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U of I Faculty Awarded Seed Grant Funding for 19 Projects

May 15, 2018

Nineteen faculty members at the University of Idaho were awarded funding for FY2019 through the university’s Seed Grant program.

Sponsored by the Office of Research and Economic Development, the Seed Grant program helps early career faculty establish a scholarly program. The program aims to promote research, outreach and creative activities that will improve individual faculty competitiveness for external funding and/or will result in publications, patents, recognition, awards or exhibitions/performances. Seed Grant awards ranged from $8,200 to $12,000.

“ORED Seed Grants are an important internal investment that enables our faculty to expand their research, creative and scholarly activities,” said Janet E. Nelson, vice president for Research and Economic Development.“We received a very strong pool of submissions across a wide range of topics, and I am very pleased that we were able to fund 19 of the applications for fiscal year 2019.”

Projects selected for seed grant funding include:

Fluorescent Sensor for Inflammation Marker PGE2Peter Allen, assistant professor, Department of Chemistry, College of Science. Allen will build microscopic sensors that respond to an important chemical messenger, prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), by emitting light observable with a fluorescence microscope or in vivo imager. This PGE2 sensor will be a proof of concept for a new class of light-up biosensors.

Disagreement: From Theory to Practice and BackBert Baumgaertner, assistant professor, Department of Politics and Philosophy, College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences. Baumgaertner will use semi-structured workshops to assess how well theories of disagreement apply to concrete issues.

Wildland Firefighter Nutrient Intake in Relation to Body Composition & Performance: A Longitudinal Analysis: Ann Frost Brown, assistant professor, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education, Health and Human Sciences. Brown’s research will aid in the ability to understand wildland firefighters’ in-season and off-season nutrition status by examining changes in body composition and performance parameters.

Spatiotemporal Evaluation of Land Cover Impacts on Urban Climate: Chao Fan, assistant professor, Department of Geography, College of Science. Fan’s study will provide the first investigation of the evolving urban heat island pattern and associate it with the land cover dynamics in the fast-growing Boise-Meridian metropolitan region. Results from this research will provide targeted guidelines for sustainable future planning and resource management.

1 in 10,000: A New Composition for Wind Ensemble and ElectronicsRuby Fulton, assistant professor, Lionel Hampton School of Music, College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences. Fulton will compose, perform and create a professional recording of a new work for wind ensemble and electronics that is based on the history and culture of the Idaho star garnet.

Synchronization Engineering of Physarum polycephalumKyle Harrington, assistant professor, Department of Virtual Technology and Design, College of Art and Architecture. Harrington will usePhysarum polycephalumas a model for studying the control of oscillatory phenomena, applying methodologies from synchronization engineering. The research will provide key insights into how such engineering can guide therapies and interventions that alter and normalize oscillatory behavior in complex biological networks.

Terrorism Recidivism Study (TRS) DatabaseOmi Hodwitz, assistant professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences. Hodwitz will create a Terrorism Recidivism Study database that documents release and recidivism information on offenders convicted of terrorism-related crimes in the United States following Sept. 11, 2001. The work will advance understanding about terrorist behaviors, inform criminal justice policy and offer an opportunity for student-faculty collaboration.

Measuring Opportunity Costs of Ecosystem Service Provisioning Using Hydroeconomic ModelsKatherine Lee, assistant professor, Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. Lee will assess the non-market value of an environmental service, conservation of the willow flycatcher, in the Rio Grande basin using an integrated economic-hydrological modeling framework. The analysis will quantify the value lost to agriculture and industrial production under realized environmental surface water flows.

Developing a New Method for Single Crystal Fabrication Using Wire-Arc Additive ManufacturingMichael Maughan, assistant professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering. Maughan will develop a method to manufacture single crystal components by combining the concepts of additive manufacturing and directional solidification. The research will demonstrate feasibility and determine basic process control values required to achieve the desired material structure. Identifying a new method for fabricating single crystal components could sufficiently reduce the cost to enable their use in new markets.

Species in the Age of Big DataAleta Quinn, assistant professor, Department of Politics and Philosophy, College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences. Quinn’s research analyzes the use of evolutionary models for species delimitation. The project aims to critique particular procedures for publishing claims about cryptic species diversity, and to specify what species delimitation requires beyond the general lineage concept.

Identifying Neural Circuits Coding Alcohol RewardBenjamin Richardson, assistant research professor, Department of Biological Engineering, College of Engineering. Richardson’s project will identify how recreationally-relevant levels of alcohol alter the functional activity of a novel cerebellar-VTA pathway to understand how alcohol actions in the cerebellum could contribute to alcohol-related reward signaling.

Wheat Stem LodgingDaniel Robertson, assistant professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering. Wind induced crop failure is a major agricultural problem, especially in wheat, barley and canola. Robertson’s project integrates engineering expertise with crop science to develop field-deploying, electro-mechanical devices to measure wheat stem strength. Once validated, these devices will be used in selective breeding studies to reduce susceptibility to lodging failures.

Non-Native Speaker Identities Among Border-Crossing Scientists and Engineers in the U.S.: Bal Krishna Sharma, assistant professor, Department of English, College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences. Sharma will study the negotiation of non-native English speaker identities by faculty in the disciplines of science and engineering at U.S. universities. The research examines how faculty negotiate their language expertise, how they deal with their perceived and real language-related challenges, and whether they conform to or challenge the ‘standard’ language norms in their teaching and professional communication.

Examination of the Role of Grit in Agricultural Educator Recruitment and RetentionKasee Smith, assistant professor, Department of Agricultural and Extension Education, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. Grit is a newly emerging concept in psychology and education. High levels of grit have been linked to teacher retention and resilience for several general teaching fields (i.e. math, English, science). In this project, Smith will examine grit as a factor in recruitment and retention of agricultural educators.

Domestic Objects Visually Reframed Through Hybrid Photographic and Print ProcessesMichael Sonnichsen, assistant professor, Department of Art and Design, College of Art and Architecture. Sonnichsen will use experimental photographic imagery overlaid with screen-printed visual information to encourage previously unseen readings from seemingly ordinary household items — and will digitally document photographic works that will become the basis for the production of large-scale visually hybrid “print/photo” fine art pieces.

Restoring the Lost Novels of Walt Whitman — A Targeted Archival SearchZachary Turpin, assistant professor, Department of English, College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences. Turpin will pursue two lost Whitman novels: “The Sleeptalker” (ca. 1851) and “Proud Antoinette” (ca. 1858-59). Manuscript evidence suggests that these books were indeed published, likely serialized in one of several newspapers held in the New York Public Library (New York, NY) or the American Antiquarian Society (Worcester, MA). Funding will support a four-week research trip to visit both institutions.

Novel Data Analytics Approach for Crop Health Assessment in Precision AgricultureAlex Vakanski, assistant professor, Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, College of Engineering. Vakanski will develop a methodology for automated assessment of crop health in images by employing deep neural networks. Specific aims of the project are: collect field images by using a multispectral camera carried by an unmanned aerial system, then annotate the data; and design a novel neural network architecture for segmentation of crop leaves in images — and subsequently for discrimination between healthy and diseased plants.

Born Digital Appraisal Practices across ArchivesAshlyn Velte, assistant professor, Library. Velte will examine the effectiveness of archival appraisal practices for born digital collections (digital files created and maintained entirely digitally) across different workflows and policies supporting the long-term preservation of such collections at the University of Idaho.

Seeding a Resilient Palouse Through Participatory Action Research with FarmersChloe Wardropper, assistant professor, Department of Natural Resources and Society, College of Natural Resources. Little is known about the extent to which farmers see cover crops as contributing to a resilient operation or region, and the most effective policy options to promote cover crop adoption. Wardropper’s research will increase the practical and theoretical understanding of agricultural resilience as it relates to cover crop adoption in the Palouse region.


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Phillip Bogdan
Marketing and Communications Manager,
Office of Research and Economic Development
University of Idaho

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The University of Idaho, home of the Vandals, is Idaho’s land-grant, national research university. From its residential campus in Moscow, U of I serves the state of Idaho through educational centers in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls, nine research and Extension centers, plus Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to nearly 12,000 students statewide, U of I is a leader in student-centered learning and excels at interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities, and in advancing diversity, citizenship and global outreach. U of I competes in the Big Sky Conference. Learn more at