2020 Transitions Lab

Student Engagement

2020 Sustainability Scholars

 The IU Office of Sustainability will begin accepting applications starting August 21. Email questions to sustain@indiana.edu.

The Office of Sustainability (IUOS) and the Integrated Program in the Environment (IPE), with support from the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, are continuing the 2020 Sustainability Scholars program for academic year 2017-2018. The goal of this project is to provide a high quality research experience for approximately 15 freshman and sophomores in the area of sustainability. Students that are selected as 2020 Sustainability Scholars receive unprecedented access to world-class faculty in sustainability research; experience that is valued by employers and graduate schools; support from IPE and IUOS in refining their sustainability interests and future marketability; and the opportunity to grow critical thinking and analytical skills.


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The students chosen as 2020 Sustainability Scholars will receive a $500 scholarship each semester, based on successful work with their assigned mentor. Students are required to:

  • Engage in 8-10 hours per week of research with their assigned mentor.
  • Attend the 2020 Sustainability Scholars orientation on October 13, from 2-3:30.
  • Begin meeting with their mentor mid-fall semester through the end of the spring semester.
  • Create an approved research work plan in collaboration with an assigned faculty mentor by the conclusion of the fall term.
  • Enroll in the 2-credit hour 2020 Sustainability Scholars course for the spring semester.

    To apply, please follow instructions and complete this Application Form. Applications are due September 15 by 5pm. Late submissions or incomplete submissions will not be considered!

2017 Research Projects

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  • Project 1: Health Risk of Rice Consumption

    • Dr. Kan Shao, Assistant Professor, School of Public Health
    • Rice is one of the most important staple foods worldwide. Due to flooded paddy cultivation and the uptake of arsenite through the silicon transport pathway, rice is more efficient than other cereals (e.g., wheat) at accumulating inorganic arsenic (iAs), which has been identified as “carcinogenic to humans” (causing lung cancer, bladder cancer, etc.). Therefore, rice consumption imposes potential risk on human health, especially in Asian populations who have high level of rice intake. This scholar is expected to first conduct literature review to evaluate the uptake rate of iAs in rice and to understand the exposure-response relationship between iAs and two types of cancer (lung cancer and bladder cancer), and then to clean and analyze the exposure data. The scholar would provide preliminarily estimates of the health risk associated with rice consumption and a report to describe how the values are derived.
    • Desired skills and interests: detail orientated and dedicated, previous research experience and interest in quantitative analysis desired but not required, strong interest in environmental health and food safety.
  • Project 2: Characterizing the Jordan River Watershed
    • Dr. Brian Yanites, Assistant Professor of Geological Sciences and Geomorphology
    • The Jordan River integrates natural and human activities across campus and its watershed. These activities include chemical application for turf management, sediment run-off associated with construction, natural leaf-litter and riverbank erosion, and the replacement of natural landscapes with physical infrastructure. This scholar will be tasked with delineating and characterizing the Jordan River watershed and relevant sub-basins. Analysis will be done using GIS and some field verification of surface measurements. The ultimate goal of the project will be to predict how different parts of the landscape, and activities occurring on it, influence the water and sediment input to and through the Jordan River. 

    • Desired skills and interests: Interest in water, rivers, and landscapes; desire to learn new computer programs; comfort with introductory Calculus desired but not required; familiarity or desire to learn computer programming or Matlab.
  • Project 3: Coordinating Watershed Protection and Zoning Practices in Monroe County: Deicsion-making in the Griffy Lake Watershed
    • Dr. Stephanie Kane, Professor, Department of International Studies
    • For the Planning Commissioners of Monroe County, zoning involves making decisions complicated by competing priorities, zoning ordinances, and environmental commitments. As the pressure for Bloomington to expand intensifies (with I69, IU, the new medical center, etc.) how will commissioners balance the collective commitment to the preservation of forested waterways? This scholar will study documents (zoning, master plans, news), interview people in the County Planning Department and others involved in or knowledgeable about this issue, and carry out participant observation in Planning Commission meetings that are open to the public. This project could contribute important ideas for the development of sustaining the commitment to watershed protection in the face of county development pressures.

    • Desired skills and interests: Comfortable with both interviewing and performing qualitative analysis
  • Project 4: Food Security Decision Making
    • Dr. Dan Knudsen, Professor, Geography and Dr. Peter Todd, Professor, Psychological and Brain Sciences
    • Even though Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides nutrition assistance to low income individuals and families, SNAP recipients often end up needing more money for food than the Program provides. This gap in funding is coupled with rules and availability of supplies in food pantries, leaving some families hungry. This scholar will provide assistance with a class simulation related to SNAP where students in a course taught by the mentor will be given invented identities of people in a community who are food insecure. Students will be asked to make decisions about how to get food based on their assigned identity and resources. This scholar will analyze the data and information generated by this simulation to understand decision making in the real world.

    • Desired skills and interests: Comfortable using math.
  • Project 5: Campus Plant Growth and Biofertilizers
    • Chip Glahoult, Instructor and Lab Director, School of Public and Environmental Affairs
    • What nutrient ratios of our algal based bio-fertilizer stimulates the highest growth rate in plants on campus? The Indiana University landscape includes many managed outdoor areas. The student will help conduct controlled lab experiments and then use field applications to test what nutrient ratios work best for campus plants in campus greenhouses and flower beds. The goal of the project is to improve the quality of our locally sourced organic algal based fertilizer, and to help IU become more sustainable by transitioning away from the application of costly and harmful inorganic fertilizer on campus.

    • Desired skills and interests: Biology major or experience; GIS background or interest.
  • Project 6: Consumer Understanding of Electric Vehicles: Perceptions vs. Reality
    • Dr. Sanya Carley, Associate Professor, School of Public and Environmental Affairs

      This project is part of a broader research project focused on electric vehicle deployment, consumer awareness, and policy interventions. This scholar would work closely with team members including faculty and students. They will help write a paper that evaluates the difference between survey participants’ reported understanding about technical and policy details for electric vehicles, and the reality of these details. This scholar will perform statistical work and analysis.

    • Desired skills and interests:Strong writing abilities; ability to work well in a team.
  • Project 7: The U.S. Energy Transition, Vulnerable Communities, and Adaptive Capacity
    • Dr. Sanya Carley, Associate Professor, School of Public and Environmental Affairs
    • This project is part of a broader research project focused on the U.S. energy transition and how certain communities may be more adversely affected by the transition than others.  This scholar would work closely with team members including faculty and students. They will research a specific component on vulnerability referred to as adaptive capacity (the ability for an individual or community to adapt to changing economic conditions). This scholar will research which adaptive capacity policies and programs exist around the country for vulnerable communities and write a report that analyzes these programs. This research will involve in-depth analysis.

      Desired skills and interests: Strong writing abilities.
  • Project 8: Real Food on the IU Bloomington Campus
    • Dr. Angela Babb, Associate Insructor, Department of Geography
    • The Real Food Challenge (RFC) is a national student movement to transform our food system. This initiative involves assessing the amount and types of food purchased by a university from socially just, sustainable sources, such that we can learn how to shift food procurement to support more just, sustainable food systems. This scholar will be asked to acquire procurement data for IU dining services and assess this data in terms of the RFC criteria. They will use Excel to gather and organize food procurement data and do analyses and draw on previous research by IU students to create a report for faculty, staff, students, administration, and our vendors and distributors.

    • Desired skills and interests: Dedicated, hardworking and detail orientated; some experience with Excel is desired but not required; very strong interest in sustainability and food systems is desired; some knowledge regarding sustainable food systems is preferred.
  • Project 9: Strategic Procurement Shifts to Sustainable Food
    • Dr. Angela Babb, Associate Instructor, Department of Geography
    • The Real Food Challenge (RFC) is a national student movement to transform our food system to one that is healthy, sustainable and fair for all. This initiative involves building relationships with local food producers, and strategizing how to shift food procurement to support more just, sustainable food systems. This scholar will be asked to analyze existing food purchases by IUB dining services and identify opportunities for sustainable products shifts. This scholar will be expected to interact regularly with existing and potential vendors and distributors as well as dining operations staff. Key tasks include working with distributors to increase transparency and Real Food options, working with local farmers and dining directors to build relationships, and identifying key product shifts to create a strategic 3-5 year plan for increasing the amount of Real Food at IUB.

    • Desired skills and interests: Dedicated, hardworking, and detail orientated; great social skills; some experience with Excel is desired but not required; very strong interest in sustainability and food systems is desired; some knowledge regarding sustainable food systems is preferred 
  • Project 10: Energy Lost and Found
    • Kevin Ellett, Division of Research, Indiana Geological Survey
    • The Indiana Geological Survey (IGS) has made a surprising discovery of an anomalous geothermal heat reservoir under the IU Bloomington campus. We hypothesize that this intriguing feature has arisen from long-term energy losses in the district energy system used to heat buildings across campus. The Scholar for this project will work in collaboration with IGS researchers to help evaluate the extent and magnitude of this unexpected energy resource. In addition, we will explore its potential to serve as an innovative, cost-saving energy supply for heating campus facilities in the future. A variety of research methods will be used for the project including: mapping of steam/condensate lines and other features using Geographic Information System tools, thermal infrared imaging and Geoprobe drilling to characterize the shallow temperature regime, deeper temperature logging of wells in the campus area, and modeling of heat flow. The ultimate goal of this research is to help determine if this anthropogenic geothermal resource could provide a unique opportunity for expanding green energy production at the Bloomington campus.

    • Desired interests and skills: Interest in renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency and/or geosciences; familiarity with spreadsheets, databases, adn GIS software is desirable.
  • Project 11: Social Media and Technology Use in the Hoosier Young Farmer Movement
    • Dr. Norman Makoto Su, Professor, Assistant Professor of Informatics
    • The purpose of this study is to better understand people’s farming practices and the open challenges in farming to inform the design of tools to improve farming experiences and communicate farming practices to the public. This research entails examining challenges farmer’s face and solutions they develop, their motivations for farming, skills needed to farm, and farmers’ philosophy on what makes good farming. This scholar will interact with the Hoosier Young Farmer Coalition and will conduct interviews, observations, and photos of farmers in Indiana to understand the role of technology (e.g., social media) in their everyday activities. This scholar will analyze data collected, record results, and help develop prototypes and designs to help young farmers engage in sustainable practices.

    • Desired interests and skills: Detail oriented and hardworking; comfortable conducting or willing to learn how to conduct and help transcribe research interviews; car required for conducting face to face interviews; enjoys being "in the field"; tracking participants downs, interviewing, and understanding farming culture; interested in teh social implications of technology (e.g. social media) is a plus.
  • Project 12: Assets of the IU Heritage Trail
    • Dr. James Capshew, University Historian, History of Science and Philosophy
    • The IU Office of Sustainability Innovation Fund awarded funding to the IU Heritage Trail Pilot Project, which will be constructed in 2018. The Heritage Trail will be about six miles across campus using constructed sidewalks and paths, new trail created by students, and a virtual map with virtual signposts. The Heritage Trail is supported by faculty, staff, and students (some of which are involved in the Environmental Quality and Land Use Working Group as well as the Eppley Institute and School of Public Health courses). This scholar will work with these partners and independently to collect information on the IUB campus’ natural resources and ecosystems as well as the cultural and historical assets that will inform the creation of the Heritage Trail. This scholar will use historical information and GIS for research and mapping.

    • Desired skills and interests: Interest in or experience with GIS, mapping, and historical research; strong outreach and organizational skills.
  • Project 13: Sustainability of Microbial Methanotrophic Sequestration of Methane Greenhouse Gas Seepage from a Simulated Abandoned Gas Well
    • Dr. Arndt Schimmelmann, Senior Scientist, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
    • The increase in the atmospheric concentration of the potent greenhouse gas methane is predominantly man-made via industry and agriculture. This proposed project aims to evaluate the sustainability of sequestering methane from leaking wells by employing ‘bio-geo-engineered’ porous mounds harboring soil microbes that biochemically oxidize methane (methanotrophy). Once established, a properly constructed mound will sustainably limit methane emissions without further maintenance, as long as sufficient moisture and an adequate temperature will support microbial soil activity. This scholar will help to build small prototypes of ‘methanotrophic mounds’ to test the efficacy of methanotrophic methane removal from simulated leaking gas wells in a laboratory. Temperature, moisture, soil pH, methane flux from the point source, and the partial pressure of methane above the mounds will have to be monitored for several weeks. This scholar will need to monitor the setup, shift sensors from one mound to another, maintain adequate moisture in soil, and keep records of observations to write a final report with assistance from their mentors. The goal of the project is to demonstrate the feasibility of the microbial low-cost remediation approach.

    • Desired skills and interests: Reliability; ability to be present in the lab a few times a week; careful note taking skills and concise writing.
  • Project 14: Authoring Climate: Research at the Science/Policy Interface
    • Dr. Jessica O'Reilly, Assistant Professor, Global and International Studies
    • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) provides regular assessments of climate science, impacts, and options for mitigating climate change. This institution won the Nobel Prize in 2007 for their work. This scholar will work with their mentor and her interdisciplinary collaborators at other institutions. This research project is a qualitative, social science project in which the scholar will, conduct online archival research with primary documents from the IPCC, collect data relating to the authors of the IPCC assessment reports, particularly as they relate to nationality, discipline, home institution, and gender, and analyze these data to determine categories which are over- and under-represented in the IPCC community.

    • Desired skills and interests: Interest in climate change from a science, policy, historical, or cultural perspective; ability to methodically organize and analyze information; strong writing and communication skills
  • Project 15: Recreating the Historic Hydroscape of Indiana
    • Dr. Rebecca Lave, Associate Professor, Geography
    • Agriculture has had profound phyical impacts on surface water networks as farmers drained, dredged, reconfigured and relocated rivers and streams. It is difficult to evaluate the extent of agriculture's impact, however, without a clear idea of what the drainage looked like pre-contact. This project will reconstruct the pre-contact Indiana hydroscape through archival research with early maps and settler accounts. The final product will include a GIS-compatible map and an accompanying written report. 

    • Desired skills and interests: Basic familiarity with either hydrology or archival research is preferred. GIS skills would be great.
2020 Scholars In The News

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IU Student Experience: "Undergrads tackle research with faculty mentors through 2020 Sustainability Scholars Program"

IU Through The Gates: "Research Notes: Analyzing water quality - as a freshman."

Policy Briefings: "Sustainability Scholar takes on tough transportation challenge"

Science at Work: "IU sophomore on 'front end' of sustainability research on bird migration, climate."

7th & Jordan:‚ "Olivia Ranseen: Bringing sustainability from backstage to center stage"

Inside IUB: "IU freshman and SPEA professor collaborate on sustainable brewing research"

Current 2020 Sustainability Scholars

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    Alan BeardAlan Beard, mentored by Dr. Stephanie Kane

    Emily BrownEmilee Brown, mentored by Dr. Sanya Carley

    Ally GottfriedAlly Gottfried, mentored by Dr. Kan Shao

    Madison HowellMadison Howell, mentored by Kevin Ellett

    Amani KhouryAmani Khoury, mentored by Dr. Sanya Carley

    Victoria LincourtVictoria Lincourt, mentored by Dr. Jessica O'Reilly

    Marisa LoganMarisa Logan, mentored by Dr. Norman Makoto Su

    Jennifer NavarroJennifer Navarro, mentored by Dr. Angela Babb

    Hadley OcheltreeHadley Ocheltree, mentored by Dr. Rebecca Lave

    Jennifer ParsonsJennifer Parsons, mentored by Dr. Chip Glahoult

    Sydney PleakSydney Pleak, mentored by Dr. James Capshew

    Emma SchusterEmma Schuster, mentored by Dr. Angela Babb

    Carson SwoffordCarson Swofford, mentored by Dr. Brian Yanites

    Hannah WilsonHannah Wilson, mentored by Dr. Dan Knudsen

    Julia WoodJulia Wood, mentored by Dr. Arndt Schimmelmann

    • 2016-2017 Scholars
      • Jennifer Bale, mentored by Carissa Carman
      • Connie Chen, mentored by Kan Shao
      • Claire Dorner, mentored by Shahzeen Attari
      • Emma Freestone, mentored by Brian Forist
      • Anna Groover, mentored by Stephen Glaholt
      • Andrew Coleton Hast, mentored by David Stringer
      • Brina Jenkins, mentored by Jim Capshew
      • Nicole La Rue, mentored by Kevin Ellett and Shawn Naylor
      • Rachel Morris, mentored by Norman Su
      • Lindsey Nelson, mentored by Stephanie Kane
      • Mary Owens, mentored by Justin Maxwell and Tom Evans
      • Jared Scwartz, mentored by Dan Knudsen
      • Lucas Stegemiller, mentored by Sanya Carley
      • Paige Wells, mentored by Khalid Khan
    • 2015-2016 Scholars
      • Katharine Adams
      • Corben Andrews
      • Lia Bobay
      • Claire Burdette
      • Eric Gu
      • Rose Kaforski
      • Halley Rose Meslin
      • Jacob Mills
      • Katherine Nicholson
      • Megan Poff
      • Ellen Potocsnak
      • Olivia Ranseen
      • Kim Novick
      • Janine Tang
      • Abby Zielinski