Pursuing a deeper understanding of sustainability challenges and solutions.

The Sustainability Council envisions the University of Louisville as a living laboratory of sustainability. This means that faculty and students from all disciplines have the opportunity to study the environmental, social and economic challenges to sustainability that exist right here on campus and in our community...and to research solutions that make sense here. For an overview of who is involved in our sustainability research efforts, explore the UofL Sustainability Research Inventory 2019-21, 2017-2018, 2012-2015, or 2009-2011.

In January 2020, UofL and the Sustainability Council welcomed Kevin Gardner, UofL’s new executive vice president for research and innovation.
UofL News: What made you interested in pursuing research? Can you describe your professional journey?
Gardner: "For me it was always about how new knowledge is needed to address societal challenges. My background is in environmental engineering, which combined my love of the natural world with pragmatic problem-solving to address pollution and other environmental problems. For me personally, research has been a means to a world that is more just and fair in which communities can better live in the ecological limits of the world."

Study to track trees' improvements on health (Courier-Journal, Nov. 28, 2015)

Student using solar energy to purify water (UofL Today, Apr. 22, 2014)

Conn Center - Biofuels

Sustainability Roundtable

Research Minute - Solar Powered Car

Research Minute - Invasive Species

Conn Center: Solar Manufacturing

All UofL faculty, staff, and graduate students engaged in research related to sustainability are encouraged to join us for an on-going series of Sustainability Roundtables. We gather throughout the academic year to share research interests, goals, and projects; hear from external experts, practitioners and scholars; have roundtable discussions about sustainability research; and discuss specific sustainability topics of common interest.

The long-term goals of this initiative are to:

  • Develop awareness of sustainability research at UofL;
  • Develop networks of scholars to enhance collaboration and sharing of ideas;
  • Enhance research grant capacity & opportunities through interdisciplinary proposals;
  • Improve & increase sustainability-related research at UofL.

This is a project of the Sustainability Council's Education & Research Committee. For more info, contact Tamara Sluss, 502-852-4040.

UofL's Sustainability Centers, Institutes & Labs

Many UofL researchers outside of these centers also conduct studies related to sustainability topics. Many of these studies can be identified using our online reference search tool and are listed in our inventory of sustainability research at UofL:

UofL Sustainability Research Incentives

  • Faculty and students interested in researching sustainability are encouraged to apply for UofL's Internal Research Grants.
  • Undergraduate Research Scholar Grant (URS): The primary purpose of a URS is to enrich the research, scholarship and creative arts experience of the undergraduate student by involving the student in research collaboration with a faculty member. The student is expected to become intellectually involved in design and execution of the research project, not just serve as "another pair of hands." The undergraduate student writes the URS proposal after he or she has identified a faculty mentor who is interested in serving as the mentor. The faculty mentor is expected to make arrangements for the student to receive up to three hours of course credit for the research or creative activity and provide a grade for the work completed by the student. Students are encouraged to present a poster, or an equivalent demonstration of the research, on the Undergraduate Research Day. The student may request up to $300 (dry lab/creative activity) or $500 (wet lab) for supplies and expenses required for conducting the research or creative activity. URS proposals may be submitted at any time. They will be reviewed on a monthly basis. The form can be found on the web. Application Form
  • The Commonwealth Center for Humanities and Society Faculty Fellows program is organized around an annual theme that provides the foundation for the academic year's scheduled events and for a Humanities Research Lab, involving a bimonthly colloquium. The theme for the 2020-21 academic year was The Anthropocene, Environment, and Modernity. The theme allowed for a breadth of responses on topics related to the impact of humankind on our environment and to the terms themselves. Theoretical, empirical, historical, sociocultural, and creative approaches to these concepts are all welcome. The Commonwealth Center for Humanities and Society supports up to six CCHS Internal Faculty Fellows around the theme. Fellows are required to be in residence during the academic year, to present one lecture or one workshop on their research, and to participate regularly in the activities and organization of the Humanities Research Lab while completing their own research projects. Fellows play a role in shaping CCHS programming for the academic year, from inviting distinguished guest speakers to finding innovative ways to share scholarship with our arts and culture partners in the community. Fellows receive one course release and a supplemental research/travel stipend from CCHS estimated at $1,500.

  • The Office of Community Engagement Faculty Grants Program fosters UofL faculty and staff projects within the west Louisville community and Jefferson County. This is a great opportunity for those interested in weaving community-based sustainability issues into courses and research! The grant focuses on infrastructure development, research and non-research projects which hold a community participatory action perspective.Full details and grant application here.
  • The Anne Braden Institute for Social Justice Research Faculty Research Fund helps sponsor, stimulate and disseminate research relevant to the Louisville community and the U.S. South on social movements, citizen participation, and public policy reforms around racial and social justice. Proposals that engage one or more social justice topics (historical or contemporary) such as race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, ethnicity, environmentalism, disability, and/or age will be given preference. Any faculty member in the College of Arts & Sciences is eligible to apply for a grant of up to $1,000 during a period not to exceed 12 months (this includes term and part-time faculty). Proposals that represent faculty/community or faculty/student collaborations are especially encouraged.
  • Students can also seek funding through the Anne Braden Institute's Social Justice Research Awards. Graduate and undergraduate students from any discipline are asked to engage one or more social justice topics, with a preference given to papers engaging race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, ethnicity, environmentalism, disability, and/or age. The best two undergraduate applications receive $100 each, while the best graduate application receives $300.
  • The Summer Research Opportunity Program provides UofL undergraduate students (preferably juniors or sophomores) who would like to know more about graduate-level education at the university, with a 10-week research-intensive experience in a department that offers graduate degrees. Mentors will provide students with individualized research projects. All UofL departments with graduate programs will be supported. Students will receive a stipend of $3,500 for the 10 weeks and the mentor is eligible for up to $500 to support the student's research and costs for production of the poster that is required.
  • The Ali Scholars Program, offered by the Muhammad Ali Institute for Peace and Justice to full-time undergraduate UofL students, is a unique 2-year experience combining training, research and service in the areas of violence prevention and peace building in an urban living context. A special emphasis is placed on understanding and addressing the social conditions that impact those issues. Scholars will receive a $500 scholarship each semester, for a total program scholarship of $2,000.
  • Conn Center Fellows: Want to be involved in advances in renewable energy? The Leigh Ann Conn Fellows Program is for grads & undergrads planning to conduct energy-related research. Areas include Solar Decathlon, Solar Manufacturing R&D, Biofuels/Biomass R&D, and Materials Discovery/Manufacturing. Full info and application details here.
  • UofL faculty and students are encouraged to apply for grants through theU.S. Environmental Protection Agency's People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) program: The EPA offers annual research grants to U.S. colleges and universities to engage students in projects to solve our world's most serious environmental challenges. Through its P3 program, students working on teams design sustainability solutions and compete for more funding to take their ideas from the lab to the real world. EPA's P3 program fosters team-based learning, interdisciplinary effort and class-to-real-world experience.


  • Environmental Health Research Pilot Projects: The UofL Center for Integrative Environmental Health Sciences (CIEHS) offers funds to support pilot projects for environmental health research. Pilot projects are funded through a NIEHS P30 Environmental Health Sciences Core Center grant to the CIEHS. The Pilot Project Program and types of awards are described here. The due date for full proposals was Feb. 4, 2022. For more information, please contact CIEHS.
  • Cooperative Consortium for Transdisciplinary Social Justice Research: As part of the University of the 21st Century Initiative, UofL allocated $250,000 per year for three years (2017-2019) to support this new Consortium to fund the creation or expansion of transdisciplinary social justice research teams, projects, creative activities, and community-engaged scholarship for faculty and students at UofL. Each year the Consortium awarded up to 27 Faculty Research Fellowships, and at least one PhD-level Graduate Student Research Assistantship for the calendar year. The Consortium also assigned 8 graduate and professional Graduate Fellowships to transdisciplinary research teams, and assigned a minimum of 7 Undergraduate Research Fellowships to advance social justice transdisciplinary research (TDR) activities.
    Social justice TDR stretches past traditional academic multi-disciplinarity or inter-professionalism to foster collaborations across disciplines, colleges, and beyond academia to develop humanistically-infused processes for identifying new solutions to complex, intransigent social problems.
    Social Justice Areas of Focus for Funding:
    a. Community Justice: emphasizes issues of housing justice and restorative justice (including
    school-to-prison pipeline, mass criminalization);
    b. Environmental Justice;
    c. Emerging Social Justice Issues - providing an opportunity to respond to current social
    justice issues arising locally, nationally, or globally, such as and including health equity;
    d. Social Justice in West Louisville.
    Faculty Fellowship Grants Available:
    1. Faculty Workload Fellowships: Provides a course or clinical replacement for one semester at a PTL/adjunct level to support new research and/or research project completion. Up to 13 available annually.
    2. Mini-Grant Faculty Fellowships: Provided a research grant for transdisciplinary group project proposals in an amount up to $2,500 to support new research and/or research project completion. Up to 8 mini-grant faculty fellowships awarded annually.
    3. Grant Fellowships: Provided a research grant for transdisciplinary group project proposals in an amount up to $7,500 to support new research and/or research project completion. Up to 9 large grant faculty fellowships awarded annually.
    4. Grants and mini-grants were available according to the following schedule: Up to 7 one-year grants, non-renewable; up to 10 renewable grants (assuming iRFP funding is renewed), both 2-year and 3-year.
    View the call for proposals. For more information, contact co-PI’s Prof. Enid Trucios-Haynes at or Prof. Cate Fosl at
  • KREC Competitive Grants Program (FY2008-2011)
    The Kentucky Renewable Energy Consortium (KREC), administered by the Kentucky Pollution Prevention Center (KPPC) at UofL's J.B. Speed School of Engineering, encouraged faculty research through the Competitive Grants Program. KREC advanced and funded innovative research on renewable energy and energy efficiency that focuses on developing resource-responsible technologies and practices for the energy sector. A total of $864,000 was awarded to seven recipients in the latest round of grants.

Campus as a Living Lab of Sustainability

In our efforts to make UofL into a living laboratory of sustainability, the Council seeks researchers and faculty collaborators from all disciplines to work directly with us and to sponsor students (GRAs, interns, work-study, service learning, class projects, volunteers, etc.) to help us investigate ways to improve and enhance sustainability. UofL has many concrete sustainability research needs, including the following vital efforts:

Learn more and see examples on our Campus As A Living Lab webpage.

Technology Transfer

UofL researchers generate sustainability-related innovations which could have a wide variety of applications in the commercial and public sector. Our Office of Technology Transfer facilitates the commercialization of these innovations and supports University research by tailoring collaborative arrangements to fit particular commercialization and research needs. The Office promotes education, research, knowledge dissemination, innovation and entrepreneurship.

New innovations are being generated all the time, but what follows is a sample of UofL's Energy, Clean-tech & Environmental Technologies available for Tech Transfer from November 1st, 2016:
Non-Transition Metal Electrocatalysts for Hydrogen Evolution and Hydrogen Oxidation Reactions (16082)
Process for Production of Hydrogen Fuel from Solar Power (16038)
Process for Isolating C5 Sugars from Biomass Hydrolyzate (15015)
Catalytic Isomerization of Linear Olefinic Hydrocarbons (11060)
Innovative Fabrication of Carbon Nanocages (15082)
Single-step Process for Production of Branched, Cyclic and Aromatic Hydrocarbons from Fatty Acids (14010 & 14044)
Autonomous, Calibration-less, Remote, Electrochemical Detection of Metals in Water and Other Liquids (15058)
Photoelectrochemical Cell with Ga(SBX)N1-X Semiconductor Electrode (12014)
• Species-Specific Primer Sets and Identifications of Species-Specific DNA Sequences Using Genome Fragment Enrichment (06022)
Electrochemical Removal of Dissolved Oxygen from Sample Streams (14066)
Chemical Sensors for Detecting Hydrogen and Volatile Organic Compounds (07073)