2014 REU

The Sustainability Innovation in Research and Education-Research Experience for Undergraduates (SIRE-REU) awards support undergraduate contributions to established research projects supported by external grants. The program is intended to enhance research expertise in undergraduate students and to develop recruiting pipelines for undergraduates to pursue graduate degrees at UW–Madison in sustainability-related fields.

Fall 2014 SIRE-REU Projects

Use of aircraft campaign data to examine ozone production in a coastal city

This project will evaluate near-ground and aloft measurements of nitrogen oxides (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and ozone (O3) to better characterize ozone production over the Baltimore-Washington D.C. area during summer 2011. The research will examine ozone production variability due to different altitudes, temperatures and location to support improved air quality management and protection of public health.

Student: Sarah Benish, biology and environmental studies
Faculty advisor: Tracey Holloway, Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment
Extramural funding agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

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Life Cycle Analysis of greenhouse gas emission balance and performance assessment for two local geothermal exchange systems

Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) can be used to establish the environmental impact of alternative energy sources such as geothermal exchange. This project evaluates the performance of  two geothermal exchange systems—one residential, one large-scale commercial. Because Wisconsin has limited conventional energy resources, geothermal exchange systems are hypothesized as a resource-friendly, green alternative to conventional  heating and cooling systems. If the benefits of using geothermal exchange can be expressed quantitatively, project designers, developers and public officials may be encouraged to choose strategies that adopt sustainable initiatives in geothermal projects.

Student: Eleanor Bloom, geological engineering
Faculty advisor: James Tinjum, civil and environmental and geological engineering
Extramural funding agency: National Science Foundation

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Creating successful and sustainable farmers’ markets in Wisconsin

This study seeks to strengthen the reliability of measurement tools for understanding farmers’ market impacts on sustainability through estimating greenhouse gas emissions produced by vendors and consumers and by examining production practices and how distinct practices, e.g. organic production, relate to sustainability. An existing study of marketplace impacts is being conducted in three regions: Northern Appalachia, the Gulf Coast, and the Chesapeake Bay. The research outlined in this proposal seeks to expand upon this study by testing measurement techniques at markets in Wisconsin, with a goal of helping create more sustainable and successful farmers’ markets in Wisconsin.

Student: Nadia Carlson, geography and environmental studies
Faculty advisor: Alfonso Morales, urban and regional planning
Extramural funding agency: Department of Agriculture

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EcoSim: A simulation game-based curriculum for fostering scientific literacy

Scientific literacy is integral to understanding sustainability and environmental impact. Simulation game-based curricula present a unique opportunity for large-scale reengagement with these concepts in the classroom. This project uses EcoSim, an environmentally-focused video game developed by the Games+Learning+Society, in classrooms to foster scientific literacy by actively engaging students with environmental and sustainability concepts in simulated real-time situations. By simulating complex ecological systems, students become active problem solvers and solutions based learners, and, in conjunction with game-based curriculum, develop scientific vocabulary, systems thinking, and tools for understanding and engaging with sustainability in the real world.

Student: Jonathan Elmergreen, sociology
Faculty advisor: Kurt Squire, curriculum and instruction
Extramural funding agency: National Science Foundation

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Sustainable production of nano-silicon by electrochemical reduction of dissolved silicates in molten salts

Silicon is an extremely important technological material, but its use in renewable energy applications is limited due to high cost of production. We wish to investigate a new, sustainable, and environmentally-friendly method to produce large quantities of silicon for use in renewable energy applications (i.e. solar cells, batteries, and thermoelectrics) through electrochemistry in molten salts. This project will investigate several inexpensive, sustainable silicon precursors that can be obtained from terrestrial rocks (silicates) to enable the sustainable production of silicon via electrochemical reduction in molten salts. We hope to build on our previous findings to demonstrate that we can grow silicon and silicon-containing compounds for photovoltaic and other renewable energy applications using cheap, earth-abundant elements at a fraction of the energetic costs currently required.

Student: Tyler Slade, chemistry
Faculty advisor: Song Jin, chemistry
Extramural funding agency: Department of Energy

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Isomerization of glucose to fructose in molten halide salt hydrates

This lab previously developed a method for fast and complete saccharification of lignocellulosic biomass under mild conditions in the medium of concentrated lithium bromide (a molten salt hydrate). One side reaction during the saccharification is the glucose dehydration to hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) through the intermediate of fructose. This project will investigate the isomerization of glucose to fructose in the molten halide salt hydrates.

Student: Melanie Swannell, biochemistry and food science
Faculty advisor: Xuejun Pan, biological systems engineering
Extramural funding agency: National Science Foundation

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