Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis

Research Experiences for Teachers: Exploring Career Opportunities through Water-Themed Engineering Research (RET ECO-WATER)

Summer Dates: June 13 - July 22, 2022

We are planning for an in-person program unless the Covid-19 pandemic leads to campus restrictions. 

RET ECOWATER is a 6-week immersive program for high school science and math teachers to do hands-on research at the University of Kansas.

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Program dates: June 13 - July 22, 2022
(40 hours/week, Monday through Friday, July 4 off for holiday)

Location: University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas

Application deadline: January 31, 2022 (for summer 2022 program) 

Questions? Email Prof. Peltier (  


The RET ECOWATER program empowers high school science and math teachers with learning and research experiences.  Participants conduct real-world engineering research and learn ways to integrate the concepts into their high school curricula.  This program is open to current high school teachers for grades 9 to 12 who teach any science or math subject. A total of 10 teachers will be selected each summer. We encourage teacher pairs from the same school but different subject areas to apply to stimulate crosscutting interactions. The program is funded by the National Science Foundation.


Teachers will participate in many types of activities, including interactive skill-building sessions, hands-on investigations, and tours of research labs at KU and nearby companies. You will learn about engineering design through projects that span environmental, mechanical, and chemical engineering fields with guidance from faculty and graduate student mentors. You will have the chance to meet other teachers, building your professional network. You will also learn about careers in STEM. In addition, you will get the resources you need to develop NGSS-based educational materials to take back to your classroom the following academic year.

Stipend: $8,000 for the six-week summer activities PLUS:

  • Supplies to implement new lesson materials in your classroom
  • Housing for a limited number of participants who live more than an hour drive from Lawrence, Kansas. 

Benefits to high school students: Teachers in this program will get the resources they need to create new curricula that aligns with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).  This will help you educate your students about engineering practices, and it will help to enhance your students’ critical thinking and problem-solving skills, necessary skills for all sorts of good-paying jobs. We will also feature various career opportunities that will help teachers advise students about STEM careers.


  • Current high school science or math teacher (e.g., chemistry, biology, general science, environmental science, physics, engineering, Earth and space, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus, etc.)
  • Participation in all RET activities during the summer
  • Commitment to create new lesson materials based on your research that incorporate engineering concepts and NGSS standards
  • Commitment to use new lesson materials during the academic year following the RET summer experience
  • Willingness to share lessons with colleagues


Participants will work in KU laboratories in the School of Engineering.  Research projects will focus on finding solutions for major water-related challenges facing society today. These topics have both local and global significance. Faculty mentors include:

Examples of research projects include:

  • design new materials to remove salt from seawater
  • develop filter coatings to remove dissolved contaminants from wastestream
  • develop new methods to analyze water quality using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) 
  • how to mine the Regolith on Mars for water
  • develop ways to reuse wastewater from oil and gas drilling
  • design new electrocatalysts to produce hydrogen from water
  • create computer models for quantum chemistry simulations of molecular properties and reactivity
  • develop ways to turn food waste into something valuable


  • Provide professional development training and research opportunities to increase high school teachers’ knowledge base and awareness of research and engineering
  • Integrate engineering into high school curricula
  • Prepare and inspire high school students for careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math)
  • Nurture long-term linkages between KU, business leaders and the educational community
  • Prepare high school teachers to serve as education leaders and mentors for future teachers.


A research study is underway to see if this program and the lesson materials developed in this program are effective and to find ways to improve them.  Click here to learn more.


This program would not be successful without district partnerships in the region, including USD 500 Kansas City, USD 233 Olathe, USD 501 Topeka, USD 443 Dodge City, and USD 506 Labette County.  While we encourage applicants from these districts, participation is not restricted to only these districts.  We seek to recruit diverse instructors from rural, urban and suburban areas.

Some activities for the summer program will take place at KU's Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis (CEBC). What is the CEBC? This research center focuses on making a world of difference by changing how fuels and chemicals are made.  It brings together researchers from chemistry and chemical engineering to invent cleaner, safer chemical processes that protect the planet and human health.



Lesson materials created by previous RET participants

News about past programs and participants

What are other teachers saying about our past RET programs?

Videos about RET

“Agriculture is a HUGE part of my school and the ease with which I was able to insert the renewable fuels activities and concepts into the chemistry curriculum was amazing. High interest, high relevance, and high achievement by my students.”  --Jenny Gartner, chemistry/physics, Labette County HS

“I’m a scientist too… not just a teacher.” --Andrew Ising, biology, Baldwin HS

“It’s a great collaboration opportunity and it’s not just during the summer, it’s during the whole school year.” –Amy Johnston, chemistry/physics, Olathe North HS

“I loved the cross-content sharing of information. We didn’t work in isolation.  Instead, there was a blending of knowledge. I really want to do this with my students on a high school level.” –Shannon Ralph, Dodge City HS



Professor Ted Peltier
Principal Investigator for the RET ECOWATER program
University of Kansas 

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