delware environmental institute

Activities and Accomplishments, January 2014 Summary

 

The Delaware Environmental Institute (DENIN) was established as a University of Delaware center of excellence in fall 2009 to conduct research and coordinate partnerships that integrate environmental science, engineering, social science and policy in order to provide solutions and strategies that address environmental challenges. DENIN is an academic unit of the University of Delaware and reports to the vice provost for research.

The Institute focuses on research relevant to challenges facing the state and the nation, providing decision makers with the knowledge that can help create sound environmental policies. DENIN fosters a culture of scholarship, leveraging the combined talents of affiliates and fellows through collaborative working groups, joint proposal development, and project resource coordination.

Image of DENIN brochure cover

View an electronic version of the brochure reporting on the accomplishments of our first five years by clicking on the image at left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In brief, DENIN’s track record of accomplishments includes the following:

Research support and productivity
• Provided $7.2 million to UD colleges in the form of research funding, faculty start-up, fellowships, indirect costs 
• Awarded seed grants for 43 environmental research projects (roughly $2.2 million), catalyzing $5.4 million in new research awards
• Involved more than 100 faculty as DENIN affiliates 
• Produced 450 peer reviewed publications by funded faculty
• Supported world-class environmental research facilities, including $2 million in the new ISE Lab
• Launched collaborations with U.S. national laboratories
• Facilitated interdisciplinary research in natural and social sciences and the humanities
• Launched the DENIN Environmental Frontier Grant Program to support interdisciplinary teams

New faculty hires
• Led environmental cluster hire for five new environmentally focused faculty
• Led process for three named chairs in environmental areas
• Provided start-up support for six new faculty since 2008

Student support
• Supported 250 graduate and undergraduate students in environmental research
• Led development of Water Science & Policy graduate program involving 30 faculty affiliates from four colleges
• Provided financial support of graduate student fellowships
• Launched internship program with DNREC
• Launched DENIN Environmental Scholars, undergraduate academic-year research

Partnerships and public engagement
• Forged new partnerships with DNREC in research and education
• Contributed to Delaware environmental policy (HB 32 singed into law June 2013)
• Developed new collaborations with the private and nonprofit sectors (e.g., Brightfields, Inc., Delaware Wild Lands)
• Launched international research and education partnerships in China and Germany
• Led $30 million in research and education projects across UD colleges and among partner institutions in Delaware
• Hosted signature events to build a robust intellectual community
• Secured recurring institutional support, which partially funds DENIN operations

New Initiatives and Metrics

DENIN will continue in its role of leading large interdisciplinary environmental research and education projects, funded by external sources. In parallel, DENIN must focus resources strategically in order to continue to develop the research, education, partnerships and resulting environmental solutions at the core of its mission. To this end, DENIN’s plan through 2018 includes specific investments in research and education at the University of Delaware, aligned with and focused by our mission and goals.

In particular, we intend to help to grow the environmental research and education enterprise at UD through five initiatives:

1) Build research cohorts toward new interdisciplinary, multi-investigator research grants

To complement its major research thrusts DENIN aims to build research capability in areas such as biogeochemistry, environmental sensing and modeling, and water science and policy. To support this growth, in 2013 DENIN launched its Environmental Frontier Grants Program. The 2013 solicitation attracted 17 proposals involving 55 researchers. The first five grants were awarded in January 2014. Over the next three years, DENIN will announce a competition for several seed grants each year. 

We intend for the teams developed through the DENIN Environmental Frontier Grants to form an active community of potential PIs for larger, follow-on competitions for federal funding, such as the NSF Integrative and Collaborative Education and Research (ICER), home of the NSF SEES programs, the NSF Science and Technology Centers and other similar grant programs. Conservatively, we expect return on seed grant investment dollars, expressed as a new grant dollars secured, at a ratio of 1:2, within a year of the grant's end. We will track academic productivity resulting from DENIN investments.

DENIN staff will also continue to work with multidisciplinary teams on environmentally relevant proposal submissions, and with individual faculty on CAREER applications. Recent submissions include proposals to programs such as: NSF Water, Sustainability & Climate (funded); DoE SERDP; NIH NIEHS (pending); NSF Track II (funded); NSF Coupled Natural & Human Systems; NSF Coastal SEES (pending).

2) Attract talented new graduate students to UD in environmentally relevant areas

The DENIN Fellowship Program, to launch in 2014, will provide support for two years for promising students at the beginning of their graduate studies. Our intention is to provide students and, in turn, faculty with an attractive source of financial support as we recruit the most talented students to environmental research training. 

In parallel, we plan to develop a new interdisciplinary graduate program in environmental biogeochemistry, and the DENIN fellowships will be an important component of launching the new program in a vigorous manner. Toward the same end, we will monitor opportunities to strengthen environmental education through opportunities such as the NSF Research Traineeship Program, (NRT) slated for FY14. We will track job placement for students participating in these programs, and expect that all students will secure a job related to their training within a year of graduation.  Moreover, we plan to track the growth in numbers of graduate students completing advanced degrees at UD.

3) Facilitate multidisciplinary undergraduate research in environmental areas

The DENIN Environmental Scholars program provides academic year stipends to support sustained research experiences for students.  Students from across the University of Delaware campus from a wide variety of majors – from engineering to journalism — will be engaged in fall, Winter Session, and spring semesters, culminating in a program symposium each year. In addition, DENIN supports summer undergraduate research across the state and with partners in the region, funded by external grants. Student opportunities are promoted via UDaily, the DENIN newsletter and website, as well as through several social media sites. We expect that at least 90% of students will be academically “on track”; that is, at any time, 90% of students will have completed an undergraduate degree, or will still be actively enrolled toward the degree. 

Two additional initiatives are underway, focused on sustainability and strategic planning:

4) Development and marketing

DENIN will design a development plan over the next few months, in cooperation with Ms. Dana Raftas, director of development and strategic initiatives assigned to the Office of the Provost. Ms. Raftas has been charged with working with DENIN, a welcome new arrangement, and the first time that DENIN has had a designated point person in a development role. We envision that the new plan will focus on raising funds for core DENIN activities, including support for fellowships, internships, seed grants, the DENIN Dialogue Series, and staff support.

We are also working on strategies to enhance the branding and marketing of DENIN, which will be incorporated into our already active communications thrust. In November 2013, DENIN convened a focus group representative of our internal and external constituencies. The day-long working session was facilitated by Ninja Communications, Inc. and involved faculty, professionals, nonprofit leaders, government staff, and media leaders. Ninja will provide key messaging frameworks for DENIN to use in print, electronic, and fundraising contexts.
 

5) Strategic planning

DENIN is developing a formal strategic plan and evaluation metrics for the next three-five years, encompassing interdisciplinary environmental grant targets and philanthropic goals, expanded working groups and collaborations within and outside of the University. Review and discussion of the plan will be a major item on the agenda for the DENIN External Advisory Board (EAB) meeting in April 2014.