Organizing Committee

Eric J Beckman

Coference Co-chair
Distinguished Professor
Eric Beckman

Eric Beckman received his BS in chemical engineering from MIT in 1980, and a PhD in polymer science from the University of Massachusetts in 1988. Dr. Beckman assumed his faculty position at the University of Pittsburgh in 1989, was promoted to associate professor in 1994, and full professor in 1997. He received a Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation in 1992, and the Presidential Green Chemistry Award in 2002. He previously served as Associate Dean for Research for the School of Engineering and Chairman of Chemical Engineering. In 2003, Dr. Beckman co-founded the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, a school of engineering institute that examines the design of more sustainable infrastructure. In 2005, he co-founded Cohera Medical Inc. to commercialize surgical adhesive technology developed at the University. Dr. Beckman took an entrepreneurial leave of absence from the University in 2007-2009 to help move the products to market. Dr. Beckman's research group examines the use of molecular design to solve problems in green product formulation and in the design of materials for use in tissue engineering. He has published over 175 papers and has received more than 40 US patents.

Melissa Bilec

Melissa Bilec

Dr. Bilec is an associate professor in the Swanson School of Engineering’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; she is the Deputy Director of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation.  Dr. Bilec’s research program focuses on the built environment, life cycle assessment, sustainable healthcare, and indoor air impacts.  She is interested in improving system-level environmental performance of buildings, while developing a deeper understanding of indoor environmental quality, occupant impacts, and energy use.  She is the Principal Investigator of a multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional research project, NSF EFRI-Barriers, Understanding, Integration – Life cycle Development (BUILD). Dr. Bilec has over 40 journal publications and has secured over $6 million in funding, including 8 National Science Foundation grants.  She has received four education excellence awards.   Dr. Bilec’s work prior to academia included tenure at the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh where she worked on green infrastructure projects, including the conversion of a 100-year bridge into a pedestrian bridge.  Dr. Bilec serves on the Green Building Alliance board.

David Dzombak

Conference Co-Chair
Hamerschlag University Professor
Department Head, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Carnegie Mellon University
David Dzombak

David Dzombak is the Hamerschlag University Professor and Head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Carnegie Mellon. The emphasis of his research and teaching is on water quality engineering and energy-environment issues. His current research is focused on climate change adaptation for infrastructure, forecasting the sustainability of water supplies, recovery of rare earth elements from brines, and water management and reuse in thermoelectric power production.

  Dzombak serves on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Science Advisory Board, the U.S. Department of Defense Strategic Environmental Research and Development Science Advisory Board, the Water Science and Technology Board of the National Research Council, the National Academies Roundtable on Science and Technology for Sustainability, and the National Academies Roundtable on Oil and Gas Development in the 21st Century.  He is a registered Professional Engineer in Pennsylvania, a Board Certified Environmental Engineer by the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists, and a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

Vikas Khanna

Vikas Khanna

Vikas Khanna is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Dr. Khanna received his PhD from the Ohio State University in Chemical Engineering. His research and teaching interests are in the areas of sustainability science and engineering, industrial ecology, and complex systems. His doctoral work focused on the environmental evaluation of emerging nanotechnologies and multiscale modeling for environmentally conscious design of chemical processes. While in graduate school, he also completed a science and technology policy fellowship at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington DC. His current research focuses on the development of life cycle oriented methods for assessing environmental sustainability of advanced biofuels and supply chains and network theory approaches for understanding resilience in engineered and large-scale systems. His research is funded by the Department of Energy, US Department of Agriculture, and the National Science Foundation. 

Leidy Klotz

Leidy Klotz

Leidy Klotz is a faculty member jointly appointed in Civil and Environmental Engineering and Architecture at the University of Virginia. His scholarship merging design and behavioral science has been consistently funded, including through an NSF CAREER award and through one of the first awards through NSF’s interdisciplinary INSPIRE program. Leidy also plays a lead role in programs, funded by grants from NSF and the Department of Education, which support cohorts of graduate students on interdisciplinary research in a more resilient and sustainable built environment. He also developed and teaches courses related to sustainability in the built environment. Before becoming an academic, Leidy worked managing school construction projects in New Jersey and before that he played for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds professional soccer team.

Kristen Parrish

Kristen Parrish

Kristen Parrish is an Assistant Professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment at Arizona State University (ASU). Kristen’s work focuses on integrating energy efficiency measures into building design, construction, and operations processes. Specifically, she is interested in novel design processes that financially and technically facilitate energy-efficient buildings. Her work also explores how principles of lean manufacturing facilitate energy-efficiency in the commercial building industry. Kristen’s work also explores how project- and experience-based learning foster better understanding of engineering and management principles in the classroom; she has won two Top 5% Teaching awards from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University and a Distinguished Professor Award from the Construction Industry Institute in recognition of these efforts. Prior to joining ASU, Kristen was at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) as a Postdoctoral Fellow (2009-11) and then a Scientific Engineering Associate (2011-2012) in the Building Technologies and Urban Systems Department. She worked in the Commercial Buildings group, developing energy efficiency programs and researching technical and non-technical barriers to energy efficiency in the buildings industry. She has a background in collaborative design and integrated project delivery. She holds a BS and MS in Civil Engineering from the University of Michigan and a PhD in Civil Engineering Systems from University of California Berkeley.


Annie Pearce

Annie Pearce

Dr. Annie Pearce is an Associate Professor in the Myers-Lawson School of Construction at Virginia Tech specializing in sustainable facilities and infrastructure systems. Throughout her career, Annie has worked with practitioners in both public and private sectors to implement sustainability as part of building planning, design, construction, and operations. As a LEED Accredited Professional, Annie brings the latest in green building methods, technologies, and best practices to the classroom. Her specific areas of interest include metrics of sustainability for built facilities, green building materials and systems, cost modeling to support sustainability implementation, and in situ performance of sustainable facility technologies.


Sean Qian

Sean Qian

Zhen (Sean) Qian joined the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in July 2015. He directs the Mobility Data Analytics Center (MAC) at CMU. Qian was most recently an assistant research professor jointly appointed at the Heinz College and Institute for Complex Engineered Systems. Qian's research lies in the integration and optimization of civil infrastructure systems. The primary focus of his research is to manage aging and overcrowded transportation infrastructure systems, and to build sustainable and resilient infrastructure networks. He is particularly interested in large-scale dynamic network modeling for multi-modal transportation systems, in development of intelligent transportation systems (ITS) and in urban system interdependency modeling.

He was a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University from 2011 to 2013, and received his PhD degree in Civil Engineering at the University of California, Davis.

David R Riley

David Riley


Dr. David R. Riley is a faculty member in the Department of Architectural Engineering at Penn State.  His fields of expertise include Sustainable Building Methods, Affordable and Sustainable Housing, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid Systems, Engineering Education, and Education for Sustainability.  Dr. Riley currently leads multiple energy education and workforce programs in energy launched through funding from the U.S. Department of Energy.  Dr. Riley led Penn State’s Center for Sustainability from 2004 through 2013, and now serves as a Scholar in Residence for the Sustainability Institute at Penn State.  Notable activities include the creation of the American Indian Housing Initiative (AIHI), National Energy Leadership Corps (NELC), and Renewable Energy in Central America (RECA) programs at Penn State.  Each of this effort engages students in immersive learning and research experiences and the creation of sustainable solutions for diverse communities.  As the Director of the Center for Sustainability, Dr. Riley led the development of the Minor in Sustainability Leadership at Penn State.  He also helped develop the Professional Master’s program Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems offered through the World Campus, and led the design and establishment of three new course in this program focused on solar photovoltaic systems engineering and distributed energy generation. Dr. Riley also led Penn State’s entry in the 2007 DOE Solar Decathlon leading to the creation the MorningStar Solar Home, which now serves teaching and learning laboratory on Penn State’s University Park Campus.  He has also led multiple university-industry partnership efforts, including the Partnership for Achieving Construction Excellence at Penn State and the GridSTAR Education and Research Collaborative.  He was recognized as the 2013 Industry Partner of the Year by the National Electrical Contracting Association.


Aurora Sharrard


Dr. Aurora Sharrard is the Executive Director & Vice President of Innovation for Green Building Alliance (GBA), a nonprofit organization that inspires the creation of healthy, high performing places for everyone by providing leadership that connects knowledge, transformative ideas, and collaborative action.  Headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, GBA was founded in 1993, is one of the U.S.’s oldest regional green building organizations, and is a U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) chapter.    

As GBA’s Executive Director, Dr. Aurora Sharrard leads the organization in achieving its mission while setting future visions and strategy.  A GBA staff member since 2007, Aurora continues to drive organizational innovation while advancing GBA’s strategic plan, programs, staff, and stakeholder relationships. A nationally recognized green building expert, Aurora has served GBA under several titles, always providing innovative solutions, strategic thinking, and real world application.

  In her GBA tenure, Aurora most notably co-founded the Pittsburgh 2030 District, wherein buildings in Downtown Pittsburgh and Oakland aspire towards measured high performance of 50% reductions in energy use, water consumption, and transportation emissions by the year 2030, cementing Pittsburgh as a national leader in healthy and high performing places.  She also provides broad and deep technical support to innumerable local green building projects, most notably the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Phipps Conservatory Center for Sustainable Landscapes, and Lower Hill Redevelopment.  

Dr. Sharrard also created and implemented past GBA programs, including DASH and GBA’s Product Innovation Grant programs. DASH is the Database for Analyzing Sustainable and High Performance Buildings—a evidence-based web tool that works to provide building industry professionals with building performance information that enables better decision-making about building design, construction, operations, and maintenance across the triple bottom line.  GBA’s Product Innovation Grants awarded $1.2 million to 24 recipients over 4 years to support the commercialization of innovative green building products.   

From 2008 through 2011, Aurora was also the convener of the Pittsburgh Climate Initiative (PCI) – a collaborative partnership in the Pittsburgh region led by local nonprofit, government, business, and higher education institutions to reduce greenhouse gases through measureable actions; in this time, Aurora led completion of two Pittsburgh Climate Action Plans and one citywide greenhouse gas inventory, while convening the Higher Education Climate Consortium.  Aurora is still an integral PCI Partner, helping guide the third versions of Pittsburgh’s greenhouse gas inventory and climate action plan. 

  Dr. Sharrard serves on the Board of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, the Board of Directors for Pittsburgh Green Innovators, the Advisory Team for the Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership, and the p4 Pittsburgh Measures Committee.  Locally, she is also a Science and Engineering Ambassador for The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and on Carnegie Mellon University’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Department Alumni Advisory Council. Nationally, Aurora is engaged with the National Institute of Health’s Health in Buildings Roundtable.  Dr. Sharrard also regularly peer reviews papers and projects for funders and academic journals – and has multiple academic and nonacademic publications of her own.

  Dr. Aurora Sharrard holds a Master’s and PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering with an emphasis in Green Design from Carnegie Mellon University, as well as a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from Tulane University.  She was a finalist for the 2015 Greater Pittsburgh Athena Young Professional Award and previously received the BusinessWomen First Award from the Pittsburgh Business Times, the 40 Under 40 Pennsylvania Environmental Leaders Award, and the Recent Alumnus Award from Carnegie Mellon University’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Department.  Dr. Sharrard is also an alumna of Leadership Pittsburgh and a LEED AP BD+C.    

  Aurora lives in Pittsburgh with her husband Jesse and sons Angstrom and Faraday.  She loves breakfast, enjoys costumes, and looks forward to someday completing renovations on her 110-year-old house.


Rodolfo Valdes-Vasquez



As a former Fulbright Scholar and as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Construction Management at Colorado State University, Rodolfo is committed to advancing research and teaching involving sustainability of infrastructure projects. In addition to expanding on previous research related to social sustainability, construction safety, and curriculum development, his current research seeks to integrate social sustainability indicators during project delivery and to understand the impact of occupant behavior in the domain of net-zero and –positive energy/water facilities. He is also interested in understanding how having a diverse group of designers influence sustainable designs and construction practices. Particularly, he has become interested in the need of attracting and retaining more diverse professionals to the construction sector; thus, sustainable decisions can be implemented from a variety of perspectives. Rodolfo is comfortable with a range of both quantitative and qualitative methods and has a strong track-record of partnering on research projects with colleagues from a variety of fields, industry members and faculty from other universities. He has received several honors including the ASC Region Six teaching award, the GE Johnson Faculty Scholar and an ASCE Outstanding Journal Reviewer. Rodolfo earned a B.S. in Civil Engineering from the Technological University of Panama and a Master's Degree in Construction Science and Management from Clemson University. While pursuing his doctorate at Clemson University, he also earned a certificate in Engineering and Science Education. Rodolfo believes that education of the next generation of professionals, researchers, and educators will play a pivotal role in making sustainability a standard practice in the planning, design and construction of infrastructure projects.


Jeanne M VanBriesen

Jeanne VanBriesen

Dr. Jeanne M. VanBriesen is the Duquesne Light Company Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University and the Director of the Center for Water Quality in Urban Environmental Systems (Water QUEST) at Carnegie Mellon University. Dr. VanBriesen holds a B.S. in Education and a M.S. and Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from Northwestern University.  She is a licensed professional engineer in the state of Delaware.  Her research is in environmental systems, including biotransformation of recalcitrant organics, detection of biological agents in drinking water and natural water systems, speciation-driven biogeochemistry of chelating agents and disinfection by-products, and impacts of energy extraction.  Dr. VanBriesen has published more than fifty scientific articles and given more than 125 professional presentations.  Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, the Colcom Foundation, the Heinz Endowments, the Packard Foundation, and the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Technology Alliance.  She has supervised fifteen Ph.D. dissertations and six M.S. theses.  Dr. VanBriesen has served on the boards of the Association for Environmental Engineering and Science Professors and the Ohio River Basin Consortia for Research and Education.  She is currently serving on the U.S.EPA Science Advisory Board. Dr. VanBriesen has received numerous awards, including the 2015 American Society of Civil Engineers Margaret S. Petersen Award, the 2015 Carnegie Science Center Environmental Award, the 2013 Philip L. Dowd Fellowship at Carnegie Mellon, the 2009 American Society of Civil Engineers Pittsburgh Chapter Professor of the Year, and the 2007 Pennsylvania Water Environment Association Professional Research Award.  Dr. VanBriesen was a selected presenter at the National Academy of Engineering Indo-US Frontiers of Engineering Symposium on Infrastructure in 2008, and an invited speaker at the National Academy of Engineering Education Symposium in 2010.  She was selected as a National Academy of Engineering Gilbreth Lecturer in 2011.









Organizing Committee


Mascaro Center

Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation
University of Pittsburgh
Swanson School of Engineering
153 Benedum Hall
Pittsburgh, PA 15261

Join Mailing List