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Physics Grad Looks Toward a Sustainable Future
2004 Alumnus, Physics, School of Science
Ph.D. Student, Industrial Environmental Management, Yale; Director, Byron Fellowship Educational Foundation
Gabriel Grant’s resume was longer than most seasoned business professionals – before he graduated from college. While attending Purdue University and the IUPUI School of Science, Grant worked as a consultant for three companies, completed several internships and founded two organizations dedicated to sustainability.
Grant’s interest in science formed early building Rube-Goldberg machines, competing in a seventh-grade science fair with an innovative generator prototype and racing a solar powered bicycle with high school teammates. Grant enrolled at Purdue in West Lafayette, then transferred to IUPUI at the end of his sophomore year to grow his consulting business in Indianapolis and work on the development of The Indiana Consortium for Education toward Sustainability (ICES) – a statewide effort aimed at leveraging sustainability initiatives. While still attending IUPUI, his involvement with ICES led to the creation of the Byron Fellowship Educational Foundation which hosts a week-long interdisciplinary course in sustainable community development. Byron Fellowship is attended each year by undergraduates, graduate students and recent graduates.
“I absolutely loved IUPUI,” says Grant. “I found the professors to be so passionate about teaching and the classroom experiences lively and engaging. I had plans to return to Purdue and never did.”
While at IUPUI, Grant completed his physics degree with honors, also minoring in mathematics and philosophy. He earned the Forrest Meiere Prize for Outstanding Physics Major and was also named one of 10 IUPUI nominees for “Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities” in 2004.
After graduation, Grant returned to West Lafayette to begin his master’s degree as the first student in Purdue’s ecological science and engineering program.
“I had always viewed things as technological problems, which is where the physics came in,” explains Grant. “But with all of my experience in business – and actually some of the philosophy courses I took at IUPUI – I broadened my perspective on things.”
It’s this new awareness that brings Grant to where he is today – a doctoral student at Yale University’s Center for Industrial Ecology. Interested in sustainability, personal, organizational and societal adaptive capacity, his most recent work seeks to understand how people relate to their work and each other, and how those relationships manifest into sustainable industrial systems.
“The objective of my research is to uncover how passion or virtuousness influences the way we make meaning of our work and the resulting implications for performance,” says Grant. “I think that understanding these relationships will lead to the identification of mechanisms that link sustainability, or the flourishing of all life together, with the flourishing of organizations and individuals.”
According to Grant, the concept of industrial ecology mimics traditional ecosystems in that resources and by-products generated from industry are used and then re-used.
“Identifying opportunities for byproducts from one industry to be used for co-products in another, fundamentally requires people talking about their work, outside of their work,” he explains. “The people who tend to share about their work experience it as a calling, or something beyond a mere job.”
In addition to working on his Ph.D. at Yale, Grant continues to lead the Byron Fellowship. Two of the group’s current projects include architecturally documenting covered bridges in Parke County, Ind., and assembling a team of Hoosiers (including participants at IUPUI) to enter The Living City Challenge with a plan to convert Bush Stadium into a living laboratory of sustainability.