Living Lab

While classrooms continue to advance sustainability knowledge through scholarship and education, the university campus itself also functions as a living laboratory. As a living lab, campus buildings and grounds become teaching tools to further sustainability learning. By blending campus infrastructure and operations with multi-disciplinary student learning projects, students are able to gain insight into campus sustainability challenges and even contribute to solutions.

Some examples of hands-on academic courses available across various majors include:

  • BSC 4861L Urban Ecological Field Studies – A service-learning course utilizing an interdisciplinary approach to developing research projects and implementing programs designed to further campus urban ecology.
  • EEL 4914C/ EEL 4915L Senior Design 1 and 2 – This year-long special topics class provides the opportunity for students to practice the engineering skills accumulated over the course of their engineering studies.
  • EVR 4940 Capstone Special Topics – Students participate in problem-based campus and local projects with departments such as Sustainability Initiatives acting as clients. Projects are ongoing and are further developed each semester.

Faculty Clusters

The UCF Faculty Clusters were first introduced in 2015 as a means to combat current scientific and societal challenges present in the Central Florida community and beyond. This initiative is unique to the university, as it unifies experts in a variety of disciplines behind common goals. Environmental stability and protection represent one of the most pressing issues facing our planet today. UCF recognizes this and has exemplified its commitment to sustainability by devoting several of its faculty clusters towards advancements and developments in this area.

  • Renewable Energy and Chemical Transformation (REACT)
    • Cluster Leads: Parag Banerjee, Ph.D. & Talat Rahman, Ph.D.
    • UCF’s Renewable Energy and Chemical Transformation Cluster, or REACT, is developing new, alternative materials for catalysis to power technology and chemical processes that are safe for people and the environment. The production of electricity from renewable sources, like solar, is a cost-competitive alternative to fossil-fuel-generated electricity, and alternatively powered forms of transportation are rapidly gaining acceptance. Essential to harnessing these forms of alternative energy is research into the materials needed to produce and store them. Energy research is critical in slowing growth in carbon emissions without slowing economic growth. Within the past few years, increases in carbon emissions are now less than the rate of economic growth, due in large part to new renewable energy sources coming online.
  • Resilient, Intelligent and Sustainable Energy Systems (RISES) Center
    • Cluster Lead: Zhihua Qu, Ph.D.
    • UCF’s Resilient, Intelligent and Sustainable Energy Systems Center, or RISES, works to develop sustainable and resilient energy systems and storage to make sure we have power and stay connected when disasters strike. This Center, which has grown from its original cluster designation, focuses upon holistic analysis, design, development, and deployment of distributed renewable energy resources, including advanced information, communication, control, and optimization technologies and the economic and management policies that go along with them. This research helps integrate renewable resources into the power generation mix while generating better power quality and allowing energy customers to make informed and environmentally conscientious decisions.
  • UCF Coastal: National Center for Integrated Coastal Research
    • Cluster Lead: Christopher Emrich, Ph.D.
    • UCF Coastal focuses on integrating science and societal needs to address coastal issues and teach students conservation and resource management. This Center, which has grown from its original cluster designation, works to understand complex local, national, and global problems related to natural changes in coastal systems and those caused by humans. The threats and challenges Florida faces are the same that coastal communities around the world face. The solutions, methods, and technologies developed at UCF will have immediate application to other geographic locations, with the potential to be statewide and national models for how coastal states should address future environmental and economic challenges as well as growth opportunities. We invite you to further explore UCF Coastal’s offerings related to outreach and development activities. The ultimate goal is to link the ecological security of coastal ecosystems with the economic security of coastal communities, ensuring the sustainability of our coastlines and economy for generations to come. If you wish to support this vital program, please visit Give – UCF Coastal.