Tony Kerzmann (kneeling), Shanti Gamper-Rabindran (center) and their students visiting the Perks Solar Farm at Maple Valley Cattle Company in Meyersdale, PA. Photo courtesy of Shanti Gamper-Rabindran.

Numerous visionary researchers are working to pioneer sustainable solutions in a world facing environmental challenges. To aid those endeavors, the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation at the University of Pittsburgh will fund nine projects seeking sustainable solutions to global problems through the Research Seed Grants and Faculty Awards.

“Together with our external review team, we have carefully chosen projects with the potential to make a lasting, positive impact on the environment,” says Gena Kovalcik, co-director of the Mascaro Center. “It is through our collective efforts that we can drive meaningful change and create a more sustainable future.”

Shanti Gamper-Rabindran from Pitt’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and Tony Kerzmann from the university’s Swanson School of Engineering are among the nine recipients. Their project uses solar photovoltaic systems in agriculture, including solar electricity generation and solar community initiatives, that can utilize unproductive land parcels.

“There are many benefits to these projects. The obvious one is that these projects drastically reduce the environmental impacts of electricity generation,” says Gamper-Rabindran. It also provides money so family farmers can continue to work the land that has been in the family for generations. 

“Many farmers are struggling to make ends meet with farming alone, and some are even forced to sell their land,” adds Gamper-Rabindran. “With strategies like agrivoltaics, farmers can continue their agricultural operations while greatly increasing their farming profits and assisting the U.S. in its transition to renewable energy.”

Here are this year’s award winners:

Research Seed Grants

  • Shanti Gamper-Rabindran, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, and Tony Kerzmann, mechanical engineering in the Swanson School of Engineering, “Deploying Solar Projects in Rural Southwestern Pennsylvania: Understanding and Securing Community Acceptance”
  • Mohammad Masnadi, chemical engineering in the Swanson School, “Cellulosic Biomass Conversion via Liquid Metal Catalysis”
  • Cori Richards-Zawacki, biology in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, “Building and Bridging On-Campus and Field-Based Summer Undergraduate Research Programs in Sustainability”
  • Sachin Velankar, chemical engineering in the Swanson School, “Thermal Desalination Process Based on Hydrate Crystallization of Polyoxacyclobutane”

Faculty Awards

  • Mohamed Bayoumy, electrical and computer engineering in the Swanson School, “Integrating Green Electronics Education in ECE Classes II”
  • Inhee Lee, electrical and computer engineering in the Swanson School, “Creating a Sustainability Network between Engineering and Ecology for Ecosystem Monitoring”
  • Amr Mahmoud, electrical and computer engineering in the Swanson School, “Green Computing and Sustainable Software Development”
  • Sarah Moore, film and media studies in the Dietrich School, “Sustainability Through the Lens of Film and Media Projects”
  • Stephen Quigley, English in the Dietrich School, “My Nature Outing Curriculum Development”

Jason Phox is a journalist in the Pittsburgh area sharing important information with the people of the Steel City. He enjoys writing, photography, and mostly comic books.