Why Sustainability Is Important to Me: John Matranga ’87

In January, President John Simon ’19P announced Lehigh’s new Campus Sustainability Plan 2020. This ambitious plan establishes a long-term vision for sustainability at Lehigh with meaningful short- and intermediate-term goals. It is one example, among many, of Lehigh’s commitment to environmental stewardship, economic prosperity, and social equity. Katharine Targett, Lehigh Sustainability Program Manager, spoke with four alumni who have careers in sustainability, and they shared their stories about their career pathways and how their experiences at Lehigh sparked their interest in their field.

Click here for more information on Lehigh’s sustainability efforts.

Some of the recent sustainability efforts on Lehigh’s campus include:

• Embarking on a bike-sharing program
• Earning a certification from the Green Restaurant Association for sustainability efforts at Rathbone
• Offering 72 undergraduate and 23 graduate sustainability-related courses
• Receiving a silver award from the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System (STARS)
• Developing a comprehensive waste management plan and data tracking system
• Adding an all-electric bus and car to the transportation fleet
• Appointing the first vice president for equity and community to lead Lehigh on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion
• Diverting 56 percent of total waste through campus-wide recycling efforts
• Installing 16 solar panels (that produce a maximum of 255 watts each) next to the Community Garden on campus

Additionally, a few operational changes were made recently which reduced domestic water usage by over 1.5 million gallons per year in Whitaker Lab and reduced electrical energy by over 300,000 kilowatt hours per year on the Asa Packer Campus. These operational changes are saving the university approximately $27,000 annually.

In addition to improving sustainability efforts on campus, Lehigh works hard to develop future leaders who are prepared to lead and ready to solve pressing global climate challenges for years to come. Often, it is the experiential learning opportunities offered at Lehigh, which explore the complex interactions of environmental, social, and economic factors underlying today’s challenges, that trigger a deep interest in students to address some of the significant challenges of the 21st century in their future careers.

Everyone at Lehigh — faculty, staff, students, and alumni — has a role to play as we work to create a more sustainable world. Lehigh’s Campus Sustainability Plan 2020 is the university’s roadmap of short- and intermediate-term goals over the next three years.

John Matranga 87

Bachelor of Science, Chemical Engineering

Current Position
Director, Customer Innovation and Academia, OSIsoft

As the director of Customer Innovation and Academia at OSIsoft, I am responsible for the global STEM education engagement program. In this role, I enable academic institutions to leverage our software for student education and industry leading research. Our flagship product, the PI System, is essentially a data fabric that captures data from sensors and other devices and then serves it up in a way that lets people reduce costs, save energy, or meet some other goals. Wind farms use it, for instance, to predict maintenance failures or improve their wind forecasts. Factories use it to cut energy: one of our customers saves millions a year in energy costs and even sells power back to the grid by tweaking various parts of its processes. Water utilities use it to pinpoint leaks or monitor water quality. Worldwide, the PI System actively handles over 1.5 billion sensor-based data streams.

What about your Lehigh experience sparked your interest in what you do now? How did Lehigh help shape your success?

Lehigh sparked my interest in what I do now by allowing me to see how my skills could be applied in the gaps between deep disciplines to deliver unique value. My work allows me to leverage my chemical engineering degree, crossed with the computer science classes I took at Lehigh, to create value for customers. I do this by understanding the user’s perspective while leveraging insights that computer science tools can provide in the engineering domain.

Lehigh prepares students for a lifetime of jobs, not just one, and this has really helped to shape my success. Although I studied chemical engineering, my first job after Lehigh was with the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center, which is not a typical destination for a chemical engineer. The preparation I received at Lehigh has served me well and allowed me to change roles and grow within my field every step of my life.

What are you most passionate about in your work?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is going to have a profound impact on both business and society. Most of our customers are big industrial companies like utilities, oil refiners, or food producers. You many not think of oil companies as sustainable, but it’s a big issue. The Department of Energy estimates that 54 percent of primary energy gets consumed by industry. As a result, any gains we can make in factories can have a substantial impact. IoT is ultimately about making these organizations more efficient. You’re also going to see IoT have an impact on things like worker safety. Think of a mining operation. With IoT, you can automate more processes, thereby saving lives, but you can also closely monitor things like air and water to prevent environmental violations. At an individual level, the educational process is changing, and Lehigh has a great vison to support this change to help students mature. Lehigh provides many avenues to allow students to grow in unique ways such as the DataX initiative, Launch Bay C, Baker Institute, and the Energy Systems Engineering Institute, to name a few. These opportunities allow students to have a valuable set of experiences when they graduate from Lehigh. These experiences give students with passions the ability to create a sustainable campus, community, and world.

Are you interested in sustainability and social responsibility? Join LU SAN (Lehigh University Sustainability Alumni Network) today. LU SAN is a group of like-minded alumni, faculty, and staff who are committed to sustainability — the economic, environmental, and social aspects — in professions and industries within the Lehigh community. The group is dedicated to helping Lehigh alumni thrive professionally and is committed to bringing their expertise back to Lehigh’s campus. To learn more about LU SAN, click here.

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