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REU Site: REU in Sustainability

Abstract - Mihelcic 0453174<br/><br/>This award supports an REU site on sustainability. In the next 50 years, the world's population is expected to double to 12 billion people. Scarce, nonrenewable resources are being used at ever-faster rates, with little regard for future generations. Facing these facts, the question emerges: are the Earth and its inhabitants sustainable? Can human and industrial systems be designed to ensure that humankind's use of natural resources and cycles does not lead to a diminished quality of life? This "REU on Sustainability" challenges undergraduate researchers to work side by side with faculty colleagues at Michigan Technological University (MTU), located in the Great Lakes Basin, and Southern University and A&M College of Baton Rouge (SUBR), an HBCU located along Louisiana's Mississippi River corridor, to help answer this question affirmatively. <br/><br/>Faculty members from a diverse set of disciplines at MTU have been collaborating on sustainability issues, and their activity has produced a Sustainable Futures Model that serves as the thematic basis and intellectual focus of this REU Site. The Sustainable Futures Model focuses on research and education in four areas: (1) environmental systems, (2) industrial systems, and (3) societal systems, and (4) integrative initiatives that bring the first three areas together. Recently, MTU formed the Sustainable Futures Institute (SFI) to help create and disseminate new methods and processes for generating scientific knowledge in support of sustainability decisions and education. SFI then began to collaborate with the College of Engineering and Nelson Mandela School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs (NMS) at Southern University and A&M College at Baton Rouge (SUBR) on several educational and research initiatives. This REU Site joins the disciplines of engineering and social sciences by creating teams of students and faculty mentors from both fields to pursue interdisciplinary research on a variety of sustainability issues, as varied as public policy research that assesses the processes of household consumption to a study of the design and operation of disassembly factories and product- value recovery. A summer undergraduate research experience focused on sustainability issues is a valuable way to stimulate interest in this field and to develop student research skills. <br/><br/>This REU on Sustainability generates four principal impacts. First, it offers students an opportunity to learn about sustainability issues while they also develop research skills, opening a window to the world of research and its attendant career possibilities. Second, it offers faculty the opportunity to mentor students who have probably not experienced close mentoring. Third, this project strengthens the MTU-SUBR partnership by broadening the participation of minority undergraduate students in the joint research, by co-administration of the project, and by faculty and student visits between campuses where they are exposed to diverse cultures and geography. Finally, the research into sustainability issues is of vital importance to society. These two campuses are ideally situated for research on sustainability. The Great Lakes Basin contains 25% of the world's fresh surface water and generates over one-third of our Nation's manufacturing output. Industries along the 85-mile stretch of the Mississippi River that passes through Baton Rouge contribute more than 80% of the total toxic releases in Louisiana, and the region provides an important case study in environmental abuse and a basis for relevant research efforts.

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The Great Lakes - St. Lawrence Research Inventory is an
interactive, Internet-based, searchable database created as a tool to collect and disseminate
up-to-date information about research projects in the
Great Lakes - St. Lawrence Region.