RIT student takes on climate advocate role


Susan Spencer sees potential for the Rochester region to lead on technology that could prevent the acceleration of climate change.

In particular, she says she sees promise in the solar cell research and development work happening across the area, especially at Eastman Business Park. And that makes sense: Spencer is a Ph.D. candidate at Rochester Institute of Technology who studies solar cell technology. Her dissertation, which she defends at the end of August, deals with ways to optimize solar cells at the molecular level.

In a sense, Spencer is trying to fight climate change from inside a lab. But she says she also wants to talk to the public about climate change, and solutions including renewable energy.  And to that end, she'll give a free presentation — "The Climate Crisis and Renewable Energy Solutions" — at 6 p.m. tomorrow at RIT, in the Xerox auditorium in Gleason Hall. It'll last 45 minutes to an hour, and a question-and-answer session will follow. 

Earlier this summer, Spencer spent a week at a Climate Reality Leader training session in Australia. That's the program developed and led by former Vice President Al Gore, with the idea of getting regular people from across the world to serve as climate ambassadors. The broader idea, Spencer says, is to build a groundswell of support for meaningful governmental actions on greenhouse gas emissions and other climate issues. The presentation is designed to inform people of the problem, but also to stress that there is hope for addressing it.

"I think it's a winnable battle," Spencer says. "I really do."

As part of the training, she had to commit to 10 leadership acts. The presentations are one of them. And Spencer has a 13-year-old daughter who is active in Girl Scouts, and she's working with the regional organization to incorporate a climate change component into its science, technology, engineering, and math program.