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sisca winners 2013

Dow and Caltech's Resnick Institute Partner to Award Student Innovators in Sustainability


Nicole Peck and Zhan Wang have been awarded first place in this year’s Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge Award (SISCA) competition at Caltech. The two scientists have engineered a new technology for clean chemistry that will save energy and lessen impact of leftover chemicals on the environment. The SISCA program was created and sponsored by Dow, with matching support for the Caltech prize from the Resnick Sustainability Institute.

Dr. Wang and Ms. Peck have used biocatalysis to develop enzymatic alternatives to traditional transition metal catalysis. This means that proteins and even whole cells, which can be grown and isolated from renewable feedstocks and generate minimal harmful waste, can be used to speed up reactions important in the production of useful chemicals such as insecticides and pharmaceuticals. Specifically, the two scientists engineered cytochrome P450 enzymes to perform carbene transfer, the carbon analogue of P450’s native monooxygenation chemistry. This transformation has never been seen in nature, and can be used to construct important carbon-carbon bonds. The potential applications of this new method are being further developed at Caltech in collaboration with Provivi, a startup formed by recent Caltech graduates.

Caltech’s runner up for the 2013 SISCA competition is Raymond Weitekamp, a fourth year graduate student. His project focused on lowering costs and avoiding harmful waste products in certain manufacturing processes by making some key inputs recyclable. Weitekamp’s core discovery is a method of reactivating “dead” catalysts with light, which is a significant step towards achieving truly cradle-to-cradle olefin metathesis chemistry. Specifically, Weitekamp developed a waste-free synthesis of a new kind of photoresist, with immediate applications in green microfabrication. This invention may improve the energy efficiency of high-tech device manufacture, including integrated circuits, medical devices and MEMS.

“The essence of the SISCA award is to encourage the most promising and innovative students to find new ways to combine disciplines to address the challenges that face the earth’s future. Once again, Caltech has delivered great ideas and potential solutions.” said Eunice Heath, Global Director of Sustainability at The Dow Chemical Company.

Dr. Harry Atwater, Resnick Sustainability Institute Director and a Howard Hughes Professor and Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science at Caltech, added that “The future is, to a large degree, in the hands of scientists who have the creativity to move beyond current approaches to hard problems and discover new ways of transcending costs of many of the man-made challenges created in our environment. We are very proud of the work of these students and thank Dow for its foresight with this program.”

Learn more about Caltech's SISCA Winners.

The Dow SISCA Award

In alignment with Dow’s 2015 Sustainability Goals, the Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge Award (SISCA) program was launched in 2009. To promote forward thinking in social and environmental responsibility, SISCA acknowledges the energy, commitment and enthusiasm of the students and their university professors, sponsors and facilitators who support their sustainability innovations and efforts in continued excellence. 2013 celebrates the fifth year of the SISCA program, which, since its inception, has continued to expand and now engages students from 17 universities around the world. The spirit and power of global collaboration has sparked the development of long-lasting and impactful solutions.

About Dow

Dow (NYSE: DOW) combines the power of science and technology to passionately innovate what is essential to human progress. The Company connects chemistry and innovation with the principles of sustainability to help address many of the world's most challenging problems such as the need for clean water, renewable energy generation and conservation, and increasing agricultural productivity. Dow's diversified industry-leading portfolio of specialty chemical, advanced materials, agrosciences and plastics businesses delivers a broad range of technology-based products and solutions to customers in approximately 160 countries and in high growth sectors such as electronics, water, energy, coatings and agriculture. In 2011, Dow had annual sales of $60 billion and employed approximately 52,000 people worldwide. The Company's more than 5,000 products are manufactured at 197 sites in 36 countries across the globe. References to "Dow" or the "Company" mean The Dow Chemical Company and its consolidated subsidiaries unless otherwise expressly noted.

About The Resnick Sustainability Institute

The Resnick Institute is Caltech’s studio focused on the breakthroughs that will change the balance of the world’s sustainability. It marries bold creativity and deep scientific knowledge by encouraging original thinking and orthogonal ideas. The Resnick Institute works with some of the world’s top and emerging scientists—at the California Institute of Technology and beyond. Current projects at the Resnick Institute include research into energy generation, such as advanced photovoltaics, photoelectrochemical solar fuels, cellulosic biofuels, and wind energy system design; energy conversion work on batteries and fuel cells; and energy efficiency and management such as fuel efficient vehicles, green chemical synthesis, thermoelectric materials, and advanced research on electrical grid control and distribution. The Resnick Institute is also the founder of the “Resonate Award” for leading innovations in sustainability science.