Multi-Disciplinary Doctoral Engineering Graduate Fellowship Program
at the Water-Energy-Materials-Human-Nexus
Director: Dr. Maya Trotz
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Co-Director: Dr. Delcie Durham
Department of Mechanical Engineering
Doctoral fellows in this program are eligible to receive up to an annual $30,000 stipend in addition to coverage of their tuition and fees. The University of South Florida subsidizes graduate student health insurance and some funds are available for supplies, travel, and other research expenses.
Since the 1972 release of Limits to Growth there has been increased global discussion on issues related to sustainable development. Sustainable development is often practically interpreted as mutually advancing the long-term goals of economic growth, societal prosperity, and environmental protection (Mihelcic and Zimmerman, 2009). Water, energy, materials, and humans are not only national and global grand challenges but perhaps the most important resources for economic development and societal prosperity. In fact, of the fourteen Grand Challenges identified by the National Academy of Engineerring, six are directly related to energy and water.
In today’s economy, energy, water, and materials are interdependent in the majority of systems meeting societal needs, such that decisions that are made about one has direct implications on the use and future availability of the others. Some of the connections between the reliance of water – energy – and materials upon each are straightforward and well understood. However many of the linkages are not yet fully identified or quantified, as illustrated in a few examples:
- Electricity production is the largest single sector of freshwater use in the U.S., accounting for 40% of all withdrawals. In regards to infrastructure, 6-18% of an urban environment’s energy demand is to store, transport, and treat water. This value can be even higher in areas where water is transported far distances, or if the quality of the source is low. For example, 19% of California’s electricity and 30% of natural gas consumption in 2001 was attributed to transport and treatment of water and wastewater.
- Manufacturing materials processing is highly energy-intensive. Primary processing of metals, polymers, and ceramics often involve phase transformation (liquid-solid) and /or large amounts of mechanical work. Non-traditional processes such as physical vapor deposition, chemical vapor deposition, and pulsed laser deposition for thin films require vacuum processing, and intensive kinetic energy per mass deposited. Ayres reported that semiconductor processing was highly dependent on volumetric flow of water during the multi-stage processes.
- The embodied water and energy (i.e., the amount of water and energy required in the lifecycle stages of acquisition of raw materials, manufacturing, use, and end of life) of manufactured goods and the components of societal infrastructure has a significant impact on our current energy flows. In terms of infrastructure, 1 lb of Portland cement results in production of approximately 1 lb of CO2. And nearly every product in global commerce is dependent on water and energy for its production and delivery to the marketplace.
- Each household in the U.S. now owns approximately two cars. In the U.S., the transportation sector is now the second largest source of CO2 emissions (after stationary sources such as power plants) and accounts for about one-third of all human generated greenhouse gas emissions. Construction of a single-vehicle orientated society has resulted in infrastructure that has had an adverse impact to our Nation’s air and water quality, impacting health of humans and ecosystems.
Further exacerbating these problems, it is well known the energy demand is expected to increase, material flows in our economy continue to rise, and water, energy, and materials are not equally distributed in our nation or around the world. A key to the ability to assess the interrelationships between the water-energy-materials systems and the relationship with meeting societal needs is through a multi-scale systematic approach. This representation of expanding upon traditional environmental engineering into the broader domains of other engineering disciplines (what we call “engineering for the environment”) and then to the level of societal need provides a view of the basis of life cycle and resource flows analysis that is to be a significant part of this doctoral fellows program.
Importantly, a multidisciplinary fellowship program focused on training engineers to understand and solve problems at the water-energy-materials-human nexus aligns strategically with national goals that have documented the rapid social, political, economic, and environmental changes occurring in the world and associated implications for engineering education, research, practice, and importantly, the economic competitiveness of our Nation (see for example, the National Academy of Engineering in Educating the Engineer of 2020, and the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2025 Vision for Civil Engineering).
Fellows will become part of a large community of scholars in a uniquely designed training experience that includes:
- a set of seven core courses addressing water, energy and materials concepts, sustainability methods and concepts, interconnectedness of water, energy and materials, design of experiments, and graduate instruction methods;
- a multidisciplinary project oriented sustainability course that addresses the human dimension of the research;
- doctoral research projects that improve our Nation’s understanding of the water-energy-materials-human interface.
- mentoring and co-advising by faculty members that are trained experts in the water-energy-materials-human interface;
- mentoring by faculty members to improve teaching and educational portfolio; and,
- pairing fellows with internationally-focused master’s students from our Master’s International engineerring Peace Corps Program and undergraduate research (REU) students, both who will assist with research projects.
Fellows are supported by a grant provided to the University of South Florida by the U.S. Department of Education Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) Program