Penn State’s Institutes of Energy and the Environment (IEE) has identified five strategic research themes of focus (listed alphabetically): Climate and Ecosystem Change; Future Energy Supply; Smart Energy Systems; Water and Biogeochemical Cycles; and Health and the Environment.

IEE established the Seed Grant Program 3 years ago to foster basic and applied research focused on these strategic research themes. Over the three previous rounds IEE has awarded over 1.2 million dollars to 57 projects with investigators from 15 Penn State Colleges and Campuses.  

Preferred activities for funding under the Seed Grant Program are:

  • Development of new interdisciplinary research teams to position them for substantial external funding success
  • Novel research in theme areas, especially high-risk proof of concept projects
  • Collaboration between junior and senior faculty to promote research development, mentorship

To increase the impact of the Seed Grant program and align with expanding federal opportunities, proposals addressing the food-energy-water nexus, climate change, and the future of the electric grid will be given particular consideration; however, excellent proposals in the first four themes (Climate and Ecosystem Change; Future Energy Supply; Smart Energy Systems; Water and Biogeochemical Cycles) will be considered. 

A separate multi-Institute call on the theme of Health and the Environment will be issued later this fall. 

$300,000 of funding is available through this seed grant solicitation for 2016-2017. To encourage establishment of new collaborations and enhancement of networks, larger grants will require innovative partnerships of investigators from multiple colleges and/or campus locations. Funds up to $5,000 can be awarded for a single investigator project; up to $10,000 for two or more faculty from the same college (University Park) or Commonwealth Campus; and up to $25,000 for multi-college (across University Park) and multi campus (between campuses) collaborative grants. 

The deadline for Pre-proposals Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016 at 5:00 p.m. EDT


The 2017 projects — along with their principal investigators and affiliated colleges — that were awarded seed grants are:

“Biogenic Manganese Oxides for the Removal of Emerging Contaminants from Wastewater”

William Burgos, College of Engineering; Franklin Dorman, Eberly College of Science; and Terry Kreiser, Milton S. Hershey Medical Center

“Biogeochemical, Isotopic, and Paleo-Metagenomic Interrogation of Ecosystem Change in Southwestern Madagascar”

George Perry and Douglas Kennett, Eberly College of Science; Katherine Freeman, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences; and Brendan Culleton, Institutes of Energy and the Environment

“Ecological Migration in a Large-Scale Quasi-Experiment Design in China: Implications of Climate Change, Landscape Structure, Ecosystem Services and Government Intervention”

Guangqing Chi and Brian Thiede, College of Agricultural Sciences; Zhen Lei and Erica Smithwick, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences; and JunJun Yin, Social Science Research Institute

“Feeding 11 Billion: The Biosynthesis of High-Quality Protein from Wastewater”

Rachel Brennan, College of Engineering; and Joshua D. Lambert, College of Agricultural Sciences

“Invisible or White, but Always Bright”

Armen Kemanian and Felipe Montes, College of Agricultural Sciences; Roman Engel-Herbert, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences; and Zhiwen Liu, College of Engineering

“Karst and Coastal Ecosystems”

Jennifer Macalady, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences; and Monica Medina, Eberly College of Science

“Optimizing the Conversion of Salinity Gradient Energy into Electrical Power through Computational Simulations”

Christopher Gorski, College of the Engineering; and Ismaila Dabo, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences

“Re-conceptualizing Impact Analysis of the Food-Energy-Water Nexus: Evaluating the Proposed Ethane Plant in Beaver County, PA”

Jennifer Baka, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences; and Kathryn Brasier, College of Agricultural Sciences

“Removing Radium from Hydrofracturing Fluids with Tailored Clays”

Nathaniel Warner, Fred Cannon, Marek Flaska and Amanda Johnsen, College of Engineering; and Sridhar Komarneni, College of Agricultural Sciences

“Riparian Bird Feathers as Indicators of Shale-gas Development”

Margaret Brittingham, College of Agricultural Sciences; Matthew Fantle, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences; and Nathaniel Warner, College of Engineering

“Smart traction systems for weak power grids”

Seth Blumsack and Chiara Lo Prete, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences; and Nilanjan Ray Chaudhuri, College and Engineering

“Social Adaptive Capacity in Reef-Proximate Communities: Coupled Natural-Human System Dynamics in Cartagena, Colombia”

Carter Hunt, College of Health and Human Development; Leland Glenna, College of Agricultural Sciences; Roberto Iglesias-Prieto, Monica Medina and Frederic Pollock, Eberly College of Science

“Toward a Lower-carbon Food System: Quantification of Methane Emissions from Animal Agriculture”

Alexander Hristov, Robert Meinen and Tara Felix, College of Agricultural Sciences; and Kenneth Davis, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences