NYIT at the center of food/energy/water nexus, again

A FEW good researchers: The New York Institute of Technology is at the center of a new research effort focused on the critical food/energy/water nexus.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

The food/energy/water nexus will center once again on the New York Institute of Technology, courtesy of another chunky federal grant.

Principal investigator Ziqian (Cecilia) Dong, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at NYIT’s College of Engineering and Computing Sciences, will use a $747,000 National Science Foundation grant to establish a “research coordination network” focused on food, energy and water – the trifurcated nerve center of sustainable urban development.

Through the network, NYIT researchers will collaborate with big brains at several prestigious universities – including Stanford University, the Rochester Institute of Technology, Texas A&M and others – on in-depth studies of FEW systems in New York City and Phoenix, Ariz., using a proven “city-as-a-lab” model.

Those two cities present an interesting mix for the research network, with Dong highlighting both climatic contrasts and data dichotomies.

Not only are Phoenix’s considerable food/energy/water challenges wholly different from the Big Apple’s, but “New York City is a natural subject for study,” the professor noted, “because it collects and shares valuable data, and its agencies have long engaged with experts to drive decision-making.”

Cecilia Dong: The FEW, the proud.

This is not the NSF’s first dance with NYIT, or with Dong. The research network is an extension of several NSF-funded, FEW-focused programs coordinated with the Old Westbury-based institute, including a 2014 conference in China and an research-coordination session led by Dong in 2018.

In November, Dong and her team also landed a $300,000 NSF grant to support the development of real-time soil-analysis technologies, an interdisciplinary effort to  enhance food/energy/water sustainability.

And now comes the research network, which will also involve investigators from Brookhaven National Laboratory, Tennessee’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Colorado’s National Center for Atmospheric Research and will ultimately look to create an action plan to improve urban resilience in an era of increased flooding and other extreme weather conditions.

“This group will collaborate to identify societal and policy barriers to FEW resource conservation and sustainability,” Dong added. “And it will address knowledge gaps and research questions posed by academic, government and business stakeholders.”