Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 83.37
Liaison Ruairi O'Mahony
Submission Date Feb. 11, 2022

STARS v2.2

University of Massachusetts Lowell
AC-10: Support for Sustainability Research

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Julie Chen
Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation
Office of the Chancellor
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Does the institution have an ongoing program to encourage students in multiple disciplines or academic programs to conduct sustainability research?:
Yes

A brief description of the student sustainability research program:

At UMass Lowell, we engage students early in their college career to participate in meaningful, practical experiences that enrich learning; to prepare students for future work, life and world experiences.

Research co-operative education is a strong component of a student’s experience and offers undergraduate, master's and doctoral students the chance to work side-by-side with leading research professors and professionals in all areas of research.

There are various types of Research and Community Co-ops that offer both research lab and research with faculty (non-laboratory) opportunities. Examples include

Working in a campus research laboratory,
Helping a community organization,
Conducting reviews of program-related scholarship, or
Working on a business or marketing plan for a local start-up.

And the many benefits of co-op include facilitating the faculty-student interaction that is uniquely and richly supported at UMass Lowell, helping students learn new skills from hands-on experience that build on the knowledge acquired in the classroom, and providing an awareness of what takes place in a research lab that is working towards a product.

For our undergraduate juniors and seniors who usually round out their undergraduate experience with some of these types of opportunities, co-op helps students to explore their professional and higher education goals while making a valuable contribution in the workplace and community.

The university also has an exciting research opportunities and community initiatives - the Immersive Scholars Program (formerly known as Co-op Scholars) - that allows undergraduate freshman and sophomore students to participate in exciting paid experiential learning opportunities working directly with outstanding faculty across the campus and academic departments or with community partners.

Each of the examples above have provided a lot of unique research opportunities related to our sustainability for UMass Lowell students. In our urban setting, engagement with local organizations such as Mill City Grows, and the City of Lowell has provided excellent opportunities to address sustainability in the urban setting.

The Office of Sustainability continues to offer our campus sustainability fund known as the Sustainability Engagement & Enrichment Development (S.E.E.D.) Fund, provides funding for projects that promote environmental sustainability, and positively impact and enhance the student experience at UMass Lowell. The Fund supports the sustainability goals outlined in UMass Lowell’s 2020 Strategic Plan. The Fund is supported by student fees and administered through a student-majority committee. Students, faculty and staff can apply for funding for up to $10,000 per project application. This program has funded numerous student, faculty and staff research projects since its inception.

As the partnerships in the Office of Sustainability continued to development with several research centers, UMass Lowell created the Rist Institute for Sustainability and Energy. A portion of the S.E.E.D. funding is now dedicated to Rist Institute Sustainability and Energy fellowships. Recent student awards include:

2020: A $12,000 graduate fellowship was awarded for research on creating biodegradable food packaging films made from high oleic soy oil.
2021: A Ph.D. candidate in analytical chemistry received a $12,000 graduate fellowship for renewable energy research that seeks to address the climate crisis by using solar energy to produce hydrogen.

Finally, several brand new initiatives will further institutionalize the support for student sustainability research. This year, UMass Lowell's Difference Maker program added an explicit sustainability focus that is designed to leverage the S.E.E.D. funding and pair with a fifth River Hawk Experience Distinction (RHED) for sustainability. RHED requires that students pair courses with experiential learning opportunities and is noted on transcripts.


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

A brief description of the faculty sustainability research program:

Research Centers at the University of Massachusetts Lowell further the mission of the University and advance the research objectives set forth in the strategic plan, UMass Lowell 2020. The Research Centers differ from one another in focus, scope, and staffing, but each contribute in unique ways to the common goals of expanding knowledge, generating new discoveries, and/or having a positive impact on society through informing policy and systemic change. Communities of researchers and staff in Research Centers provide a stimulating environment that encourages early researchers and challenges the experienced researcher. Research Centers also contribute to the education and training of the researchers of the future by serving as learning environments for students.

Interdisciplinary collaborations are promoted by the Research Centers both within the University and among institutions external to UMass Lowell. There are numerous examples of faculty from multiple disciplines or academic programs conducting research in sustainability related topics. Examples include, The Center for Wind Energy, Center for Population Health, Center for Women and Work and the Climate Change Initiative Engagement Center.

The strength of these academic partnerships, particularly between the Center for Wind Energy and the Climate Change Initiative, led directly to the establishment of the Rist Institute for Sustainability and Energy (RISE), which is designed to further institutionalize support for sustainability research across the campus. Fellowships funded through the sustainability fund were rebranded as RISE fellowships and have made the following recent awards:

2020: Assistant Professor of Economics Kelly Hellman received a $15,000 faculty fellowship to create a new course, The Economics of Climate Change, which will examine the current, measurable impacts of climate change on the economy, human health and the environment. Students will also learn about economists’ predictions for future impacts.
2021: Cordula Schmid, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, received a $15,000 faculty fellowship to create a new undergraduate course: Solar PV Performance Analysis and Characterization. Schmid, director of the Photovoltaic (PV) Prototyping and Testing Lab, will use her fellowship award to expand UML’s sustainability-related course offerings by developing the new solar cell course. The course will include a hands-on lab where students will prototype a solar PV module, including soldering and lamination.


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?:
Yes

A copy of the promotion or tenure guidelines or policies:
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The promotion or tenure guidelines or policies:
Does the institution have ongoing library support for sustainability research and learning?:
Yes

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

Library staff remain a valuable resource for research on any topic and they constantly work with students across academic disciplines and foster interdisciplinary research when requested. Our Honors College students will frequently work closely with library staff as the research their undergraduate theses, many of which have sustainability themes. The library also set up a DSpace agreement to provide an institutional repository that provides increased opportunities for the sharing of, engagement with, and support for sustainability research.

In addition, library staff will regularly set up large topical displays for the various books they have in their collection to foster students to engage with a diverse array of content. Many of these topical areas beyond this one display have clear sustainability undertones (e.g. specific social and environmental justice issues).

Finally, the library is strong partner with the Office of Sustainability and the Rist Institute for Sustainability and Energy. In addition to the development of a sustainability lib guide for the content (https://libguides.uml.edu/sustainability_uml) the partners are developing a green library program in 2022.


Website URL where information about the institution’s support for sustainability research is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:
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Data source(s) and notes about the submission:
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