NSF - REU Site: Research Opportunities in Interdisciplinary Water Sciences and Engineering

Award Abstract #1359051

Award Amount: $382,296

Duration: March 2014 - January 2018

The goal of this 3-year NSF/REU Site is to train 10 REU Fellows each summer using 10-week long interdisciplinary research projects in water sciences. These research projects are directed by experts representing a diverse group of academic disciplines including engineering, geosciences, biology, crop and soil environmental sciences, and industrial design at Virginia Tech. The REU Fellows will have opportunities for professional development and interdisciplinary cohort experiences through weekly seminars, field trips, multiple oral presentations, weekly reflection papers, and an end-of-program research paper. Examples of seminar topics include professional ethics, why research and how to do research, panel discussion with graduate students, and use of emerging technologies like nanotechnology in water research. In addition, they will have opportunities for social interactions that will enhance personal and professional bonding among themselves and with the faculty and graduate student mentors. The Site organizers have already graduated 56 REU Fellows in the prior two cycles during 2007-09 and 2011-13 and all components of the program have been thoroughly assessed by experts in academic assessment.

The Site organizers have been successful in recruiting about 60% of REU Fellows from various underrepresented groups including women in the prior two cycles. This practice will be continued in this cycle with additional focus on recruitment from groups representing various ethnic minorities and from institutions with limited research opportunities. Funds are allocated for students' stipend, housing, travel, and meals for enabling their participation. Students from various science and engineering disciplines will work collaboratively over a 10-week period to learn about the interdisciplinary nature of water research. An external expert who has been leading the assessment work in the prior two cycles will continue to assess the effectiveness of the REU program. The Site will further expand the pool of future researchers in water sciences who will contribute in addressing water related national and international challenges. Results of a survey of our graduates from the prior two cycles indicate that 68% of respondents plan to obtain a graduate degree (24% PhD and 44% Master's) and 80% respondents will pursue a research career in engineering and science in the future. Funding support provided by the EEC division of the National Science Foundation is sincerely acknowledged.

NSF - Integration of a Remote Water Sustainability Lab to Enhance Undergraduate Engineering Education

Award Abstract #1140467

Award Amount: $249,999

Duration: June 2012 - December 2015

This project is investigating how remote access to real-time environmental data impacts students' motivation and cognition about environmental awareness. This project, which is a partnership between Virginia Tech (VT) and Virginia Western Community College (VWCC), investigates student motivation using the expectancy-value theory of motivation. It primarily investigates the impact of the lab on students' problem solving skills using the phenomenology approach. The research results guide the development and implementation of sustainability learning modules into undergraduate curricula. The project uses a remote lab, called LabVIEW Enabled Watershed Assessment System (LEWAS), that has the capability to sense, store, and transmit real-time weather data, as well as water quality and quantity data from the Stroubles Creek that flows through the Virginia Tech campus. The project is developing and implementing LEWAS-based learning modules for a freshman engineering course at both VT and VWCC and a senior level hydrology course. Project activities include unique curriculum development, implementation, and assessment activities at three academic levels. This collaborative project between a 4-year and a 2-year institution introduces students at various academic levels to critical issues involved in finding solutions to one of the top two Grand Challenges (Provide access to clean water) of the National Academy of Engineering. The hands-on water sustainability experiences have the potential to attract students into the engineering profession from a broad section of society.

NSF - REU Site: Research Opportunities in Interdisciplinary Water Sciences and Engineering

Award Abstract #1062860

Award Amount: $379,519

Duration: March 2011 - February 2015

This three year REU Site program at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University will train future professionals on critical elements of watershed-based approach to sustainable management of water resources in an interdisciplinary and diverse environment consistent with "The Engineer of 2020" vision. The specific program objectives are to:

A group of experienced faculty will direct REU participants' research and two external experts will assist in assessment and recruitment activities. The site will expand the pool of future researchers in water sciences who will help in addressing one of Grand Challenges of the National Academy of Engineering. A well-conceived plan to disseminate research and assessment results widely is proposed. This REU program will provide significant opportunities for underrepresented groups to be engaged in water sciences research. This site is co-funded by the Department of Defense in partnership with the NSF REU program.

NSF - Research Opportunities in Interdisciplinary Watershed Sciences and Engineering

Award Abstract #0649070

Award Amount: $300,002

Duration: March 2007 - April 2010

The award provides support for a three-year REU Site at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. The REU program will provide an interdisciplinary forum of faculty and students to train future professionals on critical elements of water-based approach to sustainable management of water resources. The activities of the REU Site will include:

This program will facilitate lifelong learning experiences, and nourish analytical skills and creativity of future engineers and scientists in a diverse environment. Also, it is expected to expand the potential pool of future graduate researchers and professionals in watershed sciences and engineering. At least 60% of the target REU participants will be students who are underrepresented in the areas of watershed sciences and engineering due to their race, ethnicity, gender, financial resources, parent's educational level, and those from smaller colleges/universities who have few research opportunities at their home institutions.

NSF - Reformulating General Engineering and Biological Systems Engineering Programs at Virginia Tech

Award Abstract #0431779

Award Amount: $1,082,944

Duration: September 2004- August 2009

This project is focusing on creating a cohesive General Engineering and Bioprocess Engineering program built on sound learning theory and pedagogical principles. A theme-based spiral curriculum approach, based on pioneering work of Jerome Bruner, is being adopted for the reforms. This Department-Level Reform project is demonstrating an unprecedented level of collaboration between engineering and education faculty members at Virginia Tech. This project is reforming the General Engineering and the Bioprocess Engineering program within the Biological Systems Engineering Department at Virginia Tech. The specific objectives are:

The central idea of the spiral curriculum is that students will pursue their study of diverse engineering topics within the context of one or more organizing themes. Within the Bioprocess curriculum, the theme most relevant and useful is sustainability. By investigating progressively more complex problems situated within this theme, students are able to learn design, systems approaches, ethics, and other engineering fundamentals, while emphasizing sustainability. The nature of the spiral concept is that students will constantly be working on the same topic (sustainability) but at progressively higher skill levels, knowledge representation, and commitment.