NSF Awards UMD $3M to Launch Global STEWARDS program

Dr. Shirley Micallef - Co-Principal Investigator

Image Credit: Edwin Remsberg

September 12, 2018 Graham Binder

College Park, Md. - As population growth and climate change burden our global food, energy and water systems, scientists, engineers and policy experts must work together to develop solutions that ensure food, energy and water security for future generations. Such solutions require cross-cutting, transformative science and policy discoveries, and the leadership to envision and implement them.

To address these challenges, the University of Maryland has received $3 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Traineeship (NRT) to establish a new graduate training and research program aimed at creating innovative and sustainable solutions for global food, energy and water systems. The Global STEWARDS (STEM Training at the Nexus of Energy, WAter Reuse and FooD Systems) program boasts an elite team of UMD faculty, including Shirley Micallef in Plant Sciences and Landscape Architecture, and Jianghong Meng, Professor in Nutrition and Food Science. Both are within the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and are co-principal investigators on the project. 

Dr. Jianghong Meng, Co-Principal Investigator 

This new program will enable UMD to recruit and train more than 60 future leaders from doctoral programs in the life sciences, earth system sciences, engineering and computational sciences, natural resource management, and energy and environmental policy. These trainees will work closely with faculty mentors throughout at least five schools and colleges including: the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the School of Public Health, the College of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences, the School of Public Policy, and the A. James Clark School of Engineering

“With an ever increasing world population, it is imperative that we train scientists who are prepared to tackle the complex issues that we will face to equitably secure food, water and energy for generations to come. This grant will allow us to provide opportunities for learning and professional development in a transdisciplinary and collaborative environment,” says Micallef. “Students will not only gain deeper knowledge through coursework, but also improve communication, problem-solving and leadership skills through experiential learning, internships and work abroad projects. Throughout the entire process, opportunities for outreach to stakeholders and mentoring fellow students will be woven in.”

The $3 million award to the University of Maryland is one of 17 projects that the NSF NRT awarded, totaling $51 million, to develop and implement graduate education traineeship models in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

UMD Global STEWARDS will be exposed to a range of topics in three integrated research areas: 1) Agricultural resilience through energy-efficient water reuse; 2) Food safety and security in variable climate scenarios; and 3) Decision support systems to advance food-energy-water adaptation strategies.

At least half of the doctoral students selected for the Global STEWARDS fellowship will receive full stipends to support their education and research and all will benefit from one or more aspects of the NRT program.

The program consists of five interdisciplinary elements, including experiential coursework; intensive, annual, two-week workshops; a domestic internship based in a non-academic setting; a summer trip to work with partner organizations in Israel or Nepal; and involvement in food, energy and water-related outreach, education and mentoring. To enhance the mentoring and leadership skills of UMD Global STEWARDs, trainees will be paired with undergraduate student mentees, with the goal of expanding the pipeline of STEM researchers from underrepresented backgrounds.

Global STEWARDS leadership team

Principal Investigator

Professor Amy R. Sapkota (SPH, Applied Environmental Health)

Co-Principal Investigators

Research Associate Professor Gili Marbach-Ad (CMNS)

Professor Allen Davis (ENGR), Charles A. Irish Sr. Chair in Civil Engineering

Associate Professor Nathan Hultman (SPP), Director, Center for Global Sustainability

Professor Xin-Zhong Liang (CMNS, Atmospheric and Oceanic Science)

Professor Jianghong Meng (AGNR), Director of Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (JIFSAN)

Associate Professor Shirley Micallef (AGNR, Plant Sciences and Landscape Architecture)

Professor Mihai Pop (CMNS, Computer Science)

Associate Professor Amir Sapkota (SPH, Applied Environmental Health)