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Syracuse University professor wins prestigious young faculty award from the National Science Foundation
Syracuse University professor wins prestigious young faculty award from the National Science FoundationJanuary 26, 2001Jonathan Hayjhay@syr.edu
In her first two years at Syracuse University, Andria Costello has already made her mark at the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) through her research and teaching. Costello, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, will get a chance to raise that mark even higher over the next five years with the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award she recently received from the National Science Foundation (NSF). It is the most prestigious award for new faculty given by the NSF and will provide Costello $375,000 over five years for course development and research. “I’m still in shock,” Costello says. “As a graduate student you hear people talk about the CAREER award in high terms. To learn that I received one was not only a validation of my work and ideas, but also a real thrill.” The CAREER program recognizes and supports the early career development activities of those faculty members who are most likely to become the academic leaders of the 21st century. CAREER awardees are selected on the basis of creative, integrative and effective research and education career development plans that build a firm foundation for a lifetime of integrated contributions to research and education. Costello’s proposal for the five-year CAREER project, “An Ecosystems Engineering Approach to Integrating Education and Research Using the Adirondack Mountains.” The project has two focuses. The first is on curriculum development, integrating concepts of modern biology into core civil and environmental engineering courses. The other is on research, evaluating the effect of acid rain on populations of methane oxidizing bacteria in the Adirondacks. For curriculum development, Costello plans to redesign the Applied Environmental Microbiology class she teaches. Her goal is to integrate biology into engineering education and focus more on a semester-long design project that students will complete using field samples. She plans to incorporate into the class a weekend-long trip to the Adirondacks, during which her students will collect samples to bring back to campus and use as the basis of projects that illustrate the concepts and application of the topics being discussed in class.
Costello says she also hopes to incorporate interdisciplinary study into the class. “One of the overarching themes of my CAREER proposal was to integrate engineering and science by working with biology and the earth sciences,” she says. “I’m trying to set up collaborations between ECS and The College of Arts and Sciences because our fields intersect in important ways.” Costello says the funding will allow her to hire a new, full-time Ph.D student to help with the research components of her proposal. She will study methane oxidizing bacteria in the Adirondack Mountains, which are important in the global carbon cycle, climate change and the remediation of hazardous waste. She hopes information from this research will enable her to develop predictive models to assess the effects of natural acidic deposition on methane oxidizing bacteria and their role in the global carbon cycle. “I can’t say what we will find, but I’m excited to get started on the work,” she says. “We might find that methane that is usually consumed in soils escapes into the atmosphere due to the effects of acidic deposition on the methane oxidizing bacteria. Methane is an incredibly powerful greenhouse gas, and we don’t want it increasing in our atmosphere.”