Susan Powers

Director of the Institute for a Sustainable Environment / Associate Director of Sustainability / Jean '79 & Robert '79 Spence Professorship in Sustainable Environmental Systems
Susan  Powers Headshot


I am the Spence Professor of Sustainable Environmental Systems and the Director of the Institute for a Sustainable Environment at Clarkson University. I received my Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from the University of Michigan in 1992 and have two years of experience as a project engineer with Engineering Science (now Parsons) in Syracuse, New York. I have served on the Board of Directors of the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors, the EPA Science Advisory Board - Environmental Engineering committee (2003-2009, 2015-2019), and on the board of the Engineering Research Council of the American Society of Engineering Education.

The technical research that I and my students complete includes lifecycle assessment to provide perspectives on energy systems and their overall environmental impact. My research focuses on defining and quantifying metrics that can be used to assess the energy and environmental benefits and liabilities associated with energy systems. Specific recent interdisciplinary work includes anaerobic digestion for food waste management and energy production and smart housing to motivate energy conservation behavior.

My education and scholarly work are integrated through research on aspects of engineering and broader STEM education. I have had several education oriented research grants, including the NSF Director’s Award as a Distinguished Teaching Scholar. Among these efforts, I have promoted and assessed the value of utilizing relevant project-based experiences to improve energy and climate change literacy of middle school, high school and college students. I am using my current academic position to promote project-based learning experiences to promote sustainability for college students. I am teaching classes and working with several student groups to analyze and improve existing campus operations and design and innovate new facilities to reduce our campus’ impact on the environment and society. The goal in all of these projects is to provide real-world, messy and open ended projects to students to enhance their education both in technical aspects as well as team work, communication and integrating sustainability as a critical project criterion.

Education Background

Environmental Engineering Ph.D. - 1992 The University of Michigan
Civil & Environmental Engineering M.S. - 1985 Clarkson University
Chemical Engineering B.S. - 1983 Clarkson University

Research Interests

Recent projects include environmental life cycle management issues for electricity and dairy waste-to-energy systems, and residential energy conservation programs. Her current research is especially focused on defining and quantifying metrics that can be used to assess the energy and environmental benefits and liabilities associated with energy systems.


  • AEESP Distinguished Service Award, Assoc. Environ. Engineering and Science Professors, 2019
  • Inducted into Phalanx campus leadership society, April 2018AEESP Fellow (Assoc. Environmental Engineering and Science Professors) 
  • Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award, Reh Center of Entrepreneurship, Clarkson University, 2012.\
  • Premier Curriculum Award for K-12 Engineering, from TeachEngineering, the National Science Foundation’s Digital Library for Engineering Pathways, 2009
  • NSF Directors Award – Distinguished Teaching Scholar, 2004, Washington DC


Representative Research Publications

Representative Education Publications

  • DeWaters, J.E., S.E. Powers, “Energy Literacy of Secondary Students in New York State.” Energy Policy. 39: 1699–1710, 2011. doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2010.12.049.
  • Powers, S.E., J.E. DeWaters, M.Z. Venczel, “Teaching Lifecycle Perspectives – A Sustainable Transportation Fuels Unit for High School and Undergraduate Engineering Students.” ASCE J. Prof. Issues in Engrg. Educ. & Practice, 137(2): 55-64, 2011. DOI: 10.1061/(ASCE)EI.1943-5541.0000059
  • DeWaters, J.E., S.E. Powers, “Establishing Measurement Criteria for an Energy Literacy Questionnaire.” J. Environmental Education, 44(1), 38-55, 2013.  DOI:10.1080/00958964.2012.711378 (
  • DeWaters, J.E., S.E. Powers, B. Qaqish, and M.E. Graham. “Designing an Energy Literacy Questionnaire for Middle and High School Youth.” J. Environmental Education, 44(1): 56-78, 2013. DOI:10.1080/00958964.2012.682615
  • DeWaters, J.E., C. Andersen, A. Calderwood, S.E. Powers, Improving Climate Literacy with Project-Based Modules Rich in Educational Rigor and Relevance. Journal of Geoscience Education, 62(3): 469-484, 2014.
  • DeWaters, J.E., S.E. Powers, F. Bilow. An Introductory Energy Course to Promote Broad Energy Edu-cation for Undergraduate Engineering Students. Sustainability, 13, 9693, 2021.
  • Powers, S.E., J.E. DeWaters, S. Dhaniyala. Climate literacy – Imperative competencies for tomorrow’s engineers. Sustainability, 13, 9684, 2021.



Office Phone Number: 315/268-6542

Office Location: 122 Technology Advancement Ctr

Clarkson Box Number: CU Box 5715

CV file: