Sustainability Institute seeks proposals for graduate research contest

September 06, 2013

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- 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.

“Responsible stewardship of our planet’s finite resources is central to our tripartite mission of teaching, research and service, and Penn State is committed to the discovery, development and dissemination of technologies and practices that will help to ensure a bright future for generations to come. The Dow Challenge Awards fit perfectly within this context, and I am delighted that our many talented graduate students and faculty working in this area will have the opportunity to participate in this forward-thinking program,” said Neil Sharkey, interim vice president of research at Penn State.

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; 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, director of Penn State's 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:
-- Sept. 30 – Proposal submission deadline
-- Oct. 1-7 – Judging
-- Oct. 8 – Five finalist teams announced online
-- Oct. 18 – Workshop on interdisciplinary research/team building
-- Nov. 22 – Finalist team presentations and final judging
-- Dec. 6 – 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 September 06, 2013