Closing the loop

CSE class part of NSF program to train students on circularity

Imagine a world in which every product and material is recycled or reused and all waste is eliminated or upcycled—and this system is efficient, continuous, sustainable. Circularity isn’t a new concept. Its adoption has just been slow. A team of University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering (CSE) is looking to change this. 

“People have been researching, writing about, and advocating for a more circular view of society since the 1980s at least,” said Paige Novak, who also heads CSE’s Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering (CEGE). “Yet, after so many years, these concepts, although they are still around, have not led to real, large-scale changes.”

As part of the program, Novak and CEGE professor Bill Arnold partnered with Minneapolis-based artist Gudrun Lock to develop a class.

Topics in “A Circularity Revolution: Working to Close the Loop on Global Issues” include systems thinking, mass balances, and resource recovery. The class, which is open to both graduate and undergraduate students, also encourages students to pay attention to how they look at the world and how they look for solutions.

Arnold and Lock taught the course last spring. Novak and Lock led it this fall. 

“[The class] lets students really sink into the idea that not all solutions need to be technical or policy-focused,” Novak said. “That experience can open students to see value in new perspectives and, we hope, will help embed new concepts related to circularity into their engineering solutions.”

Read more about this Circularity course—that Arnold will teach, again, in fall 2024—on the CEGE website.

Learn about the NSF Research Traineeship program in circularity.

If you’d like to support students at the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering, visit our CSE giving page.

Posted Jan. 23, 2024