Urban Research Opportunities

Pittsburgh’s urban environment offers a dynamic setting and presents unique opportunities for learning that faculty and students are unable to experience at most Penn State campuses, including University Park. Penn State Center Pittsburgh exemplifies Penn State’s land-grant mission to leverage research and study for community problem solving by helping our faculty and students to work on projects that benefit the Pittsburgh area. Our staff’s in-depth knowledge of the Pittsburgh region and our relationships with local communities and organizations can connect Penn State faculty to urban research opportunities and experiences that most would not be able to access without our participation.

There are generally two ways Penn State Center can work with faculty. The first method of engagement starts with a faculty research project or a research proposal that could benefit from work in Pittsburgh. We coordinate between faculty and community connections to implement local research. The second method of engagement begins with a request from the local community for assistance in addressing a specific problem or issue. The Center then reaches out through our connections at Penn State colleges, campuses, and institutes to explore options for how these opportunities may fit within the work and interests of faculty.

Urban Research in Action — Rice’s Landing Capstone Project

The Rice’s Landing capstone project began with a request from Trail Town program coordinators working to support recreational tourism along Pittsburgh’s three rivers. Rice’s Landing, a community along the Monongahela River, has experienced tremendous sedimentation at its public boat launch along Pumpkin Run Creek, resulting in the closure of the launch and public docks until dredging operations can be completed in the area. The challenge was to design and implement solutions to reduce sedimentation in the hopes that the boat launch can be kept open permanently. The Center was able to secure this capstone project for seniors in Penn State’s Biological Engineering program, working with professors Heather Gall and Megan Marshall.