Nitrogen Systems: Policy-oriented Integrated Research and Education


Program Overview

The NSPIRE IGERT Program is a multidisciplinary student doctoral training program designed to create a new generation of scientists with broad and rigorous training in nitrogen cycling who seamlessly integrate nitrogen cycle science for effective communication with public policy makers.

One of the most difficult yet critical aspects of environmental graduate training is placing research conducted at local and regional scales in a global context and conveying this information to land managers and policy makers. This is exemplified by one of the greatest science and engineering challenges of the 21st-century: understanding the complex interactions and the impacts of environmental nitrogen in atmospheric, terrestrial, and aquatic hydrologic systems as shown in the figure below. Discussions with leaders in government and industry increasingly elicit pleas for students who have not only a strong science foundation, but also have the necessary skills to communicate and work with policy makers. Development of these skills requires first gaining an interdisciplinary perspective of N cycle processes and the ability to place this in a global context and second understanding how to communicate and use scientific research to inform and guide public policy.

The key features of the program include the following:

  • N cycling graduate course—interdisciplinary overview of N system science
  • Systems dynamic modeling course—introduction to systems modeling applied to N system science and policy
  • Policy studio course—immersion in a novel studio course covering policy and regulatory procedures, policy issues, interaction with stakeholders, and development of teamwork and communication skills
  • N methods workshop—introduction to multi-phase methods for measuring N in the environment
  • Collaborative, team oriented dissertation research projects focused on measurement, modeling and analyses of N cycling in the environment
  • Capstone Policy Internship—paid internship for each NSPIRE student placed with a policy-oriented agency or organization either in the U.S. or internationally.

Each year, 5 to 6 students are awarded a 1-year fellowship, renewable for a second year contingent upon student progress. Each NSPIRE fellow receives:

  • $30,000/year stipend
  • WSU tuition waiver for up to two years of support
  • Support for travel to conferences
  • Support for research equipment and/or computing needs
  • Support for a national or international 3 month policy internship