hughes is the the executive director for the Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation, which serves as a liaison and project coordinator between the myriad of state, federal, and local agencies to complete hundreds of mine drainage remediation projects.

Miquela Ingalls

Miquela Ingalls is an assistant professor of geosciences. Her research combines field geology, petrography, and stable isotope geochemistry to improve the use of chemical sediments in tectonic and paleoenvironmental reconstructions. She is particularly interested in how terrestrial environments, like those in which humans live, responded to globally warm periods in Earth history to better understand how our habitats will adapt (or not) to future warming. 

Joe James

Joe James founded Agri-Tech Producers, LLC and its several, operating affiliate companies, which are deploying and commercializing his patented CRBBP process, which cost-effectively combats climate change by capturing lots of CO2 per acre, promotes environmental justice, and can create jobs.

Margot Kaye

Margot Kaye is a professor of ecosystem science and management. Her research projects focus on northeastern forest regeneration and global change; impacts of woody shrub invasion on eastern forest dynamics; late-successional forest in the eastern US; climate, fire, and ecology of semi-arid pine forest in the western US.

Armen Kemanian

Armen Kemanian is a professor of plant science who develops and applies comprehensive agricultural and natural systems simulation models with the goal of improving productivity and environmental stewardship. His research program emphasizes the quantitative understanding of vegetation; soil and landscape processes including crop growth and yield; and the cycling of water, carbon and nutrients.

Marissa Kopp

Marissa Kopp is an ecology Ph.D. candidate supporting sustainable human-ecosystem interaction as a researcher, communicator, and educator. She's particularly interested in how people and climate can change soil greenhouse gas losses at the nexus of land and water.

Andrew Kuhn

Andrew Kuhn is the assistant director in the Office of Foundation relations at Penn State. His expertise includes grant writing, digital storytelling, and higher education.

Margaret Lee

Margaret Lee is a senior associate of Partnerships with Prime Coalition. She works to deepen relationships with investment and philanthropic partners, peer organizations, and new climate stakeholders, and amplify Prime’s model for catalytic investments. 


Stefan Lewellen

Stefan Lewellen is an assistant professor of finance. He works on topics in corporate finance and financial intermediation. Specific interests involve the political economy of finance and the industrial organization of the banking sector, both of which have important implications for energy and the environment. 

Gillian Marcelle

Gillian Marcelle is currently the managing member of Resilience Capital Ventures LLC, an advisory firm in the blended finance space where she has been successful in capital raising, deal origination and guiding the business activities of commercial start-ups and social ventures. She is also a member of the Global Building Network.

Joseph Mascaro

Joseph Mascaro is a space ecologist who explores ecological and technological evolution in the Anthropocene, working at the intersection of pure research into global environmental change, and efforts to develop new Earth monitoring and climate mitigation strategies

Lauren McPhillips

Lauren McPhillips is an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and agricultural and biological engineering. Her research focus is water resources engineering, and her interests include water quality, stormwater management, green infrastructure, urban ecohydrology, and biogeochemistry.

Evan Michelson

Evan Michelson is a program director at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. He is responsible for overseeing the Foundation’s Energy and Environment program, which seeks to inform the societal transition toward low-carbon energy systems in the United States by investigating economic, environmental, technological, and distributional issues. 

Raymond Najjar

Raymond Najjar is a professor of meteorology and atmospheric science whose research focus is on the impact of climate change on coastal regions, especially estuaries of the Mid-Atlantic Region of the U.S. with a specific interest in how climate change, through changing streamflow patterns, and sea-level rise, alters the salinity.

Emerald Nguyen

Emerald Nguyen serves as a social and behavioral science administrator in the Population and Social Processes Branch within the Division of Behavioral and Social Research at the National Institute on Aging (NIA). As a PSP program official, she primarily oversees NIA’s macro-social trends in aging portfolio.

Robert O'Connor

Robert O'Connor is the program director for the Decision, Risk and Management Sciences Program at the National Science Foundation. At NSF O'Connor also serves on the management teams for the Decision Making under Uncertainty for Climate Change centers and two competitions: Critical Resilient Infrastructure Systems and Processes; and Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy, and Water Systems.  

Emily Pakhtigian

Emily Pakhtigian is an assistant professor in Penn State's School of Public Policy. Her research examines the causes and consequences of human interactions with the natural environment, with a particular focus on low- and middle-income country contexts. Her research interests include environmental health, water and sanitation, water resource planning and management, air pollution, and environmental policy. 

Tong Qiu

Tong Qiu is a broadly trained ecologist interested in understanding the response of the terrestrial ecosystem to global change at regional to global scales. His lab takes a data-model synthesis approach that integrates satellite and airborne remote sensing, monitoring networks, and forest inventory with statistical models to develop nature-based solutions to fight climate change.

Tom Richard

Tom Richard is the former director of the Institutes of Energy and the Environment and a professor of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at Penn State. He applies fundamental engineering science to microbial ecosystems, developing innovative strategies for a more sustainable agriculture and the emerging bio-based economy.

Brandi Robinson

Brandi Robinson is an assistant teaching professor for the Energy and Sustainability Policy bachelor’s program as well as the Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems master's program. She brings expertise in policy formation and analysis relative to carbon markets to her teaching, as well as local-scale greenhouse gas inventorying and mitigation strategy development.

Asher Rosinger

Asher Rosinger is an associate professor of biobehavioral health at Penn State. His overall research program is designed to understand how humans meet their water needs, how this relates to adaptation, environmental changes, and water insecurity, and the resulting health, hydration, and disease consequences.

Noah Sabich

Noah Sabich is a founding member of Cimbria and responsible for assisting in deal flow origination, due-diligence efforts, investor relations, company marketing, and execution of the firm’s value-add initiative for partner companies – the Acceleration Program.

Matthew Sekol

Matthew Sekol is Sustainability Industry Advocate for Microsoft. He empowers companies to create change in the world through ESG and sustainability with other multidisciplinary skills, including unique intersections with technology and the use of data, the liberal arts, and business acumen

Kathleen Sexsmith

Kathleen Sexsmith is an assistant professor of agricultural economics, sociology and education. Her research program looks broadly at gender and rural development, with both domestic and international areas of focus.

Angela Urban

Angela Urban is an associate technical director who works to build and reimagine our cities to work better for all people by developing more resilient, sustainable, creative and equitable urban communities.

Caitlin Welsh

Caitlin Welsh is the director of the Global Food Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), where she analyzes the economic, political, social, and environmental drivers and consequences of food insecurity in the United States and around the world. 

Hong Wu

Hong Wu is associate professor of landscape architecture. She specializes in urban sustainability, watershed stewardship, green stormwater infrastructure, and landscape performance. She has investigated the effectiveness of stormwater best management practices and alternative urban development patterns for conserving stream ecosystem health in the context of urbanization and climate change.

Xue Xiao

Xue Xiao is a Ph.D. candidate of Business Administration with an emphasis in Real Estate in the Smeal College of Business at Penn State. Her research focuses on commercial real estate, climate finance, mortgages, real estate finance, and economics.

Art Exhibition Participants

Pep Aviles

Pep Avilés is a historian, architect, and educator whose academic research explores the impact media had in modern architecture after World War II.


Violet Burney

Violet Burney is a Penn State student in the College of Arts and Architecture.

Laia Celma

Laia Celma is an architect and co-founder of The Fautory, a collaborative architectural platform with ongoing projects in Chile, Barcelona, and New York. She is also an assistant teaching professor of architecture.

Phil Choo

Phil Choo is a professor in the Department of Graphic Design at the Stuckeman School. A national and international award-winning designer, Choo’s research focuses on branding design and user experience design.

Travis Flohr

Travis Flohr is an assistant professor of landscape architecture who applies his training in landscape architecture and urban and regional planning to examine how we can design, plan, and manage our landscapes to sustain mutually beneficial relationships between people and ecological systems.

Ali Ghazvinian

Ali Ghazvinian is an architecture graduate student with interests in the conversion of bio-based materials to the architectural context, working at the intersection of computational design, biodesign, and material tinkering.

Mihyun Kang

Mihyun Kang is the director for sustainability in the College of Arts and Architecture and a research professor in the Stuckeman School.

Alale Mohseni

Alale Mohseni is a graduate student in design computing at Penn State.

Anjana Padmakumar Renuka

Anjana Padmakumar Renuka is a Penn State graduate from the master's program in graphic design.

Steven Rubin

Steven Rubin is a documentary photographer whose work highlights numerous critical and contemporary issues including health disparities, rural poverty, refugee migration, immigrant detention, and the social and environmental impacts of energy development.

Baljinder Sekhon II

Baljinder Sekhon II currently serves as assistant professor of composition at Penn State, and he has been presented in over 500 concerts in twenty countries.

Paulo Soares

Paulo Soares is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering at Penn State researching renewable energy generation, focusing on wind power generation and solar power.

Tasneem Tariq

Tasneem Tariq is an LEED AP BD+C and architect in Penn State's architecture graduate program.

Benay Gursoy Toykoc

Benay Gürsoy Toykoç is an assistant professor of architecture at Penn State. Her research and teaching focus is on computational making, digital fabrication, craft theory, shape studies, basic design education, and cognitive studies of the design process.

Natalie Walter

Natalie Walter is a graduate student at Penn State pursuing her master's degree in architecture.

Mengqi Xu

Mengqi Xu is an assistant teaching professor who works in both 2D and 3D art including sculpture, jewelry, and photography.

Breakout Session Leads

Associate Professor and John T. Ryan, Jr. Faculty Fellow, College of Earth & Mineral Sciences
Professor, John and Willie Leone Department of Energy & Mineral Engineering (EME)
Dean's Faculty Fellow of Business law, Penn State Law (University Park)
Director of Sustainability, Smeal College of Business
Director of Operations and Partnerships, Sustainability Institute
Director, Institute of Energy and the Environment
Associate Research Professor, Earth and Environmental Systems Institute
Associate Professor, School of Engineering Design and Innovation
Assistant Professor, Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education
Associate Professor, Agricultural Economics, Sociology and Education
Associate Research Professor, Institute for Computational and Data Sciences (ICDS)
Director, Center for Security Research and Education