WSU, NSF Invest $5 Million In Unique Graduate Program
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PULLMAN, Wash. -- More than 60 doctoral-seeking students at Washington State University will be funded over the next five years to conduct cutting-edge research and explore solutions to the environmental problems of the Earth's air, water and land.
A $2.7 million grant from the National Science Foundation, combined with matching funds from WSU, will allow U.S. doctoral students to cross the boundaries of engineering, sciences and agriculture, and to learn the accompanying dynamics of government and economics.
The Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training award fosters interdisciplinary activities that include partnerships with industry and government labs, and addresses problems of global concern. Each year, 14-28 graduate students supported by this grant will work together in co-located labs. They will receive mentoring and training to deal with complex environmental problems.
Washington-based industries and government agencies will offer internships, hands-on research opportunities and mentoring. Such organizations include Weyerhaeuser and Boise Cascade, Department of Energy and Department of Defense contractors at Hanford, the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, Tyndall Air Force Base, the Bureau of Mines, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Washington Department of Ecology.
"This innovative program is important for Washington state, because it builds a corps of scientists and engineers of a new culture," says U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt, who lent legislative support for the IGERT grants. "They will think like team players with government and industry and develop technologies to address regional, national and international environmental problems. The end product we seek is a cadre of graduates to work in national labs, universities or industry who understand cross-field teaming, and the big picture about environmental issues."
Students from eight WSU departments in three colleges will be coordinated through the Center for Multiphase Environmental Research in the College of Engineering and Architecture.
The grant will cover graduate student tuition, lab equipment, travel and other research costs.
"Graduate research is at the heart of the IGERT program," says principal investigator James Petersen, CMER director. "The infusion of extra graduate students will speed research about environmental problems that are of interest to the Northwest, but also have worldwide importance." Examples include:
-- How bacteria can transform hazardous compounds in soils, such as chromate, uranium and others to non-hazardous, or even beneficial, forms. Results will benefit Lake Coeur d'Alene, Hanford, tribal lands and international sites.
-- Chemical interactions between hazardous compounds and soil surfaces. Such technology applies to the cleanup of the Hanford Site, better agricultural waste management techniques and reduction of waste from mine sites.
-- Computer predictions of atmospheric pollutant transport in the Puget Sound region and of subsurface transport at contaminated sites like Hanford. The results will help solve similar problems in Jordan and other Middle Eastern countries.
-- Bioremediation of creosote-soaked wood. This can help waterfront communities address recycling of chemically-treated piers and facilities.
-- How dust is drawn up and transported. A health effects study of air particulate in Spokane aims to determine what, where and how the air dust is generated, its effects on humans, and how to reduce the problems. These studies will also apply to erosion issues in such countries as Uzbekistan, where past practices created wastelands with hazardous dust.
Besides working on industry and government projects and serving internships, students will take new courses to help them understand the social, legal and political aspects of environmental work.
"Outstanding graduate students will be recruited via undergraduate research participation and interactions with targeted regional colleges and universities, including Northwest Indian College and Salish Kootenai College," says Petersen. Women, Hispanics and Native American students will be encouraged to pursue advanced science and engineering degrees.
This is WSU's first grant from the NSF IGERT program, which is only in its second year nationwide. This year, 22 universities were chosen from a field of some 800 applicants. Only a handful of the grant recipients deal with environmental issues.
Materials provided by Washington State University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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