IGERT: Penn State Biogeochemical Research Initiative for Education

Project: Research project

Project Details


This Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training (IGERT) award supports establishment of a multidisciplinary graduate training program at Penn State University in biogeochemical research and education. Microorganisms control the earth's environment through an astonishing array of chemical processes. The presence of atmospheric O2, the acidification of mine-waste waters, and element cycling in soils and sediments are all products of these tiny chemical reactors. Yet, geochemists often ignore biotic processes in the environment because of ignorance of biological systems. Possibly more than 99% of microbes on earth remain uncharacterized, perhaps because microbiologists often use geochemically unrealistic culturing media. Unfortunately, few scientists are prepared to address biogeochemical questions due to cross-disciplinary differences in vocabulary, technique and scientific paradigm. Thus biologists, geochemists and engineers each bring a narrow view to the study of environmental systems even though new techniques create great opportunities for advancement. Superbly endowed with analytical and biological facilities, Penn State will address this problem by hosting a program that includes interdisciplinary graduate-student teams for research and cross-disciplinary course instruction, a Research Colloquium and student 'charge cards' for access to analytical services. Students will work within a team with advisors from two disciplines and will continue with funded biogeochemical research following IGERT support. With the time and resources provided by IGERT, approximately 31 young scientists will employ modern analytical geochemistry and biogeochemistry to explore the interdisciplinary frontier.

IGERT is an NSF-wide program intended to facilitate the establishment of innovative, research-based graduate programs that will train a diverse group of scientists and engineers to be well-prepared to take advantage of a broad spectrum of career options. IGERT provides doctoral institutions with an opportunity to develop new, well-focussed multidisciplinary graduate programs that transcend organizational boundaries and unite faculty from several departments or institutions to establish a highly interactive, collaborative environment for both training and research. In this second year of the program, awards are being made to twenty-one institutions for programs that collectively span all areas of science and engineering supported by NSF. This specific award is supported by funds from the Directorates for Geosciences, for Biological Sciences, for Engineering, and for Education and Human Resources.

Effective start/end date8/1/997/31/07


  • National Science Foundation: $3,124,367.00


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