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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 2020 application cycle begins November 1. A Notice of Intent is required and must be submitted by 5pm December 6, 2019 in order to be considered for this program. Late NOIs will not be accepted. Full proposals are due February 14, 2020 by 5pm.

 

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

 

RFP: The 2020 Guidelines and Application will be available in the fall. Feel free to review the 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 or.orap@wsu.edu.

2019 Funded Projects

Dr. Deirdre Griffin – Department of Crop & Soil Sciences (CAHNRS)
Title: Improving potato system sustainability through locally-relevant soil health indicators

The long-term sustainability and productivity of global cropping systems depend in large part on the health of the soil. Like human health, soil health describes the ability of a system to fight diseases, efficiently cycle nutrients, and continually rebuild strong structure. Soil health indicators, akin to taking blood pressure or body mass index, provide a benchmark for assessment of aspects of health. However, soil types vary substantially, and national benchmarks are not always locally-relevant. This project will conduct a soil health survey of potato systems in northwest Washington to 1) establish baseline soil health values showing the current condition of these soils, 2) connect soil management practices, particularly cover cropping, to changes in soil health, 3) develop a roadmap and key soil health indicators to improve and track progress of sustainable soil management. This effort will be a gateway to developing a state-wide soil health database that strengthens our understanding of soil functioning in agriculture and how to maximize soil services, such as filtering water, supplying nutrients, supporting vegetation, and suppressing disease.

 

Dr. Deepti Singh – School of the Environment (CAS)
Title: Climate factors influencing direct and secondary wildfire impacts in the Pacific Northwest

The western U.S. is experiencing a growing risk of large and severe wildfires. Wildfires have impacts on lives, infrastructure, and ecosystems. Damages associated with recent wildfires have amounted to billions of dollars. Increasing anthropogenic activities are leading to multifaceted changes in our climate including warming temperatures, reduced snowpack, and enhanced droughts that are likely to amplify the risk of wildfires. Two main impacts from wildfires include worsening air quality due to pollutants released from fires and changes in access to water resources due to post-fire debris flows, both of which are strongly influenced by meteorological conditions. Management of these impacts associated with wildfires requires a better understanding of the climatic factors that govern their impacts, their changing risks in a warming climate, and the region’s vulnerability. This project will examine the influence of multiple climate factors that govern the extent, severity and duration of the impacts on air quality and water resources. Variations in the impacts across communities in the region, with a focus on indigenous areas and the expanding wildland-urban interface will be evaluated to evaluate regional vulnerabilities to changing climate conditions.

 

Dr. Joe Hedges – Department of Fine Arts (CAS)
Title: Hyper Combines

Artists have long experimented by combining a two or more media to create new forms, such as combining moving pictures and sound to create film. This experimentation is sometimes called intermedia. In the contemporary art gallery, the “combine” is part sculpture and part painting. This proposal discusses the creation and exhibition of a new body of innovative intermedia art works that combine oil painting and new media objects such as flatscreen televisions and tablets. These Hyper Combines engage two fields that are frequently presented as separate: oil painting and new media art. By combining a distinctive painting ability with a contemplative but playful approach to new media art, these works obfuscate the physical and conceptual boundaries between media to make comments on specific challenges of the digital age. Funds from the New Faculty Seed Grant would fund both the creation and exhibition of these works. In 2019 and 2020, Hyper Combines will be exhibited in Pullman, WA, Loveland, CO and Spokane, WA, exposing the pieces to several distinct audiences.

 

Dr. Shenghai Dai – Educational Psychology Program (College of Education)
Title: Advancing Education Research Using Large-Scale Assessment Data

Although large-scale assessments provide education researchers with opportunities to study various aspects of student learning without the astronomical expense of data collection, they are still largely under-utilized from research to policy. This project is aimed to advance education research using largescale assessment data through implementing advanced data analytic and psychometrics methods and tools. Explicitly, we propose two research inquiries. For the first inquiry, we will use advanced feature selection techniques such as the random forest approach to identify protective factors for Native American student learning in mathematics. The purpose is to take advantage of the thousands of contextual variables from NAEP and look for meaningful factors that support learning and development of Native American students. For the second inquiry, we will use newly developed psychometric models to investigate whether students’ math performance on specific skills such as problem solving are captured by NAEP and identify connections between students’ performance on such skills and school curricula as well as other contextual factors.

 

Mona Ghandi – Architecture in the School of Design & Construction (VCEA)
Title: Compassionate Deployable Spaces Using Biosignals of Occupants for Disaster and Stress

In Addition to natural disasters’ financial loss, the psychological impact of them is critical. They are particularly insidious because they tend to traumatize large populations of people at once, and can result in epidemics of Survivor’s Guilt and other PTSD symptoms. Studies show that there is a 30-60% increase in suicide death after the natural disaster that indicates the importance of mental health in those situations. Providing effective disaster housing, that can respond to both physical and mental health of the people as a critical step to long-term recovery, is a gap this project aims to address. It aims to create a prototype of a lightweight, reconfigurable, adaptive, and smart shelter for emergency housing that can reconfigure its shapes based on the psychological and physiological needs of their occupants to lower the level of PTSD symptoms. Using affective computing (i.e., artificial emotional intelligence), the emotional status of the user will be detected from biosignals (e.g., heartbeat, perspiration, and skin conductance) and the reconfigurable shelter changes itself according to the programmatic needs and emotional data and helps the occupant heal. By modifying atmospheric conditions (e.g., natural light, changing the color) it decreases the level of stress. In addition to the treatment role, it has a preventative role in informing caregivers about inflictions before they happen.

 

Mirada Bernhardt – Center for Reproductive Biology (College of Vet Med)
Title: Improved artificial oocyte activation for somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT)

Somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT or “cloning”) is a powerful technology with important applications in gene editing and agriculture. Health problems in animals produced using SCNT may be related to culture conditions and treatments during very early development. SCNT embryos are produced by fusing a body cell or nucleus with an enucleated oocyte. Because the oocyte does not undergo normal fertilization, it must be triggered to begin embryo development, or activated, artificially. This project will test a novel oocyte activation method in porcine oocytes to determine whether embryo development and embryo quality can be improved following SCNT. Current activation protocols use chemicals or electric pulses to raise intracellular calcium levels. The novel method tested here triggers a more natural pattern of calcium oscillations by stimulating the same signaling pathway as sperm. Based on preliminary data, this method is effective for mouse oocytes. This proposal outlines experiments to test this novel G-protein-based artificial oocyte activation method in porcine oocytes and to determine whether it improves porcine SCNT embryo health.

 

Andy Shu – Mechanical and Materials Engineering (VCEA)
Title: Development of a Novel Acoustic Technology for the Cryopreservation of Live Cells and Tissues

Cryopreservation of cells, tissues, and organs has been successfully applied in fundamental research and clinical practice, such as sperm bank, cellular therapy, and tissue/organ transplantation. However, the viability and functionality of biological materials can be damaged during cooling and thawing, majorly due to the lethal intracellular ice formation (IIF). To endure cells through cryopreservation, cryoprotective agents (CPAs, e.g., DMSO and sugar) should be added to the cells before cooling and removed after thawing. The CPA addition/removal process can cause osmotic injury to the cells as well. These major challenges severely hinder the better application of cryopreservation. In this work, a novel versatile system based on acoustic technique will be developed and optimized to address all the challenges mentioned above, including manipulating the phase transition of the cell suspension, loading nonpermeating CPAs into cells, and removing CPAs after thawing with minimal cell injury. This system and technology can be applied in many other engineering and biomedical fields, such as controlled crystallization in metallurgy and food processing, drug delivery, gene therapy, concentration and detection of rare target cells out of a mixture for the diagnosis of diseases, and others.

 

Lindsey Miller – Nutrition & Exercise Physiology (College of Medicine)
Title: Effect of methylsulfonylmethane on cardiometabolic health in prediabetic obese adults

Obesity is related to the development of multiple diseases, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Development of these obesity-related diseases is linked to elevated levels of inflammation, oxidative stress, and metabolic dysfunction. Interventions to reduce inflammation and improve metabolic function hold promise for the prevention of obesity-related diseases. Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is a naturally occurring compound that demonstrates antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Improvements in measures of metabolic health have been observed in mouse models of obesity and type 2 diabetes following MSM treatment. MSM is currently available as a common dietary supplement ‘generally recognized as safe’ by the Food and Drug Administration. However, the effect of MSM on obesity-related diseases in humans has not been investigated. Therefore, the purpose of this investigation will be to determine whether MSM supplementation improves metabolic health, and markers of inflammation and oxidative status.

 

Rock Mancini – Department of Chemistry (CAS)
Title: α,ω-Heterotelechelic Polymers Synthesized by Radical-Radical Recombination

Large molecules of biological origin (biomolecules) have immense potential for use as therapeutic drugs for diseases ranging from cancer to diabetes. However, using biomolecules in medicine is challenging because they have poor drug-like properties. Many therapeutically useful biomolecules are difficult to obtain in high purity, unstable, and rapidly deteriorate. An emerging approach to mitigate these challenges is to synthetically modify otherwise unstable biomolecules to generate synthetic-biologic hybrid molecules with significantly improved drug-like properties. Our research develops a new type of reaction to generate these synthetic-biologic hybrids. Our new reaction methodology exploits a phenomenon known as the Persistent Radical Effect; an effect that has been extensively studied in Chemistry, but never before applied to create molecules that contain both synthetic and biological components. We demonstrate that applying the Persistent Radical Effect to generate syntheticbiologic hybrid molecules, not only imparts improved drug-like properties to biomolecules, but also results in a synthesis that is higher yielding, and easier to purify than conventional techniques. We envision that advancing this type of reaction will enable the synthesis of many new biomolecule therapeutics.

 

Luciana Hebert – IREACH (Community Health)
Title: Reproductive Profile of AIAN women in the National Survey of Family Growth

American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) women and girls experience numerous heath challenges including unintended pregnancy, late entry into prenatal care, increased risk of sexual victimization, 3 and high rates of sexually transmitted infection. Evidence suggests fertility among AI/AN women is declining substantially. Dedicated analyses that examine pregnancy intentions, contraceptive use behaviors and fertility patterns among AI/AN women can illustrate the individual-level factors that underpin and shape population level trends. In the context of decreasing fertility, continued unintended pregnancy, and multiple reproductive health disparities, a detailed look at reproductive health indicators among AI/AN women using survey data is needed. This study will use data from the National Survey of Family Growth to 1) examine pregnancy intentions and fertility patterns among AI/AN women women; 2) examine contraceptive use behaviors and correlates among AI/AN women; and 3) evaluate differences in fertility, reproductive and contraceptive behaviors between urban and
rural AI/AN women.

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.