Student Projects Advance Sustainability at Ohio State

August 21, 2019

By: Meredith Oglesby

Discoveries and creative efforts are promoted and awarded throughout The Ohio State University.  Seven undergraduate, graduate and professional students were awarded Sustainability Institute Student Funding Grants for sustainability related research or campus as a living lab projects.

A hybrid selection committee comprised of faculty as well as Sustainability Institute and Student Life staff reviewed each application, the letters of support and budget. Priority funding was given to projects that support academic work and improve campus landscapes and operations to move toward the Ohio State sustainability goals.

The Sustainability Institute awarded $30,000 to support these projects:

Nariman Laal Dehghani, a graduate student in civil, environmental and geodetic engineering, is researching optimal preventive maintenance approaches, which are actions aimed to ensure durability and conserve the lifespan of structures. This research is focused on enhancing the sustainability of infrastructure across campus.

A new technology is emerging in the field of environmental DNA to assess biodiversity within an area in a rapid, low-cost approach. James Feller, a graduate student in evolution, ecology and organismal biology, is working with Kaleigh O’Reilly, an undergraduate student in environmental science, to use this new biomonitoring method in Mirror Lake. This research will determine the effectiveness of this new technology by using Mirror Lake to collect environmental DNA.

Christina Gore, a graduate student in agricultural, environmental, and development economics, is researching how the emissions of a battery electric vehicle impact consumer willingness to pay for certain vehicles.

Ryan Vogel, a graduate student in environmental and natural resources, is researching the potential to enhance the bike commuter experience on campus. The bike improvement project will update the bike racks near Kottman Hall to encourage commuting by bike and will survey bike rack usage and commuter opinions.

Dense urban areas observe hotter air temperatures due to building materials absorbing high amounts of light, which can have negative health consequences. Kathryn Boening, a graduate student in food, agricultural and biological engineering, received funding to support her research, “Evaluating the Potential for Green Stormwater Infrastructure to Reduce the Urban Heat Island Effect.” Boening aims to quantify the impacts of green stormwater infrastructure such as green roofs on urban air temperatures.

Ifeanyi Iloba, a doctoral student in animal sciences, is working to develop an effective bio-based technology for the recovery of cleaner water from agricultural and industrial wastewater.

Claire O’Hern, an undergraduate student in business majoring in operations management, is using Facilities Operations and Development as a living laboratory by assessing how single-use- plastics can be eliminated while also implementing a composting program. The goal is to decrease the waste generated from employees within this department by using alternative, compostable materials to determine if Ohio State is able to implement sustainability standards throughout departments.

“It is always exciting to learn about the creative ideas our students seek to explore through their projects and to watch them contribute to knowledge and change our campus for the better,” says Gina Hnytka, director of sustainability education and learning. “The Sustainability Institute is glad to have the honor of supporting the growth and implementation of these ideas. Congratulations to each of our 2019 student funding grant recipients!”  

Sustainability student funding grants will open at the start of spring semester 2020; we encourage applications from any undergraduate, graduate, or professional students working on sustainability-related research or project. For more information, contact Gina Hnytka, Sustainability Institute director of education and learning, at

Meredith Oglesby is a student communications assistant at the Sustainability Institute at Ohio State.


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