2009 Sustainability Innovation Winners

2008 Dow Award Winners

Dow Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge – 2009 Winners

Development of Broad Spectrum Vaccines for Honey Bees
Noah Wilson-Rich
Ph.D. candidate in Biology
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Honey bees are of tremendous ecological and economic importance for their role as pollinators, yet they are dying. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is a modern disease currently responsible for recent declines in honey bee populations worldwide. Although a number of testable ideas have been suggested to explain what is causing CCD, empirical data remains elusive. One such hypothesis is that honey bees have a weakened immune system and thus increased susceptibility to disease. I propose a novel solution to bolstering honey bee immunity through the development of broad spectrum immunization. On a molecular level, honey bees identify disease-causing microbes (i.e., pathogens) through the recognition of pathogen-associated membrane patterns (PAMPs). PAMPs are proteins on the outside of microbes that have been highly conserved throughout evolutionary time. Hosts detect PAMPs through their own pattern-recognition receptors, which then activate production of anti-microbial peptides. My vaccine approach will mimic the recognition process of honey bees by feeding artificial PAMPs to bees by using an improved formula for a pollen patty, a food supplement commonly used by commercial beekeepers. I have preliminary data supporting my hypothesis that feeding PAMPs to honey bees strengthens immunity, and recent published data show this type of immunity is long-lasting.

Green Microfabrication Technology for Use in Silk-Based Polymer Photovoltaics
Stanley Eosakul
M.S. candidate, Biomedical Engineering
School of Engineering

Konstantinos Tsioris
Ph.D. candidate, Biomedical Engineering
School of Engineering

Our proposal for the Dow sustainability student challenge is based on two complementary research projects, conducted by a team consisting of two graduate students with backgrounds in electrical engineering and mechanical engineering, respectively. These projects, carried out in the Laboratory for Ultrafast Nonlinear Optics and Biophotonics (UNOBio), is leading to a collaborative effort to create an environmentally-friendly, microfabricated solar cell consisting of regenerative, sustainable, and biodegradable materials. The device we propose is an innovative advancement to push the limits of natural biomaterials. The material substrate used is silk fibroin, which is being extensively explored in UNOBio. The project brings together efforts to develop a microfabrication platform for silk (Konstantinos Tsioris, PhD student) and apply it to investigate the potential of silk as a matrix for an organic photovoltaic device (Stanley Eosakul, MS student). The photoactive molecule incorporated in the silk will be bacteriorhodopsin (BR), which produces a photocurrent through a proton-motive force. Initial results from our lab show microfabricated patterns in silk films with features of one micrometer and photocurrents produced with BR-silk photovoltaic cells of 5nA/cm2. An all-green photovoltaic device would constitute a provocative technology that conforms to the Dow 2015 Sustainability Goals while addressing contemporary global challenges.

Farm Conservation Policy in a Concentrating Agricultural Industry: Evaluation and Development of a Framework for Sustainable Livestock Production
Melissa Bailey
Ph.D. Candidate – Agriculture, Food & Environment Program
Certificate Candidate – Water: Systems, Science and Society
Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy

Livestock production in the U.S. is becoming more concentrated as farms raise more animals on less land. This concentration has increased government involvement in how livestock producers manage the environmental effects of farm operations. The most significant non-regulatory tool the government has used to help in mitigating these effects is the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), a farm conservation program that provides livestock producers with funds to support better manure management on their farms. EQIP has come under attack recently as interest groups question whether it is sound government policy to financially underwrite (versus regulate) manure management. This research project seeks to understand the role of EQIP in promoting sustainable or unsustainable livestock production with a focus on water quality and manure management issues. Coupling qualitative and quantitative techniques from political and environmental science with GIS and other systems analysis tools, this project will develop a process that will evaluate whether EQIP is meeting environmental priorities set by federal policy and create a framework on what factors or characteristics of livestock operations are most critical to sustainability. This framework will be used to test the hypothesis that EQIP priorities are, in some cases, failing to meet sustainability goals.