Sustainability Institute seeks proposals for graduate research contest

For the second year, Penn State will participate in the 2013 Dow Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge Awards.  SISCA is designed to promote forward thinking in social and environmental responsibility; while also acknowledging the energy, commitment, and enthusiasm of students and their professors who support their innovations.  Graduate students and faculty from Penn State are encouraged to join an international field of universities that are involved in the program.

Experimental fuel cells

Jordan Antetomaso, a Penn State sophomore majoring in biochemisty, examined the glow of an LED light from a microbial fuel cell filled with mud that he constructed in his microbiology 202 class. Students built experimental fuel cells with the goal of harnessing enough energy from random mud samples to light a small LED. The current is being generated by bacteria from the soil sample. Research at Penn State is attempting to harness more and more energy from the bacteria found in soil. Go to for more information about microbial fuel cell research at Penn State.

Image: Patrick Mansell

“We are delighted to have the opportunity to participate in SISCA.  This unique program enables us to recognize some of the most creative and talented graduate students at Penn State who are pursuing sustainable solutions to the critical problems facing our global community,” said Hank Foley, vice president of research at Penn State and dean of the Graduate School.

As part of SISCA, student competitors have the opportunity to network with global sustainability thought-leaders and peers, join a reputable network of SISCA alumni, display their work with various external sustainability media, and receive monetary prizes. Each finalist team will be given a $1,000 stipend towards the development of a final entry.  A $10,000 prize will go to the grand prize team; while a $2,500 prize will go to the second place team.
The winning teams will be selected based on high-level criteria that include: potential for solving world challenges in alignment with Dow’s 2015 Sustainability Goals, innovative thinking and excellence in research and bringing together graduate students across various disciplines at Penn State.

“By providing an opportunity to explore and build their capacity, the 2012 student teams at Penn State solidified their commitment to interdisciplinary work and created truly transformative ideas,” said Denice Wardrop, interim director of the Penn State Sustainability Institute.
Last year’s teams submitted proposals that addressed sustainability issues ranging from the treatment of wastewater to building technologies to transportation.

The 2013 program will close at the end of the Fall semester. Important dates to keep in mind:
• May 23–  Proposal submission deadline
• May 24 - June 3 – Judging
• June 7 – Five finalist teams announced
• Oct. 23 – Finalist team presentations and final judging
• Nov. 15 – Awards presentation to announce grand prize and runner-up teams

The 2013 SISCA program is administered by Penn State’s Sustainability Institute. For more information about the program, visit or contact Sharon Hoover, program coordinator at

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Last Updated May 13, 2013