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Faculty & Staff Spotlights

School of Science professor is one of just 13 Jefferson Science Fellows in the country

July 29, 2014

Time spent in the Peace Corps has shaped a lifetime of work for Gabriel Filippelli.

Gabriel Filippelli

Gabriel Filippelli

It worked that way for Gabriel Filippelli. The School of Science faculty member’s two-year Peace Corps term on a small island atoll in the Pacific Ocean convinced him that studying the role of Earth’s oceans on our environment would be a career worth pursuing.

That career path has put Filippelli in some prominent professional circles. He is one of just 13 scientists and engineers from across the U.S. to serve as a Jefferson Science Fellow, a program that connects American universities with the U.S. State Department on matters related to the climate and the environment.

His island time profoundly affected Filippelli and still shapes his worldview.

“Surrounded by oceans on all sides, I came to appreciate more deeply the role that oceans play in not only feeding people but also in influencing global climate, in the past, at present, and into the future,” he said.

That’s one of the reasons Filippelli has spent much of his career researching climate change and other environmental issues. And for the past decade, he has been an advisor to the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program, a long-term effort that studies the history of the Earth as recorded in sediment and rocks beneath the sea floor.

It also influences his work with the State Department and has given him a greater appreciation of the potential impact of his work.

“My affiliation with the State Department has transformed my understanding of the fundamental role of science in foreign policy,” he said. “I have worked closely with science leaders in NASA, NOAA, the National Science Foundation and other federal and international agencies to craft and approve important new policies for environmental protection.”

Gabriel Filippelli with U.S. State Department officials

As part of his work for the U.S. State Department, Gabriel Filippelli, far right, met with the President of Kiribati, far left, at a diplomatic luncheon hosted by the secretary of state.

Filippelli considers the work vital in an era that he expects will feature significant climate change. He also believes the team’s work will enhance his teaching of IUPUI students.

“This is the first generation of students to fully understand that humans are fundamentally changing the flows of earth, air and water around the planet,” Filippelli said. It also is playing a role in people’s health.

The researcher also is the director of the Center for Urban Health at IUPUI, a collaboration linking the School of Science, the School of Liberal Arts, the School of Medicine and the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health.

“The core principle of the Center for Urban Health is to integrate the spheres of environment, community, and health into one consortium,” Filippelli said. “It can serve as a training and research think tank, where, for example, a water scientist, a public health expert and a community leader can work together to improve the health and beauty of a neighborhood stream, opening it up to creative, educational, and economic opportunities not otherwise achievable.”

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