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"We have to think about the whole planet…about the opportunities that we have and how we can make those available to other parts of the world, all in a sustainable way."
Dean, Eberly College of Science

Dow Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge Award

GRADUATE STUDENTS: Win $10,000 for YOUR sustainability idea!

Dow logoThe Dow Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge Award (SISCA) recognizes and rewards Students and Universities for their innovation and research of sustainable solutions to the world's most pressing social, economic and environmental problems.


Submit your proposal by 5 p.m., Sept. 22

Penn State has joined an international field of universities taking part in this program. The interdisciplinary collaboration and focus on sustainability this program supports are of particular interest, and are aligned with important skills sets we need to be cultivating among our graduates.

As part of the SISCA program, winning students have the opportunity to network with global sustainability thought leaders and peers, receive monetary prizes (Grand Prize is $10,000 and a runner-up is awarded $2,500), join a network of SISCA alumni, and showcase their work with various external sustainability media.

Eligibility Requirements

Any currently enrolled Pennsylvania State University graduate student (i.e., Masters or Doctoral) is eligible to apply, with the exception of Dow Award winners from previous years. Teams must be interdisciplinary to be eligible. Students may only be affiliated with one application. In the event that an individual is involved with more than one team or application, all applications involving this individual will be disqualified from consideration.

Selection Criteria

Academic or non-academic work can be the basis of the application. However, the work must be currently underway or have been completed during the applicant's tenure at Penn State. The winners are selected based on high-level criteria including:

  • Potential for solving world challenges in alignment with the spirit of Dow's 2015 Sustainability Goals;
  • Innovative and holistic thinking and excellence in research;
  • Prominently feature interdisciplinary work and considerations beyond the student's primary discipline, for example, blending applied science, engineering, art, economics, and communications, etc.;
  • Demonstrate balance of social, environmental, and economic success criteria;
  • Clearly articulate a new and innovative concept, for example, process, service, policy, technology, product, etc.;
  • Have the potential for significant societal benefits and sustainability impact;
  • Demonstrate a well-crafted premise with convincing data and/or analysis, have scalable attributes, and a strong chance for resilient success; and
  • Demonstrate meaningful progress toward the identified goal and a firm commitment to carry the effort forward.

2014 Challenge

  • September 22, 2014 – Proposal submission deadline
    Submissions will be accepted online. Click here to submit your entry!
  • September 24 - October 7, 2014 – Judging
    Online evaluations completed by Penn State faculty and a Dow Chemical representative.
  • October 20, 2014 – Five finalist teams announced online
    Each finalist team will receive a $1,000 stipend towards the development of a final entry. Funding can be used to cover printing of posters, professional development, wages, etc.
  • * November 12, 2014 – Finalist team presentations and final judging
    The five finalist teams will present their final projects to a panel of judges and and open audience. Time and location TBA.
  • * December 5, 2014 – Awards presentation
    Date and location TBA.

    *All finalist teams must attend.

Past Award Winners

SISCA has recognized winning concepts such as a water wheel allowing easier and faster transportation of potable water in underdeveloped nations, a microbial fuel cell that purifies wastewater and generates electricity, a solar power backup system for urban areas of Pakistan to alleviate interrupted power service, and a membrane system use for desalination and water recycling. For more award winning projects, please visit the Dow website.

Participating Schools

Please visit the Dow website to view a list of participating schools.

Contact Sharon Hoover, Program Manager