Projects with ARRA Funding

Algebraic Geometry
Hiro Abo is researching ways to represent a collection of data as a multidimensional array, which is one manner in which a digital color picture can be stored. A mathematical framework that includes the study of these arrays and their representations as sums of more basic objects is through parameter spaces of tensors. This research looks into the fundamental properties of tensors, which has applications in fields ranging from signal processing and data analysis to algebraic geometry and statistics.
Biochar to Forest Soil
In the search for sustainable alternative fuels, one emerging technology is Biochar; a carbon-neutral bioenergy production system that uses forests to naturally produce bio oil, which can be used as a fuel oil or refined to produce transportation fuels. The study seeks to study the forest’s response to being used in the process by looking at soil chemical, physical and biological characteristics, as well as tree growth and health responses.
Chlamydomonas Reinhardtii
Douglas Cole is studying Intraflagellar Transport (IFT) in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. In English, he is studying the ways in which tiny, whip-like appendages propel cells through a liquid environment or coordinate together to propel a liquid environment over a tissue surface. Specifically, he is better defining the architecture of a subset of the tiny appendage’s machinery. The work is important because defects in these tiny propellers have been closely associated with a range of human diseases including infertility, polycystic kidney disease causing painful, enlarged kidneys and retinitis pigmentosa causing vision loss.
Climate Change Adaptation
Many countries in northern Europe are already feeling the effects of global climate change and have begun responding to the changing world around them. Harley Johansen believes we can learn something from their experience. The study will compare and contrast base indicators such as population trends, urban accessibility, infrastructure, government support, and development strategies to find differences responsible for economic success of 71 municipalities north of 65-degrees latitude.
Cloud Properties and Precipitation
Climate change is a phenomenon that scientists are constantly trying to learn more about in order to refine their models and predictions. By observing certain characteristics of clouds in the Arctic Circle – including temperature, humidity, precipitation and thickness – Von Walden is seeking to better understand the transfer of heat and energy between the atmosphere and the ground. To do this he is setting-up specialized equipment at the highest point in Greenland – Summit Station.
ETBC Collaborative Research
One of the most pressing ecological issues in the inland Northwest over the past few years has been the invasion of the Mountain Pine Beetle. Jeffrey Hicke seeks to quantify how rapid, extensive changes in forest structure and composition associated with the infestation affect the cycling of water, carbon and nitrogen cycles. The widespread extent of this disturbance presents a major challenge for governments and resource managers who must respond to the changes, yet lack a predictive understanding of how these systems will respond to the disturbance over various temporal and spatial scales.
Femtosecond Spectrometer
Eric Brauns is purchasing equipment to build an ultrafast infrared spectrometer capable of probing the most fundamental characteristics of molecules. At the heart of the machine is a laser that creates bursts of light pulses one-ten-trillionth of a second long; a time period so short that light travels only the width of a human hair within it.
Host-Pathogen Interactions
With the recent string of host-switching viruses such as the Avian Flu and H1N1, more attention is being given to how viruses go from one host species to another. One theory is that mutations allowing the virus to live at slightly elevated temperatures stabilize the virus, allowing it to withstand further mutations and jump species. An interdisciplinary team will use a wide range of techniques from computer simulations to laboratory experiments to determine if this theory is correct.
ITD State Artifact Curation
This grant is designed to preserve thousands of artifacts gathered from the ten northern counties of Idaho over the past four or more decades. It largely will support employees of the Laboratory of Anthropology to rehabilitate collections that have received little or no attention since their recovery from the field. One such project traces the Nez Perce culture from their distant past to the arriaval of white settlers and the establishment of the state through artifacts found at Heckman Ranch located near White Bird.
NIH Idaho INBRE Program
Idaho’s IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) program is designed to increase the state’s competitiveness for federal biomedical research funding through the pooling of resources, collaborations and shared ideas among Idaho’s institutes of higher learning. The first additional grants from ARRA funded three new technician positions and moved eight current part-time staff members to full-time status across the state. The second will expand telehealth networks linking underserved populations in rural communities and veterinary clinics in Idaho for the purpose of biosurveilance of infectious diseases.
NMR Ensemble Structures
Scientists believe up to 30 percent of the proteins found in the human body constantly change shape, which changes their function as well. Determining the different shapes a constantly changing protein can take is a very difficult problem. Marty Ytreberg is using computer simulations teamed with laboratory experiments in an attempt to better understand these types of proteins.
Processes in Evolution
It is estimated that bacteria cells outnumber human cells by a factor of ten to one, yet very little is known about how these microorganisms live, grow and influence human development, physiology, immunity and nutrition. The Human Microbiome Project is a major initiative by the National Institutes for Health to characterize these microorganisms and analyze their role in human health and disease. As part of this larger effort, Larry Forney will investigate the microbe ecosystems found in the human vagina.
Protein >Pase Research
Patricia (Trish) Hartzell is trying to understand complex interactions between cells during the development of large bacterial structures using the soil bacterium Myxococcus xantus. Colonies of these fascinating bacteria form a biofilm called a swarm capable of organizing itself in order to move over surfaces in search of food. When starved, the organized group of cells forms a fruiting body - dome-shaped structures of about 100,000 cells – in order to better survive. Specifically, Hartzell is interested in the molecular switches that control the assembly of components that allow the cells to glide over surfaces and differentiate.
UM Genomic Tools
This grant establishes the nation’s fifth Sexually Transmitted Infections Cooperative Research Center focused on waging a genetic war against the most common bacterial sexually transmitted infection in the western world: clamydia.