$18,000 Provided by Earth Institute Travel Grant for Student Research

$18,000 Provided by Earth Institute Travel Grant for Student Research

Thirty-six students from across the university were awarded grants in the amount of $500 that will support them as they travel to more than 20 countries throughout the world.

The Earth Institute recently provided $18,000 in funding for student travel associated with research projects directly related to degree studies at Columbia University. The travel grant program was initiated in 2005 by the Earth Institute in response to requests for support of student research. Since that time, funding has been allocated by the Earth Institute to support travel by students matriculated in Columbia University degree programs engaged in research projects dealing with issues of sustainable development and/or environmental protection.

“The Earth Institute is an interdisciplinary research institute working on a wide range of topics in multiple locations,” said Louise Rosen, Director of the Office of Academic and Research Programs at the Earth Institute. “The travel grant program provides a wonderful opportunity to support students who are carrying out their research in a similar way.”

Students who received the grant plan to perform research in countries such as Israel and Lebanon, Chile, Brazil and Bolivia, India and Sri Lanka, and Denmark, Switzerland and Iceland. By far, Africa is the most popular continent for travel grant recipients, with 13 students traveling to places like Tanzania, Ethiopia, Uganda and several of the Millennium Villages Project sites.

Alex Fischer, a student in the Master of International Affairs program at SIPA, received a grant to travel over winter break to Lebanon to study the impact of the summer 2006 war on the environment and distribution of reconstruction funds. “As a graduate student researching and studying international environmental policy, the Earth Institute gave me the key component of this work; field research abroad,” said Alex. “This grant will help me take my classroom studies, many of which include practical tools for development and water management, and travel to a region of the world where I can observe the direct impact and long-term importance of this knowledge if sustainable development and environmental protection are going to be achieved.”

Over 100 students from nearly 50 programs applied for the travel grant this year, including students from nearly every part of the university. Applications were received from Columbia and Barnard colleges, SEAS, GS, Public Health, Business, SIPA, Teachers College, Social Work, GS, Law, GSAS, Architecture and the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Students plan to examine a range of topics, from analyzing water contamination in Bangladesh to small business development and the impact of microfinance programs on women in Yemen to sulfur sequestration at geothermal energy plants in Iceland.

Sashti Balasundaram is a second-year MPH student in the Environmental Health Sciences department at the Mailman School of Public Health, and is studying levels of Arsenic in drinking water in Coimbatore, India. “My research will be carried out in collaboration with the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU),” said Sashti. “If, during the course of this research, we find that the Arsenic levels are above WHO levels, this could lead to a potential collaboration between Columbia University and TNAU, as well as the Indian government.”

For more information on the travel grant program, please contact Amanda McIntosh at