Andrea Hicks

Keith and Jane Nosbusch Associate Professor


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Room: 2208
Engineering Hall
1415 Engineering Drive
Madison, WI 53706

Profile Summary

My work focuses on the environmental impacts and sustainability implications of emerging technologies. The goal is to understand the environmental impacts prior to widespread adoption. I study emerging technologies because the earlier a technology is in the design process, the more degrees of freedom exist and the opportunity for change. I sincerely want to make the world a better place through engineering. In order to tackle wicked problems an interdisciplinary approach is required, as suggested by the three paradigms of sustainability: environment, economy, and society, expressed by the Brundtland Commission. I use industrial ecology tools such as life cycle assessment, and environmental systems analysis in order to generate new insight. For many technologies human behavior has the potential to greatly shift environmental impacts through adoption, use, and disposal of these technologies. Thus, I also use tools such as surveys and agent based models to better understand human behavior and its potential to influence environmental impact. The idea of Jevons's Paradox or the Rebound Effect has been fundamental in my work. The adoption of new technologies also depends on the cost of the technologies, and thus it is critical to consider economic aspects as well, across the life cycle of the technology employing tools such as techno-economic assessment. By taking an interdisciplinary approach it is possible to better understand what the sustainability implications of new technologies are, and to make changes to reduce environmental impacts and in some cases advert disasters. My work spans the range from engineered nanomaterials to autonomous vehicles to closed loop food production systems, and everything in between.


Sustainability, environmental systems analysis, life cycle assessment, agent-based modeling, rebound effect, and environmental implications of technology

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