Overall Rating Gold - expired
Overall Score 68.81
Liaison Christa Rieck
Submission Date Jan. 4, 2019
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

University of Houston
AC-10: Support for Research

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Michael Mendoza
Sustainability Manager
Office of 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 research in sustainability? :

A brief description of the student research program, including the incentives provided and any positive outcomes during the previous three years:

Given UH's particular research climate, many of the student research opportunities currently being offered by the Office of Undergraduate Research and through faculty projects are directly related to (or focus specifically on) sustainability. The University of Houston Office of Undergraduate Research acts as an interdepartmental hub for research opportunities open to undergraduate students. Most graduate students have specific research requirements to meet and are given ample advisement from faculty on their research projects.

Faculty researchers are encouraged to offer research opportunities to students, and nearly all of the UH sustainability faculty researchers have student (graduate and undergraduate) researchers on their team. Research opportunities in sustainability include media coverage of sustainability and the media's role in forming audience opinions; air quality monitoring and data analytics; community health assessments and information distribution; community ecology; natural pharmaceuticals; culture, health and resilience; health disparities; poverty, public resources and the environment; conservation; regional sustainability and resilience planning; placemaking and community development; and solar cell and smart grid energy storage, among many others.

Several sustainability-focused departments (engineering, technology, architecture, etc.) have on-going sustainability focused research projects included as capstones for students and through opportunities with departmental research projects.

For example, the Atmospheric Sciences Program incorporates measurements and numerical modeling on regional to global scales. Real-time data collected through Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (https://www.tceq.texas.gov/airquality/airmod/data/site#map_wrapper) allows them to study urban emissions, a diverse suite of industrial emissions, and the complex chemistry involving these mixtures mingling with natural terrestrial and marine emissions. This program operates a suite of remote sensing instruments situated on campus atop Moody Tower residence hall and some from mobile platforms surveying the local area. Together the faculty, postdoctoral fellows, graduate and undergraduate students form a solid team with diverse experience and knowledge to study important issues impacting planet Earth on various scales.

Another student centered research project included designing energy efficient, affordable homes. Teams of students – about 30 undergraduate and graduate students participated, representing the UH colleges of architecture, engineering, technology, business, law and mathematics and natural sciences – were asked to design an 800-square-foot, two-bedroom house that could be built for $80,000 or less, with monthly utility bills under $25. http://www.uh.edu/news-events/stories/2016/January/0127EEIC.php

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

A brief description of the faculty research program, including the incentives provided and any positive outcomes during the previous three years:

As demonstrated above, there are a number of ongoing research institutes that support sustainability research for students as well as faculty. The Texas Center for Superconductivity at UH has ongoing research devoted to more sustainable energy sources and conveyance. The facilities and funded projects greatly assist faculty sustainability research in clean energy.

The Center for Sustainability and Resilience is now housed in the College of Architecture, which is charged with facilitating and supporting interdisciplinary sustainability and resilience research and has already begun forming new research teams to address burgeoning sustainability challenges. Example summit: https://www.uh.edu/news-events/stories/2016/May/0518Recycling-Symposium-CeSAR.php

Finally, UH Energy develop a Center for Clean Engines, Emissions, and Fuels, which add additional opportunities for faculty and students to conduct sustainability research on campus. http://txcef.egr.uh.edu/

All faculty receive regular communications from the Division of Research that include opportunities to collaborate on sustainability research either through the Division of Research directly or sustainability-focused centers at the University.

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 brief description of the institution’s support for interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, and multidisciplinary research, including any positive outcomes during the previous three years:

UH's tenure policy mentions interdisciplinary as a part of the decision process as follows:

Evidence of program development may include student recruitment, advising, and retention; directing graduate research; membership on or chairperson of dissertation or thesis committees; interdisciplinary program development, etc.

Additionally, the University of Houston's research clusters are multidisciplinary, challenge-based groups of investigators that include and draw on the strengths of existing research centers, institutes and laboratories within multiple academic departments and colleges.

The University has adopted the concept of research clusters to take advantage of the interrelationship of research areas and capitalize on six areas in which the University and region have strategic advantages.

Clusters are faculty-driven, multi-level frameworks that connect researchers with expertise in various disciplines in a multi-campus system. They provide an inclusive foundation for collective scholarly activity and foster the sharing of ideas.

Each cluster is to develop a strategic plan, which will include cluster hiring and investment in core facilities that will further enliven the research enterprise and ultimately, enrich the student experience. The overarching goal of clusters and the cluster-hiring strategy is to develop a critical mass of skills within the UH System for national leadership in defined areas of strategic growth.

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

A brief description of the institution’s library support for sustainability research, including any positive outcomes during the previous three years:

The Energy & Sustainability Research Collection at the University of Houston Libraries documents Houston’s place as the global capital of the energy industry that continues to shape the city’s and the world’s technologies, economies, politics, environments, and cultures. Collections support a core university priority for research, teaching, and learning, and uniquely preserve the documentary history of exploration, innovation, development, and growth in oil and gas, alternative energies, and the environment. http://libraries.uh.edu/branches/special-collections/energy-sustainability/

The Energy and Sustainability Research Guide includes information in alternative & renewable fuels, corporate social responsibility, energy, environmental issues and sustainable development. This resource is managed by the librarian who oversees business and technology. Additionally, the University librarians manage an environmental engineering research guide (http://guides.lib.uh.edu/environmental) and earth and atmospheric sciences research guide (http://guides.lib.uh.edu/geo).

The College of Architecture has a Materials Research Collaborative which is a resource not only for UH students, faculty and staff but the Houston community as well. The MRC manages a sustainable materials database (http://uh.edu/archmrc) and library with samples of the materials. MRC staff also created and manage the ReUse in Houston Database (http://reuse.uhmrc.com/reuse/) and Made in Houston (http://madeinhouston.uhmrc.com/) database.

From the Reuse Houston database websites: "Currently 38% of the City of Houston waste stream comes from construction and demolition waste. There are many resources in Houston that reuse or recycle construction waste, but often these resources are difficult to find. The Materials Research Collaborative (MRC) at the University of Houston has developed this site for the Houston professional community, local businesses and non-profit groups to help reuse or recycle building materials. This database lists the local companies and organizations along with the types of services they offer and the building materials they house."

Made in Houston database: "This website is a resource for all designers, architects, students, and faculty in the Houston area to help them find the right fabricator and collaborator for their special projects. The database lists fabricators by materials with which they work (wood, metal, ceramics, polymers, coatings, and hybrids) + their specific capabilities (casting, molding, forming, bending, 2D or 3D cutting/CNC, sculpting, carving) in the hope of connecting local designers with local makers."

The UH Law Center library provides access to several sustainability focused databases including GreenWire, Environmental Law Reporter, and Energy and Environment Daily: www.law.uh.edu/libraries.

The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives 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 or simply email your inquiry to stars@aashe.org.