Third Round of Presidential Interdisciplinary Seed Grants Awarded

How can nanotechnology and big data be used to improve the diagnosis of infectious viruses like SARS-CoV-2?

This is one of the questions that will be explored with funding provided by a third round of Presidential Interdisciplinary Seed Grants.

Eleven grants totaling $1.5 million were awarded in November 2021 to recipients of the third round of Presidential Interdisciplinary Seed Grants. Overall, the awards went to faculty from 13 UGA departments, centers, programs, schools and colleges.

The program was launched in 2017, with a second round of grants in 2019, through a partnership between UGA Research and UGA Public Service and Outreach. The teams from the first two rounds were very successful in securing external funding to continue the work initiated through these seed grants.

“I am thrilled with the continued success of this program as the University of Georgia seeks ways to grow our research enterprise and expand the impact of our faculty,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “Research funding opportunities such as the Presidential Interdisciplinary Seed Grants are investments in the future of our state, our nation, and the world as well as our university.”

A total of 89 faculty teams submitted research proposals in the third round, targeting important local, national or global challenges that align with UGA’s goals. 2025 Strategic Plan. Examples include areas identified by the Provost’s Task Force on Academic Excellence (Precision Agriculture, Security, Climate and Environment, Brain and Behavioral Sciences, and Data Science and AI), as well as those requiring collaboration. between social/behavioural and biomedical faculties.

“UGA faculty are finding creative ways to explore the challenges that affect our daily lives,” said Karen Burg, vice president for research. “We look forward to seeing how their collaborations across the board will lead to new approaches and innovative solutions.”

A project co-led by Lisa Renzi Hammond and Jenay beer will develop a UGA center focused on addressing statewide disparities in prevention and access to health care for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD).

Lisa Renzi-Hammond (Photo by Peter Frey/UGA)

“SARD will impose an annual burden of $1 trillion on the health care system by 2050,” said Renzi-Hammond, co-lead researcher and associate professor at the College of Public Health. “Rural Georgia has limited education and programs to prevent MADR, limited opportunities to participate in clinical research, and limited access to diagnostic and support resources, but the risk factors – advanced age, poor nutrition, poverty , comorbidities, obesity, etc. – are more important. frequent.”

“We envision a Georgia in which everyone has access to early, accurate diagnosis and treatment,” said Jenay Beer, co-principal investigator and associate professor in the College of Public Health and School of Social Work. “To achieve this goal, we have established the Center for Research and Education in Cognitive Aging, which will provide statewide community dementia prevention education, caregiver training of health and the development of a digital health infrastructure for diagnosis, as well as an adapted geographical and cultural post-training. diagnostic support, connection to care and treatment, and opportunities to participate in cutting-edge research.

Assistant Professor Jenay Beer sits next to an interactive companion robot. (Photo by Peter Frey/UGA)

The team has already begun offering dementia education workshops in four Archway Partnership communities: Grady, Hart, McDuffie and Washington counties. This funding will expand their program to two additional Archway communities. The Archway Partnership is a public service and outreach unit of UGA.

Renzi-Hammond and Beer are senior professors at UGA’s Institute of Gerontology. The team also includes Denise Dixon Everson (UGA Extension, Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences); Bernadette Heckman (College of Education); Donald Scott (Augusta University/UGA Medical Partnership); Sharon Ligget (Archway Partnership); Devin Lavender (College of Pharmacy); Timothy Heckman and Grace Bagwell Adams (College of Public Health); Laurent Doux (Franklin College of Arts and Sciences); Alexander Scherr (Law School); and Tiffany Washington (School of Social Work).

“I am encouraged by the number of faculty across campus who will collaborate to address some of our state’s challenges,” said Jennifer Frum, vice president of public service and outreach. “Part of UGA’s mission, as the state’s land-grant and maritime-grant institution, is to extend our knowledge and expertise to help communities thrive.”

Yiping Zhao is Emeritus Research Professor of Physics at UGA’s Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. (Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA)

A project, led by the Principal Investigator Yiping Zhao, aims to combine nano-optics and machine learning techniques to develop a rapid, portable and cost-effective point-of-care method to detect viruses – such as SARS-CoV-2 – and bacterial infections in patients.

“Mitigation of epidemic and pandemic diseases like COVID-19 will require improved diagnostic methods,” said Zhao, research professor emeritus of physics at Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. “Preliminary results have shown that our approach can provide direct and differential detection of important respiratory viruses within 20 minutes.”

Zhao’s team includes Ralph Trip and Hemant Naikare (College of Veterinary Medicine), Xianyan Chen (Franklin College of Arts and Sciences) and external collaborators.

Additional proposals that have received funding from the Presidential Interdisciplinary Seed Grant include:

  • “Integrated Approaches to Treat Current and Future High-Consequence Biological Agents.” Franklin E. Leach III (Senior Investigator, College of Public Health, Center for Complex Carbohydrate Research); Fred Quinn, Danny Mead, Jeff Hogan and Eric Lafontaine (College of Veterinary Medicine); and Ryan Weiss and Michael Tiemeyer (Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, CCRC).
  • “The THRIVE Project: Developing a Mother-Centered ‘Lay Doula’ Communication Intervention to Improve Outcomes for Black Mothers.” Soroya McFarlane (Senior Researcher, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences); Andrea Swartzendruber and Tamora Callands (College of Public Health); and external collaborators.
  • “From the Ethics of AI to the Aesthetics of AI: Artificial Intelligence and Aesthetic Damage.” Aaron Meskin (Senior Researcher, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences); Peng Yuan Wang, Rosanna Smith and Caroline Salge (Terry College of Business); David Saltz, Isabelle Wallace and Katie Geha (Franklin College of Arts and Sciences); and Anne-Abraham (College of Education).
  • “Molecular-Level Biodosimetry for National Security: Proteomics, Glycomics, Epigenetic, and Metabolomics Approaches for the Quantitative Assessment of Low-Dose Radiation Exposure.” Olin “Gene” Rhodes (Principal Investigator, Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, Odum School of Ecology); Franklin Leaching (College of Public Health, Center for Complex Carbohydrate Research), Michael Tiemeyer and Lance Wells (Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, CCRC); and Ben Parrot (SREL, Odum School of Ecology).
  • “Assessing the agrivoltaic potential of emerging perovskite-based solar cells for greenhouse applications.” Susanne Ullrich (Senior Researcher, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences); Tho Nguyen (Franklin College of Arts and Sciences), Marc van Iersel (College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences), Maric Boudreau and Richard Watson (Terry College of Business), and Tom Lawrence (Higher School of Engineering).
  • “An interdisciplinary school health center in partnership with the Clarke County School District, the University of Georgia, and the University of Augusta/University of Georgia Medical Partnership.” (Suzanne Lester, Principal Investigator, AU/UGA Medical Partnership); Theresa Rohr Kirchgraber, Carrie Kelly Marguerita Tresa Chappell, Lia Bruner and John Chin (AU/UGA Medical Partnership); Edward Delgado-Romero (College of Education); Megane Ford (College of Family and Consumer Sciences); and Jason Cade (Law School).
  • “Aflatoxin Research and Mitigation Center of Excellence in Georgia.” (Harald Scherm, Principal Investigator, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences); Thirimachos Bourlai, Jaime Camelio and Changing “Charlie” Li (College of Engineering); Robert Kemerait, Christiane Pilon, Glen Rains and George Vellidis (College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences); and Alicia Peduzzi (Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources).
  • “Bloom and Doom: Is Increased Risk of Harmful Algal Blooms an Inevitable Consequence of Global Change? Assessing Risks and Exploring Strategies in Georgia from Biological and Social Perspectives.” (Cory Struthers, Principal Investigator, School of Public and International Affairs); Peter Hazelton (Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources); michelle ritchie (College of Public Health); and Alex Strauss and Krista Caps (Odum School of Ecology).
  • “Developing New Storm Design Criteria for Natural Hazard Planning Research and Practice.” (Scott Pepin, Principal Investigator, Carl Vinson Institute of Government, a UGA Public Service and Outreach Unit); Brian Bledsoe (College of Engineering); Marshal Shepherd, John Knox, Pam Knox, Lynne Seymour and Thomas Mote (Franklin College of Arts and Sciences); and michelle ritchie (College of Public Health).

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