Congratulations to Ciaran Gallagher for being awarded the 2020-21 George Bunn Distinguished Graduate Fellowship! This award is made possible through an endowment from UW–Madison law professor George Bunn (1925–2013), who helped found EAP in 1980. Every few years, the Bunn Fellowship allows outstanding EAP students to receive an academic year of financial support towards their education and research. I was fortunate for the opportunity to interview Ciaran, who is beginning the second year of a master’s degree in Environment and Resources from the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.
Where did you grow up and what were you doing before starting your studies at UW-Madison?
I grew up in San Diego, California and graduated from Wellesley College in 2017 with a degree in Environmental Chemistry. Before graduate school, I worked for municipal and state governments in California on climate change mitigation through initiatives in the energy and waste sectors. As a CivicSpark AmeriCorps fellow I worked for two cities in the Bay Area on greenhouse gas inventories and climate action plans. Then I served as a Capitol Fellow at the Department of Resources, Recycling, and Recovery (CalRecycle). During my tenure at CalRecycle, I assisted with the rulemaking process of organic waste diversion legislation and environmental justice outreach. These experiences cemented my interest in addressing climate change through local and state policy levers that are data-driven and science-informed.
What drew you to UW-Madison and the EAP program?
I was drawn to UW-Madison first and foremost because of the EAP program. Since I consider energy and transportation policy changes key to climate action, I was attracted to the EAP program’s transdisciplinary curriculum and simultaneous depth of learning around energy systems. I decided to attend UW-Madison, however, because I was excited to work with Dr. Tracey Holloway. I am interested in conducting scientific research that is directly applicable to policymakers and Dr. Holloway has a reputation of bridging her research with policy-relevant stakeholders.
Can you describe your current research?
My research examines how energy choices that reduce carbon dioxide also benefit public health. Burning fossil fuels emit pollutants that warm the planet (greenhouse gases) as well as pollutants that harm human health. Despite these relationships, air quality and energy changes are not often investigated simultaneously. I use multiple models and an analysis of previously published literature to identify beneficial policies for both climate and health.
What is your favorite part of EAP?
I appreciate the networking opportunities, both with my peers and local energy sector experts. My fellow EAP classmates will be part of the transformative change of our energy systems and I am grateful to learn from them today and tomorrow. Additionally, through the EAP seminar and other campus events, I have met experts tackling current energy challenges from governments, industries, and non-profits. These conversations have prompted me to think critically about how to shape the future’s energy systems.
Tell us one unique thing about you that not many people know?
I greatly enjoy exploring food preservation recipes – all things jams, jellies, and pickles! My favorite preserved food I’ve made so far is a cherry jam I made during peak summertime cherry season last year.
Any post-graduation aspirations you would like to share? Dream job?
After graduation I would like to return to the public sector to continue to work on climate change mitigation and resilience by fostering an equitable transition to 100% carbon-free transportation and energy systems.