Shelie Miller, Ph.D.
PhD, Civil and Materials Engineering, University of Illinois at Chicago
ME, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Clarkson University
BS, Chemistry, Denison University
My research uses life cycle assessment and scenario modeling to identify environmental problems before they occur. Historically, our society has taken a reactionary approach to the environment. By proactively understanding the environmental issues of emerging technologies, we can identify a greater number of options and more creative solutions to avoid or reduce negative consequences. My research group works on a variety of energy-related topics, including the energy-water nexus, bioenergy, and hydraulic fracturing. Our current research focuses on two major areas of exploration:
Advancing Life Cycle Assessment Methods
Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a tool to analyze all aspects of a technology’s environmental impact. I explore areas within the LCA field that are not sufficiently developed in an effort to make LCA more robust and useful. Much of my work focuses on expanding LCA to include often overlooked but important environmental metrics, such as water quality, resource depletion, and land use change. My research group has conducted traditional biogeochemical modeling studies on bioenergy systems as well as quantifying the tradeoffs in carbon sequestration, nitrate emissions, and land use. Another ongoing research project quantifies the comparative water quality impacts of electricity produced from shale gas versus coal.
Environmental Impacts of Technology Adoption Pathways
The systems that can most greatly benefit from LCA are complex, dynamic, and evolving. Traditional LCA methods are not yet sufficiently developed to appropriately model emerging systems. My group creates robust analyses of dynamic systems, attempting to learn critical information about how different product development patterns will affect future environmental impact. We have used a variety of approaches to model future scenarios, including game theory, Bayesian statistical methods, and agent-based modeling. Grounded in science and engineering principles, this work is highly interdisciplinary, integrating relevant concepts from economics, policy, ecology, and human behavior. Teaching Interests teach Environmental Systems Analysis at the graduate level and Ecological Issues at the undergraduate level. Environmental Systems Analysis is a quantitative decision-making course, where students are challenged to engage in rigorous problem-solving techniques and analyze tradeoffs that occur due to multiple, competing stakeholder objectives. The Ecological Issues course encourages students to think deeply about the interactions between modern life and the environment, using a life cycle approach of everyday products to survey a range of environmental topics.