Portrait of Jan Cordero Casillas

ASU student exploring science, technology and advocacy in summer fellowship

By

Marissa Huth

A summer fellowship is affording Arizona State University student Jan Cordero Casillas opportunities to apply aspects of his doctoral research, which focuses on visualizing better methods for helping people to understand data and support decision-making regarding developing urban resilience and climate mitigation. 

Cordero, originally from Puerto Rico and in his second year of the human and social dimensions of science and technology doctoral program, is nearing completion of the 12-week fellowship.

“Two years have passed since Hurricane Maria, and there are still hundreds, if not thousands, living under blue tarps; areas where economic instability has become the norm; and places where the search for a resilient future meant returning to the status quo," Cordero said. "These types of problems encouraged me to try and answer a very important question: How do we make sure science, technology and advocacy does not become an opportunity for only some people and barriers for others?” 

Cordero’s summer has been productive as a fellow with the Environmental Fellows Program at the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability, sponsored in partnership with the Environmental Grantmakers Association. The program connects students from historically underrepresented groups with opportunities in environmental and philanthropic organizations. He is placed with the New York office of the Natural Resources Defense Council where he collaborates on multiple projects including:

  • An examination of the environmental impact of proposed pipelines on communities in New York to outline effects on community resources such as drinking water.

  • A climate resilience project that identifies discrepancies between government and residents’ priorities and perspectives related to building resilience and establishing mitigation efforts in response to climate change (e.g., the city may be emphasizing protection against flooding, but residents might be more concerned about heat vulnerability).

  • Helping to improve privacy protections for users of a pollution tracking app being deployed in Houston. Residents can use the app to record indicators of environmental issues and mark affected locations so government agencies can further investigate and identify potential problems.

Cordero also just received a new four-year National Science Foundation Research Traineeship at ASU. He has been working with Thad Miller, assistant professor at the School for the Future of Innovation in Society and the Polytechnic School.