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K-State Today

November 14, 2018

Applicants sought for state's first NSF Research Traineeship grant

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

Wanted: Master's and doctoral graduate students willing to be trained as tomorrow's leaders in meeting the challenges of sustainable food, energy and water systems for the result of resilient rural communities. Support is provided by the National Science Foundation Research Traineeship Program, or NSF NRT.

An interdisciplinary team across three colleges and six departments at Kansas State University is actively recruiting participants for a five-year, $2.9 million NRT, the first ever awarded in the state.

Qualified applicants will receive one-year funded traineeships for master's students and two-year funded traineeships for doctoral students. U.S. citizenship, green card or permanent residency is required for funding. Each selected NRT trainee will be paid a stipend of $34,000 per year, money for health insurance and full tuition for 18 credits per year. All trainees also will be eligible for travel support to professional meetings and NRT activities.

The application deadline to the Kansas State University Graduate School is Jan. 8, 2019, to be eligible to join the first cohort in August 2019. Qualified applicants seeing an application fee waiver should contact team leader, Melanie Derby, assistant professor of mechanical and nuclear engineering and Hal and Mary Siegele professor of engineering, at derbym@k-state.edu.

"For our first cohort, we will award nine funded NRT traineeships, and nine NRT traineeships for students receiving GRA/GTAs, for a total of 18 students," Derby said. "Trainees will be chosen from engineering — biological and agricultural, civil, chemical, and mechanical; agricultural economics; and sociology."

Derby and her colleagues will mentor the graduate students as they conduct fundamental research in three areas of the crucial food-energy-water system: conservation of and producer relationships with the Ogallala aquifer, soil-water-microbial systems, and technologies to transform animal waste into energy and water.

"We will investigate engineering and socioeconomic innovations to conserve water, create renewable energy and help rural communities thrive," Derby said. "The NRT program will foster a sense of community among the trainees and encourage learning from each other."

Team member Stacy Hutchinson, professor of biological and agricultural engineering, said the faculty involved are excited to develop this interdisciplinary learning environment for training tomorrow’s problem solvers.

"By providing graduate students from multiple engineering departments, sociology, agricultural economics and agricultural communications the opportunity to learn about these complex issues, we are developing future leaders capable of solving many of the issues facing rural communities — declining natural resources, changing social structures and shifting economies," Hutchinson said.

Another aspect, according to team member Prathap Parameswaran, assistant professor of civil engineering, will be transforming the graduate students from problem solvers to future leaders through integrated training aspects with policy makers and stakeholders.

"There will also be a great opportunity for making this project a sustainable program beyond the life of the NRT, turning it into a vibrant program and a powerhouse for producing interdisciplinary leaders at K-State," he said.

Read more about the NRT grant and the program, including the names of all K-State faculty participants.