The University of Maryland has received $3 million to establish a new graduate training and research program aimed at creating innovative and sustainable solutions for global food, energy and water systems, the National Science Foundation announced yesterday.

The Global STEWARDS (STEM Training at the Nexus of Energy, WAter Reuse and FooD Systems) program, led by Amy R. Sapkota, professor in the School of Public Health, will enable UMD to recruit and train more than 60 doctoral students in the life sciences, earth system sciences, engineering and computational sciences, natural resource management, and energy and environmental policy.

These trainees will work closely with faculty mentors from the School of Public Health, A. James Clark School of Engineering; College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences; College of Agriculture and Natural Resources; School of Public Policy; and potentially other schools and colleges.

“Our fundamental goal is to train leaders who will be adept at working and communicating across diverse disciplines. These transdisciplinary skills are essential for translating research discoveries into actionable science, thereby ensuring safe and sustainable food, energy and water systems into the future,” said Sapkota, who is in the SPH’s Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health.

She added that many of the UMD Global STEWARDS will be women and underrepresented minorities.

UMD’s $3 million award is for one of 17 projects that the NSF’s Research Traineeship funded, totaling $51 million, to develop and implement graduate education traineeship models in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

UMD Global STEWARDS will be exposed to a range of topics in three research areas: agricultural resilience through energy-efficient water reuse; food safety and security in variable climate scenarios; and decision support systems to advance food-energy-water adaptation strategies.

Some of the students in the program will also conduct research as part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded program Sapkota oversees, known as CONSERVE: A Center of Excellence at the Nexus of Sustainable Water Reuse, Food & Health.

At least half of the doctoral students selected for the Global STEWARDS fellowship will receive full stipends to support their education and research, and all will benefit from one or more aspects of the NRT program.

Along with coursework, students will participate in internships, workshops and a summer trip to work with partner organizations in Israel or Nepal. To enhance the mentoring and leadership skills of UMD Global STEWARDs, trainees will be paired with undergraduate student mentees.