Student Research

Undergraduate GW Sustainability Scholars Award

In 2017, the GW Student Association launched a campaign called Save A Million, which encouraged students and faculty to print double-sided and minimize printing wherever possible. The campaign has resulted in the reduction of paper use on campus, saving trees, water, energy, and money. Sustainable GW provides funding for Undergraduate Research Fellowships. These fellowships are earmarked for students conducting sustainability focused research. Each award provides $5,000 for a student and $1,000 for a faculty mentor.

The 2021 competition details to be announced. 

The number of awards will be determined by the funds available.

● Full-time, undergraduate student
● Enrolled at GW (as an undergraduate) during the award period
● Full-or part-time GW faculty members must serve as mentors
● Proposed research projects must address GW’s vision for sustainability to creat resource systems that are healthy and thriving for all
○ Research related to sustainable development: creating healthy and thriving resource systems for all
○ Research related to environmental issues
○ Research related to social issues that can be applied to sustainable developmen such as human welfare, social equity issues or social / organizational / behavioral change
○ Research related to economic issues that can be applied to sustainable development
○ Discourse focused on the interconnection of world resources and the human condition from a long-term perspective
○ Research related to policy and communications issues that can be applied to sustainable development
● Preference will be given to students pursuing the sustainability minor.
● Preference will be given to students conducting community-engaged and/or community based, participatory research.

Funding Requirements:
● $5,000 award must be used to support the student’s research-related expenses, whic may include travel, research materials and equipment, and living expenses in the field.
● $1,000 stipend can be taken by faculty as supplemental salary.

Application Materials:
● Completed student application (research proposal of 2000 words or less, budget, project timeline)
● Signed faculty statement of support
● Unofficial transcripts (obtained from Colonial Central)
● All materials must be submitted to the Center for Undergraduate Fellowships and Research using its InfoReady portal.
Application Timeline:
● Application opens on October 1, 2020
● Application deadline is December 5, 2020 at 11:59pm EST
● Award decisions (including waitlist) will be emailed to students and faculty mentors on December 20, 2020
● Awards must be accepted or declined by January 10, 2021.
● Funds will be dispersed to award recipients by January 24, 2021.

Award Requirements:
● All recipients are required to present their work at Research Days and/or The Symposium on Community-Engaged Scholarship.
● Awards must be spent by July 31, 2021.
● Students are encouraged to submit their final reports to an undergraduate research journal of their choosing.

All materials must be submitted to the Center for Undergraduate Fellowships and Research using its InfoReady portal.

For additional information about this opportunity, please contact the Center for Undergraduate Fellowships and Research at [email protected] or visit Academic Commons

Five students were selected for GW's first cohort of Sustainability Scholars.  The students, faculty mentors, and their projects are:


Yoon Sil Choi, Major: Civil Engineering

  • Faculty Mentor: Danmeng Shuai, Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Project: "Development of a Solar Photocatalytic Reactor for Sustainable Water Purification"

Recognizing that solar-energy-enabled photocatalysis is an advanced, yet sustainable oxidation process for water treatment, this project seeks to find an optimal design using graphitic carbon nitride as a photocatalyst for contaminant removal and disinfection.


Claire Franco, Majors: International Affairs and Geography

  • Faculty Mentor: Robert Orttung, Elliott School of International Affairs
  • Project: "Approaches to Addressing Food Insecurity Across Arctic Cities"

Given that Arctic cities typically rely on long supply chains for their food consumption, this project inquires into how best can these communities marshal their resources to ensure that their citizens have access to sufficient food supplies.


Kethelyn Papp, Major: International Affairs

  • Faculty Mentor: Maria de la Fuente, Romance, German, Slavic Languages and Literatures
  • Project: "Decarbonization of Chile"

As Chile strives to meet its obligations under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, this project seeks to investigate how Chile can achieve its intended national determined contribution by reducing its carbon emissions while still maintaining its energy security.


Adele Queener,  Major: Anthropology, Minor: Sustainability

  • Faculty Mentor: Hartmut Doebel, Biological Sciences
  • Project: "Biodiversity Survey of George Washington's Native Pollinators"

This proposed study seeks to characterize the diversity of pollinator populations of specific plant communities around the campus of George Washington University, as the university plants to re-landscape its green spaces, specifically G Street Park, and re-plant native plant species.


Sarah Zarsky, Major: Psychology, Minor: Organizational Sciences

  • Faculty Mentor: Tara Behrend, Organizational Sciences
  • Project: Workplace Tracking's Role in Sustainability

This project asks how employees are electronically monitored to encourage green behaviors and how such monitoring affects performance and workplace cultures.

Two students were selected for GW's second cohort of Sustainability Scholars.  The students, faculty mentors, and their projects are:

Margaret Nelson, Majors: Economics and Public Health

  • Faculty Mentor: Susan Anenberg, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Project: "Estimating effects of sustainability actions on disparities in air pollution exposure, physical fitness, and nutrition across Washington, DC"

While there is some evidence that reducing greenhouse gas emissions also brings public health benefits, there is limited quantitative data on the health benefits of climate-change-mitigating actions.  This project seeks to measure some of the public health benefits of initiatives undertaken through Washington, DC's Sustainable DC 2.0 Plan.

Zachary Posnik, Majors: International Affairs and Geography

  • Faculty Mentor: Nikolay Shiklomanov, Geography
  • Project: "The Road to Sustainability: Environmental and Social Impacts of Informal Road Networks and Resources Extraction North of Lake Baikal, Russia"

Siberia has experienced unprecedented climate-induced environmental change, and  sustainability issues are especially acute in fragile boreal, subartic regions where resource extraction industries dominate.  This project seeks to understand the impacts of land-use upon the sustainability of vegetation and permafrost conditions of north of Lake Baikal in Siberia.