What research questions currently preoccupy you?
I am currently preoccupied with questions about sustainable energy and food transitions. My forthcoming book Solar Power under contract with the University of California Press asks what socio-ecological consequences from emerging clean tech commodity chains we can anticipate with the much needed transition away from fossil and fissile fuels toward renewable power.
What personal factors contributed to your research?
I became deeply interested in energy and sustainability issues while working as a chemical process engineer in West Virginia, where I saw abundant natural resource wealth coupled with extreme poverty and environmental degradation.
What has been most challenging in your research?
This challenge with critical research on the solar industry is being labeled anti-solar and anti–renewable energy. I work to overcome the challenges by flanking this research with other work on water, climate, and community impacts of the oil and gas industry. I also carefully frame the lessons learned from my own solar work to highlight how solar technologies can be more sustainable.
How has your position in SJSU contributed to your research?
SJSU has supported my research through small grants, assigned research time, and student research assistant support.
A hidden (research) talent:
In addition to being a qualitative social science researcher, I do work in the field of life cycle assessment, which seeks to quantify the energy and material flows from commodity production.
One book that changed your life (or research) & why:
Jack Kloppenburg's First the Seed: The Political Economy of Plant Biotechnology, 1492–2000 was a key work in informing my ideas about how institutions can shape the course science. The book recounts the shift in seed technology from public goods produced by farmers to commodities produced by private plant breeders shaped the corn production through the 20th century, emphasizing that other seed technologies could have been pursued that would have different implications for social organization and the environment.
A website/journal/newspaper (in your field?) you follow without fail:
I use Twitter to harvest the latest news and research from my discipline from various sources.
Advice you’d give to newer faculty or students:
Love what you do, and you will do it better and never be bored.
Mulvaney, D. (2014). Are Green Jobs Just Jobs? Cadmium Narratives in the Life Cycle of Photovoltaics. Geoforum, 54, 178–186. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2014.01.014
Mulvaney, D. & Krupnik, T. (2014). Zero-tolerance for genetic pollution: Rice farming, pharm rice, and the risks of coexistence in California rice. Food Policy, 45, 121–131. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foodpol.2013.06.012