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Two project proposals led by College of Sciences professors were recently selected as finalists for SDSU President Adela de la Torre’s Big Ideas initiative. These interdisciplinary teams aim to solve society’s toughest challenges.

The AZTEC project (Advancing Zero-fossil Technologies for Engineered Carbon) tackles the problem of greenhouse gas emissions from several angles. It leverages a unique set of expertise across SDSU’s Biology, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Mathematics and Statistics departments, and the College of Engineering.

Chemists Jing Gu and Doug Grotjahn are finessing catalysts to convert carbon dioxide and methane gases that are released at multiple points in the agricultural and wastewater treatment industries into energy and methanol. Biologists, led by Marina Kalyuzhnaya, are growing bacteria that can transform methanol and simple nutrients into proteins used for novel biomaterials like spider silk fibers.

These efforts can lead to circular farms, where methane emitted by cows can be used to produce biodegradable packaging for milk, among other sustainable innovations.

The Community Climate Action Network (CCAN) seeks to create equitable, vibrant, sustainable communities in San Diego. Rebecca Lewison and Megan Jennings from the Biology department are partnering with geographers, communicators and others to enable communities to take meaningful action to reduce the effects of climate change.

“Helping more people realize that there’s no bad ways up the mountain of solving climate change is a lot better than pretending there’s no mountain,” Lewison and Jennings shared.

In addition to developing a resource portal with research, data visualizations, and artwork, CCAN members will continue to work closely with local governments, community organizations and Indigenous tribes to manage wildfire risk, restore habitats, and reduce food insecurity across southern California.

Multiple College of Sciences faculty members are also involved in the four other Big Ideas finalist projects, including the Digital Platform for Lung Health.

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