CSS Undergraduate Sustainability Challenge Fellowship Projects Announced

The Center for Sustainability Solutions (CSS) is pleased to announce the recipients of the inaugural CSS Undergraduate Sustainability Challenge Fellowship. The program, funded by CSS, is open to undergraduate students in all USC majors and supports multidisciplinary research projects focused on sustainability. It is intended to contribute to extending to the larger USC community the values espoused by the Viterbi School of Engineering, the Price School of Public Policy, and the National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenges Scholars Program.

The research projects funded include:

Telehealth and Transportation: Connecting at Sustainability

Data in the Dirt: Blockchain and the Internet of Things in the Meat Supply Chain

Three Approaches to Urban Agriculture Within Affordable Housing

Improving Human Waste Disposal in Homeless Populations

Fellowships are awarded for a one-year duration, renewable for up to 3 years based on annual proposal submission and evaluation. Project submissions were reviewed in collaboration with members of the CSS Research Advisory Board.

You can read more about the CSS Undergraduate Sustainability Grand Challenge Fellowship Program by clicking here

Fellowship research project overview:

Telehealth and Transportation: Connecting at Sustainability

Telehealth, a method of providing remote healthcare using electronic communication, has emerged as a rapidly growing service during the COVID-19 pandemic. While e-health addresses COVID-19 issues as related to managing high patient flow and social distancing, less considered and studied are its implications for patient transportation to and from the hospital or the doctor’s office. This includes two areas of sustainability in tandem: environmental, specifically the ability for telehealth to reduce health-related transportation emissions, and patient care, where transportation insecurity precludes patients from consistent and reliable access to care.

Researchers:

Data in the Dirt: Blockchain and the Internet of Things in the Meat Supply Chain

Our research proposal utilizes blockchain and the Internet of Things (IoT) to track and verify a sustainable meat supply chain. Blockchain technology involves a ledger with multiple degrees of cyber security that ensures immutable, traceable, and transparent data. This transparency of secure information guarantees the end consumer receives a sustainably sourced product and farmers are fairly compensated for higher quality goods. IoT is a sophisticated network of machines and sensors that can communicate with one another and perform certain tasks. We propose that governments use IoT to automatically distribute taxes and subsidies in a carrot-and-stick model to keep beef farmers in accordance with sustainability standards. To ensure a feasible solution, our team will conduct hands-on research across ranches in Wyoming and Washington, with the potential for similar research across Asia.

Researchers:

Three Approaches to Urban Agriculture Within Affordable Housing

Urban agriculture, the practice of growing food within cities themselves, has existed throughout the history of urban development. Renowned urban planner Jane Jacobs even argued that the origins of agriculture were developed within trade economies of the earliest cities, rather than in rural areas. Urban agriculture has a history within the United States as well, with citizen-run urban gardens constructed during the 1940s providing up to 44 percent of the vegetable production during the wartime era. Over recent decades, urban agriculture has been championed as a means to more sustainably feed the ever-increasing global urban population. Studies have also discussed the wide variety of additional benefits that urban agriculture offers, from improving communities’ nutritional diet and active lifestyles, to biodiversity conservation, to job creation and supplemental income for urban farmers. Green spaces such as urban gardens also provide retention and evaporation for storm water runoff, reducing water pollution within natural ecosystems and providing flood control.

Researcher:

Improving Human Waste Disposal in Homeless Populations

Los Angeles is one of the cities with the largest homeless population in the US. As of

2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic, Los Angeles experienced a 13 percent increase in homelessness with a total count of about 66,433 in all of LA county.  Around 75 percent of these people are completely unsheltered and resort to living in tents or boxes on the street, which lead to a public health crisis with typhus and typhoid outbreaks due to a lack of hygiene.  Evidently, there are many issues that homeless populations face, including health problems, crime, lack of sanitation, drug issues, and so forth. However, an often overlooked concern is the environmental consequences of homelessness. Specifically, how the lack of bathrooms and toilets have great social and environmental implications.

Researchers:

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