Three new co-funds join Institutes of Energy and the Environment

Stormy clouds in the background of the view of Old Main from Westgate. Credit: Christie Clancy / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Three faculty members recently joined the Institutes of Energy and the Environment (IEE) in three different areas of expertise. Two are in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, and the other is in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences (EMS).

The new co-funded faculty members are Sarah Ivory, in EMS, and Jessica Myrick and Juliet Pinto, both in the Bellisario College.

“Each of these professors brings the perspectives of multiple disciplines to their research,” said Tom Richard, director of the Institutes of Energy and the Environment. “They are ambassadors of discovery, able to synthesize knowledge in new and unique ways. They bring those insights to the complex and pressing challenges at the interface of human understanding and behavior, public policy, and our changing environment. The Institutes of Energy and the Environment is very proud to welcome Sarah Ivory, Juliet Pinto, and Jessica Myrick to our outstanding community of interdisciplinary scholars at Penn State.”

This is the first time that IEE has had co-funded faculty in the Bellisario College.

“The work of IEE is a perfect match for our growing emphasis on science communication. Our work is by definition interdisciplinary, and we have a strong interest in partnering with scientists on the human dimensions of their work,” said Marie Hardin, dean of the Bellisario College. “We bring expertise in the theoretical and practical issues for ‘moving the needle’ on public understanding of science.”

Jessica Myrick, associate professor in the Bellisario College, joined IEE earlier this year. She is also a faculty member of the Science Communication Program in the Bellisario College. Myrick is interested in people’s emotional responses to media messages, particularly environmental messages. She also studies how celebrities’ social media posts are influencing people’s opinions on these topics.

“The concepts that I am most interested in are emotions and affect,” Myrick said. “I am trying to understand how different combinations of emotions like fearfulness and hopefulness motivate subsequent behavior. How do our responses to media about health and the environment influence our thoughts?”

Prior to arriving at Penn State, Myrick was an assistant professor at Indiana University – Bloomington, where she was also a fellow in the Center for Computer Mediated Communication. She earned her doctorate in mass communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as well as a graduate certificate in interdisciplinary health communication. Myrick received her master’s degree in journalism and her bachelor’s degree in political science, both from Indiana University – Bloomington.

Juliet Pinto, also an associate professor in the Bellisario College, is joining Penn State and IEE this summer.

“I’m interested in the social production of mediated news and information, and how such content interfaces with public opinion and policy outcomes,” Pinto said. “For many people, mediated arenas are the primary sources of information regarding environmental and scientific issues, and so understanding the complex processes at work in the manufacture, dissemination and reception of those messages is important.”

For the last 12 years, Pinto has been teaching at Florida International University, most recently as associate professor and associate chair in the School of Communication and Journalism. Prior to that, she worked at the University of Miami, researching and teaching in the fields of marine science and communication. Pinto earned her doctorate in communication and her master’s degree in marine affairs and policy, both at the University of Miami, and received her bachelor’s degree in environmental science from Boston University.

Sarah Ivory, assistant professor of geosciences in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, also joins Penn State this year. Her research focuses on how landscapes — and specifically their vegetation — change over time, as well as the processes that drive these changes.

“In my past, I’ve been in biology, ecology, geology and anthropology departments, most of which were very disciplinarily isolated,” Ivory said, reflecting on her decision to join the University. “In contrast, Penn State seems to really value access to interdisciplinary resources, particularly in the environmental sciences.”

Ivory comes to Penn State from Ohio State University, where she completed her postdoctoral research. She earned her doctorate in geosciences from the University of Arizona and her bachelor’s degree in biology, with a focus on botany, from the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire.

“Much of Sarah Ivory’s work is focused on the tropics, where vegetation patterns are changing most rapidly today,” said Timothy Bralower, professor and interim department head of geosciences, in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. “So her research is of great relevance to faculty in geosciences, geography, forestry and agriculture who are concerned with the future impact of climate change on plant growth, soil production and the incidence of fire, and we are excited about her joining the faculty and Penn State.”

The Institutes of Energy and the Environment works to build teams of experts from different disciplines to see how new ways of thinking can solve some of the world’s most difficult energy and environmental challenges. IEE understands that our world needs sustainable sources of energy, while simultaneously protecting and developing a healthy planet, people and economy.

Last Updated June 02, 2021