ENGINEERING NEWS

Students Recognized in the Dow Sustainability Innovation Challenge

Challenge recognizes exceptional student research

Eight Northwestern students have won the Dow Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge Award (SISCA) in recognition of their research and innovative ideas contributing to global sustainability. 

The Dow Sustainability Student Challenge is an initiative to recognize exceptional work by students who are engaged in ongoing scientific, technical, or social research to develop innovative, interdisciplinary approaches to meet human needs while also protecting the environment, promoting economic growth, and achieving social welfare, now and into the future.

The grand prize winners, who will split the $10,000 prize are:

  • Michael Goldberg, Abigail Hawley, and Paige Humecki, all students in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering, and Michael Narea of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, for their project entitled IdealGas. Advised by Yun Wang, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, these students seek to optimize biodigester technology for the food and beverage industry and bring distributed, C-neutral biomass energy to the urban setting. The students will determine the rate and composition of biogas production generated by the organic wastes from a juice bar, distillery, brewery, coffee shop, and campus dining hall. With the SISCA award the students plan to build prototype reactors and pursue commercialization of their idea.
  • Jiayan Luo, a PhD student in materials science and engineering in the laboratory of Jiaxing Huang, Morris E. Fine Junior Professor in Materials and Manufacturing, for his idea to develop robust, affordable energy storage systems for electric vehicles by replacing the lithium ion with aluminum ion and the organic electrolyte in lithium ion batteries with aqueous solution. This idea builds on work Luo did for his MS degree prior to coming to Northwestern.

The winners of the $2,500 runner-up prize are:

  • Tajas Shastry, Michael Geier, and Alexander J. Smith, all students in materials science and engineering, for their work to create a device that captures and stores the kinetic energy of runners to provide sustainable power to their mobile devices. This project, which contained a business plan, grew out of Northwestern’s NUvention: Energy course and has continued under the supervision of Michael Marasco, director of the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. The students are designing and prototyping the “myPower” device, which in laboratory tests stores enough charge to provide an additional 7.5 hours of battery life to a smartphone after a 45-minute run.

Northwestern is one of 17 universities worldwide — Cambridge, Peking, Tufts,

Michigan, Berkeley, Sao Paolo, KAUST, MIT, CalTech, PennState, Fudon, Shanghai,

Tsinghau, Monterrey, Delft, and Minnesota — selected to participate in the Dow SISCA competition based on academic excellence and a commitment to sustainability.

Kimberly Gray, professor of civil and environmental engineering, stated, “For five years now, Northwestern University and the Dow Chemical Company have partnered to recognize the extraordinary and innovative work that our students and faculty are doing to develop environmentally sound, economically viable, and socially equitable solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems. We are grateful to the Dow Chemical Company Foundation for including NU in this international effort to promote sustainability.”

The Dow Chemical Company Foundation oversees the Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge. Eligible areas of research include sustainable chemistry, energy efficiency and conservation, reducing climate change impact, life cycle product safety, and sustainable freshwater supply and distribution.

"The award-winning students of Northwestern University, and all the students who compete in this challenge, are sources of inspiration to Dow and to the world. When you see how deeply they care about the problems, and you see that passion applied to the laws of science in their work, you gain a renewed appreciation for how important our young leaders are to the planet's future." said Neil Hawkins, Sc.D. Vice President Sustainability & Environment, Health & Safety at Dow.