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ISSE, ORIED Announce FY25 Seed Grant Winners

The Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment (ISSE) makes annual funding available for multi-disciplinary, multi-investigator research and support. For fiscal year 2025, ISSE and the UT Office of Research Innovation and Economic Development (ORIED) have awarded five seed grants to support research projects related to clean energy transition and environmental sustainability. All selected projects, listed below, have high potential for external funding.

Characterization of particle emission during battery thermal runaway and fires
PI: Peng Zhao (MABE), Co-PI: Tom Zawodzinski (CBE)

Decarbonization of nitrogen fertilizer for agriculture
PI: Xiaofei Ye (BESS), Co-PIs: Zhili Zhang (MABE), Kellie Walters (Plant Sciences)

Environmental Justice in the City: Socio-Economic Dimensions of Urban Stream Health
PI: Eminé Fidan (BESS), Co-PIs: Augustin Engman (Natural Resources), Jon Hathaway (TNWRRC)

He, Schwartz Honored with Tickle College of Engineering Faculty Awards

Moses E. & Mayme Brooks Distinguished Professor Award, Qiang He

This award recognizes and rewards outstanding engineering faculty who have achieved distinction in engineering practice, along with effective teaching. Full-time UT faculty members with a professional rank who have not received the award in the last five years are eligible for this award. Nominees are evaluated on their effectiveness in teaching and have distinguished themselves in an area of engineering practice that benefits community or societal problems and issues, leads to patents or designs, and provides professional outreach activities to regional or national groups.

Outstanding Faculty Service in Outreach & Engagement Award, John Schwartz

This award recognizes and rewards superior service to, and engagement with, important constituents. All full-time, non-administrative UT faculty members in the college who have not received the service award in the same category in the last five years, and who have a solid record in all other elements of their appointment are eligible for this award. Nominees must demonstrate an exceptional record of service to the appropriate constituent.

Besides this TCE Award, Dr. Schwartz was recently appointed as a Representative of the Public to the Tennessee Board of Water Quality, Oil, and Gas by Governor Bill Lee.

2024 Success in Multidisciplinary Research Award Winners

Academic Honors Banquet 2024 Winners

Every spring, UT celebrates academic and professional honors. The awards highlight individuals embodying the Volunteer spirit through extraordinary research and creative activity, impactful contributions to campus life, and leadership and service to the university and beyond. The Success in Multidisciplinary Research award is given to a team of faculty members in more than one academic college who have succeeded in gaining major external resources and recognition for multidisciplinary research.

2024 Success in Multidisciplinary Research Award Team

The research team, led by Joe Zhuang (Professor in Environmental & Soil Sciences), with members Tom Gill (Associate Professor in Agriculture & Rural Development), Frank Löffler (Professor & Goodrich Chair of Excellence in Civil Engineering) and Mingzhou Jin (Professor and Department Head in Industrial & Systems Engineering and ISSE Director), engaged many researchers to assess food-energy-water (FEW) nexus grand challenges through the lens of climate and socio-demographic changes, aiming to minimize regional and global FEW tradeoffs.

Research Highlights

2022-2023 ISSE Annual Report to THEC

ISSE’s 2022-23 Annual Report to Tennessee Higher Education Commission is now available online.

ISSE continues to implement its five-year strategic plan to increase its research, educational, and outreach activities at the University of Tennessee. ISSE will promote the development of policies, technologies, and educational programs that will address and help remedy critical environmental issues around the world. We will strengthen our emphasis on cross-disciplinary collaborations that will help bring about global sustainability and environmental equity and justice.

Quick Look – ISSE Centers & Programs

Appalachian Leadership Institute is a comprehensive leadership and economic development training opportunity for people who live or work in Appalachia and are passionate about helping their communities thrive. Appalachian Leadership Institute Fellows participate in an extensive training curriculum developed by the Appalachian Regional Commission in partnership with the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; The Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy; Tuskegee University; and Collective Impact.


UTK and the UT Center for Industrial Services proposed the East Tennessee Initiative for Smart Energy Management (ETISE) to promote the integration of smart manufacturing for energy management through technical assistance and workforce training. The goal is to create a regional model to integrate smart manufacturing in energy management systems into energy-related business practices. ETISE is funded by the Department of Energy through the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE), Industrial Efficiency & Decarbonization Office (IEDO), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and the Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Technologies Office (AMMTO).


ISSE Climate Change Initiative Climate change is one of the most critical challenges faced by humans and our planet. Researchers at ISSE, working closely with the Climate Change Science Institute at Oak Ridge National Lab, are advancing our understanding of climate change and its impacts on human and natural systems. We use Earth system modeling, integrated ground and remote sensing observations, and advanced data analytical tools to study climate change and its effects on water availability, soil moisture, wildfires, and vegetation. Team members are Drs. Yaoping Yao, Yulong Zhang, Jiafu Mao, Joshua Fu, Mingzhou Jin.


DriveElectricTN promotes the adoption of electric vehicles for fleets and individuals across Tennessee with a goal of getting 200,000 EVs on TN’s roads by 2028. An autonomous program of TNCleanFuels, DriveElectricTN is supported by 60+ stakeholders from across Tennessee and the United States, with focus areas such as EV Awareness, EV Policies & Program, and EV Infrastructure intended to achieve precise, targeted development goals for electric vehicles in our state. DriveElectricTN and Knoxville Electric Vehicle Association volunteers chat with Ijams Nature Center visitors during a Drive Electric Earth Day Showcase. The new Ford Mustang Mach-E, Ford’s latest and most visible electric car is pictured in the background.


East Tennessee Clean Fuels mission is to increase the use of cleaner American fuels and vehicles and energy-saving transportation technologies to improve air quality and health, curb dependence on imported petroleum and support Tennessee’s economy. More specifically, we work to implement alt fuel projects in East Tennessee and work to make ETCleanFuels a sustainable coalition of involved participants from across East Tennessee. We serve as fleet guides to navigate alternative fuels and advanced vehicle technologies in the 21st century. ETCleanFuels is a nonprofit and a designated participant in U.S. DOE’s Clean Cities Program.


FEWSUS stands for International Research Coordination Network to Create Transdisciplinary Nodes of Food-Energy-Water to Support Sustainable Urban Systems. FEWSUS is funded by the US National Science Foundation. The grant, awarded to faculty and scientists at the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, supports the development of an International Research Coordination Network, designed to facilitate transdisciplinary, multinational communications and accelerate the development and transfer of multisectoral data, standards, analysis tools, new technologies, and a trained workforce among differently urbanized countries. 


The Tennessee Water Resources Research Center (TNWRRC) is a federally designated state research institute supported in part by the U.S. Geological Survey. It serves as a primary link among water-resource experts in academia, government, and the private sector. Our staffs’ backgrounds are broad, deep, and highly diversified, allowing TNWRRC to establish a range of productive partnerships. TNWRRC is housed within the Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment (ISSE) at the University of Tennessee.


FERSC is a Tier 1 University Transportation Center consortium led by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Its focus is the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA)’s research priority, Improving Mobility of People and Goods as its primary area. The consortium supports the DOT Strategic Goals of Economic Strength and Global Competitiveness as the primary focus and Equity and Transformation as the secondaries.


Energy and Environmental Justice (EEJ) is dedicated to interdisciplinary exploration into social justice, clean energy, accessibility to renewable resources, and infrastructure resilience. EEJ experts examine social-psychological and policy factors that influence energy and environmental justice, particularly in water systems, built environment, energy efficiency, microgrids, electric vehicles, and solar technology adoption. EEJ’s research initiatives empower academics, communities, utilities, and policymakers alike, fostering a shared commitment to equitable access to clean energy and a sustainable future. 

ISSE Magazines & Annual Reports


Sustainability News

UT Team Helps Nissan Find ‘Second Life’ for EV Batteries

Have We Crossed a Dangerous Warming Threshold? Here’s What to Know. Recent temperature rises have come close to a key benchmark: 1.5 degrees Celsius. It’s a bad sign for the world’s climate goals, but it’s not game over. Not yet.

Bai leads $5M Grant from DOE-VTO to Produce Smaller, More Efficient Motor Drive Systems for Electric Vehicles

Upcoming Events

May 29-30 – Electric Vehicles Charging Behavior and Infrastructure Workshop. May 29 (9-4pm) & 30th (9-12noon). Sponsored by US DOE, Sandia National Laboratories, and UTK, the workshop will be in Room 124 EECS. Register at tiny.utk.edu/EV-charging-workshop.

Sept 16 – Third Annual ISSE Research Conference, UT Conference Center Building

Sept 19-21 – 2nd EXCET Workshop & Conference, Knoxville