Campus & Community

Inside Harvard’s green labs

3 min read

Friendly rivalries raise the bar for researchers as they cut waste

Harvard scientists are all for collaborating when it comes to research. But when it comes to saving energy in their labs, the competition can get fierce.

Whether it’s closing fume hood sashes when they’re not in use or adjusting freezer temperatures, researchers in labs across campus are setting the sustainability bar higher for each other through friendly contests. And their steps are paying off — a building-wide energy-efficiency project at Northwest Labs alone is projected to save $900,000 a year.

Yuka Amako (left), visiting fellow and postdoctoral candidate, and GSAS student Hope Flaxman do chemical biology research in the Woo Lab, where researchers compete to save energy by keeping fume hood sashes closed when not in use.
Professor Christina Woo works in her lab, which has been upgraded with equipment that meets high sustainability standards, including the most energy-efficient freezer on the market. New fume hood controls conserve energy by reducing airflow when not in use.
Researchers measure the absorption of light in a fluid sample using a UV-visible spectrometer in the LEED Gold-certified Weitz Lab. Shima Parsa (left) is a postdoctoral candidate and Zhehan Zhong is a fellow in applied physics
Shima Parsa works with a UV-visible spectrometer. The Weitz Lab is active in the Office for Sustainability’s Shut the Sash Competition, which aims to reduce the energy consumption of fume hoods.
The Weitz Lab is partnering with the Green Labs program to assess the energy use of lab equipment. Pictured here are Biyi Xu (from left), associate researcher at Nanjing University; Kirk Mutafopulos, GSAS physics student; and Pascal Spink, a research fellow in applied physics.
GSAS student Cristin Juda works in the Betley Lab, where a recent renovation incorporates cutting-edge sustainable technology and green building features that aim for LEED certification.
Using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry, researchers in the Northwest Labs analyze trace residues on ancient vessels found in Turkey. A building-wide energy-efficiency project at the labs is projected to save $900,000 a year by adjusting ventilation and airflow levels. From left are Julia Strauss ’19, GSAS student and research assistant in chemistry and chemical biology Tim Roth, Bary Lisak ’19, and Jordan Donald ’18.
A tetrode twister is used in the Murthy Lab by researchers studying the neural and algorithmic bases of odor-guided behaviors in animals. The lab won a recent energy-saving competition by shutting the sash on fume hoods when not in use.
Alex Su ’18 works in the Betley Lab, which participates in an expanded lab recycling program while consistently meeting its monthly goal through the Shut the Sash Competition. In addition, lab members reduce waste by composting in their kitchen.
Professor Hopi Hoekstra works with GSAS students Rockwell Anyoha (left) and Brock Wooldridge. The Hoekstra Lab recently won the national North American Laboratory Freezer Challenge in the academic division, saving energy costs and reducing emissions by taking steps like tuning their freezers to minus 70 C from the standard minus 80 C.
Emmanuel D’Agostino ’19 (left) and Rebecca Greenberg ’18 (right) work with Professor Hopi Hoekstra (center).
Lab manager Kyle Turner (left) teaches in the Hoekstra Lab.