2018 Spring Funded Proposals
Twelve University of Idaho proposals were selected for funding in 2018 through the Office of Research and Economic Development’s (ORED) Equipment and Infrastructure Support (EIS) Award program. A total of $159,817 was awarded across five colleges. Recipients were selected from a competitive field that included 23 submissions requesting a total of $324,887. Awards ranged from $4,300 to $27,300.
Rajal Cohen, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and Communication Studies (now the Department of Culture, Society and Justice), College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS): This proposal requests funds for an electroencephalography (EEG) system, which would facilitate relatively direct assessment of high-level brain activity. I study the influence of cognition on posture and movement, especially with respect to aging, Parkinson’s disease and pain. My current research tools allow examination of high-level brain activity only indirectly, by measuring electrical signals at muscles and assessing movements and posture under different conditions. For instance, we recently demonstrated that successful rehabilitation of neck pain is associated with decreased surface muscle activation and a shift in muscle firing frequency during neck flexion. EEG measurement would allow us to assess whether neck pain is also related to activity changes in brain regions known to be involved in planning and carrying out movement. An active EEG neuroimaging lab will enhance our Ph.D. program in Experimental Psychology and would provide research opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students in psychology and neuroscience.
Mark Coleman, professor in the Department of Forest, Rangeland and Fire Sciences, College of Natural Resources (CNR): Forest canopy leaf area regulates tree growth and predicts site production potential through the critical role leaves play in absorbing energy, acquiring carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and transpiring water. Leaf area index (LAI) —leaf area per unit ground area—is fundamental to forest ecosystem models based on light interception. These models have been adopted by forest industry and ecologists alike because of their prediction accuracy. Production silviculture research demonstrates the value in using LAI to assess site carrying capacity for trees and responses to cultural treatments. This instrumentation will allow instantaneous access to LAI measurements to accelerate advances in research on production silviculture, forest ecology and forest restoration efforts; and provide UI forestry students hands-on experience with advanced technology.
Ann Hoste, chair of the Department of Theatre Arts, CLASS: What’s the significance of theatre as a creative activity? In a world increasingly connected through social media, we may easily find ourselves detached from reality. Theatre—among its many attributes—offers an antidote. The theatre audience experience is visceral and communal; it can reconnect us to ourselves and others, and helps us understand and appreciate one another more deeply by celebrating our shared history, culture, and values. Using increasingly sophisticated and versatile tools, scenic designers facilitate this experience by establishing the visual “world of the play,” a carefully crafted environment that allows the audience to suspend disbelief and fully engage with the story before them. The designers’ creative process involves script analysis, renderings, and model-building; it culminates in a unique stage environment inhabited by dramatic characters. In order to effectively achieve this goal, faculty and students must have access to specialized equipment that meets industry standards. This proposal seeks funds to replace a plotter and acquire a laser cutter—two tools considered essential in Theatre Design. These tools will afford faculty and students access to current technologies so that they may realize their creative and professional potential.
Zachary Kayler, assistant professor in the Department of Soil and Water Systems, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS): Funding is requested to support the purchase of a gas chromatograph mass spectrometer (GC-MS) that will link to an existing thermogravimetric analyzer-differential scanning calorimeter (TGA-DSC). The TGA-DSC/GC-MS system is unique in that it quantifies the make-up of natural products in terms of energy loss (TGA), complexity of molecular structure (DSC), and molecular composition (MS). We have recently established the Biogeochemistry Core Facility and a full-time technician associated with the Core will devote time to help run samples and maintain the instrument. Part of the Biogeochemistry Core’s mission is to encourage collaboration across disciplines, linking the GC-MS instrument to existing equipment is an example of a collaborative effort that brings together analytic resources, interdisciplinary knowledge, and the potential to enhance research.
Kamal Kumar, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, College of Engineering: This infrastructure support request seeks funds for the repair of a Thermo Electron DSQ Mass Spectrometer (MS) located in the Mechanical Engineering Department. The repairs would require replacement of the pump, its power supply, and some additional accessories. The availability of the apparatus will support research in the area of alternative fuel combustion chemistry and characterization. The results obtained from the mass spectrometer are at the core of collaborative research efforts between three departments. A functional MS will enhance undergraduate teaching and support efforts to seek additional external.
Armando McDonald, professor in the Department of Forest, Rangeland and Fire Science, College of Natural Resources (CNR): This request is to fund a replacement of the Polaris-Q gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer (GC-MS) to a new generation GC-MS (ISQ from ThermoScientific). The GC-MS instrument is used to determine the chemical composition of complex samples and is widely used by faculty across campus. The GC-MS is extensively used for research with additional teaching use in Renewable Materials and is extensively used by faculty and students in Civil & Environmental Engineering; Biological Engineering; Food Science; Chemical Engineering & Material Science; Entomology, Plant Pathology & Nematology; and Forest Rangeland & Fire Sciences. This is a vital instrument to support interdisciplinary research activities across campus.
Amin Mirkouei, assistant professor of Industrial Technology and Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering: Our overarching goal is to promote sustainability and resilience of biofuel production from biomass through the new mechanical inventions and growing cyber-physical control and optimization initiatives. Our primary objective is to upgrade (i.e., post-conversion process) bio-oil because its application has been constrained due to its poor fuel properties. Thus, our interdisciplinary team intends to integrate ultrasonic treatment with various mutual solvents (e.g., acetone and ethanol) to enhance the physical and chemical properties (e.g., viscosity and combustion efficiency) of bio-oil. This project is part of a larger project to produce transportation fuels (e.g., gasoline, bio-jet fuels) from regional biomass feedstocks, employing thermochemical processes (i.e., catalytic fast pyrolysis) and physical upgrading methods (i.e., ultrasonic treatment with solvents). The fundamental novelty of the project lies in advancing the biomass-to-biofuel systems and crossing the boundaries among science and engineering disciplines, which is not being met due to existing limitations in current industrial practices.
Timothy Prather, professor in the Department of Plant Sciences, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS): Plants grown for agricultural production often require plant nutrition and plant protection materials to be applied under precisely controlled conditions. A research cabinet sprayer allows experiments requiring the application of a precise amount of material on soil, plants, artificial growing media, petri dishes or similar substances. These include plant growth enhancers, micronutrients and other fertilizers, soil amendments, organic pest control products, microorganisms (such as bacteria for pest control), plant hormones, herbicides, fungicides and other pest control products. The cabinet sprayer also allows for precise simulated rainfall or irrigation. The sprayer will be used for undergraduate and graduate student research projects and faculty from several departments in difference Colleges, including Plant Sciences; Soil and Water Resources; and Entomology, Plant Pathology and Nematology in the College of Agriculture; Life Sciences and Forest, Rangeland and Fire Sciences in the College of Natural Resources; and Biological Sciences in the College of Sciences.
Barrie Robison, professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, IBEST director, College of Science: The IBEST Computational Resources Core (CRC) provides essential High Performance Compute (HPC) resources to users from 19 departments across five colleges. We propose to replace the four oldest servers in this group with modern hardware, which will offer speed increases of nearly 300% and increase researcher productivity. This investment will allow researchers to leverage emerging approaches (such as machine learning and AI) in their research.
Jae Ryu, associate professor in the Department of Soil and Water Systems, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS): The proposed research will advance drought monitoring and water management in Idaho Agriculture using Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) with a suite of airborne sensors. With the equipment grant, the research team will work with stakeholders across the state. Drought increasingly threatens the sustainability of regional water resources in the mountain west. Given current trends in climate variability and change, population growth, and urbanization, the vulnerability of Idaho agriculture to weather extremes is likely to increase and continue. One very effective way to mitigate some of potential drought impacts may be to use new UAS technologies to improve our understanding of the factors that drive the onset and development of drought conditions at local and regional scales, enabling planners and end users to more effectively manage and meter out limited water resources. With acquisition of UAS and sensors, the team will seek to fill this gap by enhancing drought early warning efforts to better monitor and to mitigate drought impacts for irrigated agriculture in Idaho.
Jean’ne Shreeve, university distinguished professor in the Department of Chemistry, College of Science: This proposal requests funds to repair a differential scanning calorimeter (DSC) used to determine the thermal stability of the three or four hundred new compounds designed and synthesized every year. Thermal stability of new materials that are prepared to help combat biological agents and chemical warfare agents is a very important property since high thermal decomposition characteristics defines their value. This instrument has made it possible for our group to obtain data to publish more than 50 papers in refereed journals in the last two years. The instrument is largely used by students, postdocs and researchers in our research group and other groups across campus.
Dev Shrestha, professor of Biological Engineering, College of Engineering: The availability of a laser cutter will greatly enhance the ability to build non-metallic prototypes from various materials such as wood and plastics for research and development. The modern manufacture of parts and the finished product is increasingly driven by digital design and computer-controlled renderings through multiple cutting and additive manufacturing processes. Acquiring this equipment will benefit faculty research and teaching to improve productivity and student engagement.