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Graham Welcomes 10 Dow Sustainability Doctoral Fellows

Graham Welcomes 10 Dow Sustainability Doctoral Fellows

Ten doctoral students from six schools and colleges at the University of Michigan started the Dow Sustainability Fellows Program this fall, marking the first cohort of interdisciplinary Ph.D. fellows in this innovative program, which launched in spring 2012.

The Dow Sustainability Fellows Program seeks to cultivate future leaders by bringing together a select group of the most promising U-M graduate students and postdoctoral scholars, who learn from one another and integrate the power of their respective disciplines to help solve global sustainability challenges - from energy, climate change and transportation, to water, food, housing and health. These fellows are committed to finding interdisciplinary, actionable and meaningful sustainability solutions around the world.

Each doctoral fellow will receive $50,000 over two years to support interdisciplinary doctoral research related to sustainability, with additional support provided by their home units at the university.

The new fellows, their academic disciplines and research topics are:

  • Robyn d'Avignon, anthropology and history, "Off the grid: informal energy entrepreneurship in the Republic of Guinea."
  • Patrick Harlin, music, "Acoustic ecology: the preservation of sonic landscapes."
  • Lingli He, civil and environmental engineering, "Impact of climate change on forest sustainability: new forest composition."
  • Tommy Jenkinson, ecology and evolutionary biology, "Exposing the anthropogenic threat to a global center of frog diversity in the Atlantic rainforest of Brazil: a multi-faceted education and awareness campaign."
  • Nadine Kotlarz, civil and environmental engineering, "Connections between water infrastructure and human health: using sustainable technologies to give good bacteria in drinking water an edge over harmful competitors."
  • Rebecca Mandell, health behavior and health education, "Understanding policy and advocacy frames: air pollution and adverse birth outcomes."
  • Sarah Mills, urban and regional planning, "Understanding land-use regulation in rural communities: crucial insights for onshore wind development."
  • Michelle Newstadt, education, "Identifying K-12 students' climate change and sustainability prior knowledge and misconceptions to build educational curriculum for future decision-makers."
  • Lauren Stadler, civil and environmental engineering, "Rethinking wastewater treatment: navigating tradeoffs between energy efficiency and pharmaceutical contamination."
  • Missy Stults, urban and regional planning, "Defining urban resilience to climate change: key characteristics and metrics."

The doctoral fellows hail from U-M's College of Literature, Science, and the Arts; School of Music, Theatre, and Dance; College of Engineering; School of Public Health; Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning; and School of Education.

"We are thrilled to see such a rich and varied portfolio of research subjects reflected in the works of our doctoral fellows," said Don Scavia, director of U-M's Graham Sustainability Institute, which administers the program on behalf of the university. "With fellows' expertise areas ranging from anthropology and music to civil engineering and education, there are sure to be fascinating intellectual exchanges amongst the cohort."

In addition to receiving funding, Dow fellows participate in an ongoing seminar and engage in a series of co-curricular activities designed to expand capacity for interdisciplinary thinking and leaderships. For example, fellows conduct a project of their choosing with partners from different disciplines as a required part of the program.

Through this collaborative program, doctoral fellows are also encouraged to mentor master's sustainability fellows as appropriate. (Each U-M school or college will be submitting up to 10 nominations for master's-level fellows by Oct. 27.)

With the 10 new doctoral scholars now onboard, the multifaceted Dow Sustainability Fellows Program is now fully operational, with additional elements including the master's fellows program, a postdoctoral program and a distinguished sustainability innovation award competition, known as the Dow Distinguished Awards for Interdisciplinary Sustainability.

"At Dow, we believe in the power of collaboration in solving the world's most pressing challenges," said Neil Hawkins, vice president of global sustainability and environment, health and safety for Dow. "We are proud to help foster the next generation of leaders and innovators through the Dow Sustainability Fellows Program, and we look forward to seeing these promising leaders grow and develop in this unique, collaborative learning environment."

For more information about the Dow Sustainability Fellows program, visit