Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 66.33
Liaison Sarah Tulga
Submission Date March 6, 2020

STARS v2.2

Northwestern University
AC-10: Support for Sustainability Research

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Sarah Tulga
Sustainability Program Coordinator
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution have an ongoing program to encourage students in multiple disciplines or academic programs to conduct sustainability research?:

A brief description of the student sustainability research program:

The Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern (ISEN) has a number of supporting programs:

ISEN has provided 5 graduate cluster fellowships annually since 2010. ISEN Cluster Fellows are exceptional students possessing a broad spectrum of technical, natural, and social science backgrounds with deep interest in sustainability and energy. These Fellows support ISEN’s mission to promote sustainability and energy research and innovation, education, outreach, and communication at Northwestern with local and national partner stakeholders. Profiles of individual Cluster students, going back to 2010, are available at the link here: https://isen.northwestern.edu/graduate-cluster-fellowships.

ISEN also provides funding of $5,000-$25,000 through its $500,000 Resnick Social Impact Fund to support student research and project scale-up in unmet needs for energy and sustainability. Sample past projects cover food security, water quality remediation, teaching the SDGs, anti-poaching, and fair-trade economic development. Project examples are available here: https://isen.northwestern.edu/resnick-family-social-impact-program-past-recipients. ISEN also has a small endowed fund to annually support student environmental research (The Nasaw Endowed Fund), which most typically has supported energy and sustainability sciences research proposed through the Office of the Provost’s Academic Year/Summer Undergraduate Research Grants program (a $3,500 stipend to cover living and research expenses for eight weeks of full-time independent academic and creative work, in all fields of study, under faculty supervision).

ISEN's Ubben Program for Climate and Carbon Science provides full funding for graduate and postdoctoral student research on climate system dynamics and developing low/zero-carbon solutions for climate adaptation and mitigation. Recent student research has been conducted on public opinion and climate, ocean acidification and rebuilding past climate system dynamics as proxies for future impact, and understanding the localized air quality/public health impacts of the adoption of electric/sustainable transportation. More about the Ubben Program is available at: https://isen.northwestern.edu/areas-of-focus-ubben-program-for-climate-and-carbon-science

NUvention: Energy is a graduate-level entrepreneurship class in which students from engineering, business, arts and sciences, law and other graduate schools across campus come together in interdisciplinary teams to develop a product or service, and a business plan, in the sustainable energy or cleantech industry. The objective of the course is to provide students with a realistic simulation of the challenges and opportunities entrepreneurial founding teams face trying to create a business around technologies or services that both meet a market need and have a positive environmental impact. The course has a long history of kickstarting cleantech enterprise out of Northwestern; past teams have gone on to have collectively raised more than $10 million dollars in private funding, as well as government grants, national business plan competition placements, and prestigious research fellowships. See more here: https://www.farley.northwestern.edu/programs-and-support/nuvention/

Does the institution have a program to encourage academic staff from multiple disciplines or academic programs to conduct sustainability research?:

A brief description of the faculty sustainability research program:

ISEN's flex lab provides state-of-the-art lab facilitates for interdisciplinary collaboration among scientists, engineers, economists, and policy experts from academia, industry, and the public sector. The customizable facilities are able to meet the diverse needs of ISEN’s research partners as together they make punctuated advancements in the fields of sustainability and energy. Project research spotlights are available here:


ISEN also provides business and research administrative services to support multidisciplinary faculty teams for energy and sustainability sponsored government research grant proposals, including multi-institution DOE energy frontier research centers for which Northwestern serves as the primary host institution. ISEN also manages a portfolio of Centers and Programs that have large, multidisciplinary research teams working on a particular field or discipline, such as the Center for Catalysis and Surface Science.

The Office for Research also houses approximately 50 Institutes and Centers that perform a similar function in their particular academic domains, some of which also have energy and sustainability research teams (including the Center for Bio-Inspired Energy Science, the Center for Hierarchical Materials Design, the Initiative at Northwestern for Quantum Information Research and Engineering, the International Institute for Nanotechnology, the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, the Northwestern-Argonne Institute for Science & Engineering, the Northwestern Center for Water Research, and the Simpson Querrey Institute for BioNanotechnology). There are additional school-level centers that promote similar interdisciplinary teaming, such as the Center for Engineering Sustainability and Resilience in the McCormick School of Engineering.

Finally, ISEN manages a suite of external partnerships that engage Northwestern academic faculty in the scaling of technology and project solutions globally. Partners include Exelon Corporation (Master Research Agreement) and The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (Memorandas of Understanding).

Has the institution published written policies and procedures that give positive recognition to interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, and multidisciplinary research during faculty promotion and/or tenure decisions?:

A copy of the promotion or tenure guidelines or policies:

The promotion or tenure guidelines or policies:

As a highly rated research institution, Northwestern strongly emphasizes interdisciplinary research across the college. "More than 100 school-based centers and 53 University research centers create knowledge across all fields, including nanotechnology, chemistry, neuroscience, biotechnology, international and domestic policy, materials science, and drug discovery......Northwestern's strong relationships with Argonne National Laboratory and Fermi National Laboratory encourage interdisciplinary research programs in nanotechnology, energy generation and storage, computation, and the biomedical and physical sciences".

Faculty tenure or promotion guidelines state that research will be, “evaluate[d not just by] the quantity, but above all, the quality, creativity, importance, and influence of such work.” Supporting excellent, creative research is in line with the University’s priorities in research to 1) Continue to support interdisciplinary initiatives as we build upon areas of existing strength, 2) Grow research in key intellectual and interdisciplinary areas, and 3) Strengthen global interdisciplinary scholarship and opportunity. This is taken from the Office of the Provost, Strategic Planning Initiatives website, see it here: https://www.northwestern.edu/provost/initiatives/index.html

Does the institution have ongoing library support for sustainability research and learning?:

A brief description of the institution’s library support for sustainability research:

Northwestern Libraries provides ongoing support for sustainability research and learning in many ways.

The Libraries support collection development in this area. The Libraries provide online access to numerous journals that highlight sustainability such as Sustainability Science. The Libraries also purchase monographs on environmental topics including sustainability. It will attempt to purchase any monographs in this area that are specifically requested by the Northwestern community. A copy of our collection policy in Environmental Studies (which includes sustainability) can be found here: https://www.library.northwestern.edu/documents/about/policies/Collection_Development_Policies_by_Subject.pdf

Northwestern Libraries also provides support for sustainability topics through research consultations and research guides in this area. Through one -on -one research consultations, librarians help researchers and students locate materials needed for their studies. Librarians are also available through the Libraries chat service and are available by email or telephone. Librarians can also assist faculty and students by providing in class sessions on relevant library resources. The Libraries have created an Environmental research guide, which highlights the best resources to search for books and articles related to sustainability (http://libguides.northwestern.edu/env). When requested, the Libraries also provide research guides for specific classes, such as this guide that was created for a Sustainability and Social Justice class (http://libguides.northwestern.edu/sustainability). Librarians have also created research guides on various aspects related to sustainability, such as energy (http://libguides.northwestern.edu/energy), green buildings (http://libguides.northwestern.edu/realestate/greenbuilding and electric and alternative fuel vehicles (http://libguides.northwestern.edu/evs). The research guides are available on the Libraries website and are well used. For example in 2019, the Environmental research guide had 739 views.

Website URL where information about the institution’s support for sustainability research is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution and complete the Data Inquiry Form.