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The Challenges, Successes, and Sustainability of NRT FEWS programs | GES Colloquium

February 14, 2023 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Virtual Event

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Panel: The Challenges, Successes, and Sustainability of NSF National Research Traineeships (NRTs) on Food, Energy, and Water Systems (FEWS)


  • Karletta Chief, PhD, Director, Indigenous Resilience Center; Professor & Extension Specialist, Department of Environmental Science, University of Arizona
  • Amy R. Sapkota, PhD, Professor, School of Public Health, Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health
  • Yael Perez, PhD, Development Engineering Program Director at the Blum Center and the InFEWS Program Coordinator

Joining us from three different NSF research traineeships on food, energy, and water systems (FEWS), our panelists will share each programs’ challenges, opportunities, and sustainability.


The NSF Research Traineeship (NRT) program seeks to explore ways for graduate students in research-based master’s and doctoral degree programs to develop the skills, knowledge, and competencies needed to pursue a range of STEM careers. The program is dedicated to effective training of STEM graduate students in high priority interdisciplinary or convergent research areas, through a comprehensive traineeship model that is innovative, evidence-based, and aligned with changing workforce and research needs.

Join us as the GES Center hosts a panel to learn about three NRT programs focused on Food, Energy and Water Systems (FEWS). Now that the programs have finished and/or are close to finishing, what future lies for their continuation? What lessons have they learned about implementing an interdisciplinary and convergent research program? We will discuss each programs’ challenges, opportunities, and sustainability with the traineeship. Our speakers include: Dr. Karletta Chief with Indige-FEWSS (Indigenous Food, Energy, and Water Security and Sovereignty) at the University of Arizona, Dr. Amy Sapkota with the Global STEWARDS (STEM Training at the Nexus of Energy, WAter Reuse and FooD Systems) program at the University of Maryland, and Dr. Yael Perez with InFEWS (Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy, and Water Systems) at the Blum Center for Developing Economies at the University of California Berkeley.

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Panelist Bios

Dr. Karletta Chief (Diné) is a Professor and Extension Specialist in Environmental Science at the University of Arizona. Dr. Chief works to bring relevant water science to Native American communities in a culturally sensitive manner. As Director of the Indigenous Resilience Center, she aims to facilitate efforts of UArizona climate/environment researchers, faculty, staff, and students working with Native Nations to build resiliency to climate impacts and environmental challenges. Two of her primary tribal projects are The Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe Climate Adaptation and Traditional Knowledge Project and Gold King Mine Spill Diné Exposure Project. Dr. Chief also leads the NSF Indigenous Food, Energy, and Water Security and Sovereignty Program and is training 38 graduate students. Indige-FEWSS’s vision is to develop a diverse workforce with intercultural awareness and expertise in sustainable food, energy, and water systems (FEWS), specifically through off grid technologies to address the lack of safe water, energy, and food security in Indigenous communities. Dr. Chief received a B.S. and M.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Stanford University in 1998 and 2000 and a Ph.D. in Hydrology and Water Resources from UArizona in 2007.

Dr. Amy Sapkota is an MPower Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of Maryland School of Public Health. She is the Interim Director of the Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health and the Director of CONSERVE: A Center of Excellence at the Nexus of Sustainable Water Reuse, Food & Health that was launched with funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture in 2016. She is also the Principal Investigator of a doctoral training program, UMD Global STEWARDS (STEM Training at the Nexus of Energy, WAter Reuse and FooD Systems)—funded by the National Science Foundation Research Traineeship (NRT) program—that is preparing a cadre of future leaders focused on innovations at the nexus of food, energy and water systems. Dr. Sapkota received a PhD in Environmental Health Sciences from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and an MPH in Environmental Health Sciences from the Yale School of Public Health. She completed her post-doc with the Environmental Microbial Genomics Group at Ecole Centrale de Lyon (Lyon, France). In 2017, she represented the Core Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program and the United States as a Fulbright Senior Researcher in Chitwan, Nepal. Dr. Sapkota’s research interests lie in the areas of environmental microbiology, environmental microbial genomics and exposure assessment. Her projects evaluate the complex relationships between environmental microbial exposures and human infectious diseases, with a special focus on assessing the public health impacts associated with water reuse.

Dr.  Yael Perez is the Development Engineering (DevEng) Program Director at UC Berkeley’s Blum Center for Developing Economies, managing the DevEng Masters and the DevEng PhD Designated Emphasis. Yael holds a PhD in Architecture from UC Berkeley with a scholarship on co-design methodologies and technologies to support and empower communities and design practitioners in fostering sustainable development. For over a decade, she has been collaboratively leading CARES—Community Assessment of Renewable Energy and Sustainability—a team of UC Berkeley faculty and students working with Native American Citizens in their pursuit of sustainable development. Recently, this initiative grew into the Native FEWS Alliance, a cross-institutional collaboration working to significantly broaden the participation of Native American students in Food, Energy, and Water Systems (FEWS) education and careers to address critical challenges facing their communities. Before joining the Blum Center, Yael was a visiting scholar at IIT Mandi (India).

GES Colloquium (GES 591-002) is jointly taught by Drs. Jen Baltzegar and Dawn Rodriguez-Ward, who you may contact with any class-specific questions. Colloquium will generally be live-streamed via Zoom, with monthly in-person meetings in the 1911 Building, Room 129. Please subscribe to the GES newsletter and Twitter for updates .


February 14, 2023
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
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