Research Grants


The deadline for summer and fall 2014 applications has passed. Please check back in the fall for FY15 winter, spring and summer application instructions.

About the SSI Research Grant Program

"On a sustainable campus, the built environment, operational systems, research, scholarship, and education are linked as a “living laboratory” for sustainability. Users (such as students, faculty, and staff) have access to research, teaching, and learning opportunities on connections between environmental, social, and economic issues." - International Sustainable Campus Network-Global University Leaders Forum (ISCN-GULF) Sustainable Campus Charter

SSI believes our campus can be a model living laboratory for sustainability. To better integrate OSU’s renowned research into daily operations and improve the student experience, SSI will fund applied research projects designed to advance the sustainability of the Corvallis campus’ built environment, operations, policy, academics, and/or student engagement.

SSI accepts applications for cooperative student-faculty Sustainability Research Grants. SSI established this program to support student research with an applied focus to encourage change in our own community. In line with the SSI’s vision, applications must advance a culture of sustainability at OSU through action, education, and opportunity. Preference will be given to proposals that clearly impact the environmental, social, and economic sustainability of the Corvallis campus.

Summer & Fall 2014 Sustainability Research Grants

Project: Corvallis Bike Share
Researchers: Jenna Wiegand, Max Diaz, Billy Buffum, and Kelsey Cartwright
Supervisor: Kimberly Townsend
Department: Environmental Sciences
Funding awarded: $2,472

In response to the upcoming OSU transit and parking changes, as well as the broader environmental crisis, increased use of alternative modes of transportation will be not only prudent, but vital in subsequent years. Biking is a popular and efficient method of transportation within Corvallis, yet the majority of community members still use cars for short distance travel and many students still drive to or near campus. We believe that Oregon State University and the city of Corvallis can be frontrunners in the transportation movement by initiating an innovative campus and citywide bike share, allowing community members to rent and return bikes to various locations around Corvallis using a 24/7 kiosk and docking system. This research aims to (1) determine best practices for such bike share systems and technology, (2) quantify the environmental, social, and economic impacts of a bike share, (3) assess the viability of a bike share within the Corvallis market, and (4) create a complete business plan to implement a Corvallis specific program.

Project: Creating Compression-Molded Biocomposite Boards from Apple Pomace
Researcher: Virginia Gouw
Supervisor: Dr. Yanyun Zhao

Department: Food Science and Technology
Funding awarded: $3,200

Pomace is the by-product that remains after the extraction of juice from fruits, consisting of skins, seeds, stems, and pulp. In the U.S., it is estimated that over I million metric tons of apple pomace are produced each year. This vast amount of waste material currently sees only limited practical use. Most apple pomace is either composted or landfilled, where high levels of water and sugar in the bi-product promote the growth of microorganisms that produce carbon dioxide and contribute to the greenhouse effect.

The objective of this project is to create prototype nursery pots using apple pomace to reduce the environmental impact of the juice industry, while simultaneously providing a more environmentally-friendly replacement for the polyethylene pots commonly used in plant propagation and research. This objective will serve not only the general public, but also the University community, as both the Horticulture and Crop and Soil Science departments use significant quantities of polyethylene nursery pots in their research. Polyethylene containers are made from petrochemicals and they do not readily degrade without special treatment. It is expected that this study will result in one or more formulations of apple pomace based biocomposites with properties sufficient to practically replace the currently used polyethylene in the production of disposable nursery pots.

Project: Individual Carbon Footprint Calculator
Researcher: Anna Kelly
Supervisor: Dr. Sally Duncan

Department: Public Policy
Funding awarded: $2,587

Carbon footprint calculators give individuals a way to take control of their carbon output and decrease their personal impact on the environment by making informed decisions to lower their carbon footprints using personally-customized information. OSU students and faculty have developed a carbon footprint calculator customized for use on campus and in the Corvallis community, adapting a model developed at Santa Clara University. This research will enable us to pilot test and finalize necessary adaptations to quickly bring the technology to full development for daily use on campus. The goals of this project are to:

1) optimize a carbon footprint calculator for Oregon’s climate and to the needs of the Oregon State University campus and greater community by testing and adapting the calculator with input from multiple users; and

2) investigate and assess local and community opportunities for realistically offsetting individual carbon production.

At the end of our evaluation, the technology will be ready for final development with a software developer and a preliminary selection of local/community offsets will be made available to users.

Project: OSU Food Insecurity Experiences
Researcher: Juliet Sutton
Supervisor: Dr. Joan Gross

Department: Anthropology
Funding awarded: $2,472

Ramen noodles and boxed mac & cheese are well-known jokes about the college experience, but food insecurity is much more serious to students experiencing it than many people realize. Hunger and its associated problems are serious concerns for many college students, and impact their physical and mental health, as well as their academic performance. OSU has already proved itself committed to improving students’ food experiences through food projects sponsored by the Food, Culture, and Social Justice program; the creation of and commitment to the on-campus Food Pantry; and projects developed by the Student Sustainability Initiative’s Food Projects Coordinator, among many other initiatives. The OSU Food Pantry is busy every day that it is open, but it is far from fully meeting the needs of students. In the course of this study, researchers hope to identify barriers to food security for OSU students. We will examine the experiences of food insecure college students through the following questions:

1)      How do food insecure students say they feel about their situation?
2)      What coping strategies do students use against food insecurity?
3)      Are the experiences who grew up in food insecure households different form students experiencing temporary, situational food insecurity? If so, how?
4)      What institutional or social structures impede college student food security?

The study will provide valuable information to administrators about how food insecurity is affecting students so that they will be better informed to make policy decisions to provide a path towards food justice for all students. The findings will also be presented to the OSU Food Pantry and University Housing and Dining Services so that they can better understand the experiences and concerns of food insecure students. 

Project: Removing Plastics from the OSU Waste Stream
Researcher: Nick Jursik
Supervisors: Dr. Skip Rochefort and Dr. Travis Walker

Department: Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering
Funding awarded: $3,000

Our goal is to reduce our campus waste stream through the research that enables reuse of plastics to produce recycled products that can benefit our daily lives. We will research various plastics (polymers) and their potential for recycling. The annual global production of synthetic polymers is in the range of 175 million tons. While an increasing amount of these plastics have been recycled in the past few decades, approximately 95% of our plastics still end up in landfills or incinerated for energy. There are three major areas in which we see a tremendous potential for the reuse of recycled plastics that will be the focus of our research:

1) Using recycled plastics to produce fiber feed for 3D printing
2) Using recycled plastics to create building insulation for use in third world countries
3) Plastics to oil technology – evaluation of a novel recycling process developed by an Oregon company, Agilyx Technologies