Ph.D. Candidate Cara Touretzky Awarded EPA’s STAR Fellowship

Graduate student and STAR Fellowship recipient Cara Touretzky's headshot in a blue blouse in front of a brick wall. Ph.D. candidate Cara Touretzky has been awarded a highly competitive Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Fellowship from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to further her work to improve energy efficiency in residential and commercial buildings.

Touretzky was one of 105 recipients recognized nationwide for cutting-edge research in environmental science. She will receive research funding for two years, as well as full tuition support and an annual stipend.

Residential and commercial buildings account for more than 40 percent of primary energy consumption in the United States. Improving energy efficiency has become increasingly important due to growing environmental concerns, and the need to stabilize the operation of the power grid and the energy supply chain in general. Touretzky’s research focuses on advanced control algorithms for managing energy use in buildings and has been featured in several recent publications, including articles in Journal of Process Control (1,2) and Systems and Control Letters.

“Cara’s work studies the dynamic behavior of buildings in all its complexity,” said Michael Baldea, assistant professor and Touretzky’s advisor. “Her analysis has led to new insights, which she used to develop a comprehensive energy and cost management framework, rather than simply focusing on temperature control.

“Her work draws on concepts and tools from several fields, including advanced control, operations research and optimization to provide novel means for coordinating energy sources and energy storage at the building level. She demonstrated that this integrated approach can reduce the energy consumption of buildings during peak hours, which greatly benefits the stability and environmental performance of the electricity supply chain.”

Factors Touretzky analyzes include fluctuations in weather, building occupancy, and operational decisions concerning the on/off state of various equipment components of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. Her energy management models also account for energy recovery features such as air preheating, air recirculation, as well as thermal energy storage. These features are used in online, real-time optimization calculations to improve efficiency and generate cost savings.

“STAR fellowships are helping our next generation of scientists and engineers earning advanced degrees in environmental sciences conduct cutting-edge research,” said Lek Kadeli, Acting Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “Through this support, EPA is ensuring that the United States will have the scientific knowledge to meet future environmental challenges, which will strengthen our nation’s economy and security, while better protecting our health and environment in addition to combating climate change.”

Next year will mark 20 years of EPA’s commitment to Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines through funding STAR fellowship students who have made cross-cutting impact in the environmental science field. Since its creation in 1995, the program has awarded fellowships to 1,884 students, totaling approximately $65 million in funding.

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