2020 Northwestern Sustainability Lecturers



Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Princeton University

An American engineer, Yueh-Lin (Lynn) Loo was born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She is presently the Theodora D. ’78 & William H. Walton III ’74 Professor in Engineering and Director of the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment at Princeton University.

Lynn received her BSE in Chemical Engineering and in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania in 1996 and her PhD from Princeton University in 2001. She spent a year at Bell Laboratories, Lucent Technologies before joining the faculty in the Chemical Engineering Department at the University of Texas at Austin. She returned to Princeton University in 2007. She is interested in the processing and structural development of materials for lightweight and flexible solar cells and circuits, the combination is being explored for self-powered “smart” windows to increase occupant comfort, building and energy efficiencies. This technology is being further developed by Andluca Technologies, a startup that Lynn co-founded in 2017. With >185 publications, Lynn has delivered >250 invited and plenary lectures globally and she serves on numerous international advisory boards of peer academic institutions, journals and private companies. She is a fellow of the American Physical Society, a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum and a Strategic Advisor for NewWorld Capital Group. She has been recognized with Sloan and Beckman Fellowships, the John H. Dillon Medal from the American Physical Society, the Peter and Edith O’Donnell Award in Engineering from the Texas Academy of Medicine, Science and Engineering, and the Alan P. Colburn Award from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

Lecture: Rapid Switch: How quickly can we transition to a low-carbon energy future?


Professor of Geo-Energy and Geo-Engineering, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, EPFL

Professor Lyesse Laloui teaches at EPFL, where he directs the Soil Mechanics Laboratory as well as the Civil Engineering Section. He is a founding partner of the international engineering company Geoeg, and the start-up MeduSoil. In addition, he is an adjunct professor at Duke University, USA and an advisory professor at Hohai University, China as well as honorary director of the International Joint Research Center for Energy Geotechnics in China.

He is the recipient of an Advance ERC grant for his BIO-mediated GEO-material Strengthening project. Editor in Chief of the Elsevier Geomechanics for Energy and the Environment journal, he is a leading scientist in the field of geomechanics and geo-energy. He has written and edited 13 books and published over 320 peer reviewed papers; his work is cited more than 6000 times with an h-index of 39 (Scopus). Two of his papers are among the top 1% in the academic field of Engineering. He has given keynote and invited lectures at more than 40 leading international conferences. He has received several international awards (IACMAG, RM Quigley, Roberval) and delivered honorary lectures (Vardoulakis, Minnesota; G.A. Leonards, Purdue; Kersten, Minnesota). He recently acted as the Chair of the international evaluation panel of Civil and Geological Engineering R&D Units of Portugal.

Lecture: Sustainable (geo-)energies: Global progress and existing challenges



Professor of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology, Columbia University in the City of New York

Ruth S. DeFries is a professor of ecology and sustainable development at Columbia University in New York. She uses images from satellites and field surveys to examine how the world’s demands for food and other resources are changing land use throughout the tropics. Her research quantifies how these land use changes affect climate, biodiversity and other ecosystem services, as well as human development. She has also developed innovate education programs in sustainable development. DeFries was elected as a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, one of the country’s highest scientific honors, received a MacArthur “genius” award, and is the recipient of many other honors for her scientific research. In addition to over 100 scientific papers, she is committed to communicating the nuances and complexities of sustainable development to popular audiences, most recently through her book “The Big Ratchet: How Humanity Thrives in the Face of Natural Crisis.”

DeFries is committed to linking science with policy, for example through her involvement with the Environmental Defense Fund, Science for Nature and People, World Wildlife Fund, and reconciling conservation and development in central India.

Lecture: Science in the Age of  a Changing Climate


Professor of Soil Microbiology, University of California, Berkeley

Mary Firestone is a microbial ecologist who has worked extensively on the roles of soil microorganisms in terrestrial ecosystem function.  She is known for her work on microbial mediation of nitrogen oxidation and reduction processes including soil microbial control of nitrous oxide and nitric oxide production, adaptation of microbes to the desiccation characteristic of arid and semi-arid soils, and carbon- and nitrogen-based interactions among plant roots and soil organisms.  Firestone earned a B.S. and M.S. in microbiology from Michigan State University and a PhD in Soil Science.  She joined the faculty at University of California, Berkeley in 1979 where she has been active in faculty governance, chairing the faculty senate in 2008.  Firestone received a BBSRC Underwood Fellowship to support her sabbatical research at York University, UK and a Senior Fulbright Fellowship for her work at Lincoln University, NZ.  Her work has been recognized by a range of disciplines, reflecting the breadth of areas comprising ecosystem sciences; she is a fellow of the Soil Science Society of America, American Academy of Microbiology, Ecological Society of America, and American Geophysical Union.  Mary was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2017.

Lecture: The importance of cross-kingdom interactions in soil carbon and nutrient dynamics



Professor of Urban Technologies and Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT

An architect and engineer by training, Professor Carlo Ratti teaches at MIT, where he directs the Senseable City Laboratory, and is a founding partner of the international design and innovation practice Carlo Ratti Associati. A leading voice in the debate on new technologies’ impact on urban life, his work has been exhibited in several venues worldwide, including the Venice Biennale, New York’s MoMA, London’s Science Museum, and Barcelona’s Design Museum. Two of his projects – were hailed by Time Magazine as ‘Best Inventions of the Year’. He has been included in Wired Magazine’s ‘Smart List: 50 people who will change the world. He is currently serving as co-chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Cities and Urbanization, and as special advisor on Urban Innovation to the European Commission.

Lecture: Senseable Cities


Professor of Building Physics, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich, ETHZ

Jan Carmeliet, graduated from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (K. U. Leuven) and has been Professor at K. U. Leuven since 1998 and part-time Professor at T. U. Eindhoven. He was in 2007 on sabbatical leave at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and at Los Alamos Governmental Laboratories. His research resulted in more than 280 scientific journal papers.

His research interests concern urban climate and urban heat island mitigation, multiscale behaviour of porous materials and their fluid interactions, and multi-energy decentralized systems at building and urban scale.

He is research councillor of the National Science Foundation Switzerland and expert of the Swiss Innovation Agency (InnoSuisse). He was director of the graduate program ‘master integrated building systems’ at ETHZ. He was member of the research commission of ETH Zürich, the scientific commission of the CCEM (Centre of Competence Energy and Mobility) and the Board of Energy Science Centre ETH Zürich. He plaid a very active role in acquiring and organizing the SCCER (Swiss competence centre energy research) FEEB&D (Future energy efficient buildings and districts).

Lecture: Can we mitigate the extreme urban climate during heat waves, or do we have to adapt?