Dakota DeLong-Maxey and Pumoli Malapati, UVA Office for Sustainability Green Labs Interns

The Green Labs program, started in 2016, helped focus and lead efforts to assess and improve lab sustainability at UVA. The subsequent success and expansion of the program has created new opportunities for students to contribute to Green Labs initiatives around Grounds, including positions for two Green Lab interns. Together with Christine Alencar, the UVA Office for Sustainability Smart Labs Project Associate, the interns’ support, commitment, and enthusiasm has helped the Green Labs program grow in scope and reach over the last year. 

 Dakota DeLong-Maxey, a fourth-year majoring in Biology and Global Environments + Sustainability, and Pumoli Malapati, a fourth year majoring in Biology and Global Public Health,  helped manage the Green Labs Certification. The certification is a flexible program that guides researchers in introducing sustainable lab practices at their own pace. In the 2019 Green Labs Certification class, 14 labs, housed in both academic research spaces and the medical center with a range of research interests, received Green Labs certification. The interns have also been building the capacity of the Green Labs Program through lab equipment inventories that will enable greater exploration of cost savings and energy efficiency opportunities.

Throughout the year, Dakota and Pumoli conducted outreach to key lab stakeholders on Grounds as well as at other peer institutions. Prior to the University moving online, outreach included frequently tabling near academic and medical spaces to promote Green Lab’s sustainability competitions and initiatives and connect researchers with available online resources about how to reduce the environmental impacts of research.  When the University moved online in the Spring, the interns transitioned to virtual outreach, hosting monthly meetings to bring the UVA research community together. Discussions included timely issues, such as brainstorming new ways to innovate and foster a collaborative network while remaining resilient in an unpredictable research environment during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the ongoing development of the UVA Green Labs Program. Pumoli and Dakota also connected with peers managing other institutions’ Green Lab programs to learn about the peaks and challenges they have experienced, their programs’ organizational structures, and to share insights for the advancement of all sustainable labs programming. 

Dakota was drawn to the work with Green Labs due to her interest in pursuing a career in environmental policy. She has enjoyed seeing the research community’s excitement and eagerness to take steps to make their lab spaces more sustainable. “Scientific study has proven the need for sustainability and it is nice to see these labs recognize their role in these societal goals,” she says. Pumoli, interested in pursuing a career in healthcare, reflects,I am constantly amazed by our community’s dedication and commitment to advancing sustainable practices.” Her favorite Office for Sustainability event was the 3rd annual UVA Green Labs Resource Fair in September 2019, which she helped organize. She enjoyed meeting various UVA organizations and science supply vendors such as UVA Environmental Health and Safety, MERCI, Qiagen, Thermo Fisher Scientific, and MilliporeSigma. Through promotion of best lab practices, including energy saving measures, they have helped labs take their first steps to becoming greener and adopting a sustainable vision in the community. 

If you are interested in joining the Green Labs Working Group or want to speak with a Green Labs representative about your research space, email greenlabs@virginia.edu