Former Berkeley Lab researcher elected as Mexico City mayor

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Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo, an environmental engineer and former researcher at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, or Berkeley Lab, became the first woman to be elected as Mexico City’s mayor Sunday.

Sheinbaum won with nearly 50 percent of votes in a field that included seven candidates, securing the seat with a landslide victory. While at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, or UNAM, Sheinbaum received a grant from the university to conduct doctoral research at Berkeley Lab for four years.

Although Sheinbaum is an environmental engineer, Harley Shaiken, campus professor of the Graduate School of Education, said she has more direct “policy experience” than many U.S. presidents.

“She will be a historic mayor for a number of reasons,” Shaiken said. “She brings a very sharp intellect, she brings considerable experience in city government … and I think she has two other things that are just as important: She has a vision for the city and a deep empathy with the residents of Mexico City.”

Sheinbaum served as the minister of the environment in Mexico City for five years under then-mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who is the 2018 president-elect. In addition, as a student at UNAM, Sheinbaum was involved in many social movements.

At Berkeley Lab, Sheinbaum analyzed the use of energy in Mexico’s transportation and published studies on the trends of Mexican building energy use, according to Berkeley Lab energy scientist and former colleague Lynn Price.

“When she was at Berkeley Lab, Dr. Sheinbaum conducted detailed energy analyses of the factors that drive energy use in the energy-consuming sectors of the economy,” Price said.

As a former member of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Sheinbaum was a part of the team that jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. Additionally, Sheinbaum is the first Jewish person to be elected mayor of Mexico City.

According to Ashok Gadgil, a Berkeley Lab faculty senior scientist and former director of the Berkeley Lab Energy and Environmental Technologies Division, Sheinbaum can employ her understanding of environmental engineering as mayor and aid in Mexico City’s environmental problems.

“I’ve been very impressed with her throughout our interactions,” Gadgil said. “She is very smart, savvy and truly passionate about the environment.”

Price said Sheinbaum continually strives to gain new knowledge and inform others on how to improve their daily environmental conditions. She added that Sheinbaum is constantly educating people on the applications of environmental engineering on their surroundings.

Shaiken said he is excited to see where Sheinbaum’s term will go, and the changes that she will bring to both Mexico City and the country itself.

“I think it genuinely is a great moment for Mexico,” Shaiken said. “I am excited that she is affiliated with Berkeley. I think she is going to be someone to watch.”

Contact Kelly Yang at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @KellyYangMSJ.