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LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 23, 2024) — Five students from the University of Kentucky have been selected for the Sustainability Summer Research Fellowship program.

As a learning institution, UK engages in sustainable practices by collaborating with faculty, staff and students across all colleges and departments. The Sustainability Research Fellowship is a collaborative program coordinated by the Office of Undergraduate Research and sponsored by the UK Student Sustainability Council (SSC) and UK Sustainability. The fellowship’s goal is to support and promote sustainability-related undergraduate research endeavors. The program launched in 2014 and has supported 53 undergraduates.

“Sustainability research is important because the resources at our disposal are typically limited, and their utilization can often lead to undesirable consequences. Therefore, it is our duty to manage these resources responsibly and to employ scientific methods to achieve the most effective outcomes,” said Luis Silva Nunes, an electrical engineering and Lewis Honors College freshman working with Christopher Crawford, Ph.D., in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Students selected as Sustainability Research Fellows received a $5,000 stipend to support their research endeavors during the Summer 2024 term. Fellows engage in a research project under the guidance of a mentor.

“Sustainability research is incredibly important not only for its clear connection to pressing climate issues, but also due to its necessary role in the development of more equitable, ecological and endurable communities,” said Erica Smith, an architecture and Lewis Honors College junior. “While projects on a large, worldwide scale are certainly crucial to the adaptation of our environments for a more sustainable and just future, the visibility of research done in a variety of implementable scales is equally important for the advancement of local communities and services.” Smith is working with mentor Daniel Vivian, Ph.D., in the College of Design’s Department of Historical Preservation.

Students will present their research at the Summer Research Symposium on Aug. 27, 2024, Sustainability Showcase on Oct. 23, 2024, and the Showcase of Undergraduate Scholars in April 2025.

The 2024 Sustainability Research Fellows:

  • Katie Christensen, agricultural and medical biotechnology and Lewis Honors College sophomore; Mentor: Kendall Corbin, Ph.D., Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. Project: “Mighty Microbes: The discovery of antibiotic producing bacteria from maize.”
  • Luis Nunes, computer science and Lewis Honors College freshman; Mentor: Christopher Crawford, Ph.D., College of Arts and Sciences. Project: “Development of Sustainable Real-Time Lossless Data Compression Algorithms on FPGAs for Sensor Waveforms.”
  • Safiyah Sadek, neuroscience senior; Mentor: Cassandra Gipson-Reichard, Ph.D., College of Medicine. Project: “The Impact of E-Cigarette Vapor Toxins and Pollutants on Estrogen and Interactions with Microglia within the Brain Reward Pathway in Female Rats.”
  • Cooper Samuelson, agricultural and medical biotechnology and Lewis Honors College junior; Mentor: Kenton Sena, Ph.D., Lewis Honors College. Project: “Examining the effects of urban forest restoration on carbon pools and infiltration rates.”
  • Erica Smith, architecture and Lewis Honors College junior; Mentor: Daniel Vivian, Ph.D., College of Design. Project: “Transit for All: Design Strategies for Improving Public Transportation in Lexington, Kentucky.”


As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.