My name is Nick Ciancio. I’m from Florida. I work at the University of Alabama at Birmingham where I am the Green Labs Coordinator.
What sustainability, energy, and community issues are important to you?
I have always been particularly interested in renewable energy and alternative methods of transportation and their effects on society, particularly individuals who are of lower socioeconomic status. Traditional forms of transportation and fossil fuels have the greatest impact on individuals who are struggling economically. Currently, wealthy individuals are the only ones capable of installing solar panels on their homes or driving electric vehicles. Although this is environmentally better than using the traditional alternatives, the economic savings incurred for these individuals are negligible compared to their overall wealth. Impoverished individuals would not only have better health outcomes from being able to utilize electric transportation and clean energy, but they would also experience greater economic savings compared to those currently using these cleaner alternatives. It is often lost on individuals that sustainability doesn't just refer to a cleaner environment, but also refers to the well-being of others. I like that renewable energy, alternative transportation, and other fields of sustainability are multi-faceted and can solve a variety of problems.
What exciting projects/research are you working on now?
I am currently working on implementing several energy-saving initiatives in research laboratories across my university's campus. A traditional laboratory building will use over four times the amount of energy than a traditional office building. Encouraging researchers to make behavioral changes and how they store samples can drastically reduce energy consumption. Reducing energy without any major investments are always considered to be low-hanging fruit, but are often times incredibly effective. I'm having a blast figuring out ways to reduce energy in a cost-effective manner while preventing researchers from being inconvenienced. The goal is to have over 200 principal investigators adopt these behavioral changes. I'm like a kid in a candy shop.
What are your plans for the next five years?
I would love to help a city develop a strategic plan to address climate change and sustainability. I like being able to think critically while also seeing the effects of my work firsthand. Being able to help a city would not only allow me to do both of these things, but it would also allow me to potentially help a community that hasn't been given the resources necessary to thrive. That being said, one of the exciting (and admittedly scary) things about the future is that I'm not definitively certain what's in store. One thing that I do know is that I am eager for the ride.
What made you want to apply to SISE?
I'm really passionate about making a difference when possible. SISE not only allows me to help effect change, but it also gives me the opportunity to learn about sustainability, communities, and a city I've never visited. SISE seemed like a treasure trove of opportunities and it would've been crazy of me to pass up on something like it.
What are you most looking forward to doing in Chicago?
I am really excited to check out the museums, parks, and downtown Chicago. I'm definitely most looking forward to trying some authentic deep dish pizza. I also live for a thriving public transit, so I can't wait to try it out!
Do you like Cats? If not, are you willing to learn to like cats?
I love cats. There's never been a time in my life where there wasn't a cat in my family. I'm hoping to leave Chicago loving cats even more.