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Sustainability grants support faculty research

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June 19, 2022

Seed Grant News

The Sustainability Institute is pleased to announce the winners of the 2022 Sustainability Research Seed Grant Program. This award is designed to facilitate novel interdisciplinary research in the sustainability field. The seed grant, which enables advances in not only sustainability, but also resilience, targets new teams that focus on interdisciplinary work. Selections highlighted early career faculty with diverse interests and backgrounds.

This year, SI selected three projects to allocate almost $100,000 in funding to from the Sustainability Research Seed Grant Program:

  • Battery load management for a fleet of electric school buses: This project will examine how to handle the heating and cooling loads of both the road and the body of the bus. School busses, as the largest kind of mass transit in the United States, serve as a perfect target for saving transportation emissions. They also primarily run on diesel engines, which have higher greenhouse gas emissions than equivalent electric buses. Ahmed’s team constructed a five-task proposal to meet its goals: loads analysis, concept exploration and definition, energy management scheme, fleet composition, and fleet management. In addition to Ahmed, research team members come from the Center for Automotive Research (CAR), the Center for Urban and Regional Analysis (CURA), the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and Department of Geography and City and Regional Planning. Research from this project has the potential for application across the country, given local school district reliance on diesel fueled school bus transportation vehicles.
  • Researchers: Qadeer Ahmed, Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, CAR Senior Research Associate Athar Hanif, and graduate research assistants Joon Moon and Satvik Khuntia 


  • Sustainable adoption of climate-smart agroforestry: The second project focuses on the Sahel, an area of immense biodiversity and transition within Africa. Co-Principal Investigators Leah Bevis and Yanlan Liu will investigate Forest Gardens, a type of climate-smart technology that can increase adaptability and durability of rural and agricultural communities in areas of poverty or climactic disadvantage. The researchers will expand this into irrigation optimization, capacity for carbon sequestration and potential for profit. Climate change is only increasing in speed, severity and frequency, so this data plays a crucial role in preparing the Sahel community for the future. The research team, with backgrounds in the Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics, the School of Earth Sciences and the Global Water Institute, plans to work on models, simulations and choice experiments.
  • Researchers: Leah Bevis, associate professor in the Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics, and Yanlan Liu, assistant professor in the School of Earth Sciences and School of Environment and Natural Resources


  • Air quality and building ventilation: The members of this project will collaborate to develop a first-of-its-kind simultaneous occupant comfort/satisfaction survey enabled by cell phone apps an airborne pollutant sensing dataset. Humans spend most of their time inside buildings, whether it's their homes, schools or work. This fact makes it unsurprising that approximately four percent of all primary energy expenditure in the United States, approximately four percent of and CO2 emissions in the U.S. and approximately ten percent of peak grid power demand, proving the value of this research.
  • Researchers: Jordan Clark, assistant professor, Civil Environmental and Geodetic Engineering, Lindsay Graham, clinical associate professor in Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Rajiv Ramnath, clinical professor, Computer Science and Engineering 


Proposal Development Grant News

Principal Investigators Douglas Jackson-Smith, Katrina Cornish, Judit Puskas and Yael Vodovotz were all awarded Proposal Development Grants to support interdisciplinary teams in the development of external funding proposals. The development grant assists with writing proposals for external funding in SI’s designated research areas which also must cross two or more fields of study:

  • Jackson-Smith’s target external funding opportunity is the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service. On behalf of an interdisciplinary research team, he will submit a proposal for a host of potential pilots that could create and promote markets for agricultural products that keep greenhouse emissions low and promote carbon sequestration.
  • Cornish’s target external funding opportunity is also through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Her team will explore the potential for sustainable domestic rubber production from the Buckeye Golden dandelion and the Guayule.
  • Puskas will target an external funding opportunity with the National Science Foundation. The proposal development grant will go towards developing SHIELD: Specialty High Impact Elastomeric Latex Crops for Devices & Personal Protective Equipment.
  • Vodovotz will also target a National Science Foundation funding opportunity. This proposal development grant will help develop SHAPE: Solutions Hub for an Alternative Packaging Ecosystem.

The 2022 Sustainability Proposal Development Grants are open through June, and funding is still available.

If you have questions about SI’s research funding opportunities contact Courtney Price, Sustainability Institute research program manager, at or 614-292-8208

Story by Aurora Ellis, student communications assistant