Campus News

New Interdisciplinary Seed Grants will support UGA’s Great Commitments

After a highly successful first round of grants, seven new faculty teams have been awarded funds through a second round of Presidential Interdisciplinary Seed Grants. The grants will facilitate research projects spanning 15 colleges, schools and other units at the University of Georgia.

When the Presidential Interdisciplinary Seed Grants were first awarded in 2017, 12 faculty teams received funds totaling some $1.37 million. The work enabled by those seed grants supported subsequent applications for external funding that have brought nearly $13 million in new grants to UGA to date. This remarkable 10-to-1 return on investment led President Jere W. Morehead to announce a second round of grants for 2019-20.

“This initiative underscores the amazingly diverse expertise of our faculty across campus, and it capitalizes on the highly collaborative environment at UGA,” said Morehead. “This interdisciplinary research will result in meaningful benefits to our state, nation and world while helping to expand the university’s research enterprise.”

A total of 72 proposals were submitted for the new round of grants, which Morehead has included as part of the Great Commitments Initiative he launched this year. They were reviewed by a team of faculty and administrators led by Vice President for Research David Lee and Vice President for Public Service and Outreach Jennifer Frum.

“We received another excellent pool of research proposals, and I’d like to thank the faculty who collaborated to submit ideas,” Lee said. “The wide interest in this program tells me that our researchers have a real desire to reach across disciplinary boundaries and work together to find solutions to important problems.”

UGA’s Great Commitments—Healthier People, A More Secure Future, and Stronger Communities—are intended to reflect some of society’s grand challenges, and faculty were asked to frame their proposals around one or more of these commitments. Their projects could include original research or strong public service and outreach components, or both.

“Projects selected will address some of the state’s most pressing needs, as is the intention of these interdisciplinary seed grants,” said Frum. “This is our mission, as the state’s land-grant and sea-grant institution, to use the vast resources of the university to empower communities to address their grand challenges.”

The winning proposals and faculty teams are:

  • Overcoming Physical Distances with the Virtual Family Room: Virtual and Augmented Reality Communication Platforms for Deployed Military Families

Sun Joo “Grace” Ahn (Primary Investigator; Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication), Kyle Johnson (College of Engineering), Catherine O’Neal (College of Family and Consumer Sciences) and Dawn Robinson (Franklin College of Arts and Sciences).

  • Creating a Healthier Georgia through Diabetes Prevention

Alison Berg (Primary Investigator) and Joan Koonce (College of Family and Consumer Sciences) and Ellen Evans (College of Education).

  • Building a National Center of Excellence for Nature-Based Infrastructure Solutions

Brian Bledsoe (Primary Investigator; College of Engineering), Jon Calabria and Brian Orland (College of Environment and Design), Susana Ferreira and Craig Landry (College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences), Rhett Jackson and Nathan Nibbelink (Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources), Shana Jones (Carl Vinson Institute of Government), Don Nelson and Marshall Shepherd (Franklin College of Arts and Sciences), Scott Pippin and Mark Risse (Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant), Amy Rosemond (Odum School of Ecology) and Meredith Welch-Divine (Graduate School).

  • Mitigating Emerging Disease Impacts in Fisheries: Adaptive Strategies to Ensure a Safe, Healthy Seafood Supply

James Byers (Primary Investigator; Odum School of Ecology), Thomas Bliss (Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant), Al Camus (College of Veterinary Medicine), Marc Frischer (Franklin College of Arts and Sciences), Richard Hall and Pej Rohani (College of Veterinary Medicine and Odum School of Ecology), Brian Irwin (Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources), Erin Lipp (College of Public Health), Craig Osenberg (Odum School of Ecology) and John Wares (Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and Odum School of Ecology).

  • Establishing a New Animal Model to Assess Influenza-Tuberculosis Co-Infection and Vaccination

Fred Quinn (Primary Investigator), Steve Divers, Ankita Garg, Tuhina Gupta, Russ Karls, Balazs Rada, Ted Ross and Kaori Sakamoto (College of Veterinary Medicine); Steve Harvey (Office of Research); Shannon Quinn (Franklin College of Arts and Sciences); Christopher Whalen (College of Public Health) and external collaborators.

  • Anticipating the Regional and Global Impacts of Next-Generation Vehicle Engine Technologies

Rawad Saleh (Primary Investigator) and Brandon Rotavera (College of Engineering); Amanda Frossard, Gabriel Kooperman and Geoffrey Smith (Franklin College of Arts and Sciences).

  • Impact of the School and Surrounding Environment on Implementation of Georgia’s Statewide Childhood Obesity Policy

Janani Thapa (Primary Investigator), Marsha Davis, Jennifer Gay, Justin Ingles and Donglan “Stacy” Zhang (College of Public Health); Lan Mu (Franklin College of Arts and Sciences); Michael Schmidt (College of Education); Chen Zhen (College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences) and external collaborators.

Growing research, innovation and entrepreneurship is a strategic priority for the university. Research expenditures are up nearly 30% over the past five years, and UGA now ranks No. 53 in the National Science Foundation’s Higher Education Research & Development rankings, a 13-point jump from No. 66 over a five-year period.