Our Work

Powering Up University-Wide Efforts

The Nicholas Institute bolsters energy, environment, and sustainability initiatives across the entire university. We played a pivotal role in advancing the Duke Climate Commitment in its first year. We also supported climate research by experts across Duke, and continued to offer transformative learning experiences to students across degree programs.

Brian Murray hosting student panel at Duke Climate Commitment launch


In It for Life: Duke Commits to University-Wide Effort on Climate Solutions

Introduced in September 2022, the Duke Climate Commitment unites the university’s education, research, operations, and external engagement missions to address the climate crisis. The commitment builds on Duke’s longstanding leadership in climate, energy, and sustainability to educate a new generation of climate-fluent innovators and create equitable solutions for all.

Throughout FY 2023, the Nicholas Institute, led by Interim Director Brian Murray, worked alongside university leadership to help develop the vision, strategy, infrastructure, and early programming for the Duke Climate Commitment. Several institute staff were part of a team recognized with a 2022-23 Presidential Award for their work planning the launch event.


Funding Program Advances Duke Climate Research

The first round of awards from the Climate Research Innovation Seed Program (CRISP) funded 12 teams of scholars from eight Duke schools to accelerate research on sustainable, equitable solutions to climate change and its effects. Overseen by the Nicholas Institute, CRISP is one of several new programs supporting the Duke Climate Commitment. The teams were collectively awarded $643,000 to investigate wide-ranging topics such as lower-cost, higher-efficiency solar cells; subsidies for energy-saving home renovations; the environmental, health, and justice impacts of mining critical raw materials; and pastoral care for climate change.

Project teams from across Duke who applied for the first round of CRISP funding

Ph.D. student Shichen Guo working with an electrolyzer for green hydrogen production.

The strong response to this new program demonstrates once again that Duke’s scholarly community is fully engaged in taking on climate-related challenges—from the basic sciences and engineering to business, law, public policy, and the humanities. That interdisciplinary approach has long been the hallmark of Duke’s climate work.

Brian Murray

Interim Director, Nicholas Institute

Group shot of Duke University students after touring Central Campus Chiller Plant #3


Educational Offerings Inspire and Equip Future Leaders

The Nicholas Institute cultivates a robust slate of learning opportunities for Duke students across degree programs who are interested in energy, environment and sustainability. In addition to offering numerous undergraduate and graduate courses, the institute helps students connect with energy and environmental professionals and get hands-on experience through events, field trips, interdisciplinary research projects, internships, and support of student-led efforts. In spring 2023, the institute partnered with the Duke Career Center on the joint hire of a senior career specialist to advise students and develop a signature career community in energy, environment, and sustainability.

Education Highlight

Students at Climate+ event

Data Science Meets Climate Research in Summer Program

In summer 2022, five teams of Duke students took on interdisciplinary climate challenges while honing their data science skills as part of the first cohort of Climate+. The Nicholas Institute partnered with the Rhodes Information Initiative at Duke to launch Climate+ as a vertical within Rhodes iiD’s Data+ program, a full-time, ten-week summer research experience for Duke students of all class years and majors. The teams worked on diverse topics, including electricity consumption, wetland carbon emissions, climate change’s impacts on river and ocean ecosystems, and the use of remote sensing data to inform climate strategies.