Everywhere, all at once

Fall 2023 Inventing tomorrow

“If you take care of nature, nature will take care of you.” 

Wise words from Sir David Attenborough, the 97-year-old longtime host of BBC’s “Planet Earth.” He has also said the living world will endure, with or without us: “This is not about saving our planet, it’s about saving ourselves.” To that end, this section—these two pages and the next 18—highlight some of the work and people making an impact  in the world of water, materials, transportation, and energy.  

Why these four areas? Because it is next to impossible to capture all that falls under the realm of environmental sustainability at the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering (CSE) in one magazine. There are too many areas of research—from detecting bird and bat collisions at wind turbines to chemically transforming molecules into energy storage for carbon-free fuels. The breadth of work that counts as “sustainable” among our faculty, students, and alumni when it comes to the environment is impressive.

“I’ve stayed here for 40 years for a reason,” said Kim Stelson, mechanical engineering professor and founding director of the U’s Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power. “It is because of the fact that there are so many of my colleagues, both scientists and engineers, in other departments that I can work with. We really do have a complete portfolio of these different skills, expertise, and technologies that can hasten a research or offer different perspectives to look at a problem.”

For more than 100 years, the CSE community has been behind emerging technologies that changed the world and the way we live our lives—most notably, the pacemaker, flight recorders, and seatbelts. (And, because we play outside and eat: Gore-Tex, the modern toaster, and the Bundt pan.)

So it’s no surprise that CSE scientists and engineers across the globe are spurring innovations in environmental sustainability. 

In the sustainability section

Read what a greener future looks like in:

Water Materials Transportation Energy

Plus, see an interactive map of our research across 7 continents.


Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment.

–U.S. Environmental Protection Agency


Across the seven continents

Click on the map numbers or scroll down for information.

University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering researchers and alumni are doing their part to sustain our environment. Here are just a few examples.