Sustainable Futures Institute: Working to Build Tomorrow

Researchers working on a computer in a lab

Torrefaction Unit

Researchers working with the biomass torrefaction (drying with heat) unit at Michigan Tech.

Research Coordination Network participants in Merida, Mexico

Merida Participants

Research Coordination Network (RCN) participants met in Merida, Mexico to share information about biofuel as society's need for alternative energy continues to grow.

Agustin working outside

Agustin Robles Morua

Climbing a tower in the Sonoran desert as part of his research into water-related risk perceptions in the Sonora River Basin.

Young students observing the aquaponics lab at Michigan Tech


Dr. Handler and Dr. Auer use the aquaponics lab at Michigan Tech as a tool to illustrate a variety of STEM concepts to all ages.

Teachers at poster session reading the posters regarding the research experience

RET Poster Session

Michigan Tech hosts middle and high school teachers. Teachers use the research experience to develop classroom instruction units and laboratory exercises.

Sustainability is a core value at Michigan Tech—the Sustainable Futures Institute supports this value and meets sustainability challenges at a local and global level through outreach, research, education, and multidisciplinary collaboration.

What is Sustainability?

When we look as sustainable alternatives to some of humanities biggest challenges, we seek out solutions and methods that allow us to use a resource in a way that does not deplete or permanently damage the resource. This can range from lifestyle choices and education about those choices, to major research projects seeking sustainable alternatives.

What We Do

International/Developing World Sustainable Development

How can the SFI foster sustainable development in other regions of the world and 
encourage best practice adoptions or creation of home-grown, localized solutions?

Manufacturing and Materials Sustainability

How can systems be developed to maximize the utility of materials while minimizing environmental and social impacts?

Systems Analysis for Sustainability

What are the best methods to use to analyze complex, interrelated sustainability issues in a particular system and how those issues might affect other systems?

Sustainable Energy

What sources of energy offer the best combination of low environmental impact, high economic return, and social acceptability?

Researchers See all Contributors


Margot Hutchins

Associate Director, Laboratory for Manufacturing and Sustainability, University of California, Berkeley

  • Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering, Engineering Mechanics (2010)
  • SFI Graduate Certificate in Sustainability (2006)

All engineers solve problems, but not all engineers think about the societal consequences of their solutions. In the SFI graduate certificate program, engineers are immersed in systems-level and contextual thinking. This leads them to identify solutions that consider many different global societal perspectives, economic impact, and policy regulation. I am confident that my research experience with the SFI contributed to my post-doc position at U.C. Berkeley’s Laboratory for Manufacturing and Sustainability.


Agustin Robles-Morua

Master Researcher, Department of Water Sciences and Environment
Instituto Tecnologico de Sonora Postdoctoral Research Associate, School of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University

  • P.h.D., Environmental Engineering (2010)
  • SFI Graduate Certificate in Sustainability (2009)

My collaboration with the Sustainable Futures Institute (SFI) while I was a graduate student at Michigan Tech strengthened my beliefs that we need to apply multidisciplinary approaches in order to understand and address complex environmental problems. The SFI program provided me with the opportunity to meet and interact with faculty and graduate students from other disciplines and universities. These interactions greatly influenced my long term research interests in conducting studies that integrate across fields in order to . . .

David Watkins

Dr. David Watkins

Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Director of the D80 Center

I've had some great opportunities to help lead a number of our international community engagement programs, including Engineers Without Borders, the Peace Corps Master's International program, and International Senior Design. These programs provide real-world, hands-on, intercultural learning opportunities for students, while helping communities in need of technical support to improve their quality of life. Nearly every project requires students to work on multi-disciplinary teams, and gives them opportunities to improve their research and communication skills. It's very satisfying to see students' eyes light up when they realize the world is their classroom.