Jim Slaney ’11

As a double major in Mathematics and in French at Occidental, Jim jumped at the chance to apply for a summer internship, seeing an opportunity to pursue his interest in applied mathematics. In 2013 Occidental College installed a solar array intended to provide 11% of the school’s electricity. However, the school did not account for the natural accumulation of dirt, dust and debris on the panels, all of which resulted in decreased efficiency in electricity generation. While Occidental would like to regularly remove the debris, cleaning the panels is expensive. Looking to lend a hand, Jim wrote a proposal wherein he would work with an advisor, Professor Ron Buckmire, to determine a panel cleaning schedule that would balance the cost of cleaning with the increased efficiency of a clean array, thereby resulting in net savings for the college. His proposal was accepted and Jim became one of Occidental’s paid researchers for the summer.

When asked how WMS has influenced his life and work at Occidental, Jim had this to say,

My passion for “green mathematics” was first instilled at WMS in my various math and science classes. WMS also taught me to care about the planet and my global community and that I could contribute to saving the Earth; that even one individual like me could make a difference. That meant everything to me. Additionally WMS provided me with a sense of confidence and leadership. As a student assistant on field courses, as crew leader and as a dorm proctor, I helped lead my peers through nights in the woods, kitchen duty and even the perils of dorm life. In class I learned how to work hard and ask questions. I began to learn how I wanted to change the world and, importantly, that I would be able to change it if I tried. So now, when people ask me what I want to do with my life, I tell them that I wantto be a super hero. I could say “environmental engineer” too, but that’s boring. At the end of the day, I am still “saving the world.” Right?

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