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Ten Faculty Research Proposals Selected in UW's $250,000 Grant Initiative

May 7, 2014
Woman wearing headset
Amy Banic, a UW assistant professor of computer science, was one of 10 UW faculty members to secure research funding through the university’s $250,000 Grant Initiative.

Ten innovative research projects from University of Wyoming faculty members were selected to receive funding under the $250,000 Grant Initiative provided by the Office of Research and Economic Development and Academic Affairs.

“Proposals selected for funding displayed good interdisciplinarity, were creative, and had an impact to UW as well as the potential for future grant funding,” says Bill Gern, UW’s vice president for research and economic development. “The selected proposals showed the depth and breadth of research and scholarship at UW. I want to thank the groups of reviewers who gathered to examine and review these proposals. They did a great service for the university.”

The grants -- ranging from $20,000 to $26,500 and administered by UW’s Office of Research and Economic Development -- are for one year and are nonrenewable. The grant period runs from July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2015. More than 80 grant proposals were submitted.

Last November, the President’s Office announced a new initiative to provide funding for planning grants for UW faculty and staff members. The planning grants -- for proposals relevant to research, teaching and/or outreach/extension -- are designed to allow full-time faculty and staff members to develop their ideas to a point at which they are ready for potential external funding.

Project titles and descriptions, principal investigators (PI) and co-PIs are as follows:

-- “Use of Natural and Coordinated Two-Handed Motion to Improve Gesture-Based Interaction Design,” Amy Banic, assistant professor of computer science (PI), and Qin Zhu, assistant professor of kinesiology and health.

Benefits of using immersive 3-D visualizations are lessened by a lack of easy-to-learn-and-use interaction tools. The grant will be used for interdisciplinary research to investigate innate coordination of human motion of two-handed movements, and improve interaction design of gesture-based input so that users -- from novices to expert scientists -- can better explore their data in immersive 3-D visualizations.

“This funding will help us to foster and strengthen our interdisciplinary collaboration to begin the groundwork to produce sufficient preliminary results to be competitive for a much larger, highly competitive NSF or NIH grant,” Banic says. “Our grander vision is to transform 3-D gesture-based interaction design using a user-centric focus grounded in kinesiology theory of human coordination and movement.”

-- “Designing and Building Enzyme Microdomains for Bioengineering Applications,” Grant Bowman, molecular biology (PI), and Rongsong Liu, mathematics. The two will use a combination of bioengineering and mathematical modeling to develop a novel system to produce high-value molecules, such as pharmaceuticals, plastics or fuels.

-- “Net-Zero Prototype Houses for Wyoming Homebuilders,” Anthony Denzer, associate professor of civil and architectural engineering (PI); Jon Gardzelewski, assistant lecturer of civil and architectural engineering; Gang Tan, assistant professor of civil and architectural engineering; Liping Wang, assistant professor of civil and architectural engineering; Ben Gilbert, assistant professor of economics and finance; and Milton Geiger, associate extension educator, UW Extension.

This project will create a catalog of net-zero energy home designs, including full construction documents ready for permitting, for use by Wyoming developers, homebuilders and citizens. A net-zero house is one that annually produces as much energy as it consumes.

-- “Identification of Toxoplasma Gondii protein(s) Blocking Membrane Fusion and Allowing Immune Evasion,” Jason Gigley, assistant professor of molecular biology (PI); and Bridget Decker, lecturer of chemistry.

The grant will be used to better understand the actions of Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite present in 30 percent of the world’s population.

-- “Consortium for Developing Novel Near-Infrared Light-Activated Tools for Mapping Brain Circuits,” Mark Gomelsky, professor of molecular biology (PI); Anya Lyuksyutova, research assistant professor of molecular biology; and Qian-Quan Sun, associate professor of zoology and physiology.

This project’s goal is to create novel tools for mapping neuronal connections in the human brain. UW researchers are developing novel near-infrared, light-activated tools (using engineered bacterial photo-receptors) for mapping brain circuits in animals.

-- “Preliminary Analysis for Application of Variational Data Assimilation Methods to Time-Lapse Seismic Reservoir Modeling,” Dario Grana, assistant professor of geology and geophysics, and chemical and petroleum engineering (PI); Po Chen, assistant professor of geology; and Saman Aryana, assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering.

The goal is to develop a new mathematical and computational methodology to improve the reservoir description in oil and gas fields. This will assist oil companies in making business decisions, which are generally based on predictions of estimated models (behavior of reservoir properties during production).

 -- “Transforming LIFE 1010 Instruction: Developing a Rich Online and Engaging Classroom Learning Opportunities,” Mark Lyford, director of life sciences (PI); Brianna Wright, lecturer of botany; Brent Ewers, associate professor of botany; and Shane Broughton, associate professor of family and consumer sciences.

This project’s intent is to transform how this large lecture class is taught. The grant will be used to develop an online learning experience for students outside of class. The online tools will inform instructors about areas where students struggle before they come to class. Instructors can then focus on those areas of concern.

-- “Creation and Support of the Research Cluster in International Human Rights and Justice Within the Center for Global Studies,” David Messenger, associate professor of history, and global and area studies (PI); and Neven Aiken, assistant professor of political science, global and area studies.

The grant will be used to create a research cluster for four faculty projects that focus on the aftermath of mass violence and human rights violations in Cambodia (Khmer Rouge dictatorship of the 1970s and 1980s), Rwanda (1994 genocide), South Africa (apartheid, 1948-1990s) and Spain (Civil War 1936-39).

-- “Planning for a National Endowment for the Humanities Challenge Grant Application for the Wyoming Institute for Humanities Research,” Eric Sandeen, professor and director of American Studies (PI); Paul Flesher, professor and director of religious studies; and Susanna Goodin, associate professor and department head of philosophy.

The grant will allow the Wyoming Institute for Humanities Research to strengthen its ties with related organizations, including the American Heritage Center, the Art Museum, UW Libraries, Berry Biodiversity Conservation Center and the Wyoming Humanities Council. The focus is to plan joint activities for humanities research and public programming on campus and around Wyoming.

-- “Structural Studies of an Antifreeze Protein and its Application in Cryopreservation,” Krisztina Varga, assistant professor of chemistry (PI); and Dan Levy, assistant professor of molecular biology.

The research goal is to develop a more detailed understanding of cryoprotection at the molecular level of antifreeze proteins in frog oocytes and embryos that are otherwise sensitive to freezing. Antifreeze proteins can be found in a wide range of cold-adapted organisms.

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