New Grants Support PhD Student Research

Students: Paola Dolcemascolo & Michael Pawlish

The year 2011 has just started and already two of Montclair State University’s PhD students in Environmental Management have either obtained or helped obtain prestigious external grants to support their research. Michael Pawlish is a part of an MSU research team led by Principal Investigator (PI), Dr. Stefan A. Robila, which was awarded $218,000 by Public Service Electric & Gas Company (PSE&G), while Paola Dolcemascolo was awarded $5,000 from the New Jersey Water Resources Research Institute (NJWRRI).

Paola Dolcemascolo, under the supervision of Dr. Kristen Monsen-Collar in the Biology and Molecular Biology Department, was awarded a $5,000 grant for her proposal entitled “Assessment of the water-borne pathogen, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, in New Jersey amphibians and their habitat” by the New Jersey Water Resources Research Institute (NJWRRI). The NJWRRI is a federally funded program of research, training and information transfer concerning all aspects of fresh and estuarine water in the State of New Jersey. Four to five awards of up to $5,000 each are given to graduate students every year by NJWRRI. Paola’s study  focuses on  a molecular approach to systematically sampling sites throughout New Jersey for Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (also known as Bd), a water-borne fungal disease that has been linked to drastic declines of amphibian populations on every continent where amphibians are found; indeed, Bd now ranks among one of the most significant threats to amphibians around the world, with an estimated one-third of species in danger of going extinct. The fungus has recently been documented for the first time in New Jersey (by Paola’s advisor, Dr. Monsen-Collar, and her collaborator, Dr. Lisa Hazard), but nothing is known about its ecology in the state. Paola aims to determine Bd’s prevalence in New Jersey, and its relationship to environmental variables, such as water and air temperature. The recognition of these relationships and any patterns in Bd prevalence and intensity will contribute to long-term monitoring and conservation of amphibians and their habitats in the state of New Jersey. Paola’s proposal was chosen because of its relevance to a high priority issue, relevant both on a regional and an international scale, and its scientific merit. This is the second year in a row that an MSU PhD student in Environmental Management has received this grant. In 2010, Pravin Punamiya was the first MSU doctoral student to be awarded this grant under the supervision of Dr. Dibs Sarkar for his dissertation work on green remediation of antibiotics in soil-water systems.

With a $15,000 “seed grant” from the Colleges of Science and Mathematics and Humanities and Social Science; the School of Business; and MSU’s OIT, Mike Pawlish conducted an 18 month baseline study to estimate energy usage and ambient conditions (temperature, relative humidity, etc) at MSU’s data center.  Using this foundation, a research team comprised of Principal Investigator Associate Professor Stefan A. Robila, and co-Investigators Dr. Michael Weinstein, Director of the PSE&G Institute for Sustainability Studies, and Assistant Professor Aparna S. Varde, with PhD student Michael Pawlish prepared a successful proposal for  a $218,000 demonstration grant from PSE&G entitled Decision Support System (DSS) for IT Management Project. The goal of the project is to seek energy efficiencies in data centers and assist in decision making in the design of evolving data centers to reduce the carbon footprint and energy usage. The application for the grant was reviewed by experts in the field from both Rutgers University and an internal team at PSE&G, and was selected for guidance on future energy efficiency programs.. The project will support Michael’s dissertation studies and be implemented over a two year period starting 2011.  

Congratulations, Paola and Michael!