Lee Schipper Memorial Scholarship for Sustainable Transport and Energy Efficiency

The “Lee Schipper Memorial Scholarship for Sustainable Transport and Energy Efficiency” targets supporting the momentum of Lee Schipper’s contribution to the enrichment of the international policy dialogue in the fields of sustainable transport and energy efficiency. Lee Schipper, international physicist, researcher, musician and co-founder of EMBARQ (today the Urban Mobility program of the World Resources Institute (WRI) Ross Center for Sustainable Cities) inspired and shaped the thinking of a generation of students and professionals. VREF support the Lee Schipper Memorial Scholarship since 2018.

Call for Applications 2024

Looking for an opportunity to catalyze sustainable, people-centered urban mobility? The Lee Schipper Memorial Scholarship wants to help you transform ideas into reality. The Schipper family, the Volvo Research and Education Foundations (VREF), and World Resources Institute’s Ross Center for Sustainable Cities are pleased to announce that applications are now open for the 2024 Lee Schipper Memorial Scholarship for Sustainable Transport and Energy Efficiency.

The Scholarship, which is provided jointly by VREF, the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Schipper Family, will award two extraordinary candidates up to US$10,000 each to advance transformative research in efficient and sustainable transport. In addition, a young researcher from Africa will be awarded an additional US$10,000 for the fifth consecutive year. 

Dr. Leon J. Schipper (“Lee” or “Mr. Meter”) was a co-founder of EMBARQ, WRI’s Sustainable Mobility Program, who dedicated his professional life to the efficient use of energy in mobility. An international physicist, researcher, and studied musician, Lee was a giant in the energy efficiency field. This scholarship celebrates his vision and the bold challenges to conventional wisdom he gave to the field. 2023 scholars Owen Mwaura, Carlos Rivera-Gonzalez, and Shanshan (“Shirley”) Liu will present their research at the Transforming Transportation conference in March 2024.

About the Scholarship

The Scholarship aims to expand contributions to sustainable transport and energy efficiency research and policy dialogue. It prioritizes “iconoclastic” contributions that have clear, transformative outputs and contribute to measurable changes. Proposals relating to different aspects of policy dialogue are welcome, including data collection and quality, diagnosis through data analysis (qualitative and quantitative), policy analysis and evaluation, and interdisciplinary and international comparative analysis.

Who’s Eligible?

The scholarship is open to young researchers, defined as someone with five or fewer years of experience since their last academic degree (Master’s or Ph.D.) and who has not yet turned 36 years by the expression of interest submission deadline (born after April 15, 1988[1]). There are no geographic restrictions on scholarship applicants, so young researchers and students of all national origins and fields are eligible to apply. While applications should be submitted in English, research may be completed in other languages to enhance its impact.  Applications will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • Consistency with Lee Schipper’s contributions 
  • Alignment with the idea of sustainable transport and energy efficiency 
  • Creation of innovative, transformational outcomes (“real impact”) 
  • Feasibility (timely, realistic) 
  • Applicant (affiliation, background, previous contributions, references)

[1] The eligibility periods can be extended in case of specific and properly documented circumstances such as parental leave. In case of parental leave, the applicant may request up to 18 months extension of eligibility for each child born. The Scholarship Committee will assess the eligibility period on the basis of evidence provided at the time of submission of the expression of interest. 

Additional African Scholar Eligibility Requirements

The African Scholarship supports a young researcher from the African continent currently living and working in Africa. In addition to the global selection criteria above, applicants to the African Scholarship should also:

  • Hold citizenship of an African country
  • Currently live and work in Africa
  • Be associated with an African-based institution (or an African branch of an international institution)

How to Apply (today!)

The Scholarship guidelines describe the scholarship application process in more detail. Please complete an expression of interest here by April 15, 2024. Up to seven candidates for each of the Global and African Scholarships will advance to the next selection round and be notified by the end of May 2024, when a more detailed research proposal will be required. The Scholarship Committee will aim to announce the final awardees in August 2024. 


If you are interested in knowing more about the Scholarship, or if you have ideas that you would like to share with us, please send us an email to cities@wri.org

Meet previous awardees

Owen Mwaura, Carlos Rivera-Gonzalez and Shanshan (“Shirley”) Liu

In 2023 three researchers – Owen Mwaura, Carlos Rivera-Gonzalez and Shanshan ”Shirley” Liu – was awarded the prestigious Lee Schipper Memorial Scholarship for their transformative research proposals that challenge conventional wisdom. In addition to the global awards to two young researchers, which have been awarded since 2013, a third award supports a young African researcher, an extension of the scholarship now in its fourth year.

Owen Mwaura – awarded for his research proposal “Optimal Paratransit Routes Network Design Case Study of Nairobi Metropolitan.” Owen is a Ph.D. candidate in the Civil Engineering Department at the University of Cape Town. From the University of Nairobi, he holds a B.A. in urban and regional planning, and from the University of Cape Town a postgraduate certificate in geographic information systems and MPhil in transport studies. Owen’s research will focus on optimizing the paratransit network of matatus in Nairobi, Kenya. He will optimize the paratransit network to minimize the disutility of travel for passengers and develop recommendations for improved and sustainable routing policies for Nairobi’s paratransit network.

Carlos Rivera-Gonzalez – awarded for his research proposal “Transforming Urban Logistics: Demand Centric Policy Impacts on Freight Efficient Land-Uses.” Currently a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Toronto, Carlos completed his Ph.D. in transportation engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnical Institute (RPI) in New York. He also holds an M.S. in Economics from RPI, as well as an M.S. and B.S. in civil engineering from Universidad de Los Andes in Bogota. He currently leads the Freight Data Warehouse at the University of Toronto and is the project manager for the CLUE (City Logistics for the Urban Environment) research program. Carlos’ research will examine whether the optimal locations of freight distribution centers are sensitive to changes in freight demand management policies (e.g., consolidation of cargo). He will consider the effect of land use decisions on freight delivery tour patterns emanating from distribution centers, as well as the social costs of those delivery trips in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area in Ontario, Canada.

Shanshan (“Shirley”) Liu – awarded for her research proposal “Assessing Electric School Buses Benefits: Enhancing Resilience in Community Hubs.” Shanshan is a Ph.D. candidate in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research will investigate. She holds a Bachelor of Traffic Engineering and a Master of Transportation Engineering from Southeast University in China. Extreme weather events are one of the leading sources of power outages. Shanshan’s research will examine the potential of electric school buses to supply backup power to resilience hubs (community shelters) during power outage events in the U.S. Electric school buses have the potential to function as power sources and through Vehicle-to-Building technology, can supply backup power directly to buildings during power outages. Shanshan will evaluate the resilience benefits of electric school buses by simulating the energy use profiles (e.g., heating, cooling, air conditioning) and other loads (e.g., lighting, refrigeration) for the resilience hubs in nine climate regions in the U.S.

With the support of WRI and the World Bank, all scholars will present their work at the upcoming Transforming Transportation 2024 conference to recognize and inspire future researchers to shape the future of the transport sector.

On behalf of the Scholarship Board and the Schipper Family, co-founders Holger Dalkmann and Ramon Munoz-Raskin congratulate the new scholars and thank the Volvo Research and Educational Foundation and other partners for their support.

Award ceremony with 2022 year’s awardees Lucia Game and Robert Ambunda

See list of all past scholars

Africa scholarOwen Mwaura, PhD candidate, University of Cape Town
Carlos Rivera-Gonzalez, Postdoctoral fellow, University of Toronto
Shanshan (“Shirley”) Liu, PhD candidate, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


Africa scholar: Robert Ambunda, PhD candidate, Stellenbosch University
Lucía Game, PhD candidate, University of California, Berkeley


African scholar: Susan Gichuna, PhD candidate, University of Nairobi

Tamara Kutchner, PhD candidate, University of California, Berkeley

Wei Wei, PhD candidate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


African scholar: Abisai Konstantinus, Postdoctoral researcher, University of Cape Town
Jungwoo Chun, PhD candidate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Fariba Siddiq, PhD candidate, University of California, Los Angeles


Teddy Forscher, PhD candidate, University of California, Berkeley
Valentina Montoya Robledo, SJD candidate, Harvard University


Junia Compostella, PhD candidate, University of California, Davis
Jaime Soza Parra, PhD candidate, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile


Joanna Moody, PhD candidate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Rafael Pereira, PhD candidate, University of Oxford


Akshima Chate, Senior Fellow, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI)
Fiamma Perez-Prada, PhD candidate, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid


Gwyn Kash, PhD candidate, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


Madeline Brozen, Complete Streets Initiative Program Manager, University of California, Los Angeles
Erik Vergel-Tovar, PhD candidate, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


Sudhir Gota, Technical Advisor, Clean Air Initiative Asia
Fei Li, Ph.D. candidate, New York University

Scholarship governance

To keep Lee’s legacy alive, the Schipper Family and EMBARQ, the sustainable urban mobility initiative of the World Resources Institute’s Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, created the Lee Schipper Memorial Scholarship for Sustainable Transport and Energy Efficiency. The Scholarship is governed by an advisory board of selected experts and esteemed colleagues who guide the scholarship and make the final selection of the scholars.

Advisory Board:

  • Holger Dalkmann, Founder & CEO, Sustain 2030 
  • Ramon Munoz-Raskin, Program Leader, World Bank Group
  • Dario Hidalgo, Professor of Transport and Logistics, Pontificia Universidad Javeriana
  • Nancy Kete, Owner, Kete Consulting
  • Wei-Shiuen Ng, Economic Affairs Officer, United Nations ESCAP
  • – Sam Zimmerman, Urban Transport Advisor (retired), World Bank

Lee Schipper inspired and shaped the thinking of a generation

The following was adapted from an obituary written by Kirk R. Smith in Energy Policy

Lee Schipper was an international physicist, researcher and musician, who inspired and shaped the thinking of a generation of students and professionals. Lee was widely recognized for enriching policy dialogue with his passion for data and challenging conventional wisdom. Lee passed away in August 2011 after a brief and difficult battle with pancreatic cancer.

Highly productive career

Most recently, Lee was a senior research scientist at both University of California Berkeley’s Global Metropolitan Studies and at Stanford University’s Precourt Institute of Energy Efficiency conducting research and policy analysis on efficient energy use in transportation systems. He was co-founder of EMBARQ, the World Resources Institute’s Center for Sustainable Transport, and remained as a senior associate emeritus. Over a highly productive career, he worked at the Energy and Resources Group at UC Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, the International Energy Agency in Paris, Shell International in London, as well as being Fulbright Scholar at the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics in Stockholm. He was a guest researcher at the World Bank, VVS Tekniska Foerening, the OECD Development Center, and the Stockholm Environment Institute. 

Sharing the Nobel Peace Prize

Lee authored more than 100 technical papers and a number of books on energy economics and transportation, including Energy Efficiency and Human Activity: Past Trends, Future Prospects (1992) with Stephen Meyers, Richard Howarth, and Ruth Steiner. He served on the editorial boards of five major journals and was a member of the Swedish Board for Transportation and Communications Research. For four years he was a member of the U.S. National Academy of Science’s Transportation Research Board’s Committee on Sustainable Transport and Committee on Developing Countries. He worked in IPCC’s Mitigation group (WGIII), for the third and fourth assessments, thus sharing the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. 

Proponent of sensible policies

In Berkeley in the early 1970s, Professor John Holdren, President Obama’s Science Advisor, was the first person to hire Lee as an energy specialist. He notes that ‘‘Lee was one of the first people to point out that people don’t want to consume energy, but they want to consume energy services, like transportation, comfortable rooms, cold beer and so forth. And that there was an enormous variation in the amount of energy needed to perform those services.’’ Lee’s academic break came in 1976, between the first and second international oil shocks, when he published an influential paper in Science pointing out that Sweden consumed far less energy per unit of economic activity than the United States did. Lee shifted his primary attention to transport in the 1980s, becoming one of the premiere scholars in the field and a tireless proponent of sensible policies for public and private transport. 

Master communicator

Lee was a force of nature—an irrepressible fountain of energy, insight, humor, and intelligence. And a master communicator. Part of this was being an irrepressible iconoclast with a wonderful knack of turning a phrase to excellent effect. He could make the basically dry subject of energy efficiency become exciting in ways that engaged students, the media, and policymakers. Evidence for this was publishing 15 letters to the editor in the New York Times on energy efficiency—a nearly legendary achievement. He was also kind, generous, and unselfish with his friends and students and with the grace and self-confidence to be curious and inquisitive about what others were doing.


Lee was multi-talented beyond his science. As a UC Berkeley student and vibraphonist, he led his jazz group to victory at the Notre Dame Jazz Festival in 1967. He would reprise the role as band leader with an ad hoc jazz group, Lee Schipper and the Mitigators, who performed primarily in conjunction with energy-related conferences. He was one of the world’s experts on Wilhelm Furtwangler, perhaps the greatest symphonic and operatic conductor of the 20th century, and collected one of the most complete sets of his recordings. Lee seemed to pick up languages effortlessly, speaking fluent Swedish, German, and French, and passable Norwegian, Danish, Spanish, and Portuguese. Even a bit of Russian.