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NIU Foundation seeks Venture Grant proposals

August 25, 2010

NIU FoundationThe NIU Foundation is calling for proposals for its annual Venture Grants, to be awarded in December. 

The NIU Foundation Venture Grant program will focus support toward the university’s strategic planning initiatives. Grantees will be selected based on their potential to advance two of the plan’s major imperatives.

The strategic imperatives previously chosen for the FY2010 cycle have been chosen again for the FY2011 application cycle:

  • Preserve, Strengthen, and Extend NIU’s Teaching and Learning Environment
  • Strengthen and Extend NIU’s Global/Regional Impact

Based on the strength of applications, as determined by the NIU Foundation Grants Committee, more than one proposal can receive funding. This is for one-time, short-term (18 months maximum) funding. The combined budget for the FY2011 Venture Grants awards will be $35,000. 

FY2011 Application Schedule

The Foundation will start accepting applications Friday, Aug. 27. To be considered for a grant award, proposals must be received in the Foundation Office by Friday, Oct. 1. Awards will be announced in mid-December.

The NIU Foundation’s goal is to support NIU faculty and staff in their commitment to excellence in teaching, learning, and effecting positive change in the larger community. The Foundation invites all faculty and staff from units within the Division of Academic and Student Affairs, the Division of Administration and University Outreach and Intercollegiate Athletics to apply. 

Guidelines and application materials are available online.

Projects funded in FY2010

Algae from Wastewater for BiofuelAlgae from Wastewater for Biofuel 
Scott Grayburn and Gabriel Holbrook

This study researches the production of an untapped source of biofuel.

Algae are currently growing at the Rock River Water Reclamation District in Rockford, Ill. These algae have the potential for biofuel production. This project will identify the dominant species of algae, document growth conditions and evaluate harvest methods and sustainability.

Laboratory-based experiments will develop methods for cell disruption necessary for oil or carbohydrate isolation from the filamentous algae. The researchers also will screen for the presence of aquatic microbes capable of degrading the cellulose walls of the algae. Dried algae, algae oil, and crushed/digested algae will be evaluated for production of methane, biodiesel, cellulosic ethanol, and gasification/pyrolysis.

This research will broaden the learning environment at NIU by involving its students in local projects with more global utility. By direct investigation of a renewable, green energy source, we hope to achieve a positive regional impact. 

Collaborative Research on the Impact of Wastewater Disposal in the Yuctan Peninsula, MexicoCollaborative Research on the Impact of Wastewater Disposal in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
Melissa Lenczewski

Little is known about the extent of pollution in groundwater that occurs in the Yucatan Peninsula.

With the rampant population growth in many areas throughout the peninsula there is a potential to release from wastewater a large number of contaminants including pathogens, pharmaceuticals (RX) and caffeine. Disposal of wastewater has been a major concern with the current practice to dispose of wastewater directly in the ocean with little or no treatment.

While it can be done in communities close to the ocean, much of the rural population without access to the ocean disposes of wastewater by injecting it into the saline water below the freshwater lens. The impact of such treatment has not been thoroughly studied, and this research aims to offer some insight to the effect of such sewage disposal methods. Pathogens and Rx in groundwater can persist and can be particularly acute in tropical environments where high permeability of the rocks and the lack of top soil permit the rapid transport and persistence of these compounds and organisms.

The objective of this research project is to sample a series of sinkholes throughout the peninsula that range from protected to impacted, then link this information to microbial driven sulfur cycle. The information collected during this research project may inform policy-makers about injection of sewage into groundwater systems and about the treatment of wastewater produced by the burgeoning population of eastern Quintana Roo and throughout the whole Yucatan Peninsula. Research on contamination in karstic environments is not just fundamental to Mexico but also to portions of the United States, such as Illinois, Florida, Missouri and Kentucky.

This research project is to obtain preliminary results about the effect of wastewater on water quality in Mexico. These results will be used to obtain larger National Science Foundation or National Institutes of Health grants. It also will lay the groundwork on a potential NIU field station.

Infusing Green Technologies through NIU’s Global Outreach Initiatives: Nyegina Secondary School Solar EnergyInfusing Green Technologies through NIU’s Global Outreach Initiatives: Nyegina Secondary School Solar Energy
Andrew Otieno

The Engineers Without Borders chapter at NIU is partnering with students in the Tanzania study abroad program in a five-year project to provide solar energy for a school in Nyegina Village, Musoma, Tanzania.

Initially, the students will design and construct solar energy systems for a new girl’s dormitory at the Nyegina Secondary School. The Solar Energy Project supports the strategic goals and objectives of the school by providing a sustainable energy system for the new girl’s dormitory.

The project will reduce the school’s operating costs of energy, keeping costs of tuition lower and enabling more students to afford the school. Students will also assess the feasibility of solar power for sourcing, auxiliary electrical supply for classrooms and water heaters for the dormitory and staff houses. Future projects will examine industrial solar ventures with partners in the NIU College of Business.

The project supports NIU’s strategic imperatives of interdisciplinary education and global outreach by involving students from two colleges (Liberal Arts and Sciences and Engineering and Engineering Technology) working on a sustainable energy project in Tanzania. It also is integrated in the NGO Studies initiative in the university’s strategic plan.