Newly Announced Wilkes Center to Provide Research Opportunities for U Students Focused on Climate Change


Jake Stranzl

University of Utah Campus in Salt Lake on Oct. 11, 2020. (Photo by Jake Stranzl | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Chandler Joost, News Writer


Recently announced at the University of Utah, the Wilkes Center for Climate Science and Policy will provide many opportunities for students and faculty alike to engage in meaningful research in the field of climate change and policy.

According to its mission statement, “The Wilkes Center for Climate Science & Policy at the University of Utah strives to provide transformative, integrative, and cutting-edge science, education, entrepreneurship, and practical solutions to tackle climate change in Utah, the United States, and the globe.”

According to Peter Trapa, dean of the College of Science, “The Wilkes Center was really conceived to foster innovation in climate science and its application to decision makers and these applications for decision makers.”

Trapa said innovation is sourced in many different ways, such as educational programs, research programs and other research efforts that will be sponsored by the Wilkes Center.

The Wilkes Center will provide research opportunities as well as policy proposals to provide practical solutions to tackle climate change. These policy proposals could go to businesses or governments when they are forming policies for their businesses or the state.

The Center was made possible through a donation from Clay and Marie Wilkes. John Lin, associate director of the Wilkes Center and professor of atmospheric sciences, explained this center was made possible by the Wilkes and is a combination of their vision as well as U President Taylor Randall’s vision.

“It was enabled by the generosity of Clay and Marie Wilkes, who made a substantial donation to the university and it’s really their vision and President Randall’s vision that merged to create the center,” Lin said.

“The vision of Clay Wilkes is, it’s very important to put these advances in climate science and this innovation that you foster in climate science into the hands of decision makers,” Trapa said.

The Wilkes Center will provide opportunities for undergraduate students, graduate students and faculty members.

“For first-year students, there’s something called the SRI, or science research initiatives,” Lin said. “These are really intense but pretty successful models to engage first-year undergraduates in research, and specifically the Wilkes Center will help support SRIs associated with climate issues.”

After their first year in the SRI program, students will be able to become Wilkes Scholars, which will support them in their climate research and support their climate research beyond their first year in the program.

“The Wilkes scholars will be pursuing research in climate science and policy and these work scholarships will support students to work for as much as two semesters,” Lin said. “So, we’re thinking about a broader time horizon, hopefully to support students to do something really cool.”

Faculty members will also be able to apply for seed grants in order to support research or any ideas they have in regard to climate change and climate science. Lin also explained that in that research, faculty members could be able to engage undergraduate students as research assistants.


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