People standing under a canopy of tree with words overlaid - Grants for Advancing Sustainable Development Goals

Diverse Group of 2022 Grant Recipients Advance United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 

On March 3, 2022, three research teams were honored with $7,500 in grant funding each to contribute to the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The grants were announced at the seventh annual Global Affairs International Connections Reception, hosted by Global Affairs, a special event that celebrates the global engagement of UC Davis faculty, staff and scholars. 

The Grants for Advancing Sustainable Development Goals, offered in conjunction with Sustainability and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion were established to support the 17 SDGs through faculty outreach, university research and international collaboration. These ambitious goals, targets and indicators were adopted by all UN members in 2015 as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 

The grants facilitate faculty work on economic, social and environmental issues that are often complex and interlinked. The purpose of the collaborative SDGs grant program is to advance global conversations and incentivize inclusive collaborations among interdisciplinary teams of UC Davis faculty and international partners. The SDGs—which aim to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all—reflect a universal commitment to address issues that are critical to humankind at the local, regional, national and international levels. The three teams to receive these grants are well on their way to realizing that vision.  

2022 Grants for Advancing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Grant Projects

Floating Photovoltaic Solar Energy and Waterbird Conservation: Aligning Sustainable Development Goals 

Rebecca R. Hernandez is an associate professor of ecology and earth system science, interdisciplinary ecologist in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources and co-founder of the Wild Energy Initiative. She is also a first-generation college graduate, a CAMPOS scholar and part of a small group of Mexican-American faculty members. For this grant, Hernandez is teaming up with Gwen Arnold, associate professor of environmental science and policy and co-director of the Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior, and Majdi Abou Najm, associate professor of soil biophysics and associate director of initiatives at the John Muir Institute of the Environment. Their project aims to develop greater alignment for achieving SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy, SDG 14: Life on Land, and SDG 15: Below Water. 

While a global energy transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy may mitigate climate change, it may also undermine capacity to achieve some or all 17 SDGs. For this project, Hernandez’s team will focus on floating photovoltaic solar energy (FPVs), also known as photovoltaic modules, attached to pontoons that float on constructed waterbodies. With this approach, they’ll be able to study how operators of FPVs manage the presence of waterbirds as well as the impact of waterbirds on FPV performance. Because deployment of FPVs has increased worldwide over the past decade, the team also hopes to better understand the relationship between solar energy development (SDG 7) and waterbird conservation (SDG 14, 15). 

Leveraging the Sustainability of Giant Kelp as a Feedstock to Produce Ingredients for Food, Animal Feed and Industrial Applications 

Juliana Maria Leite Nobrega de Moura Bell is an associate professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology and CAMPOS faculty scholar. She is collaborating with Daniela Barile, a chemist and professor of food science technology, and Neill J. Goosen, a researcher with Stellenbosch University. Their project will contribute to the advancement of SDG 3: Good Health and Well-Being, SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure and SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production. 

As the population of our world increases, so does our need for alternative sources of macro-and micronutrients. This project will leverage the sustainability of giant kelp as a feedstock in the production of food, animal feed and industrial applications. The project aims to develop extraction methods to aid in the production of more nutritional and functional compounds from macroalgae, all of which addresses SDG 3. In addition, this research will promote the sustainable industrialization of new technologies to produce macroalgae compounds (SDG 9) and enhance sustainable production and consumption of products with reduced impact on natural resources (SDG 12).  

Synergistic Deployment of Novel Perovskite Electroreduction Mediators: Improving Air Quality and Energy Efficiency through Integrated Computational and Experimental Materials Chemistry  

Jesús M. Velázquez is an assistant professor of chemistry, a CAMPOS scholar and a recipient of a prestigious fellowship from the American Physical Society in 2021. For this grant, he joins forces with Ambarish Kulkarni, an assistant professor of chemical engineering whose research group designs functional materials using molecular simulations, and Diego Solis Ibarra, a chemistry researcher at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Their combined international efforts support SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy and SDG 13: Climate Action. 

The team, led by Velázquez, seeks to expand the integration of renewable energy into the commercial transportation sector by developing technologies that enable the direct conversion of renewable energy to serve as drop-in replacements for contemporary transportation infrastructures. In doing so, the project hopes to foster a carbon-neutral or even carbon-negative energy sources that can keep pace with the ever-growing energy demands of the transportation sector. The actions and outcomes of the team’s work will also address pitfalls in energy-conversion technologies that can have a negative climate effect. By emphasizing the amelioration of atmospheric pollution, this grant serves as a steppingstone to renewable energy technologies (SDG 7) that directly support environmental and social sustainability (SDG 13). 

2022 International Connections Reception Award Announcements

Faculty and staff recipients of other grants were also recognized at the March 3 event:

Faculty and Staff Ambassadors were recognized for increasing the visibility of UC Davis' international presence and creating meaningful connections worldwide. The Global Education for All Steering Committee and Global Education for All Fellows were recognized for their efforts in advancing the campus goal to provide 100% of students—undergraduate, graduate, and professional—with global learning experiences that change their lives and our world. The Global Affairs Advisory Council was acknowledged for their  support of Global Affairs and their philanthropic leadership. The Global Strategy Advisory Committee was recognized for their engagement in strategic conversations to coordinate, elevate, and shape global engagement at UC Davis.

About Global Affairs at UC Davis

Global Affairs brings the world to UC Davis, welcoming more than 10,000 international students, scholars and leaders, and hosting programs that inspire global curiosity, understanding and engagement. Compelled by the valuable outcomes of thinking globally, we make transformative opportunities a reality by supporting the thousands of students and faculty learning and researching globally—and by facilitating collaborations that tackle the world’s most pressing challenges through more than 150 global partnerships.

Putting our vision of a UC Davis community that engages, thrives, and leads in this interconnected world into action, Global Affairs is in pursuit of an ambitious goal: Global Education for All

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