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Engineering Equity: Chen’s Projects Focus on Inclusion of the Underserved
Research Associate Professor Chien-fei Chen, the new Director of Energy and Environmental Justice at UT’s Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment, is determined to bring social justice to the forefront of power grid engineering projects. “Most power grid engineering and energy projects proposed to the NSF focus on technology first,” said Chen. “These proposals are different. We’re going from the social and equity angle first.” More…

New Report Card Will Grade Health of Tennessee Waterways. John Schwartz, TN Water Resources Research Center director, is working with several municipal separate storm sewer systems across Tennessee to establish a report card that will help the public and government officials better understand the quality of implementation of stormwater management programs. More…

A first-of-its-kind study using AI and machine learning to identify and characterize “Environmental Twitter” personas shows promise for accelerating public engagement and advocacy across a range of environmental issues, including climate change, pollution, habitat conservation and species protection. Paper in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. Paul Armsworth is coauthor.

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.


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‘s 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. 


Methane Center integrates science, engineering, and business models to create a broad conceptual understanding of CH4 (methane) as a driver of ecosystem processes and services. This understanding helps to create a lifecycle assessment framework for environmentally sustainable generation, management, and utilization of CH4. Our mission is to provide fundamental and technological research advances and training in CH4 environmental science that leads to a cohort of young engineers and scientists who communicate meaningful scientific findings and provide a structured rationale for economic and environmental policy decisions and regulations.


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.

ISSE Magazines & Annual Reports


Job Postings

ISSE seeks to hire a Financial Associate and a Post-Doctoral Research Associate. Follow links for full job descriptions and application instructions.


Sustainability News

How can we resolve EV battery supply issues?

Can conservation advance several goals at once, or do we have to choose? (blog) Read the full paper here: The Society for Conservation Biology; Paul Armsworth is coauthor.

Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center Study Analyzes Academic Contribution and Stakeholder Use of Collaborative Research. Distinct pathways to stakeholder use versus academic contribution in climate adaptation research, has been published in the journal, Conservation Letters.

Upcoming Events

February 24 – UTK Energy & Environmental Justice Workshop, hosted by ISSE & CURENT, 12-2pm, CURENT Research Center.

February 15 – Prep for Success: Promote Yourself. Join Engineering Professional Practice for a Prep for Success event on how to set yourself apart and creatively present yourself to employers at the Engineering Expo.  Zeanah Engineering Complex, 178 

 March 1 – Engineering Expo is the premier event for recruiting engineering co-op and internship students on UT’s campus.  Over 100 employers will be in attendance to discuss co-op and internship opportunities with students.  Student Union, Room 272