Decarbonization Corps

Student & Faculty Lacy Hall

Reducing or eliminating carbon dioxide emissions from the environment ("decarbonization") will help avoid the worst impacts of climate change. To accomplish this, there must be massive transformations across all economic sectors as well as advances in sciences, technology, business, and policy.

UVA's Environmental Institute proudly announces, in 2023, a new initiative called the Decarbonization Corps.

The goal of the Corps is to increase the pace of decarbonization through faculty-led translational research projects conducted in conjunction with a practitioner, supported by a student intern. 

Projects in the Decarbonization Corps will focus on the innovation and entrepreneurship needed to drive systemic change.

The program provides an inclusive and diverse experience. Upper-level undergraduates and graduate students from all disciplines are encouraged to apply.

To Apply

Faculty at UVA should apply with a project concept in mind.

Project descriptions may include a pre-identified practitioner but EI is available to assist connecting faculty with outside organizations.

To get started: email the Decarbonization Corps Program Manager, Jonah Fogel. Please include a brief statement of interest with the following:

  1. a project description (1/2-page max),
  2. the name of a practitioner's host organization, and
  3. the name of the student intern, if available.

(Faculty are welcome to submit a project description with request for assistance connecting with host organizations. EI is also available to recruit interns for specific projects if requested.)

Projects must be completed in a 10-week period during the summer, and practitioners should provide students with a meaningful workplace experience.

Funds are available to support faculty and students. Appropriate use of funds includes: meals and travel, research activities, and educational or translational activities.

Inaugural Decarbonization Corps Projects

cement construction

Low Carbon Cement

Cement manufacturing generates over 8% of global CO2 emissions so the embodied emissions of building materials are front of mind for builders around the world. Recent advances in the lab suggest that there is a path to create a pour-in-place cement that is rich in both carbonates, which permanently sequester CO2, and crystalline calcium silicate hydrate (CCSH) phases, which provide strength and durability. The Institute is looking for an undergraduate student with interest in wet lab research AND in commercialization/start-up company design. Over the course of the summer the intern will work with dynamic group of undergraduate and graduate students to perform proof-of-concept experiments. The work will support engagement with companies and possible customers and will directly support the development of a business plan.


Decarbonizing Healthcare

The U.S. Health Care Sector is responsible for 8.5% of US greenhouse gas emissions. Much of those emissions are created by, and for products and services used by, hospitals. However, there is no current estimation of the total carbon footprint of a hospital. Together with Rho Impact, EI will develop strong foundational elements for calculating scope 3 emissions from a hospital including calculation boundaries, methodologies, and assumptions. The intern will work with project leads over a 10-week period to complete the project. In addition, the student intern will gain experience working at a fully remote company, working directly with members of Rho Impact’s science team. In-person communication with the point of contact and local Rho Impact representatives will take place in the Charlottesville area. 


Seagrass Ecosystem Service Valuation

Seagrass meadows are part of marine ecosystems found along the coasts of nearly all continents. They are widely considered to be among the most productive ecosystems in the world. Seagrasses provide a range of ecosystem services including fisheries habitat, water quality improvement, and shoreline protection. UVA researchers will work with The Nature Conservancy to build on recent blue-carbon accounting and voluntary carbon crediting, to explore ecosystem service valuation.

Trees with sunlight streaming through

Forests and Carbon Accounting

Forests have been viewed as one of the key players in the carbon market and nature-based solutions. Forest and land use related carbon market transactions have been steadily increasing, reaching $1.3B USD in 2021. The success of the market highly depends on accurate and verifiable carbon accounting. However, traditional methods to estimate forest carbon are highly uncertain and may even contribute to net carbon emissions rather than net carbon gain. This project will quantify forest carbon at a local Virginia site, the Oakencroft Farm. The team will scan recently planted trees and mature trees on the farm, and compare the carbon stock estimated.