Overall Rating Gold - expired
Overall Score 71.74
Liaison Carrie Metzgar
Submission Date March 5, 2021

STARS v2.2

University of California, San Diego
AC-10: Support for Sustainability Research

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Michelle Perez
Energy and Sustainability Manager
Utilities and Sustainability
"---" 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:

Since 2014-2015, the University of California Office the President has provided all UC's (including UC San Diego) with funding for student communications and research as part of UC's Global Food Initiative (GI) and Carbon Neutrality Initiative (CNI). Each year since we have had 4 GFI student fellows and and 4 fellows. All CNI and GFI fellows receive not only a stipend of $4,000, but also get free leadership and sustainability training, networking opportunities, and a chance to present on their on-campus project and/or research at the CA Higher Education and Sustainability Conference. Examples of supported student research under these fellowships include research on the impacts of climate change on native coastal species, green walls in buildings, student engagement in food insecurity and carbon neutrality, anaerobic digestion (including on student gardens), urban agriculture and its relationship to ending food insecurity, and more.

In 2013, UC San Diego launched an Undergraduate Research Portal. This Portal is intended to be a one-stop-shop for all things related to undergraduate research, and is fully integrated with Port Triton, the UCSD student job board. This Portal permits faculty and external partners to post research opportunities and provides a site where each student can maintain his/her research profile. Additionally, students can link to hands-on research opportunities, scholarship and grant applications, and information about conferences and seminars. They also benefit from faculty mentoring in many areas, including writing and presenting professional papers. The power of the Portal to match students with sustainability and general research opportunities has made this new tool a major success on campus and in the community.

The Environmental Systems Program and the Urban Studies and Planning program both require all students to complete a senior internship/research project that can be focused on sustainability.

The Marine Sciences minor has as a "research track" which encourages research in environmental/earth/marine sciences. Other majors (Earth Sciences and Ecology; Behavior; Evolution) encourage independent undergraduate research in sustainability topics through formal units (199s) and summer projects.

The Sustainability Resource Center provides students with guidance on finding research opportunities among the hundreds of faculty and staff active in sustainability. In addition, staff in the Sustainability Programs Office mentor undergraduate and graduate students working on sustainability focused and related research for their capstones, thesis, dissertations, internship requirements and more.

UC San Diego’s Muir College sponsors the interdisciplinary environmental studies minor. Additionally, Muir sponsors a Freshman Seminar, ENVR87- The Greening of Muir College, in which first-year students get hands-on experience doing research projects in areas of sustainability relating to Muir College. Themes of past seminars have included: water use, energy use, and waste disposal.

UC San Diego is one of the major campuses on the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) Network with an emphasis on sponsoring student research projects on Environment and Climate Change.

The Global TIES program is an innovative humanitarian engineering program of the Jacobs School of Engineering at the University of California, San Diego. Global TIES puts multi-disciplinary teams of undergraduates to work building the dreams of not-for-profit organizations and their clients in San Diego and in developing countries around the world. Renowned UC San Diego faculty and researchers advise the teams, and students receive course credit for their work. Global TIES teams give students an invaluable opportunity to apply their skills in a real world setting, while learning firsthand the role that engineering and technology can play in solving the problems that face their local community and the world. Not-for-profit organizations receive critically needed but often cost-prohibitive technical expertise to help them improve the lives of their clients. Current global ties projects address issues pertaining to global public health, coastal preservation, water purification, solar energy, and other sustainability based engineering solutions.

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:

The “Frontiers of Innovation” program is a campus-wide effort to support the primary research initiatives of the UC San Diego Strategic Plan. One component provides fellowships for undergraduate and graduate students as well as postdoctoral scholars. The other component provides funding to support teams of UC San Diego scholars from across campus in their efforts to launch large-scale, multidisciplinary research-center applications.

UC San Diego’s research enterprise is focused on four strategic avenues of inquiry: understanding and protecting the planet; enriching human life and society; exploring the basis of human knowledge, learning, and creativity; and understanding cultures and addressing disparities in society.


UC San Diego has a number of sustainability-related centers and institutes created by and involving faculty and their research in sustainability. These include:

Sustainable Power and Energy Center
Sustainability Science Design & Planning Laboratory
Food & Fuel for the 21st Century
Center for Social Innovation


Under the UC Carbon Neutrality Initiative and through the UC Global Climate Leadership Council's Applied Research Working Group (AWRG) and Faculty Education and Engagement Working Group, faculty research is supported and championed across the UC. in 2020-2021 the ARWG’s goal for 2020 - 2021 is to identify, support, and promote applied research that will help achieve UC’s 2025 carbon neutrality goal and provide a near-term pathway to a carbon-negative future. Its aim is to amplify UC’s most promising research solutions and identify strategies for aligning effective leadership and followership to drive a productive, secure, equitable and healthy future for people and the planet.

For 2021-2022, the University of California’s Global Climate Leadership Council, Applied Research Working Group will be awarding impactful, one-time seed grant projects. This RFP is being issued in conjunction with the UC Global Climate Leadership Council’s overall solicitation for proposals spanning the pillars of applied research, faculty engagement and education, energy operations, student engagement, and communications, among others. The purpose is to support applied research projects that could be catalytic in accelerating, attaining, and sustaining UC's 2025 carbon neutrality goal. Strategically, we encourage projects that have the potential to lead to amplification of UC’s most successful decarbonization experiences and learnings for global benefits. https://sites.google.com/view/call-for-proposals/menu-click-here

The UC Global Climate Leadership Council have also funded over 50 faculty authors from all campuses and disciplines to produce the UC Bending the Curve Report and the research behind it: https://uc-carbonneutralitysummit2015.ucsd.edu/_files/Bending-the-Curve.pdf. in 2018, UC faculty and staff released the TomKat Foundation and UCOP support research on natural gas exist strategies: https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/how-paris-climate-accord-becoming-reality-uc

FY20-21 research being supported by the UC Carbon Neutrality Initiative and the campuses represent a variety of initiatives including:

-Electrochemical Recycling of Gas Turbine Exhaust CO2
-CO2 Concrete
-Red Seaweed to Mitigate Methane Emissions

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:

Organized Research Units (ORU’s) exist at UC San Diego to promote multidisciplinary/ interdisciplinary research and are intended to provide a supportive infrastructure for interdisciplinary research complementary to UC San Diego’s academic goals.

Prior to their establishment, ORU’s must go through a structured review process that includes a supporting recommendation from the Academic Senate. Each ORU is headed by a tenured faculty director and receives financial support and space from the campus to enable it to function. Professional researchers and technical staff can hold their appointments within the ORU, which then serves as their home academic unit. Other units on campus, of a less formal character, may designate themselves as a center or a project, but they are not ORU’s unless they have been officially approved as such.

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

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

UC San Diego’s Library is one of the best in the world. An example of its many outreach projects is the online guide for research related to environmental policy. The Library is pleased to work with all researchers in support of their research, including those working in areas of sustainability research.

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

Data source(s) and notes about 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 or simply email your inquiry to stars@aashe.org.