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Living Green Inside the Beltway

Monday, November 19, 2007

by Donna Parker

Life changed dramatically for Ana Unruh Cohen '96 when the Democrats took over Congress and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi created a special committee to study the phenomenon of global warming.

"My boss jokingly said, 'What a difference a day makes!'" says Unruh Cohen, who holds a doctorate in geochemistry.

"This is an opportunity to raise the issue and adopt some policies. It's a unique thing while we have no legislative power, but we can and will make recommendations to Congress about global warming, as well as hold hearings around the world to educate people," says this dedicated scientist who serves as the senior policy adviser for Global Warming in Washington D.C.

"I've spent my whole professional career working in the global warming and policy space. My role now is to stay abreast of the latest science and technical information to incorporate into our analysis of the problem and hopefully, provide a solution."

Ana grew up on the Gulf Coast bird watching, playing in the ocean, and participating in environmental groups, along with her parents.

"The apple hasn't fallen far from the tree!"

Ana and her husband, Clark, whom she married in 2004, even live green in a 100-year-old row house on Capitol Hill. The pair purchased energy-efficient appliances, added insulation, and buy green power from their public utility. They don't drive very much and end up walking to shops and restaurants in their neighborhood. Not bad for two self-described "geek wonks." Clark is a rocket scientist who works on global positioning satellites.

"He's a cool space stuff entrepreneurial guy! On the weekends, we enjoy buying our produce at the local farmers' market. I'm active in the Sierra Club and we're supporters of Green Corp."

Ana was involved in the Sierra Club while at Trinity and also became interested in water conservation.

"Trinity, for me, was such a home away from home. In addition to my environmental interests, I had a lot of laughs and good friends. It was a pretty special four years to soak up learning in the classroom, as well as outside."

Professors such as Diane Smith, department of geosciences, and her academic adviser, Nancy Mills, department of chemistry, impacted Ana greatly.

"I've found myself in policy jobs because my strength is communicating technical and scientific issues to the broader public. A lot of that comes straight out of my liberal arts education, where I learned to write and speak well and critically."

Ana is on the Alumni Board for the National Capital Area and just hosted several current Trinity students on spring break in her own home. She did go back for her recent 10-year reunion and remains connected to friends and faculty.

"My science career has veered off a bit from what I did in school academically, but Trinity provided a solid foundation that I've taken to a different area of scientific expertise."

"I've been so lucky to do what I love. My goal is to follow my passion and follow my heart."

Contact Ana at: anaunruh [at]