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New Faculty Seed Grant Program

Encouraging new, junior level faculty to develop research, scholarly, or creative programs

The Office of Research and Office of the Provost support the annual New Faculty Seed Grants to help junior faculty develop research, scholarly, or creative programs that lead to sustained professional development and extramural funding.


The 2019 application cycle begins November 1. A Notice of Intent is required  and must be submitted by 5pm December 6, 2018 in order to be considered for this program. Late NOIs will not be accepted. Full proposals are due February 14, 2019 by 5pm.


Watch the Q&A session with the Program coordinators and follow along with the presentation slides.


RFP: 2019_Seed Grant Guidelines and Application


If you have any questions concerning the guidelines, proposal or review process, please contact the program coordinator: Emily Brashear at

2018 Funded Projects

Brianna Ewing, School of Food Science
Title: Strategic Yeast Nutrition Supplementation for Hard Cider Fermentation

Cider production and consumption has increased dramatically over the past decade, particularly in the Pacific Northwest. One area of interest to cidermakers in this region is how yeast nutrition during fermentation impacts aroma and flavor development in cider. One aroma, hydrogen sulfide, is responsible for a rotten-egg-like odor and is often produced as a response to yeast nutritional stress. Though much work has been done to evaluate the production of hydrogen sulfide during grape wine fermentation, there is a significant lack of research pertaining to cider fermentation.

Therefore, this research aims evaluate nutrient supplementation strategies during hard cider fermentation to reduce the occurrence of hydrogen sulfide formation by adding various forms of nitrogen and vitamins at different rates. This study will be the first in a multi-institutional effort to address yeast nutrition in cider fermentation to support the growing cider industry.


Sarah Hart, School of the Environment
Title: Fire-adaptive trait diversity across spatial scales: Consequences for productivity recovery following wildfire


Coincident with recent warm and dry conditions, ecosystems across the globe have experienced an increase in wildfire activity. Future changes in climate are widely anticipated to increase area burned and fire occurrence. In the context of anticipating the ecological consequences of altered fire regimes, a key challenge is understanding which systems may be most resilient, or able to recover their essential structure and function following disturbance. It is widely thought that resilience is greater in more diverse systems because any individual species lost to wildfire may be compensated for by another species that is functionally similar. Yet empirical evidence for the diversity-resilience relationship is lacking, particularly across complex landscapes. To address this knowledge gap, the proposed research seeks to quantify the effects of biodiversity and environmental conditions on resilience across spatial scales.


Sophia Tegart, School of Music
Title: Musical Ekphrasis in the Flute Works of Women Composers: A commissioning and recording project


Within the scope of this project, the PI, Sophia Tegart, will commission, record, and perform works by women composers for flute alone and flute and piano. Musical ekphrasis, or the representation of art, nature, and poetry in music will act as the unifying theme of the project. The commissioned, recorded, and performed works on the CD will exemplify musical ekphrasis. The CD will contain previously written works by composers Jean Ahn, Jessica Rudman, Laura Schwendinger, Sofia Gubaidulina, and Gabriela Lena Frank, as well as newly commissioned works by Canadian-born, Scottish-based composer Emily Doolittle and German-American composer Ingrid Stolzel. The PI will perform and record the works in collaboration with Washington State University School of Music faculty pianist, Michael Seregow. The eventual result of this project will be the addition of new creative works, preservation and dissemination of the works, and national and international recognition of the works through published scores and reviews, recordings, and musical performances.


Chanmi Hwang, Department of Apparel, Merchandising, Design & Textiles
Title: Towards Mass Production: Developing Functional Maternity Hospital Gown


In labor and delivery services, all women deserve good quality maternal health services for the wellbeing of themselves and their children. However, there has been an increase in patient dissatisfaction of current hospital maternity gowns since they are not fully functional for the healthcare practitioner and are physically and emotionally uncomfortable to the user. The purpose of this project is to conduct the research needed that informs development of economically feasible and functional hospital gowns that satisfy the needs of both patients and the practitioners throughout different stages of labor. The researcher will (a) identify key design attributes of patients and practitioners’ user needs through a nation-wide online survey and interviews conducted at Pullman Regional Hospital, and (b) determine a cost-effective design and sustainable supply chain of the maternity hospital gowns. This study extends the user-centered approach to a society-oriented focus through product innovation, product-service system innovation and socio-technical system innovation. Patients, healthcare practitioners, and health insurance organizations will benefit from the results.


Molly Kelton, Department of Teaching & Learning
Title: Health Education through Arts Learning: A STEM Partnership in Diverse Rural Communities


For many low-income and minority children living in US rural-agricultural regions, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) can seem out of reach. There is a pressing need to develop educational programs that allow underrepresented children to see themselves and their rural communities as a genuine part of the STEM landscape. This project will launch the Health-STEM Education through Arts-based Learning (HEAL) partnership. Emerging STEM-education scholars in WSU’s College of Education lead the HEAL partnership. Additional collaborators include faculty in CAHNRS, the College of Medicine, and the Franklin and Yakima Extension campuses, as well as community partners in rural Washington. HEAL’s long-term mission is to broaden minority and rural participation in STEM. This project will develop a novel educational program to teach children in grades 3-5 from predominantly-Latino populations in Central Washington about ecological dynamics and infectious diseases that affect rural-agricultural areas. This unique partnership will investigate innovative arts-based strategies to reveal diverse opportunities for students to engage in STEM fields.


Xiongzhi Chen, Mathematics & Statistics
Title: Large-scale multiple hypotheses testing: adaptivity, accuracy, stability and reproducibility


In many scientific endeavors including genomics, genetics, medical science and drug safety studies, researchers need to simultaneously compare one or more features of thousands or even millions of study subjects and then identify highly relevant ones for further investigations. This leads to large-scale multiple hypotheses testing for high-dimensional data. However, observations in such data usually follow heterogeneous distributions, are dependent on each other, and inherit various sources of uncertainty. This greatly affects the adaptivity, accuracy, stability and reproducibility of a statistical procedure. To date, these four issues have only been addressed for very special cases. Correspondingly, the proposed research will address them in general by developing testing procedures that adapt to the overall level of signals in data, classifying the type of dependence under which a statistical procedure is accurate and stable, and proposing reproducible and scalable statistical methods that account for heterogeneous sources of uncertainty in data.


Idil Akin, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Title: Strength and stiffness of unsaturated clay in relation to internal stress state


Strength and stiffness of the soil are the two most important parameters in the design and analysis of geotechnical engineering structures (e.g., foundations, pavements, natural and man0made slopes, etc.). The traditional framework that is used in geotechnical engineering practice to determine the mechanical soil behavior is based on the assumption that the soil is fully saturated with water. The assumption simplifies the analysis by reducing the soil into a two-phase medium an considers the worst possible environmental conditions, however, cannot represent the true stress state of soil. More importantly, change in soil saturation results in a nonlinear change in internal stress state, and therefore to mechanical soil behavior, which cannot be captured by the current framework. This study is a step to develop a new framework to quantify mechanical behavior of soils in the entire range of saturation (i.e., from 0 to 100%). Soil stiffness is measured through resilient modulus and shear modulus tests in the entire range of saturation. The change in soil stiffness with saturation is explained through the change in internal stress components (i.e., adsorptive and capillary components) with saturation.


Ofer Amram, Nutrition & Exercise Physiology
Title: Access to Opioid Addiction Treatment and Overdose Risk in Spokane County


Regions throughout North America are experiencing unprecedented rates of morbidity and mortality associated with opioid overdoses (OD). In fact, the increase in OD-related death is attributed to have caused the first drop in US life expectancy since 1963 (0.1% between 2015 and 2017). Within Washington State, Spokane County had a 78% increase in opioid drug-related deaths in 2016 compared to 2014 (64 vs. 36 respectively). There is growing evidence that methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) is effective in reducing rates of OD and OD mortality. Therefore, the purpose of this project is to: 1.) examine the relationship between access to the only publicly-funded MMT clinic in Spokane county and both adherence to treatment and likelihood of OD and, 2.) to map locations (hotspots) within Spokane County where either high or low concentrations of MMT clients are found. A web-based mapping and visualization dashboard will display the results and provide an analysis platform for decision makers.


Lais Malavasi, Veterinary Clinical Sciences
Title: Effect of buprenorphine/bupivacaine in brachial plexus block for elbow arthroscopy in dogs.


Local anesthesia techniques have many advantages besides producing pain relief during surgery. It also promotes pain relief after surgery, better recovery from surgical procedures, and a faster healing time. Bupivacaine has been the agent of choice for local blocks due to its longer duration of time (6 h). Human research has shown that adding buprenorphine, a partial opioid, to a nerve block can increase the analgesia duration threefold. This could benefit patients undergoing surgeries by providing prolonged analgesia after discharge from the hospital. The aim of this study is to evaluate the effect of buprenorphine added to the local anesthetic (bupivacaine) for brachia! plexus block in dogs that will be subjected to elbow arthroscopy. The effect of this drug combination will be compared to the effects of brachia! plexus block given only the local anesthetic. Data collection will include intraoperative cardiorespiratory variables, postoperative pa_in and lameness scores, and opioid consumption postoperatively which will be given when any dog is showing signs of pain.


Ryan Driskell, School of Molecular Biosciences
Title: Investigating cellular heterogeneity during skin development in a porcine (pig) model.


Adult skin wounds in mammals heal via a reparative, rather than regenerative, process and, therefore results in fibrotic scarring. Small scars in the skin are not normally a problem for mammals, but fibrotic scars that cover large areas of the human body, such as burn wounds, can be debilitating. To fully regenerate a wound, re-formation of a complex micro-tissue-architecture including skin appendages, hair follicles and sweat glands is required. Fibroblasts are key cell types in regulating appendage formation during skin development and tissue repair. We have discovered that regulating the relative abundances of different fibroblast populations during wound repair in mice will direct skin regeneration instead of scarring. Here we intend to investigate fibroblasts during porcine (pig) skin development as a surrogate model for human skin, to lead to therapeutic strategies for human skin regeneration.


Julia Day, School of Design & Construction
Title: A mixed methods approach to understanding the human-building interface


As evidenced by a growing body of research, building interface design profoundly affects occupant comfort, building usability and energy use. However, there is limited research and practical guidance on residential building interface design. This project will use a set of novel surveys, interviews, and field studies to determine best practices for design considerations for common household interfaces (e.g. thermostats, light switches, windows, blind controls, and water fixtures). An online survey and interviews will be implemented to understand occupants’ perceptions of thermal and visual comfort, as well as respective adaptive opportunities and corresponding behaviors (e.g. opening/closing windows).

Ultimately, findings from this study will provide major insights about the importance of: (a) the human-building-interface, (b) design missteps and lessons learned, and (c) understanding the building context when implementing behavioral approaches. This research has the potential to greatly improve residential design and human-building interface controls. Results will be disseminated through a free webinar, journal and magazine article, and an illustrated user-friendly report of results.


Qiang Zhang, Department of Chemistry
Title: Design and Synthesis of Porous Smart Materials


The proposed research aims to design and synthesis porous smart materials for applications in sensing of toxic chemicals in air and water. These smart materials can change color when contacted with specific chemicals. We plan to use highly emissive organic ligands as building blocks to construct porous luminescent coordination polymers and porous organic polymers. On one hand, the feature of these materials is that the structure of the framework can change upon chemical or physical stimulation, for example, metal ions in water or external pressure. The change of structure will cause the color or emission color change, which can be recorded to identify the contacted species and calculate the concentration. On the other hand, the rigid framework can be constructed by using flexible organic ligands, in which there are functional groups that are not directly used to connect to the network. In this case, the free functional groups can interact with chemicals, which will change the relative conformation of the organic ligand, which will alter the color of the material. As the color of the material is very sensitive to the conformation, the detection of chemicals with very low concentration can be realized.


Jessica Willoughby, Communication
Title: The role of emotions and social media in young women’s tanning attitudes and behaviors


Melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer, is prevalent in young women. Melanoma kills one person every hour. Younger skin is particularly vulnerable to ultraviolet light that promotes skin cancer, making young women a prime target audience for prevention messaging. Messaging focused on increasing knowledge has not been found effective at changing behaviors. Our project will examine the role of psychosocial variables related to media use and emotional states in promoting or preventing skin damaging and skin protection behaviors through real-time data collected via ecological momentary assessment with young women in two states. Results of this research will provide us with valuable insights that can inform the development of an intervention to promote sun safety for young women. Additionally, it will provide preliminary data for external funding applications.


Richard Iles, School of Economic Sciences
Title: Human cognition in computer simulations: an evaluation of poverty alleviation.


The pattern of cyclical poverty is a frequent feature of households in poverty across low – middle income countries. Interventions may contribute to cyclical poverty when immediate gains don’t change household’s long-run productive capacity. The integration of economic theory with agent-based models to better understand the importance of micro-level assumptions on macro-level outcomes aligns to a complex systems framework. This same framework is appropriate to better understand long-term epidemiological and environmental dynamics associated with poverty alleviation and the use of livestock asset transfers. Two agent-based models will be built each with a different geographical and livestock asset focus. The simulation model requires two sets of human decisions: a) sale of livestock, and b) vaccination against infectious livestock disease. The contrasting assumed levels of information associated with persistent knowledge of the availability of livestock feed and limited information about livestock disease outbreaks provides natural contexts to test the effects of cognitive information processing costs.