Skip Pomeroy, UC San Diego Faculty Climate Champion 2015-2016Faculty Climate Champion

In May 20015, UC President Janet Napolitano announced the UC Faculty Climate Champion Award Program. One climate-action award was given to afaculty member on each UC campus for the fall 2015 to fall 2016 academic year.

The award promotes faculty leadership in scholarship, teaching and community engagement about climate-action solutions. Faculty champions received a $25,000 award to fund their proposals.

UC San Diego's Faculty Climate Champion is Dr. Skip Pomeroy in Chemistry. Dr. Pomeroy is working to:

  • Engage faculty, staff, students, prospective students, local school children and the public around carbon neutrality
  • Communicate the value of both fundamental and applied research around climate change to a broad range of stakeholders
  • Develop professional contacts with representatives from underrepresented groups for inclusion in our efforts to build a sustainable world

Specifically, Dr. Pomeroy is working with the California Center for Algae Biotechnology, the Center for Aerosol Impacts on Climate and Environment, the Qualcomm Institute (the UC San Diego division of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, Calit2, the California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science (COSMOS), the Institute of the Americas, and the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE). His events and activities include:

Dr. Skip Pomeroy parnternships

  • Algae Oil-Based Sustainable Surfboard The object of the project is to produce high value materials from algae oil that are currently derived from petroleum to manufacture a sustainable surfboard. This project is a collaboration between UC San Diego, Arctic Foam, and Solazyme demonstrating the use of renewable algae oils as a sustainable source of a polyol used in the production of polyurethanes. This project also serves an educational mission introducing undergraduate students and COSMOS students to the synthesis, evaluation and application of a chemical with commercial and societal importance of polyurethanes. Polyols are a part of a near 10 million ton global polyurethane market that creates rigid and foam polyurethane for a myriad of applications. The use of renewable polyols in these applications remarkably increases the production cost compared to the petroleum based polyols and makes them uncompetitive economically. There are some applications where the cost increase can be overcome in a market driven by demand for materials from renewable sources. Surfboard foam occupies this unique niche. The surfing community is an environmentally conscious group that has always had a philosophical conflict between its connection to the water and the use of a surfboard derived principally from petroleum. The use of polyols derived from algae only adds about $10 to the cost of a surfboard since most of the boards cost are associated with the labor during fabrication. This makes the production of algae based polyols for surfboard foam a perfect platform for bringing renewal polyols to surfers and the public at large allowing us to communicate the issues surrounding sustainable materials to the public at large. Traveling demonstration boards will be displayed at events of common interest to surfers and environmentalist.
  • Triton Soles, Polyols from Jatropha Oil. Similar to the surfboard, this project will develop polyols from Jatropha oil. The economics of shoe soles are different for those of surfboard foam. Although the basic chemistry is the same, a more economical feedstock is required as the differential margin would be smaller than that of the surfboard. A collaboration with Dr. Mayfield and SG Biofuels, Jatropha oil can be obtained at a much lower price making it a better feedstock for this application. Dr. Pomeroy is engaging students to design and produce a polyurethane sole using polyols derived from Jatropha oil into a simple piece of footwear: flip flops. This project can engage students from academic programs outside chemistry and biology such as engineering, economics, marketing and environmental systems.
  • Producing Biodiesel from Waste Vegetable Oil. Most students and much of the public is unaware of the widespread use of diesel. Much of their experience with transportation fuels is limited to gasoline due to the preponderance of gasoline engines used for personal transportation. Diesel engines provide the power to move 94% of all freight in the U.S. 95% of all transit buses and heavy construction machinery use diesel. Every day, diesel power transports 14 million children to school, moves 18 million tons of freight and moves 14 million US commuters via bus. The diesel engine is 30% to 200% more efficient and more durable by 50% to 300% than the gasoline engine. In our past dealing with students, teachers and the public, they are surprised to learn how easy it is to make biodiesel. This leads them to understand the limitation of the feedstock and the cost and ethics of using food oil, arable land and water to produce fuel for engines. These activities get exposure as we produce biodiesel and provide a diesel generator so that UC San Diego student groups like the Triathlon club can use the generator for their events.
  • Developing Instruments for Climate Change Education. CAICE has been working the past year with Frank Cardone at the Qualcomm Institute to develop instruments for use in climate change education. 5 portable optical particle counters with cell phone connections were developed. Dr. Haim Wiezman, a member of the CAICE education team, developed the curriculum around these devices. We then held a teacher workshop on the use of the devices and  started an afterschool program at 5 different schools culminating in a student poster presentation symposium. A new off shoot for this proposal is to develop a 10 sensor array that will be placed on campus. A call for proposals from students, faculty and staff will be solicited to suggest placement of the detectors around the campus. Following that platform. Dr. Pomeroy will develop a Brown Carbon sampler that can be used in conjunction with science developed by Dr. V. “Ram” Ramanathan of SIO and utilizing a cell phone technology developed by his daughter through a small tech startup company Nexleaf Analytics. In another project, Frank Cardone developed a high input impedance amplifier that broadcasts data via Bluetooth to a cell phone. The first instrument developed is a pH probe using this interface and app for both the Apple and Android platform are being developed. Working with Dr. Pamela Cosman and ECE 191, CAICE is sponsoring the development of a portable sun photometer and updating the constant current coulometer and a 3 color LED spectrometer to utilize the Bluetooth amplifier. Qualcomm and ECE will develop the prototypes and these instruments will be assembled and tested by students in 100A, enhancing the quality of their education and supplying more than 50 instruments to local area schools.
  • Conducting other Outreach and ISE. There are several outreach and ISE events that will be conducted. These include:
    • A local after school program at Castle Park High School, Triton STEM, IOA, The Southern California ACS Chem Expo and teacher workshops through CAICE, NOBCChE and IOA. Over the past 7 years Dr. Pomeroy has conducted an afterschool STEM Ed program at a Title I School in the South Bay region of San Diego. A group of undergraduate volunteers work with him and the I.B. biology teacher, Mr. Robert Manroe, to run a weekly afterschool program. This program is a hands-on project based learning activity utilizing group work and service learning. Each group works on an aspect of the project and is responsible for gathering, processing and presenting data they acquire. Each group must also master the concepts and develop presentation materials to display their work at the San Diego Science Festival, held annually at Petco Park. This activity not only reaches a large general audience, it also spins off other activities. The students at Castle Park served as the teacher-mentors for the biodiesel teacher’s workshop we held as part of the western regional NOBCChE meeting. The students were evaluated by CREATE on campus and earned marks of 9+ on the evaluation of the effectiveness of the teachers workshop. These interactions lead to Castle Park being selected as the UC Achieve School from the South Bay in San Diego.
    • The Institute of the Americas Science and Innovation Teachers Workshop. (20 Participants) Countries represented: Argentina (1); Chile (3); Mexico (10); Uruguay (2); Venezuela (2) and the US (1). Dr. Pomeroy provided a 4 hour workshop on climate change with relevant hands on demonstrations that teachers could incorporate into their lessons. With the help of the Institute of the Americas, the workshop materials were translated into Spanish and will be available to all on the CAICE Website.
    • Course Materials: Chemistry 100A is the introductory course in analytical chemistry at UCSD and Dr. Pomeroy introduced the construction of a simple electronic instrument 3 years ago, a constant current coulometer. The coulometer was used to standardize an acid which was in turn used to determine the alkalinity of seawater, a key measure of the inorganic carbon in the seawater which is impacted by increases in the atmospheric CO2. Dr. Pomeroy will be mentoring 100A students in working with with Qualcomm and ECE 191 to construct a 3 color spectrometer, a pH probe and a coulometer based on a cell phone platform. These instruments would then be donated to schools in the San Diego area. A teacher workshop of the use of the instruments will be held to train them to use these instruments. Chemistry 171/172/173 is a three quarter sequence in environmental chemistry where the topics of climate change and sustainability are already well integrated. Dr. Prather and Dr. Pomeroy are the usual instructors assigned for these courses. From these classes Dr. Pomeroy will recruit students for our outreach and Informal Science Education (ISE) efforts. Chemistry for Non-Majors (Chem 11), Introductory Chemistry (Chem 4) and General Chemistry (CHEM 6A, 6B and 6C) are taken by a significant number of students easily more than 3500 per year. Dr. Pomeroy proposes the creation of a module that can be incorporated by faculty that are thematically aligned with the content and demonstrate how skills and concepts in these classes can be applied to climate change.
    • Western Regional NOBCChE Conference: In 2014 UC San Diego hosted the Western Regional NOBCChE conference. Dr. Kim Prather was the keynote speaker and CalCAB and Dr. Mayfield also participated. Staff members Erica Twinning, and Jeff Rances and with Dr. Renee Williams (a UC Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow) helped Dr. Pomeroy organize a very successful event that involved undergraduate, graduate students, postdocs and faculty from on and off campus. We involved the students from Castle Park as they helped lead the teacher’s workshop. Dr. Pomeroy will be holding the event at UC San Diego again in 2016. He will hold teachers workshops for the local middle and high school teachers and will sponsor a speaker that addresses the social justice aspects of aerosols and air quality. The air quality in low income areas is often poorer compared to those in more affluent areas. This makes an argument of increased support for healthcare for those exposed to poor air quality which suffer negative health impacts while not receiving the economic benefits of the activities which caused the poor air quality. Dr. Pomeroy also proposes the event be kicked off with a general audience level plenary session where Drs. Prather, Mayfield and Pomeroy speak about sustainability, climate change ,and the value of federally funded university research.