RIT Student Receives National Fellowship for Sustainability Research

Erinn Ryen is the first RIT sustainability student to win prestigious award for graduate studies

Follow RITNEWS on Twitter

Golisano Institute for Sustainability doctoral candidate Erinn Ryen has been awarded a coveted fellowship from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to advance her work in sustainability.

The award, a three-year fellowship in the EPA Science to Achieve Results program, will allow Ryen to develop new models in industrial ecology, a growing area of sustainability research.

“It is an honor to be a recipient of the U.S. EPA STAR Fellowship program,” says Ryen. “This award provides a unique opportunity to make a significant contribution to the field of industrial ecology. I look forward to sharing my research with both the academic and business communities. It is exciting to play a part in developing this relatively new field and to create solutions that will help industries and consumers as they grapple with complex sustainability decisions.”

Ryen is the first student from the Golisano Institute for Sustainability at Rochester Institute of Technology to take home an EPA STAR award.

“This fellowship is wonderful recognition of the importance and novelty of Erinn’s work to pioneer new theories in industrial ecology,” says Callie Babbitt, assistant professor of sustainability and Ryen’s dissertation advisor. “This research really exemplifies the combination of technical depth and systems-level breadth that is a hallmark of student education and research in the Golisano Institute for Sustainability.”

Ryen’s project will first adapt metrics used by ecologists to measure biodiversity and resilience in nature and then apply them in a completely new way—to assess economic and environmental impacts of the rapidly increasing diversity of materials and products used in society today.

The research will focus on information and communication technology products, such as smart phones, computers, digital cameras and other electronic devices. These products present a unique sustainability challenge, as they both create social and economic benefit but cause environmental impact due to their manufacture, use and waste management.

The Golisano Institute for Sustainability was formed in 2007 thanks to a $10 million gift from Paychex founder and chairman B. Thomas Golisano. It currently houses one of the world’s first Ph.D. programs in sustainability, as well as master’s degrees in sustainable systems and sustainable architecture. The institute conducts research in nanotechnology, alternative-energy development and validation, sustainable design and pollution prevention.