Loyola University Chicago

Loyola University Chicago

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Loyola University Chicago Earns $75,000 Grant from the United States Environmental Protection Agency
Funding Will Help Expand University’s Biodiesel Program into High School Classrooms

CHICAGO, May 23, 2008 – Loyola University Chicago’s Center for Urban Environmental Research and Policy (CUERP) is taking its wildly popular Solutions To Environmental Problems (STEP): Biodiesel program on the road next fall to educate area high school students thanks to a $75,000 grant from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The interdisciplinary program, launched in fall 2007, emphasizes environmental sustainability and educates students on how to convert recycled waste vegetable oil into eco-friendly biodiesel fuel.

Loyola participated in the EPA’s “People, Prosperity, and the Planet Student Design Competition for Sustainability,” also known as the P3 Award Expo/Program, and captured the grant with a proposal entitled, “Innovative Biodiesel Production: A Solution to the Scientific, Technical, and Educational Challenges to Sustainability.” The proposal calls for an educational outreach program that involves teaching area high schools, two each semester, how to recycle waste vegetable oil into biodiesel fuel, and how to implement a STEP: Biodiesel course into their curriculum.

“Our STEP program has been a huge hit on campus, and we’re seeing incredible interest from our students, faculty, and staff, as well as the community, and even the Chicagoland media,” says Nancy Tuchman, associate provost for research and director of the STEP program. “Since the inception of the program, we’ve worked with two area schools to launch their own biodiesel labs, and now, having the ability to take this program into even more area high schools, is really exciting and a great way to expand students’ active engagement in environmental sustainability.”

The EPA P3 Award Expo competition is focused on benefiting people, promoting prosperity, and protecting the planet through innovative designs and projects that address the challenges to sustainability in the world. The competition included two phases. In phase one, student teams from all over the country competed for a number of $10,000 seed grants. Winners of these grants used the funding to research and develop their sustainable design projects during the 2007-2008 academic year, and develop a proposal for phase two of the program.

Loyola University Chicago’s STEP: Biodiesel program was among the phase one grant winners, and the class used the money to launch the STEP curriculum in fall 2007, which included, among other things, the construction of the biodiesel lab and the development of an algae culturing facility to grow algae from which oils can be extracted for biodiesel production. Within the academic year, the class successfully produced biodiesel fuel and tested it on diesel vehicles, developed partnerships within the community that allowed the biodiesel to be used as fuel for various commercial vehicles, and created an Advanced STEP class for those who completed the original curricula.

Phase two of the competition required each of the 38 teams awarded grants in phase one to submit a proposal detailing progress made with their grant money, along with a new proposal for extending the project into phase two. After submitting proposals, groups were invited to Washington, D.C., to present their proposals at the EPA P3 Expo. During the three-day event, the teams were interviewed by two groups of judges who are considered experts in the sustainability movement. The teams also set up displays in the National Mall and presented their proposals to the public throughout the weekend.

After three days of intense competition, the phase two grants were awarded to just six teams. In addition to Loyola’s team, other winners included Drexel University, University of California-Berkeley, University of California-Davis, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and University of Iowa.

“It was very exciting to see the creative solutions that other teams had come up with at the P3 Expo,” said Daniel Larkin, postdoctoral fellow of the Department of Biology, as well as the lead on both the P3 phase one and phase two proposals. “The location and timing of the expo, which was around the celebration of Earth Day, gave us an opportunity to present our work to a broad spectrum of people – from federal agency administrators to schoolchildren on field trips.”

About the Center for Urban Environmental Research and Policy
Established in 2005, the Center for Urban Environmental Research and Policy (CUERP) is an interdisciplinary program focusing on research of the urban environment and how human populations can interact with this landscape in a sustainable way. CUERP is committed to teaching and training through the integration of a variety of academic departments and the Environmental Studies/Science Program. Additionally, outreach to the local community is fundamental to CUERP’s mission of advancing the understanding and appreciation of sustainability in the urban environment. For more information, visit LUC.edu/cuerp.

About Loyola University Chicago
Committed to preparing people to lead extraordinary lives, Loyola University Chicago was founded in 1870 and is the nation’s largest Jesuit, Catholic University. Loyola has a total enrollment of more than 15,500 students, which includes nearly 10,000 undergraduates hailing from all 50 states and 82 foreign countries. The University has four campuses: three in the greater Chicago area and one in Rome, Italy. Loyola also serves as the U.S. host university to the Beijing Center for Chinese Studies in Beijing, China. Loyola’s ten schools and colleges include arts and sciences, business administration, communication, education, graduate studies, law, medicine, nursing, continuing and professional studies, and social work. Loyola offers 71 undergraduate majors, 71 undergraduate minors, 85 master’s degrees, and 31 doctoral degrees. Recognizing Loyola’s excellence in education, U.S.News & World Report has ranked Loyola consistently among the “top national universities,” and named the University a “best value” in its 2008 rankings. For more information, please visit LUC.edu.

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