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Award Abstract #1156789

REU Site: Operation ETank: Moving Toward a Sustainable World

SBE Off Of Multidisciplinary Activities
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Initial Amendment Date: March 19, 2012
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Latest Amendment Date: February 20, 2014
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Award Number: 1156789
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Award Instrument: Continuing grant
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Program Manager: Fahmida N. Chowdhury
SMA SBE Off Of Multidisciplinary Activities
SBE Direct For Social, Behav & Economic Scie
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Start Date: March 15, 2012
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End Date: February 28, 2015 (Estimated)
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Awarded Amount to Date: $292,940.00
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Investigator(s): David Changnon dchangnon@niu.edu (Principal Investigator)
Lisa Freeman (Co-Principal Investigator)
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Sponsor: Northern Illinois University
301 Lowden Hall
De Kalb, IL 60115-2860 (815)753-1581
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Program Reference Code(s): 9250
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Program Element Code(s): 1139


The goal of this REU project is to operate an interdisciplinary research-based think tank (i.e., Operation ETank) to engage undergraduates on perspectives of sustainability with individual expertise in environment, energy, economy, and ethics. To accomplish this goal, students spend eight weeks conducting research with scientists on environment and energy issues, participating in weekly seminars and collaborative activities where sustainability will be viewed through the lens of ethics and the economy, and being introduced to issues related to personal development as a research scientist. At the end of Operation ETank, students make poster presentations of their results to their peers and are expected to provide a draft of a manuscript that could be submitted to a refereed journal for review. The recruitment efforts are targeted toward students from underrepresented groups in science through partnerships with regional educational institutions. Expected outcomes from participation in Operation ETank include a greater understanding of the complexity associated with sustainability issues, an ability to initiate, complete and communicate results from a research project, and to collaborate with peers and scientists on various research-related activities.

Intellectual Merit: Students participating in Operation ETank get hands-on research experience with faculty mentors on complex research problems. Results from their efforts are expected to advance what is understood as it relates to environmental and energy sustainability. Individual projects are enhanced through collaborative experiences. Students are expected to investigate what they learn about other disciplines related to the research projects they undertake with faculty mentors.

Broader Impacts: A primary objective of Operation ETank is to prepare the next generation of interdisciplinary practitioners in the area of sustainability. Through research training and personal development student participants will be provided with the practical and intellectual tools to tackle pertinent issues and current problems from the holistic perspective of the 4 Es (energy, environment, ethics, and economy). Every student activity planned for the 8-week period is related to the identified outcomes (i.e., research design, effective written and oral communication, critical thinking, collaboration with others, etc.) associated with Operation ETank. Although student projects focus primarily on environmental and energy sustainability, other issues related to ethics and economy are integrated into the broader sustainability discussion. The goal is to introduce students to the use of basic research skills and tools that help prepare them for future scientific endeavors including graduate school. Having them develop an understanding that most scientific issues involve great complexity and results that are often uncertain greatly enhance their ability to communicate research results to a broader audience.


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