PhD Research - Joseph Palazzo

MS Physics, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; BS Physics, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Joe is an industrial ecologist with an extensive background in electronics manufacturing. His research expands the scope of technology-focused environmental models to include market forces and the uncertainties they introduce. Prior to pursing a PhD, Joe worked as an engineering professional in the semiconductor industry for three years. He also holds a Master of Science degree in Physics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where his work on characterizing photovoltaic crystal growth contributed to two publications.

Dissertation Abstract:
Life Cycle Assessment seeks to quantify the environmental impacts of product systems and services from “cradle-to-grave”. This thesis develops and demonstrates new methodologies pertaining to Consequential LCA (CLCA), which has not been standardized and fully adopted in mainstream practice. In CLCA, I seek to assess the net environmental outcomes of decisions, rather than attribute environmental impacts in a fair and consistent way across product systems as is done in traditional LCA approaches. First, I review the history and current state of methods for characterizing the environmental consequences of actions in LCA. I recommend the use of an iterative framework that incorporates uncertainty analysis and causal inference. Then, I build a CLCA model of automotive material substitution including market forces pertaining to recycling. I show that such forces contribute significantly to uncertainty in greenhouse gas outcomes. Chapter 3 generalizes this uncertainty as a question of the cause-effect relationship between recycling and primary production. I demonstrate the use of difference-in-differences (DID), a causal inference method that classifies observational data into treatment and control groups, to test hypotheses about this relationship. Then, in the final chapter, I design a DID study that quantifies whether or not increases in wastewater recycling lead to equivalent reductions in potable water usage. This results in the first application of quasi-experimental methods to quantifying the relationship between recycling and primary production, and the first attempt to test hypotheses regarding the potable water savings from wastewater recycling.

Year Admitted:
Research Areas:
Industrial Ecology, Life Cycle Assessment, Corporate Environmental Management

Faculty Advisor: Roland Geyer

Fellowship awards:

2014-2018 Deckers Outdoor Corporation Fellowship, Bren School of Environmental Science & Management

2016 Best Short Talk Award, Bren School of Environmental Science & Management PhD Symposium

2016 Finalist, University of California Carbon Slam

2014-2015, Holbrook Foundation Fellowship, Institute for Energy Efficiency, University of California, Santa Barbara


Palazzo, J., Geyer, R. (2019). Consequential Life Cycle Assessment of Automotive Material Substitution: Replacing Steel with Aluminum in Production of North American Vehicles (accepted, in press). Environmental Impact Assessment Review.

Palazzo, J., Geyer, R., Startz, R., Steigerwald, D.G. (2019). Causal Inference for Quantifying Displaced Primary Production from Recycling. Journal of Cleaner Production. 210, 1076-1084.

Magalhães, R.F., Danilevicz, A.M.F., Palazzo, J. (2019). Managing trade-offs in complex scenarios: a decision-making tool for sustainability projects (accepted, in press). Journal of Cleaner Production.

Palazzo, J. (2018). The drivers of district-level water conservation in California. UNESCO Global Water Forum.

Palazzo, J., Liu, O.R., Stillinger, T., Song, R., Wang, Y., Hiroyasu, E.H., Zenteno, J., Anderson, S., Tague, C. (2017). Urban Responses to Restrictive Conservation Policy during Drought. Water Resources Research. 53, 4459-4475.

Krawicz, A., Palazzo, J., Wang, G.-C., Dinolfo, P. (2012). Layer-by-layer Assembly of Zn (II) and Ni (II) 5,10,15,20-tetra(4-ethynylphenyl)porphyrin Multilayers on Au Using Copper Catalyzed Azide-alkyne Cycloaddition. Royal Society of Chemistry Advances. 2(19), 7513-7522.

Gaire, C., Palazzo, J., Bhat, I., Goyal, A., Wang, G.-C., Lu, T.-M. (2012). Low Temperature Epitaxial Growth of Ge on CaF2 Buffered Cube-textured Ni. Journal of Crystal Growth. b343(1), 33-37.

Changizi, M., Weber, R., Kotecha, R., Palazzo, J. (2011). Are Wet-Induced Wrinkled Fingers Primate Rain Treads? Brain, Behavior, and Evolution. 77(4), 286-290.