Wayne State receives $2.9 million NSF Research Traineeship grant

DETROIT - On July 25, 2017, the National Science Foundation announced awards totaling $51 million to 17 projects that will develop and implement bold, new and potentially transformative models for graduate education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

A team of Wayne State University faculty led by Donna Kashian, Ph.D., associate professor of biological sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, was the only university in Michigan to receive an award from this program. The five-year, $2,999,976 grant, "NRT: Transformative Research in Urban Sustainability Training (T-RUST)," will train master's and doctoral students to work with communities, businesses, industries, scientists and policy makers to address challenges faced in postindustrial urban settings and prepare them for public, private and academic leadership positions.

Changing industrial landscapes can lead to unique socioeconomic challenges in an urban environment. For example, aging infrastructure and a decline in manufacturing activity can leave cities with abandoned industrial sites, polluted environments and declining populations. A shift to a technology-based economy with a more STEM-focused workforce may be one solution for sustainable cities.

Students participating in the program will gain unique technical and professional training using an interdisciplinary systems approach. Education, research and practice will be integrated across disciplines through partnerships with entrepreneurial technology businesses and community-based programs that are innovating in the reinvention of urban areas.

"This traineeship will take an interdisciplinary approach integrating science, engineering, policy, economics and communication to help students to address complex problems," said Kashian. "This program will provide a unique and comprehensive training and educational opportunity for 122 students, including 15 NSF-funded trainees, seven additional graduate students and 100 undergraduate students, who will have the training to solve national urban needs of sustainable future cities."

The research component of the Wayne State program will feature three complementary concentrations: urban ecological systems, urban redevelopment and the blue economy, and sustainable urban water infrastructure. Students will learn how to apply systems analysis tools to evaluate natural and engineered urban environmental systems while evaluating and communicating policy and management options related to particularly challenging environmental problems that the physical sciences alone cannot resolve.

"The ultimate goal of our program is to move beyond the constraints of narrow specialization and instead prepare holistically trained, interdisciplinary scientists and engineers who can solve today's complex problems," said Kashian. "In addition, we will increase underrepresented minorities participating in STEM research and prepare them for public, private and academic leadership positions where they can effectively address the complex issues of urban sustainability systems."

The NSF Research Traineeship NRT Program is designed to encourage the development and implementation of potentially transformative models for STEM graduate education training. The Traineeship Track is dedicated to effective training of STEM graduate students in high-priority interdisciplinary research areas through comprehensive traineeship models that are innovative, evidence-based, and aligned with changing workforce and research needs.

In addition to Kashian, Wayne State team members include Ingrid Guerra-Lopez, Ph.D., professor of administration and organizational studies, and director of the Institute for Learning and Performance Improvement; Carol Miller, Ph.D., professor of civil and environmental engineering; Rayman Mohamed, professor of urban studies and planning; Pradeep Sopory, professor of communication; Jeffrey Ram, Ph.D., professor of physiology; Allen Goodman, Ph.D., professor of economics; David Pitts, Ph.D., associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences; Yongli Zhang, Ph.D., assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering; and Andrea Sankar, Ph.D., chair, anthropology.

The award number for this National Science Foundation award is 1735038.


About Wayne State University

Wayne State University is one of the nation's pre-eminent public research universities in an urban setting. Through its multidisciplinary approach to research and education, and its ongoing collaboration with government, industry and other institutions, the university seeks to enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit, state of Michigan and throughout the world. For more information about research at Wayne State University, visit research.wayne.edu.

Contact info

Julie O'Connor

Director, Research Communications
Phone: 313-577-8845
Email: julie.oconnor@wayne.edu