15th ESW Annual Conference - Speakers

We have an awesome speaker line-up this year! Check out some of our speakers below. Interested in speaking in a breakout session, panel, workshop or podcast? Submit your abstract now!

Keynote Speakers



Program Manager | National Grid

Sara Cavanaugh is a Program Manager for Strategic Planning at National Grid. She works on the development and mobilization of strategies that address the decarbonization of the grid while continuing to capture value for customers and shareholders. Before National Grid, Sara helped operationalize and scale start-ups in hardware, software, food, and financial sectors. Her passion for sustainability and aptitude for entrepreneurship has driven her to take part in ensuring the infrastructure of the future is resilient and sustainable. In her free time, Sara enjoys playing soccer and exploring consciousness through philosophy and experience. She has her MBA from Babson College and resides in the Greater Boston Area.

Breakout Speakers


Graduate Student | University of Hawaii

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Sebastien Selarque is a graduate student enrolled at the University of Hawaii at Manoa's Renewable Energy and Island Sustainability Program, where engineering, economics, urban planning, and natural resource management form an interdisciplinary curriculum. Sebastien also works as a research assistant at the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, where he focuses on virtual power plant technologies. Sebastien also actively serves as the co-chair for the Climate Reality Project: O'ahu Chapter and as a program coordinator for Engineers for a Sustainable World's Professional Relations Department. Prior to his current roles, Sebastien served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guinea, West Africa. He received his bachelor's degree in Electrical Mechanical Engineering Technology from the Rochester Institute of Technology. During his undergraduate program, Sebastien interned for a total of 12 months as a manufacturing engineer at GE Aviation


Brand and Impact Director | Cotopaxi

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In her role as Brand and Impact Director, Annie steers the Cotopaxi’s giving and community efforts and works to create a symbiotic relationship between suppliers, customers, and peers. With a decade of experience in corporate social responsibility, Annie makes sure that every aspect of Cotopaxi’s brand is leveraged to generate a positive benefit to society and the communities the company touches. She is a graduate of Columbia University and Master's candidate at Cambridge University and a native of Park City, UT.


Chief Sustainability Officer | University at Buffalo

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As UB’s inaugural chief sustainability officer since 2011, Ryan McPherson has created a culture of innovative and collaborative sustainability at UB and implemented strategies to help position the university as a sustainability leader in the community, state and nation, as well as across higher education. Among his chief priorities has been setting 10 key strategies to implement within the next decade as part of the university’s climate action plan. He also has worked to integrate the Sustainable Development Goals across campus and New York as part of the broader work to create the next generation of change agents who are building the future we seek. In part under McPherson’s oversight, UB has already achieved one of its sustainability goals: 100% of the electricity the university uses comes from clean, renewable sources, an achievement that has helped UB reduce its carbon footprint by 35% and put the university on the path to climate neutrality by 2030. During McPherson’s tenure, UB has received the Green Power Leadership Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, won Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s “Reforming the Energy Vision” competition, and most recently was rated No. 1 — among 376 colleges and universities — by the Times Higher Education Impact Assessment among U.S. universities in taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.


Student Engagement | ClimateVoice

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Tessa heads the Student Engagement Team at ClimateVoice, a nonprofit that aims to mobilize the workforce to urge companies to go "all in on climate" both in their internal operations and policy commitments. ClimateVoice has many ways to actively involve students in the theory of change so please reach out directly via Linkedin at any time before, after, or during the conference! In addition to her work at ClimateVoice, Tessa is an Associate at Rocky Mountain Institute on the Breakthrough Technologies team, working to implement and scale emerging clean energy technologies.


Executive Director | The Endeavor Centre

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Chris Magwood is obsessed with helping reverse climate change by making carbon-storing buildings that are also healthy, beautiful, efficient and inspiring. Chris is currently the executive director of The Endeavour Centre, a not-for-profit sustainable building school in Peterborough, Ontario. The school runs a full-time certificate program – Sustainable Building and Design – and hosts dozens of hands-on workshops annually. In 2019, he helped to establish Builders for Climate Action, which will be rolling out a set of tools and policy options to help governments, designers and builders reverse climate change with their buildings. Chris has authored seven books on sustainable building, including Essential Sustainable Home Design (2017). He is co-editor of the Sustainable Building Essentials series from New Society Publishers, and he contributed a chapter to the book The New Carbon Architecture. In 1998 he co-founded Camel’s Back Construction, and over eight years helped to design and/or build more than 30 homes and commercial buildings, mostly with straw bales and often with renewable energy systems. Chris has completed an MA at Trent University. His thesis, Opportunities for Carbon Removal and Storage in Building Materials which was published in the fall of 2019. Chris is an active speaker and workshop instructor in Canada and internationally.


Inventor & Author

I was born in 1984 in San Luis Potosí, Mexico. I am the second of 13 siblings; I grew up in a very good family that taught us to work hard for things and at the same time to try to be good to others; I studied Middle and High School in the Instituto Real de San Luis, an outstanding school in San Luis Potosí with excellent engineers as teachers of High School. When I was 18 years old, I went to study Laws at the University of Monterrey in Monterrey. I looked for a Master's in Business Law, and later I married Lluvia in 2010. We have a beautiful daughter named Daniela. When she was born, I had just finished a novel that I wrote called "El Libro Azul." In 2017, we decided to prepare everything to go live elsewhere. We chose New Zealand, I applied to study the Master of Energy at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, and I was admitted. During the master's, I invented a power generation model based on gravity and hydroelectric use and geothermal energy. I have awesome friends from the Uni that helped me with my invention. I was awarded the best thesis award at the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Auckland (3 Minutes Thesis competition), graduated with honors. In November last, year; I exhibited my invention at the 42nd Geothermal convention the Bay of Islands in New Zealand.


Co-Owner and Head Maltster | Niagara Malt LLC

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Greetings! I am Bob Johnson, Co-owner and head maltster at Niagara Malt LLC in Lockport, NY.  I am a plant ecologist by training and profession and now a recently “retired” professor. My interest in seed physiology and appreciation of craft beer was a natural segue into producing brewer’s malt, which has become my second career.  Malt is the “heart of beer”, providing brewers with the enzymes, starch and flavor/color that define the many styles of brewed products. The process is also energy intensive, so I soon became involved in efforts to improve my sustainability.  Using a hybrid wood pellet gasification boiler – electric system and roof mounted solar system, I am happy to say my process is now carbon-neutral….Cheers!


CEO | Optimus Technologies, Inc.

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Colin is a veteran of the renewable fuels industry. Prior to becoming CEO of Optimus, he was the founder and CEO of Fossil Free Fuel, a renewable fuel company, and was the Director of Research and Technology at Steel City Biofuels, a biodiesel program of Penn State University. Colin is the co-inventor on a number of Optimus patents, holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh, and earned a certificate in Entrepreneurial Leadership from Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business. Colin has consulted and given lectures on biofuels, product development, the low-carbon economy and a variety of other topics for non-profits, government agencies, corporations, and universities throughout the country. When he finds a few minutes of free time, he enjoys building and deconstructing almost anything, playing soccer, riding his motorcycle, and mountain biking.


Environmental Engineering Professor | University at Buffalo


John D. Atkinson is an environmental engineering professor at the University at Buffalo, where he created the University’s most popular study abroad course and has been recognized as an Early Career Teacher of the Year, Outstanding Director, Experiential Learning Faculty Fellow, and Best Undergraduate Mentor. He is also a past TEDxBuffalo speaker. His work is driven by an overarching desire to more sustainably produce and consume, resulting in a diverse portfolio of publications and seminars. With on-going funding from New York State and the U.S. National Science Foundation, as well as local industry, he is currently researching within the broad field of waste management, using life cycle analysis tools to investigate plastics and tire recycling, waste disposal options, and energy recovery. His work targets real-world problems that impact everyday life, aiming to make engineering more thoughtful and accessible. John emboldens lifestyle changes that promote sustainability. He encourages his students to expand their comfort zones, holistically problem solve, and embrace their creativity through engineering design.


Sustainability Engagement Coordinator | University at Buffalo

Derek Nichols is the Sustainability Engagement Coordinator at the University at Buffalo. In the field of sustainability, you have to wear many hats. He is tasked with many different components of making the University more sustainable, but the bulk of his work pertains to counting greenhouse gas emissions, facilitating renewable energy projects, the campus’ food system, and communicating all of this to the campus’ stakeholders. He has his Masters in Urban Planning and teaches Food Systems Planning for the School of Architecture and Urban Planning. Prior to working for the University, Derek worked for the non-profit Grassroots Gardens WNY which helped neighborhoods reclaim vacant space and turn them into gardens of neighborhood empowerment.


Environmental Economist | RENEW Institute at University at Buffalo

Michael Shelly is an environmental/ecological economist and Research Assistant Professor in the RENEW Institute at the University at Buffalo. He is the instructor for a graduate level course in environmental and sustainability economics that features the economics of climate change. Prior to coming to the University at Buffalo, he worked in the environmental consulting industry for over 20 years, and completed environmental, health, infrastructure and energy projects on five continents.


Co-Founder | Existential Toolkit for Climate Justice Educators

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Sarah Jaquette Ray's current work brings together climate justice and psychology. She is co-founder of the Existential Toolkit for Climate Justice Educators, co-lead on an open-access online teaching resource, NXTerra: Transformative Education for Climate Action, and works with students, activists, professionals, and educators to support the climate generation. In 2020, she published a book for the climate generation on this research, A Field Guide to Climate Change: How to Keep Your Cool on a Warming Planet. She has been Program Leader of the Environmental Studies Program at Humboldt State University since 2013, and is also author of The Ecological Other: Environmental Exclusion in American Culture (University of Arizona, 2013) and co-editor of three collections: Critical Norths: Space, Nature, Theory (2017), Disability Studies & the Environmental Humanities: Toward an Eco-Crip Theory (2017), and Latinx Environmentalisms: Place, Justice, and the Decolonial (2019).


Operations | New York State Power Authority

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Dr. Nick E. Gilewski holds both an Undergraduate Degree (B.E.E.T., 2008) and a Master’s Degree (M.S.I.T., 2011) in Industrial Engineering from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. He also earned a Master’s Degree in Business Administration (M.B.A., 2016) from Medaille College, Buffalo, New York.  Lastly, he successfully defended his dissertation on November 19, 2019 receiving his PhD. from Niagara University, Lewiston New York. Dr. Gilewski is currently employed at the New York State Power Authority where he facilitates and manages operations in the Lewiston, New York control room. He has over 20 years’ experience in managing union and non-union employees. Nick also possesses a Six Sigma Green Belt Certification (2017) related to organizational continuous improvement, statistical quality control, and lean manufacturing.


Civil Engineering Technology Professor | Rochester Institute of Technology

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Prior to 1996, Scott Wolcott worked for 10 years as a civil/environmental engineer in the Buffalo area. Since 1996, he’s worked at Rochester Institute of Technology as a faculty member and past program coordinator in the civil engineering technology program. While primarily teaching environmental engineering and water resource courses, Professor Wolcott has also been involved in agent-based modeling in an ecological conservation context; environmental management symposia in Hungary, Croatia, Germany and Italy; and the development and implementation of study abroad programs in Ireland, Croatia and Sweden. He is currently (for the past decade) pursuing a PhD in Ecological Engineering from SUNY ESF.


Retired Engineer

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James retired as Town Engineer in June 2019 working as a licensed civil engineer in the Town of Tonawanda for 30 years. James managed many of the town’s planning, engineering and public works projects totaling in the tens of millions of dollars. From 2000 to 2010, James was the town’s network and database administrator. In 2010, James was appointed to the Office of Town Engineer and Floodplain Administrator and was involved with waterfront sustainability initiatives along with the daily public works duties. In addition, he was also the town’s Geographic Information System (GIS) manager. He has been a member of ITE since 1989 and is a founding member of the Western NY GIS User Group. Project highlights while at Tonawanda included development and construction of over 23 miles of multi-use trails including the hallmark Tonawanda Rail Trail. Design and construction of beneficial reuse of recycled asphalt millings for multi-use trail base along Western NY’s largest rain garden. Design and construction of the 1.5-mile pervious pavement multi-use trail at Lincoln Park which became the winner of the 2018 WNY APWA Project of the year Award in the Environmental Category and 2019 NIS GIS Association GIS Champion and received the 2019 WNY and New York State APWA Citation for Exemplary Service to Public Works . James also initiated the town’s 2 MW solar array project on their landfill, managed several brownfield redevelopment projects, launched the forthcoming LED street light conversion, mini-roundabout intersection conversions and electric vehicle charging stations. In 2020, James established Mode Choice Engineering, PLLC focusing on alternative transportation solutions and became part of the staff at GObike Buffalo as their in-house engineer assisting with alternative transportation advocacy planning and design. James also serves as chairman of the Rotary of the Tonawandas and volunteers with the Niagara River Greenway, Greater Buffalo Wellness Institute and the Clean Air Coalition of WNY.


Executive Director | Climate Tech Action Network

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Matthew Gordon is the founder and Executive Director of Climate Tech Action Network (http://climatetechaction.network), a 501(c)6 non-profit that provides mentorship and resources to engineers, scientists, and entrepreneurs who are seeking to use their skills to help combat the climate crisis.  In addition, he is a Principal Engineer at Kairos Aerospace (http://kairosaerospace.com), and works on detecting and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.  Dr. Gordon received his AB in physics from Princeton, and his doctorate in physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he specialized in single-molecule imaging and genetic sequencing.  He is a dad to twin toddlers, and moonlights as Chief Entropy Officer at Hydrocarbon Collective (http://www.hydrocarboncollective.org) where he makes interactive kinetic sculptures.

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