Participant Support - REU Site: Multidisciplinary Approaches for Overcoming Water Resources and Sustainable Engineering Challenges in Appalachian Regions

Grants and Contracts Details


Overview PROJECT ELEMENTS New REU Site Title: REU Site: Multidisciplinary Approaches for Overcoming Water Resources and Sustainable Engineering Challenges in Appalachian Regions Principal Investigator: Tiffany Messer Submitting Organization: University of Kentucky Other organizations involved in the project''s operation: none Location at which the proposed undergraduate will occur: University of Kentucky Main field(s) and sub-field(s) of the research: Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, Agricultural Economics, Plant and Soil Sciences, Earth and Environmental Sciences, STEM Education No. of undergraduate participants per year: 10 Summer REU Site, or academic year REU Site: Summer No. of weeks per year that the students will participate: 10 Does the project include an international component or an RET component: No Name, phone number, and email address for the point of contact for student applicants: Tiffany Messer, Biosystems & Agricultural Engineering, (859) 218-4353, [email protected] Web address (URL) for information about the REU Site (if known): The objectives of this REU site are to: 1) offer research experiences to undergraduate students with at least 60% of participants from institutions with limited research opportunities, at least 50% from underrepresented students in STEM fields, and at least 40% first-generation college students; 2) provide participants first-hand exposure to water resources and sustainable engineering challenges facing the Appalachian region through research and professional development opportunities; and 3) promote and sustain undergraduate student interest in persisting in a STEM field and pursuing graduate education. Intellectual Merit There is a long history of water resources and resilient infrastructure disparities among rural, low income, and minority-dominant communities. The Appalachian region has impaired water resources either from previous land uses (e.g., mining), aging infrastructure, and/or unprecedented flooding along with some of the highest cancer rates in the country with limited access to healthcare. Compounding the problem is the exit of the coal economy in Eastern Kentucky over the past decade resulting in a higher normalized cost passed to consumers and slowing infrastructure development. However, training a multidisciplinary workforce focused on water resources and sustainable engineering would support the development of innovative drinking water and wastewater treatment systems, restoration of degraded ecosystems, enactment of resilient flood management strategies, and expansion of local food systems. While many of these job prospects require 4-year degrees or higher, only 15.2% of people in the Kentucky region of Appalachia currently have a four-year college degree, which is well below the national average (37.9%). Therefore, this REU site will provide opportunities for student participants to engage in multidisciplinary fundamental research related to water resources and sustainable engineering challenges and solutions. Broader Impacts Student participants in this REU site will contribute new knowledge to improve our understanding of how best to address water resources and sustainable engineering challenges facing Appalachian communities today. Through this REU site, 10 undergraduates per year will be given an opportunity to conduct fundamental research with faculty mentors and interact with industry, consulting, nonprofit, and government partners. We anticipate the student cohort will be diverse with respect to gender, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, year of program, disciplines, and research opportunities at their home institutions. The student cohort will interact with diverse faculty and graduate student mentors as well as professional engineers and natural resource practitioners through research, professional development, and social activities. In addition, our REU site will offer a series of communication development opportunities including preparation of a conference paper, informal presentations to their peers, formal poster presentations, and outreach to K-12 students through the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service and Kentucky Governor’s Scholar Program. We anticipate this REU experience will motivate student participants to continue in STEM and to pursue graduate degrees in STEM fields, which will contribute to diversifying the future of the STEM workforce both demographically and geographically.
Effective start/end date6/1/245/31/27


  • National Science Foundation


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