Green Leader Spotlight: Micah Zeigler, Postdoctoral Associate at the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology


What is the focus of your research and how does it relate to the environment?

I study energy systems and technological change to learn how we can accelerate the improvement and deployment of sustainable technologies. My current focus is energy storage technologies. First, I try to determine how energy technologies can help us mitigate climate change—how these technologies will need to be improved and how quickly. Then I try to figure out how to accelerate this improvement. Recently, I have been investigating why some technologies improve rapidly and are adopted broadly, while others never leave the lab. My research provides evidence-based guidance for those designing research, developing public policies, and directing private investments.


What can Temple Sinai members do to help accelerate the adoption of clean energy?

There are so many ways. Some Temple Sinai members are positioned to help usher in government policies that fund research, development, and deployment of sustainable energy technologies. Others can encourage their businesses and firms to make more responsible investments and adopt more sustainable practices. Everyone can participate in the political process and encourage their elected representatives, at all levels of government, to support clean energy. Finally, there are many personal choices we can make. We can favor public transportation, walking, and biking, or switch to electric vehicles. Those with resources (e.g., a home, sufficient capital) can install solar panels, geothermal systems, and more efficient heating and air conditioning units, appliances, and lighting.


When did you first become interested in environmental sustainability?

It started at a very young age. My grandfather had a passion for the outdoors, and my mother passed on this passion to me and my twin sister. Our favorite family vacations were exploring the National Parks, from tromping through Acadia as toddlers to backpacking in Yosemite as teenagers. As a result, I started getting involved in environmental organizations in middle and high school, and I have focused my education and career on environmental issues ever since.


Do you think there is any connection between your Jewish values and your career path?

Absolutely. I learned about Tikkun Olam early on, and I believe that helping to repair the world is a mitzvah. I am fortunate to be able to spend my days doing just that.


What’s your favorite way to eat a bagel?

Sesame or poppy seeds, halved, toasted, with whipped, scallion cream cheese.


So much of the environmental news we read is depressing. What motivates you to continue with your research?

The community and the stakes. There are many brilliant, motivated individuals who are working to help society mitigate, and adapt to, climate change. Knowing that we are all working together motivates me. The stakes are high. We need to succeed because this is our only option: there’s no other planet we can call home.


 Is there anything you miss about Temple Sinai, now that you’re no longer living in the DC area?
I miss the community, and blowing shofar on the High Holy Days. However, whenever I can, I try to come down for Rosh Hashanah.

This article is part of Green Team series highlighting Temple Sinai members of all ages working to protect the planet. Know someone who fits the bill? Email Robyn Miller-Tarnoff and let us know who they are so we can feature them in a future article. We’re interested in environmental work at the international, national, state, regional, and community/school level.