Edwin "Todd" Cowen is the Director of the DeFrees Hydraulics Laboratory and served as the Kathy Dwyer Marble and Curt Marble Faculty Director for Energy at the Atkinson Center for a Sustainability at Cornell University from 2013-2018. He joined the Cornell faculty in November 1997. Cowen earned a B.S. (1987) in civil engineering at Brown University. He worked for three years at Redniss and Mead, a Stamford, CT based consulting firm that specializes in site planning and engineering. It was at Redniss and Mead that Cowen got a taste for hydrology, hydraulics and environmental fluid mechanics. Cowen returned to school and completed his M.S. (1991) and Ph.D. (1997) in civil engineering at Stanford University specializing in environmental fluid mechanics.
Cowen's research interests are in environmental fluid mechanics, renewable energy and sustainability. He pairs laboratory-based research with full-scale observational field campaigns to understand the physics of natural and anthropogenic flows in the environment. He has built an environmental fluid mechanics research program centered on five themes: environmental transport processes, water wave induced flows, lake hydrodynamics (physical limnology), energy harvesting, and quantitative imaging techniques. He has developed experimental techniques, built new facilities, and undertaken basic research in: the dispersal of mass by jets and low-momentum point sources; scale-dependent dispersion, swash zone (the region of the beach face that is alternately dry and wet) turbulence; wave-structure interaction; exchange processes at embayment-lake connections; residence time in natural water bodies; internal waves in lakes and reservoirs, the effects of aquatic vegetation (macrophytes) on the mass and momentum transport processes, gas transfer by turbulence at an air-water interface, sediment suspension by turbulence at a sediment-water interface, direct mechanical and kinetic energy harvesting, and the remote measurement of flow metrics from visible and infrared sensing. His current projects include infrared-based remotely sensing of surface turbulence to understand how juvenile fish are transported through the San Francisco Bay Delta system, optimizing strategies for energy harvesting from arrays of turbines, directly harvesting mechanical energy from pre-tensioned wave-like ribbons, the fate, transport and residence time of water masses and environmental DNA in Cayuga Lake, and the direct air capture of carbon dioxide for biofuel and co-product production.
Cowen believes strongly in multidisciplinary, cross-university collaborative research in the broad area of sustainability. Cowen has a particular interest in collaborating with external partners for real-world impact, such as his work with Avangrid (parent company of New York State Electric and Gas Corporation) to create, test, and optimize new residential electric storage systems as part of the Energy Smart Community initiative. This cutting-edge academic-private industry National Science Foundation sponsored collaboration is testing whether coupling rechargeable batteries to residential smart meters can increase benefits, including bolstering power grid flexibility, integrating renewable energy sources, reducing household electricity costs, and empowering homeowners to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
Cowen has been a member since 1999 of the Technical Advisory Committee on Cornell's Lake Source Cooling project, an award-winning district cooling system, and is a member of the executive steering team for Cornell's innovative Earth Source Heat project which seeks to tap deep geothermal energy to heat Cornell’s campus. He was a member of Cornell's Senior Leadership Climate Action Group, which issued the report "Options for Achieving a Carbon Neutral Campus by 2035". He is recognized as an authority in the areas of experimental measurements in fluid flows, environmental fluid mechanics, and sustainable energy and is a member of the editorial boards of the journals Experiments in Fluids, Environmental Fluid Mechanics, and Energies.