The elms near Old Main
Image: Kevin Sliman

Interdisciplinary projects awarded seed grants from IEE

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The 2017–18 Institutes of Energy and the Environment (IEE) seed grant recipients have recently been awarded to 16 groups of interdisciplinary researchers at Penn State.

IEE established the Seed Grant Program in 2013 to foster basic and applied research addressing four of IEE’s five research themes: Climate and Ecosystem Change, Future Energy Supply, Smart Energy Systems, and Water and Biogeochemical Cycles. The fifth, Human Health and the Environment, has a separate call for proposals and these grants will be awarded later in the year.

Since its beginning, IEE has awarded more than $1.5 million, funding 70 projects with collaborators from 15 of Penn State’s colleges and campuses. As of 2016, this program has helped Penn State researchers secure more than $5 million in externally funded grants with at least 55 scholarly publications.

This year nearly $350,000 has been awarded to more than 40 researchers in five colleges at University Park as well as at four Penn State campuses. The 2018 projects — along with their principal investigators, co-investigators and affiliated colleges — that were awarded seed grants are:

  • “Location, Location, Location: Changing the Real Estate of Plant Cell Walls for Sustainable Energy and Novel Materials via Lignin Nanolocalization”

Charles Anderson, Eberly College of Science; Yimin Zhu, Division of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Penn State Altoona; and Nicole Brown, College of Agricultural Sciences

  • “Climate and Ecosystem Change: Probing the Mechanisms of Coral Phenotypic Plasticity”

Iliana Baums, Eberly College of Science; Roberto Iglesias-Prieto, Eberly College of Science; and Sally Mackenzie, Eberly College of Science

  • “Coring of Pre-Holocene Sediments at Bear Meadows: A Coupled Record of Paleoclimate, Paleoecology, and Hillslope Erosion?”

Roman Dibiase, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences; and Sarah Ivory, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences

  • “Can Fertilization of Crops Alter Bedrock Weathering?”

Jonathan Duncan, College of Agricultural Sciences; and Susan Brantley, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences

  • “Maximization of Permanent Trapping of CO2 in Geological Formations”

Hamid Emami-Meybodi, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences; Aleksandra Radlinska, College of Engineering; Li Li, College of Engineering; and Zuleima Karpyn, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences

  • “Utilizing Hydrotropes to Increase Redox Flow Battery Storage Densities”

Christopher Gorski, College of Engineering; Robert Hickey, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences; and Bruce Logan, College of Engineering

  • “Decentralized Control of Modular Multi-Level Converters in Photovoltaic Systems”

Javad Khazaei, School of Science, Engineering, and Technology, Penn State Harrisburg; and Gregory Pavlak, College of Engineering

  • “Experiment and Modeling of Multi-Physics Gas Flow Dynamics through MultiScale Shale Pores”

Shimin Liu, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences; Zi-Kui Liu, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences; Shun-Li Shang, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences; and Ming Xiao, College of Engineering

  • “Assessing Wetland Characteristics of 0-order Contributing Areas Above Montane Headwater Wetland-Stream Complexes in the Appalachian Mountains – A Pennsylvania Assessment”

Douglas Miller, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences; Jonathan Duncan, College of Agricultural Sciences; and Andy Cole, College of Arts and Architecture

  • “Heavy Metal Removal from Industrial Runoff Using Manganese Modified Diatomite”

Faegheh Khazaei Moazeni, School of Science, Engineering, and Technology, Penn State Harrisburg; and Shirley Clark, School of Science, Engineering, and Technology, Penn State Harrisburg

  • “Energy Efficient Buildings: Using Data Analytics to Incorporate Occupancy in Scheduling and Load Profiling”

Ashkan Negahban, Engineering Division, Penn State Great Valley; Robin Qiu, Engineering Division, Penn State Great Valley; Walter Scott Wagner, College of Engineering; and Mark Stutman, College of Engineering

  • “Design and Development of an Innovative Re-Roofing Solution that Demonstrates the Feasibility of Retrofitting a Leaky Vacant Building to a Watertight and Energy Producing System”

Esther Obonyo, College of Engineering; Clive Randall, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences; Kevin Snider, Chancellor, Penn State New Kensington; and Ali Memari, College of Engineering

  • “What Would the Susquehanna River Basin (SRB) Look Like in a European Union (EU) Water Framework Directive?”

Cibin Raj, College of Agricultural Sciences; Robert Chiles, College of Agricultural Sciences; Patrick Drohan, College of Agricultural Sciences; Caitlin Grady, College of Engineering; and Heather Gall, College of Agricultural Sciences

  • “Novel Inocula for Enhanced Biological Phosphorus Removal: Bridging Stream and Engineered Ecosystems”

John Regan, College of Engineering; and Jonathan Duncan, College of Agricultural Sciences

  • “Projecting Flood Risk from Extreme Precipitation: Interaction Between Climate Change and Urbanization”

Benjamin Shaby, Eberly College of Science; Alfonso Mejia, College of Engineering; and Chris Forest, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences

  • “Multi-Scale Estimates of Solar Power Water Stress by Integrating Process-Based Descriptions with Deep-Learning-Based Mapping of Solar Farms”

Chaopeng Shen, College of Engineering; Jeffrey Brownson, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences; and Guido Cervone, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences

In addition to funding new and novel interdisciplinary research, seed grants are also unique opportunities for graduate students.

“Two first-year graduate students in an interdepartmental program will have the chance to work on the project our seed grant is funding,” said Charles Anderson, assistant professor of biology. “These seed grants are a great opportunity for graduate students to get in on the ground floor of a high-risk, high-reward project. If it doesn’t pan out, the grad student is able to easily move on to the next project. But if it does work out, the student is able to have been part of it from the beginning.”

The Institutes of Energy and the Environment is one of seven interdisciplinary research institutes at Penn State. IEE works to build teams of experts from different disciplines to see how new partnerships and new ways of thinking can solve some of the world’s most difficult energy and environmental challenges while simultaneously protecting and developing a healthy planet, people and economy.

Contacts: 

Chris Pfeiffer