Student working at eco-machine

Research Funding in Environmental Engineering

Penn State has a vigorous research program in Environmental Engineering (EnvE). The total funding for research projects in the EnvE group was $11.8 million as of September 1, 2022. The project titles, principal investigators, and other information on these research contracts and grants are listed below.


  • Novel microbial electrolysis cell design for efficient hydrogen generation from wastewaters. (PI: Logan). US Department of Energy. September 15, 2021 – September 14, 2024. $1,000,000.
  • Enabling hydrogen gas production from seawater using electrolytes contained by reverse osmosis membranes. (PI: Logan, Co-PIs C.A. Gorski, M Hickner). National Science Foundation, September 1, 2020 – August 31, 2023. $300,000.
  • Development of an All-Aqueous Thermally Regenerative Redox Flow Battery to Support Fossil Fuel Assets. (PI: Derek Hall, Co-PIs Lvov, Rau, Logan). US Department of Energy. January 1, 2021 – December 31, 2022). $312,881.
  • Phase II IUCRC at The Pennsylvania State University: Center for Membrane Science, Engineering and Technology (MAST). (PI: A.L. Zydney, Co-PIs M. Kumar, B.E. Logan, E.D. Gomez, M.A. Hickner). February 1, 2019 – January 31, 2024. $500,000.
  • Course development: Energy Use, Climate Change, and Our Engineered Infrastructure. (PI: Logan). Roe Fund for a Just and Sustainable Future, Sustainability Institute, Penn State University, May 10, 2022 – June 30, 2023. $4,500
  • Water and Nutrient recycling: A decision tool and synergistic innovative technology. (PI: Logan). USDA NIFA (University of Arkansas). August 1, 2021 – July 31, 2023. $411,819.
  • A New Sustainable Lab Ambassador Program within the College of Engineering. (PI: Brennan). Leonhard Center for Enhancement of Engineering Education. July 2022 – June 2024. $17,481.
  • A One-Stop Online Platform for Water-Energy-Food Nexus Research: Integrating Systems Modeling and Depp Learning-Based Literature Mining. (PI: Brennan; Co-PIs: Giles, Pandara Valappil). Institute of Energy and the Environment Seed Grant Program. March 2022 – June 2023. $30,000.
  • IGE: Stakeholder-Driven Sustainable Development Experiences for Enhancing STEM Graduate Education. (PI: Brennan, Co-PI Wang). National Science Foundation. June 2021 – May 2024. $458,240.
  • IRES Track I: Manifestations of Climate Change in Extreme Events. National Science Foundation. (PI: Urbina, Co-PIs Brennan, Forest, Mejia, Randell). September 2021 – August 2024. $300,000.
  • Piloting a Water-Energy-Food Nexus Model for Improving Smallholder Livelihoods and Environmental Sustainability in Magdalena, Colombia. (PI: Brennan, Co-PIs Castaneda). Penn State Global Programs, University of Bogota Jorge Tadeo Lozano (UTadeo), and the Colombian Institute of Educational Credit and Technical Studies Abroad (ICETEX). January 2021- December 2022, ($11,000 to Brennan, out of $33,000).
  • ECO-CBET: Transforming the Nitrogen Bioeconomy. (PI: Brennan, Co-PIs Costello, Curtis, Hristov, McPhillips). National Science Foundation. July 2020 – June 2024. $405,000 ($1,700,000 total).
  • Food Resilience in the Face of Catastrophic Global Events. (PI: Anderson, Co-PIs Behring, Brennan, Connolly, Di Gioia, Jacobson, Jaenicke, Kemanian, Lambert, Lasky, Pecchia, Ransom). Open Philanthropy, May 2020 – March 2024. $364,000 ($3,187,683 total).
  • Integrating Law, Policy, and Engineering: Digital Open Badges for Sustainability. (PI: Allain, Co-PIs Brennan, Obonyo). The Leonhard Center for Enhancement of Engineering Education, January 2020 – August 2022. $14,800.
  • Drawdown as a Unifying Theme in First Year Seminars to Promote Engagement and Retention within the College of Engineering. (PI: Brennan, Co-PI Urbina). The Leonhard Center for Enhancement of Engineering Education, January 2020 – May 2022. $10,000.
  • A Systems Approach for Meeting Local and Global Food-Energy-Water Nexus Challenges. (PI: Brennan, Co-PIs Jacobson, Thiede). Strategic Initiative funds, Penn State University. July 2019 – June 2024. $250,000.
  • Metatranscriptome and Redox Signatures of Microbially Catalyzed Phosphorus Mobilization in Agricultural Landscapes. (PI: Regan, Co-PIs Walter, Cornell). United States Department of Agriculture. July 2019 – June 2023. $500,000.
  • Center for Bioenergy Innovation. (PI: Richard, Co-PI Regan). Department of Energy, Subcontract with Oak Ridge National Laboratories. October 2017 – January 2023. $283,749.
  • Re-engineering anaerobic treatment processes for novel functionalities. (PI: Wang and Yi, Co-PIs Regan, Wicaksana, Zhuang). Penn State – University of Auckland Collaborative Seed Fund. June 15, 2020 – December 15, 2023. $40,000.
  • CAREER: Battery-inspired electrodes for efficiently desalinating water or harvesting salinity gradient energy. (PI: Gorski). National Science Foundation. Environmental Engineering. August 1, 2018 – July 31, 2022. $500,000.
  • Linking Thermodynamics to Pollutant Reduction Rates by Fe(II) Bound to Iron Oxides. (PI: Gorski). National Science Foundation, Environmental Chemical Sciences (ECS) Program. August 15, 2018 – July 31, 2021. $345,765.
  • Characterizing structural changes in sodium-ion battery electrodes in real-time. (PI: Gorski, Co-PI Heaney). Penn State University Internal Seed Grant Program. April 1, 2012-December 31, 2012. $40,000.
  • CZCN: Dynamic water storage in montane watersheds. (PI Li, Co-PIs Barnard, Singha, Sullivan, Harpold, Tague, Sitchler-Navarre). National Science Foundation, Critical Zone Research, September 1, 2020-August 31, 2024. $421,847 ($5,600,000 total).
  • Collaborative Research: Network Cluster: The Critical Zone in the age of Big Data: using an integrative approach to assess ecohydrological resilience across scales. (PI: Le, Co-PIs Perdrial, Seybold, Harpold, Shanley, Abbott). National Science Foundation, Critical zone research, September 1, 2020-August 31, 2024. $454,372 ($5,000,000 total).
  • SitS: Collaborative Research: Soils are signaling shifts in aggregate life-cycles: What does this mean for water, carbon and climate feedbacks in the Anthropocene? (PI: Li, Co-PIs Sullivan, Billings, Hirmas, Flores). National Science Foundation, Low-Temperature Geochemistry. January 15, 2021-January 14, 2025. $233,042 ($1,100,000 total).
  • Collaborative Research: How roots, regolith, rock and climate interact over decades to centuries — the R3-C Frontier. (PI: Li, Co-PIs Sullivan, Billings, Hirmas, Flores, Singha, Ajama). National Science Foundation - Frontier Research in Earth Sciences (FRES). August 1, 2021-July 31, 2025. $393,581 ($3,000,000 total).
  • Advancing a Watershed Hydro-biogeochemical Theory: Linking Water Travel Time and Reaction Rates Under Changing Climate. (PI: Li, Co-PIs Sullivan, Williams). US Department of Energy, Subsurface Biogeochemistry Research (SBR) program. September 1, 2019 – August 31, 2023. $540,000 ($600,000 total).
  • Collaborative research: Digging deeper: Do deeper roots enhance deeper water and carbon fluxes and alter the trajectory of chemical weathering in woody-encroached grasslands? (PI: Li, Co-PIs Sullivan, Nippert). National Science Foundation - Hydrological Sciences Program. September 1, 2019 – August 31, 2023. $198,060 ($665,000 total).
  • CZ Research Coordination Network (RCN): Building capacity to deepen the critical zone: expanding boundaries and exploring gradients through data-model synergy. (PI: Li, Co-PIs Singha, Sullivan). National Science Foundation- CZO Program. June 1, 2019-May 31, 2024.  $39,396 ($500,000 total).
  • Signals in Soils: Collaborative: Spatial and temporal mapping of dissolved organic matter transformations in the rhizosphere using subsurface gas and aqueous phase probe networks. (PI: Lunny, Co-PIs: Meredith, Roscioli), National Science Foundation, Jan. 1, 2023 – December 31, 2025, $100,000 (out of $500,000)
  • Acidic pit lakes: Novel biogeochemical reactors evaluated via multi-omics approaches. (PI: Burgos; Co-PIs Macalady, Sanchez-Espana), US National Science Foundation, Geobiology & Low-Temperature Geochemistry Program. August 2021-July 2023. $400,000.
  • Consortium to Assess Northern Appalachia Resource Yield (CANARY) of CORE-CM for Advanced Materials. (PI: Sarma, faculty affiliate, Burgos). US Department of Energy, Office of Fossil Energy, National Energy Technology Laboratory. July 2021-August 2023. $10,000 ($1,500,000 total).
  • Evaluation of treatment technologies to meet new proposed water quality standard for manganese. (PI: Burgos). Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection-Water Quality Division. June 2021 – October 2021. $23,141.
  • Electric Vehicles’ Health and Climate Benefits in China and India. (PI: Urpelainen, Co-PIs Peng). Wellcome Trust, Climate Change and Health Award, July 2020 – June 2023. $401,457.
  • CAREER: Novel Water Quality Monitors and Indicators of Salinization (SALTSCAPES). (PI: Warner). National Science Foundation, Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems (ENG/CBET). June 1, 2020 – July 31, 2025. $500,000.
  • IRES Track 1: Sources and solutions of nonpoint source pollution. (PI: McPhillips, Co-PIs Warner, Kahl, Zappe). National Science Foundation OISE Project. $75,000 ($300,000 total).
  • Reservoir Phosphorus Legacies: Reconstructing Long-Term Phosphorus Dynamics using Multi-Proxy Paleolimnological Analyses and Water Quality Monitoring. (PI: VanMeter, Co-PIS Sweetman, Warner). Penn State Institute of Energy and the Environment. June 2022 - June 2023. $10,000 ($30,000 total).
  • Microplastics and PFAS in Pennsylvania Tide Marshes (PI: Emili, Co-PIS Drohan, Najjar, Preisendanz, Warner).Pennsylvania Water Resources Research Center (PAWRRC) USGS 104 (b) March 2022-June 2023. $5,000 ($25,000 total).
  • DISES: Multi-scale modeling of interactions between climate change, air quality and social inequalities. (PI: Budolfson, Co-PI Peng, Scovronick). National Science Foundation - Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems (CNH) program. September 2021 - February 2026. $468,030 ($1,513,258 total).
  • Health effects of decarbonization (HEALED): Understanding key determinants of health co-benefits and co-harms. (PI: Peng, Co-PI Srikrishnan). National Science Foundation-CBET-Environmental Sustainability. September 2021 - August 2024. $349,471 ($399,472 total).
  • Assessing Distributional Effects of Coal-Fired Power Plant Operations on Pollution and Health. (PI: Pakhtigian, Co-PIs Peng, Wiseman). Penn State Institute of Energy and the Environment. June 2021 - August 2023. $30,000.
  • Integrating political economy insights into integrated assessment models. (PI: Peng, Co-PIs Victor, Iyer, Cui). Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Sep 2022- Aug 2025. $383,132 (total: $551,476).
  • Improving air quality state implementation plans using land surface remote sensing. (PI: Davis, co-I: Peng, Zhang, etc.). NASA, Earth Science. Jan 2022-Dec 2024. $100,000 (total: $1,000,000).


The Penn State Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, established in 1881, is internationally recognized for excellence in the preparation of undergraduate and graduate engineers through the integration of education, research, and leadership.

Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering

212 Sackett Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-1408

Phone: 814-863-3084