UCLA Grand Challenges: A living laboratory to a thriving city

By Maya Bruguera

In April of 2013, President Obama called on public and private organizations to join him in taking on “ambitious yet achievable” goals to solve society’s biggest issues through scientific and technological ingenuity, a undertaking which he described as the 21st Century Grand Challenges. Prompted by this national initiative, in October of 2013, UCLA launched the first of six UCLA Grand Challenges with a motto of “a social movement for the greater good”.  

The first of these challenges is titled "Thriving in a Hotter Los Angeles" (THLA), aimed at achieving 100% sustainability in the Los Angeles region by 2050.  This is the first year of the ART Grand Challenge Team with stakeholders Nurit Katz, UCLA Chief Sustainability Coordinator, Mark Gold, Associate Director of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, and a director of the THLA Grand Challenge.  Our student members include Franz Anunciacion, Maya Bruguera, Danielle Griffin, Lauren Cheesman, and Sarah Chiang.  

Our team’s primary goals for the year are to figure out how research being done by professors at UCLA can be applied to achieving the THLA Grand Challenge, and how opportunities can be created for students to become involved in this research.  Currently, UCLA runs a number of pilot projects, known as living labs, which apply professors' research on a small scale to further campus sustainability. Our team aims to interview professors conducting research in the fields of water and energy, and create a database with information on how this research can be applied in living labs to create a fully sustainable campus.  We hope to make this information publicly accessible through a webpage so that students can become involved in the research. We believe that a public conversation and spotlight can further the goal of creating a sustainable, thriving Los Angeles.