University of Portland receives three grants totaling $45,000 from The Alliance to fund collaborative undergraduate research in environmental and sustainability issues


January 11, 2016

University of Portland Shiley School of Engineering has received three separate grants totaling $45,000 for undergraduate student research projects dealing with environmental and sustainability issues.

The research involves collaboration with other schools and organizations, and each project is funded by a $15,000 grant from the Oregon Alliance of Independent Colleges & Universities (The Alliance) and the Katherine Bisbee II Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation. The grant’s funds are to be applied to projects that are easily discernable, have an element of creativity, and show a long-term benefit to the people and/or natural areas of Oregon.

The first grant involves the second phase of a partnership with George Fox University and Portland General Electric (PGE), who last summer jointly did research on solar-thermal energy production. The project, submitted by UP engineering professor Heather Dillon, provided students and faculty with a “real world” challenge in terms of renewable energy science. Students and faculty developed an automatic load control algorithm to control the electrical load based on variations in local weather.

The two universities worked together closely last summer and developed project paths that allowed both schools to end up with relevant laboratory data and experiments. George Fox engineering professor Chad Stillinger was a collaborator on the project, which received feedback from industry partner PGE.

“I am thankful for the PGE team for engaging these young people in learning about energy systems and inspiring them to continue their education in this area,” said Kregg Arntson, Director, Corporate Social Responsibility and Executive Director of PGE Foundation. “Being more intentional about connecting our Alliance scholars with the energy industry not only benefits the students in their educational pursuits, it helps us ensure we have a qualified pool of workers to sustain us into the future.”

A second grant, submitted by UP engineering professor Cara Poor, will explore the cooling effect, water retention, and water quality from ecoroofs in the Portland area. Collaborators on the project are UP environmental studies professor Ted Eckmann and Lewis and Clark College environmental studies professor Jessica Kleiss. Industry advisor is Henry Stevens of the City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services. 

A third grant, submitted by UP visiting engineering professor Jordan Farina, will focus on testing and analyzing the performance of a natural gas compressor prototype used to fuel NW National fleet vehicles. Collaborator on the project is George Fox University chemistry professor Davida Brown. The industry advisory is NW Natural.

The Katherine Bisbee II Fund creative conservation research project has been funded by a direct grant to The Alliance from the Oregon Community Foundation (OCF). The Alliance/Katherine Bisbee II Fund of the OCF project carried a collaboration requirement of a minimum of two Alliance member colleges and universities and one business and industry partner.

The Alliance represents 18 of Oregon’s regionally accredited, nonprofit private higher education institutions. Alliance colleges and universities enroll more than 35,000 students and deliver approximately 30 percent of all baccalaureate and higher degrees awarded in Oregon. The Alliance intersects the needs of business and industry, private nonprofit colleges and universities and the public good to create real solutions that build a more educated and skilled workforce for Oregon.

For more information about The Alliance, please visit


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