Member Spotlight

Lauren Dennis, Penn State University

I am a Ph.D. candidate in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Penn State studying the intersection between water resources, climate change, ethics, and critical infrastructure. I earned my MS in Meteorology and Atmospheric Science from Penn State in 2019, and in my thesis work, I located and quantified methane fluxes in a region containing shale gas wells cited with cementing and casing issues. I completed a BS in Environmental Science and a BA in Political Science from the University of New Mexico in 2017. As an undergraduate, I was an intern at Sandia National Laboratories, and this internship inspired me to pursue graduate studies. I grew up in New Mexico, where the desert climate spurred my fascination with water.

I have explored several topics throughout my Ph.D., but in each topic, I seek to merge ethical inquiry with tools from network science, atmospheric science, and engineering to study questions within the Food-Energy-Water nexus. In my most recent project, I am studying how disruptions in infrastructure systems due to climate change and other stressors affect food, energy, and water flows in the Northeastern U.S. This work also investigates the ethical implications of these disruptions and how we can build justice into resilience. Throughout my Ph.D., I have also studied cyber-physical risks to critical infrastructure, the potential impacts of these risks on vulnerable communities, as well as the structure of collaboration and communication among academic communities studying water, shared over boundaries.

What I love most about my work and about being a Ph.D. student is the opportunity to learn from others. Many of the projects we work on in our lab bring together many people with many different disciplinary backgrounds, and this type of collaboration excites me as I see it as the path forward in addressing pressing research questions that will serve and uplift communities.

In my future career, I hope to serve communities that will be most impacted by climate change by helping create and maintain resilient and equitable infrastructure. Whether this is through a research position at a government lab, a role at a think tank or non-profit, or a position within the government, I look forward to listening and learning from communities and using the skills I have gained throughout my education and experiences to address the complex climate-related challenges we face now and in the future.
Lauren Dennis