Document Type


Publication Date


Subject: LCSH

Interdisciplinary approach in education, Experiential learning, Sustainable development, Sustainability


Civil Engineering | Engineering Education | Higher Education


Purpose – The purpose of the article was to convey experiences with pioneering interdisciplinary sustainability research by involving undergraduate students. Experiences with initiating and conducting multiple research projects spanning engineering and sustainability are described, and recommendations for programs and faculty in other institutions of higher education that plan to implement or support similar endeavors are discussed. Design/methodology/approach – The article and presented conclusions are based on three separate research projects, where specific examples as to how those projects were developed as well as challenges and rewards faced during the project are described. Findings – It is concluded that faculty should not refrain from working with students from different backgrounds and disciplines. Bringing different backgrounds and perspectives to a project enables a big picture view of problems at hand and leads to better solutions that are more in line with the three pillars of sustainability, while at the same time providing valuable hands-on experience to undergraduate students. Originality/value – By its very definition, sustainability is an interdisciplinary field and, thus, requires novel approaches for education and research compared to other settled fields of science. A viable way to increase the role of sustainability in higher education is to foster interdisciplinary research and teaching. The institutions role in promoting such efforts has been discussed together with example strategies that were found to be successful as well as those that were not. The article presents results of potential successes in projects where the traditional disciplinary bounds have been breached, and an interdisciplinary approach has been used to achieve project goals. The article also gives examples on what types of sustainability research can be conducted with undergraduate students.


This is the author's accepted version of the article published in International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education. The version of record can be found at



Publisher Citation

Aktas, C.B. (2015) ‘Reflections on interdisciplinary sustainability research with undergraduate students’, International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 16(3), pp. 354–366. doi: 10.1108/ijshe-11-2013-0153.



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