URSA Grants

Program encourages interdisciplinary research collaborations

Posted by February 2, 2015

The Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research at Washington University has announced the eight winners of the 2014 University Research Strategic Alliance grants.

URSA grants provide one-year, $25,000 seed funding to full-time University faculty members. The URSA program aims to encourage the formation and efforts of new groups of investigators working on new research or using new approaches to solve problems.

The program strives to foster collaborations across disciplines, departments, and schools. Interdisciplinary teams must work collaboratively to approach a research question in a novel way that cannot be accomplished by either discipline alone. In addition to such research efforts' inherent intellectual value, the hope is the seed funds will enable new research applications that can compete for outside support.

The URSA program was initiated in 2011 by Evan D. Kharasch, PhD, MD, former vice chancellor for research. With that initial investment of $150,000 in URSA funds awarded to six research teams, those awardees have gone on to secure more than $2 million in external funding.

With the 2014 group of investigators, URSA grants now have been awarded to 26 interdisciplinary teams since the program's inception.

"We continue to be enthusiastic about the vigorous response from faculty," said Jennifer K. Lodge, PhD, vice chancellor for research. "The proposals submitted in 2014 represent 45 new collaborations involving faculty from four schools across the university. Six of the eight new teams awarded an URSA grant include investigators from different schools, and all grants include faculty from different departments.

"There were far more meritorious applications than we were able to fund, but we hope that those new teams whose proposals we could not fund will continue their collaborative research efforts," she said.

Winners of the 2014 URSA awards are:

- Vladimir Birman, PhD, Department of Chemistry in Arts & Sciences, and Jason Held, PhD, Departments of Medicine and of Anesthesiology in the School of Medicine, for research titled "Development of Novel Chemical Probes to Map Organism-wide S-nitrosylation Signaling."

- ShiNung Ching, PhD, Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering in the School of Engineering & Applied Science, and Terrance Kummer, MD, PhD, Department of Neurology in the School of Medicine, for research titled "Modeling the Dynamics of Coma."

- Catalina Freixas, Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, and Arye Nehorai, PhD, Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering, for research titled "Quantifying Benefits of Vacant Land Utilization in Shrinking Cities."

- James Janetka, PhD, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics in the School of Medicine, and Henry Han, PhD, Department of Neurosurgery in the School of Medicine, for research titled "Selective Diagnostic Imaging Agents for Cerebral Amyloid Angiopathy (CAA) Plaques in Alzheimer's Disease.”

- John McCarthy, PhD, Department of Mathematics in Arts & Sciences, and Beau Ances, PhD, MD, Department of Neurology, for research titled “Matrix Conditioning to Improve Estimates of Brain Functional Architecture."

- Amit Pathak, PhD, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science in the School of Engineering & Applied Science, and Gregory Longmore, MD, Department of Cell Biology and Physiology in the School of Medicine, for research titled "Collective Tumor Cell Migration in Engineered Matrix Scaffolds."

- Bobbi Pineda, PhD, Program in Occupational Therapy in the School of Medicine, and Joan Smith, PhD, BJC Goldfarb School of Nursing, for research titled "The Development of a Sensory-Based Clinical Practice Guideline and an Implementation Plan for Very Preterm Infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit: A Necessary First Step Before Clinical Trial."

- Barani Raman, PhD, Department of Biomedical Engineering in the School of Engineering & Applied Science, and Parag Banerjee, PhD, Department of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science, for research titled "Enabling Artificial Olfaction with AC Admittance Spectroscopy."

Learn more about the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research.