See all NewsEngineering News

Northwestern Students Receive $10,000 Prizes from Dow Sustainability Innovation Challenge

The Northwestern Institute for Sustainable Practices recently announced that three graduate students will each receive $10,000 prizes from the Dow Sustainability Innovation Challenge in recognition of their research contributing to global sustainability.

The Dow Sustainability 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 winners of the $10,000 prizes are:

- Jonathan Servaites for his work to enhance the efficiency of organic photovoltaic solar cells by addressing existing limitations in light absorption and electron transfer that inhibit the commercial viability of OPVs. Jonathan's work is supervised by Tobin Marks, Vladimir N. Ipatieff Professor of Catalytic Chemistry and Materials Science and Engineering, and Mark Ratner, Morrison Professor of Chemistry and Materials Science and Engineering. Jonathan's proposal is the highest scoring in this year's challenge. He will represent Northwestern University at Dow's annual event at Tufts later this year.

- Antoine Aubeneau in partnership with Jennifer Drummond, Junzi Shi, Jonathan Lamano, Joseph Park and Shiyuan Zhou, for their work to improve the low-cost, low-maintenance, zero-energy ram pumps equipped with slow sand filters to deliver clean water. This student group will install two of these improved ram pumps in a rural village in the Philippines. Their work is supervised by Aaron Packman, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering.

- Philip Brunner, under the supervision of John M. Torkelson, Walter P. Murphy Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering, for his work to enhance the commercial potential of the green polymer, poly(lactic acid), commonly known as PLA, by addressing its slow crystallization kinetics.

Two proposals received honorable mentions and $1,000 prizes:

- Scott Aikin, Lenore Kaplan, Zeke Markshausen and Akshay Thakker, under the supervision of Ed Colgate, professor of mechanical engineering, for their work to develop a standard AA battery that incorporates a photovoltaic casing allowing the battery to be recharged through sunlight exposure.

- Kimberly Huang, William Fan, Mert Iseri, Alexandra Letuchy, Kaycee Overcash and Alejandro Sklar, under the supervision of Bruce Ankenman, associate professor of industrial engineering and management sciences, for their proposal to incorporate innovative materials, electrical systems, and plumbing systems that allow "tiny homes" to function entirely independently and off-the-grid.

A reception to honor these students will take place on Tuesday, May 11 from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Cohen Commons on the 4th floor of the Technological Institute. The students will exhibit poster presentations of their work.

Northwestern prize winners join prize winners from six other universities — Cambridge, Peking, Tufts, Michigan, Berkeley and Sao Paolo — that are also part of the Dow Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge.

Kimberly Gray, professor of civil and environmental engineering, stated, "I'm thrilled that the Northwestern Institute for Sustainable Practices is able to feature on a global stage the extraordinary work on sustainability at Northwestern University. We are grateful to the Dow Chemical Company Foundation for partnering with us in this international effort to promote sustainability."

Gray directs the Northwestern Institute for Sustainable Practices along with David Dana, professor of law. 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.

"We are rewarding students and universities who recognize the importance of innovation and excellence in solving challenges, because they will certainly contribute to a more sustainable future," said Neil Hawkins, Sc.D. Vice President Sustainability & EH&S at The Dow Chemical Company.

The Northwestern Institute for Sustainable Practices (NiSP) promotes interdisciplinary education and research into economically, environmentally, and socially sound policies and practices that will help secure the earth's natural resources for use now and far into the future. By convening experts from many disciplines, NiSP works to develop the integrated approaches that are essential for a swift transition to sustainable practices, in sectors ranging from energy to transportation to urban planning and ecological restoration.