The School of Earth & Sustainability (SES) is proud to announce the recipients of the 2020 SES Seed Grant Funds Program

SES created the seed grant program to advance transdisciplinary research in alignment with the School’s mission of providing sound science outcomes, preparing students to meet the most serious environmental challenges of our time, and advancing solutions that build a more equitable, healthy, and sustainable planet. With funding support from the College of Natural Sciences, SES released the call for proposals last spring (before the pandemic hit our region).

In its inaugural year, the SES Seed Grant Funds Program received ambitious proposals from research teams with diverse representation from academic departments across campus. The two proposals selected for funding by the SES Research Task Force are “Energy Equity” and “Establishing a Center of Excellence for Nano-enabled Agricultural and Environmental Research (CeNAER)”. Each funded team will receive $5,000 to carry out their work; a description of each awarded project is provided below.

We are inspired by the interest of all our sustainability-focused researchers and hope you will join in celebrating and supporting our colleagues who will be participating in this program!

Energy Equity

Climate change and resource depletion are driving the transition from polluting, fossil fuel-based energy toward new clean energy solutions. Traditional energy sectors are governed by extreme concentrations of wealth and power, yet their pollution falls disproportionately on people of color and vulnerable communities. Energy transition offers a unique opportunity to increase equity and justice in the energy system. Lead Investigator, Alison Bates, Lecturer of Renewable Energy & Sustainability in the Department of Environmental Conservation and School of Earth & Sustainability, and her colleagues propose to develop the framework for documenting energy equity. After developing a preliminary framework, the researchers will pursue external funding to implement the Energy Equity Report protocol and significantly expand the scope, data collection, and community-based refinement of the framework.

Co-investigators: Michael Ash, Professor of Economics & Public Policy, Department of Economics & School of Public Policy; Erin Baker, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Affairs and Professor of Industrial Engineering, Department of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering

Team Members: Dwayne Breger, Director of Clean Energy Extension and Extension Professor of Environmental Conservation and School of Earth & Sustainability; Anna Goldstein, Senior Research Fellow in Mechanical and Industrial Engineering

Photo Credit: Ben Barnhart

Establishing CeNAER

The high application rates of toxic agrochemicals used to increase agricultural productivity cause not only significant damage to the environment but also affect food safety and consumer health. Novel and sustainable platforms for soil, crop, and pest management are critically needed for increasing agricultural productivity and global food security and safety. CeNAER will leverage nanotechnology to address the inefficiencies in agrochemical delivery and use, with the goal of increasing sustainable global food production to achieve food security and safety. It also proposes to use nanotechnology for applications in food technology for nano-enabled delivery of active food ingredients and nutraceuticals as well as nanomaterials for wastewater purification and soil remediation.


Lead Investigator, Om Parkash Dhankher, professor of agricultural biotechnology, Stockbridge School of Agriculture and School of Earth & Sustainability, and his team propose to establish a Center of Excellence for Nano-enabled Agricultural and Environmental Research (CeNAER) at UMass Amherst. This proposed Center will unify a unique multi-disciplinary team of investigators that will develop and implement novel agro-nanotechnolgy research.

Co-investigators: Baoshan Xing, Professor of Environmental & Soil Chemistry, Stockbridge School of Agriculture and School of Earth & Sustainability; Lili He, Associate Professor of Analytical Chemistry, Nanofabrication and Detection, Department of Food Sciences; Dhandapani ‘DV’ Venkataraman, Professor of Material Science and Nanomaterials, Department of Chemistry; D. Julian McClements, Professor of Food Nanotechnology, Department of Food Sciences; David Reckhow, Professor of Nanomaterials and Wastewater Treatment, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering; Jason White, Adjunct Professor, Stockbridge School of Agriculture and Director, Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, New Haven; Jaime Pinero, Extension Associate Professor of Entomology and Integrated Pest Management, Stockbridge School of Agriculture and School of Earth & Sustainability; Hang Xiao, Professor of Food Nanotechnology, Food Science