Clarkson Student Wins American Association for the Advancement of Science E-Poster Competition

May 30, 2024

Thomas Robbins ‘24, an honors student at Clarkson University who graduated earlier this month with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Engineering Degree, was recently awarded top prize in the undergraduate Social Sciences category of student e-poster presentations at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) 2024 Annual Meeting.

A student stands next to a promotional banner adorned with various business and university logos

Robbins’ work is titled "Defining Disadvantaged Communities (DACs) for Environmental Justice: Variation and Impact."

The abstract reads: The equitable distribution of benefits from environmental policies to disadvantaged communities (DACs) is a key strategy in addressing historical environmental injustices in the United States. To facilitate this, various environmental justice screening tools (EJSTs) have been developed to systematically identify DACs. However, a significant gap exists in the scientific foundation underpinning these tools, notably a lack of comparative analysis through quantitative metrics. Our research addresses this gap by examining the variation in screening outcomes across different EJSTs and investigating the underlying causes of this variation. We find significant methodological disparities across EJSTs, particularly in the selection and aggregation of indicators into a binary DAC index. Importantly, we find that certain indicators carry more weight in determining DAC outcomes in some tools than in others. This suggests that each EJST has a unique prioritization of environmental injustice categories represented by these “dominant” indicators. We then discuss whether this variation in indicator significance raises concerns about potential misalignments between the EJSTs’ DAC outcomes and the intended objectives of policies aimed at addressing particular forms of environmental injustice.

For winning first place, Robbins was awarded a $500 cash prize, a 12-month Science magazine subscription, and publication of the receipt of his award in the April 2024 edition of Science magazine.

Robbins will be part of a two-year rotational Sustainability Consulting Leadership Program with Schneider Electric based in Louisville, KY starting this summer.

Clarkson University is a proven leader in technological education, research, innovation and sustainable economic development. With its main campus in Potsdam, N.Y., and additional graduate program and research facilities in the Capital Region and Hudson Valley, Clarkson faculty have a direct impact on more than 7,800 students annually through nationally recognized undergraduate and graduate STEM designated degrees in engineering, business, science and health professions; executive education, industry-relevant credentials and K-12 STEM programs. Alumni earn salaries among the top 2% in the nation: one in five already leads in the c-suite. To learn more go to
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