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LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 25, 2023) — Five University of Kentucky students have been selected for the Sustainability Summer Research Fellowship program, a high-impact learning experience that contributes to the students’ academic growth as well as sustainability-focused research initiatives at UK and in the community.

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 since supported 48 undergraduates.

“Sustainability research is crucial to our university's efforts in finding new opportunities to both leverage and conserve existing resources. Sustainability research also provides students with a way to make a real impact on the campus and share their findings with the larger community,” said Kyle Heffernan, a sophomore product design major working with Pooya Mohaghegh, Ph.D. in the College of Design’s Department of Product Design.

Students selected as Sustainability Research Fellows received a $5,000 stipend to support their research endeavors during the Summer 2023 term. Fellows engage in a research project under the guidance of a mentor.

“University of Kentucky's Sustainability Summer Research Fellowships provide a unique platform for students to explore the vital intersections of sustainability research and design. By cultivating an understanding of environmental, social and economic implications, our students can thoughtfully integrate sustainability principles into their work and achieve a better balance between human needs and preservation,” explained Lindsey Fay, associate dean for research in the College of Design. “The benefits of these summer research fellowships extend far beyond the initial scope of work, empowering students to become active contributors to their diverse fields by promoting innovative and eco-conscious design solutions.”

Students will present their research at the Summer Research Symposium on Aug. 28, 2023, Sustainability Showcase on Oct. 4, 2023, and the Showcase of Undergraduate Scholars in April 2024.

The 2023 Sustainability Research Fellows:

  • Anna Ackerman, Lewis Honors College freshman and forestry major; Mentor: Sybil Gotsch, Ph.D., College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. Project: “Determining the Impact of Valley Fog on Forest Function in Central Appalachia.”
  • Nick Gunn III, junior dietetics major; Mentor: Dawn Brewer, Ph.D., College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. Project: “Growing Gardeners.”
  • Kyle Heffernan, sophomore product design major; Mentor: Pooya Mohaghegh, Ph.D., College of Design. Project: “Receptacles for Reusable Material in the College of Design.”
  • Muhammad Indra, junior environmental and sustainability studies major; Mentor: Betsy Beymer-Farris, Ph.D., College of Arts and Sciences. Project: “Sustainability Solutions to the Plastic Pile-Up in Bali, Indonesia.”
  • Audrey Wirasakti, Lewis Honors College freshman and food science and agricultural economics major; Mentor: Tammy Stephenson, Ph.D., College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. Project: “Measuring the Economic and Nutritional Value of Food Waste Recovery at Campus Kitchen University of 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 $501 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.