One-on-One with Mentor John Adams

July 17, 2023

John Adams has worked at the University of Arizona's Biosphere 2 for nearly 20 years, focusing on everything from research initiatives to public outreach. Initially a senior research specialist, Adams now serves as the deputy director and chief operations officer, overseeing the world's largest controlled environment where the science and progression of climate change is studied.

Adams graduated from the UA in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in wildlife, fish and wildlands science and management. For the past four years, he has served as a sponsor advisor for Interdisciplinary Capstone teams.

This past academic year, Adams served as a sponsor advisor for Team 23014, which worked with Biosphere 2 to design an "agrivoltaic system," a combination of solar energy panels and agriculture. Not only do these efficiently use space, but they often play off each other's benefits. Team 23014's agrivoltaic system for the Greenery S Freight Farm at Biosphere 2 included 61 solar panels, a structural support system and an electrical system. At the 2023 Craig M. Berge Design Day, Team 23014 won the $2,000 Bly Family Award for Innovation in Energy Production.

What teams have you worked with?

I have worked with teams that focused on Biosphere Ocean Wave Generator, Sub-scale Adsorption and Compression CO2 Removal System Re-design, and Pressure Regulating System for a Mars Habitat.

Can you share a little bit about your work with team 23014 this year?

This was an amazing team that took on a very unique project. The disciplines the team brought to the table were critical to the success of the project and exemplified its collaborative and interdisciplinary nature. 

How has Biosphere 2 benefited from capstone projects?

Working with these engineering teams has helped move Biosphere 2’s research endeavors forward because the students approach the projects from a perspective that is often counter to what our teams have done. This new perspective often enhances the final solution.

What were some of the most rewarding moments?

Watching the students grow professionally from their initial presentation to the final one, to see them take such a vested interest in the project.

Are there any ways the student teams that you've sponsored have surprised you?

Each of the teams I have worked with had a very high level of professionalism that I typically only encounter with people who have been in the field for several years.

Would you recommend the sponsor experience to other companies and alumni?

Absolutely. It is extremely rewarding to work with such a talented group of engineers and to be able to help them grow in their respective disciplines, but also to be able to learn from them.



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