Donald L. Sparks, the S. Hallock du Pont Chair of Soil and Environmental Chemistry and director of the Delaware Environmental Institute (DENIN), spent 16 days in China this past October as the recipient of an Einstein Professorship from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).
Presented to 20 distinguished scientists from around the world every year, the award is designed to strengthen collaborations, with the overarching goal to enhance training for future generations of scientists in China.
Sparks visited Beijing, Nanjing, Shenyang, Xiamen and Guilin and delivered six lectures at three CAS institutes, which were attended by more than 1,200 faculty and students. He also was honored at banquets, toured local caves, ventured on boat tours and soaked in the sights.
“There are so many young Chinese scientists excited about what the future in scientific research holds in solving global environmental challenges,” said Sparks, who called the trip “a lifetime experience that I will always remember.”
The trip concluded with the signing of a scientific collaboration agreement between DENIN and the Institute of Soil Sciences of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (ISSAS).
Globalization is creating an environment where individuals of very different cultural backgrounds are interacting with each other in all spheres of life as never before. Everyone is being exposed to different ways of thinking, cultural values and new forms of family life.
Bahira Sherif Trask, professor of human development and family studies at UD, was one of only two experts from the U.S. invited to speak at the United Nations Expert Group meeting “Assessing family policies: Confronting family poverty and social exclusion and ensuring work family balance” this past June. The meeting was held in preparation for the 20th anniversary of the International Year of the Family in 2014.
The author of Globalization and Families: Accelerated Systemic Social Change (2009), Trask described how family arrangements are being modified and reconceptualized as women and men negotiate paid employment and domestic labor, and children, youth and the elderly begin to occupy new ideological and productive roles. The traditional blueprints that many individuals have relied on in their societies are being challenged, negotiated and revised.
Trask's research shows that, specifically through well-designed educational programs, we can empower individuals, ensure gender equality and teach people skills that will make them successful in their new environment. She points to examples from around the world where new initiatives are preparing individuals to be better able to function in a globalized world.
“In Bangladesh, several nongovernment organizations have helped to revitalize and reorganize schools, teaching rural girls skills that not only help them attain jobs but make them more marriageable. Moreover, poor parents are being given cash stipends in order to encourage them to allow their daughters to attend secondary schools,“ says Trask.
While there is much debate about the negative impacts of globalization, Trask says that more focus should be placed on the notion that globalization could also lead to greater social justice and equality.
Melissa St. Amand, a doctoral candidate in UD's Department of Chemical Engineering, traveled to the National University of Singapore to do research as a 2011 National Science Foundation East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes (EAPSI) fellow.
Each year, only 15 students nationwide and across all scientific disciplines are selected for the competitive fellowship, which is designed to introduce U.S. students to East Asia and Pacific science and engineering in a research setting and to help students initiate scientific relationships that will enhance future collaborations with their inter-national counterparts.
Working with one of the most expert groups in the world, she learned methods of characterizing protein glycosylation as part of her thesis research, which looks at improving quality control strategies in the biopharmaceutical industry.
“I am the first generation in my extended family to go to college, so to be given an opportunity like this was truly a dream come true,” said St. Amand, who is co-advised by Babatunde Ogunnaike, interim dean of UD's College of Engineering, and Anne S. Robinson, professor of chemical engineering. “This invaluable experience has expanded my experimental capabilities through access to state-of-the-art technology and intellectual discussions with those working on research problems similar to my own.”
Biliana Cicin-Sain, professor and director of the Gerard J. Mangone Center for Marine Policy, has received the 2010 Elizabeth Haub Award for Environmental Diplomacy.
The award has been given annually since 1998 by the International Council of Environmental Law and Pace University School of Law, which consider the most important diplomatic achievement in the field of environmental law and policy in the preceding year.
The jury cited Cicin-Sain's “outstanding contributions to the international efforts to preserve the world's oceans and the several international agreements related to them,” adding that, “this is especially important at a time when oceans and their fisheries are under such heavy stress from climate change, pollution, acidification and unsustainable fishing practices.”
Cicin-Sain, who chairs the Global Forum on Oceans, Coasts, and Islands, noted that she was very honored and thankful to the Haub jury for including in such a distinguished group “her humble efforts in informal diplomacy” as an academic and leader of a nongovernmental organization, the Global Forum.
Steve Dentel unfurls a large piece of muted green fabric resembling a tablecloth.
“You could use this to line your outhouse pit,” says the professor of civil and environmental engineering. While that potential application may not be the first that pops to mind, in the developing world, it could be a lifesaver.
In countries where sanitation remains antiquated and a pit in the ground serves as a latrine, germs and parasites from human waste can easily wind their way into drinking water.
Dentel believes the fabric, a breathable textile that allows water vapor to escape, could be the answer. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation concurs.
The nonprofit organization named Dentel a recipient of $100,000 in grant money from its Grand Challenges Explorations Fund, which targets projects that show promise in tackling global health issues where solutions do not yet exist.
In experiments, Dentel and undergraduate researcher Tracie Ervin placed waste matter in two pouches — one made of simple plastic; the other made of special fabric, similar to that used in waterproof breathable clothing such as raincoats. The breathable fabric allowed only vapor to pass through; the waste and its harmful organisms stayed contained.
The dried remains become an inhospitable environment for germs, thus rendering the waste much less dangerous. The water escapes into the air or is absorbed back into the ground. In Dentel's tests it is entirely pure.
“It's easy to apply,” Dentel says. “It doesn't take a lot of control systems or energy. This is going to be something that can just sit and protect people.”
This low-tech solution's applications span various environments. Dentel envisions its use in various distinct scenarios. In rural areas, it would line outhouses and latrines so their contaminants do not seep into wells or groundwater.
In areas with high water tables or where houses are built above the water, the material could keep contaminants out of crops, like rice. And in urban areas where facilities are often overused and workers must collect the waste, it would protect the workers and those living in the vicinity.
“The hope is that we can develop a simple technology that people all over the world could use, “ says Ervin, a senior majoring in environmental engineering. “People get sick and die every day because of this issue.”