November 2019 Newsletter
From the Vice President
This month, I am pleased to share the 2020 edition of Inspired Discoveries, the University of Idaho’s research report. This is an opportunity to share the impact that makes the University of Idaho the fantastic institution that it is.
We have had many things to celebrate over the past year, including the growth of our research enterprise. We are making breakthroughs in the space industry as well as addressing societal needs. From the Dragonfly spacecraft to the Idaho Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (CAFE) project, we are making great strides in solving problems this world faces and making new discoveries.
Please join me in celebrating our accomplishments along with all of those at the University of Idaho that work tirelessly to make a difference in this world.
Janet E. Nelson Ph.D.
Vice President for Research and Economic Development
ORED News and Events
ARI Brings Together Industry, Agencies, and Academics for First-of-its-kind Meeting
Nearly 90 aquaculture experts from across North America attended the Aquaculture Research Institute’s first annual “Aquaculture Industrial Affiliates Meeting, Research Review, and Workshop on Global Aquaculture” on Oct. 29 at the University of Idaho’s Moscow campus. The full-day event focused on the latest global challenges and solutions to aquaculture and drew leaders from the industry, academia, government and nonprofit sectors. ARI leaders and faculty Ron Hardy, Brian Small and Kenneth Cain, Matt Powell, Vikas Kumar, and Gary Fornshell, along with several graduate and undergraduate students and postdocs, discussed ARI’s unique research that is helping to solve global aquaculture issues. The program also included industry and tribal-agency panel discussions, along with several guest speakers: Gary Byrne, assistant chief of fisheries at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game; Sebastian Belle, executive director of the Maine Aquaculture Association; and keynote speaker Rosamond L. Naylor, senior fellow and founding director at the Center on Food Security and the Environment at Stanford University. Moreover, Associate Vice President for Research Bradley Ritts unveiled the new member-based Industrial Affiliates Program, whose goal is to bring together a consortium of leading organizations that support and participate in ARI’s research and programs. ARI is the first institute to adopt such a program. To learn more or start an Industrial Affiliates Program, contact Bradley Ritts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
GEM3 Researchers Meet in McCall to Discuss the Genomics of Land Management, Species Restoration
More than 30 researchers from the University of Idaho, Boise State University (BSU), and Idaho State University (ISU) met at U of I’s McCall Outdoor Science School Oct 25-27 to discuss genomics research associated with Idaho EPSCoR’s ‘Genes to Environment: Modeling, Mechanisms and Mapping’ (GEM3) project.
The three-day event, titled “GEM3 Genomics and Reintroductions Workshop” provided an important venue for information sharing and relationship building between faculty, postdocs, and graduate students as well as agency and tribal stakeholder groups -- all with expertise in redband trout and sagebrush: the two focal organisms associated with the GEM3 study. Learn more.
U of I Distinguished Professor Lisette Waits and BSU Associate Professor Trevor Caughlin led discussions about participants’ latest research findings, ideas for publishing review papers, and the role of genomics in land management practices. A special seminar also enhanced participants’ science communication skills, as well as their ability to share complex genomic research to non-technical audiences. Exit studies indicated the workshop was a great success, scoring 4.44 out of 5 in overall quality.
GEM3 is an extensive, five-year research project that will help experts explain and predict how genetic, environmental and social factors interact as plants and animals adapt to changing environments.
World’s Largest Journal Ranks ARI Grad Student Paper among Top 10 Percent for Citations
Jacob Bledsoe, a Ph.D. candidate housed at U of I’s Aquaculture Research Institute (ARI), placed in the top 10 percent of 2016 PLOS One articles in the citations category. The article, titled Ontogenetic Characterization of the Intestinal Microbiota of Channel Catfish through 16S rRNA Gene Sequencing Reveals Insights on Temporal Shifts and the Influence of Environmental Microbes, was cited 27 times since publication. Readers viewed it more than 3,300 times. PLOS One is a peer-reviewed, open access scientific journal published by the Public Library of Science. Between its launch in 2006 and 2017, PLOS One published more than 200,000 peer-reviewed articles. Bledsoe is a student of Brian Small, Professor and Director of the Hagerman Fish Culture Experiment Station.
IGS Rocks into its Second Century
The Idaho Geological Survey (formerly the Bureau of Mines and Geology) began providing our state with timely and relevant geologic information in 1919. This vital non-regulatory state agency has been collecting, interpreting, and disseminating useful geologic and mineral data for a wide variety of stakeholders ever since. IGS celebrated its 100-year milestone with a memorable gathering that included the IGS board of directors, current and past IGS employees, academics from the University of Idaho and Washington State University, administrators, and friends of IGS. In all, more than 130 people attended their open house and banquet, which appropriately included ‘rock’ bands for entertainment.
“One hundred years of service is an amazing milestone,” said Claudio Berti, Director and State Geologist for IGS. “Looking at old pictures in the slideshow and hearing the fond memories shared between past and present colleagues are important reminders of IGS’s impact on the state of Idaho and its constituents.”
“From the early days of the Bureau and the pioneering exploration of Idaho’s natural resources, to today’s effort of merging the interests and needs of a growing economy with the responsible stewardship of our land, IGS continues its critical mission and looks forward to the next century of research, service and outreach.”
ORED Staff Share Research Administration Expertise in Seattle
The National Council of University Research Administrators (NCURA) is an all-volunteer organization that relies on the active members. At last month’s annual meeting in Seattle for NCURA’s Rocky Mountain and Pacific regions, U of I’s ORED employees more than pulled their weight. ORED staff members from various backgrounds in research administration presented at workshops and concurrent sessions, organized networking activities, helped recruit presenters, staffed the registration desk, and provided other forms of general support for the successful meeting. ORED presenters and topics included:
- “IP 101: Introduction to the Wide World of Intellectual Property” by U of I Office of Technology Transfer (OTT) Director Jeremy Tamsen; and Jesse Kindra, Contracts Team Manager at the University of Washington
- “How to Discuss F&A Rates and Cost Recovery with Upper Administration” by U of I’s Heather Taff, Sr. Cost Accountant; and Anne Feuerborn, Director, MAXIMUS.
- “How to "Sasquash" Cost Transfers” by Post-Award Manager Sarah Martonick and Kenwyn Richards, grants compliance accountant.
- “The Pain and Heartache of Growing and Developing a Compliant Scientific Misconduct Program” by Office of Research Assurances Director Audrey Harris; and Deb Shaver, Office of Sponsored Programs Director.
- “NIH Single IRB Requirements: Guidance for the Pre-Award Stage” by Audrey Harris; and Jackie Lucas, Director, Office of Sponsored Research (OSR) at the Beckman Research Institute.
- “Let’s Talk Best Practices: SBIRs & STTRs” by Jeremy Tamsen and Jackie Lucas.
- “Young Professionals and Emerging Leaders: Building your Authority and Leadership” by Sarah Martonick; and Liz Grinstead, Senior Research Administrator at Colorado State University.
- “Bigfoot's Proposal Budgeting for Humans” by Jennifer Meekhof, Office of Sponsored Programs business processes and systems analyst; and Alycia Lewis, Contracts and Grants Manager at UC Santa Barbara
Carly Cummings, Office of Research and Faculty Development director, also attended and played a pivotal role in programming development.
Presenters would be pleased to replicate these sessions at staff or faculty meetings on campus. If interested, contact Lundyn Jared at 208-885-6651 or email@example.com.
Exploring the Algorithms of Life
Scientists call proteins coded by DNA ‘the building blocks of life.’ For Tawny Gonzalez, these proteins became building blocks for her education.
Gonzalez, an alumna of the College of Science and first-year WWAMI medical student, plays a key role in a molecular modeling study using complex math to plot out the genetic changes affecting the health and structure of living things.
Gonzalez indirectly found her interest in molecular modeling while shadowing an infectious disease physician at Kootenai Health in Coeur d’Alene.
“That was the coolest shadow job, true Sherlock Holmes stuff,” Gonzalez said. “To diagnose culprits for infection, you have to follow clues in the patient’s body and history to figure out when and where they were exposed,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez began exploring ways to research viruses and infectious diseases at U of I. While looking into projects in the physics department, she learned about Marty Ytreberg, professor of physics and an associate director of U of I’s Institute for Modeling Collaboration and Innovation (IMCI), a highly collaborative center that teams up with researchers to integrate more modeling into their projects.
Ytreberg, a biophysicist by training, recently published a paper with colleagues about using computational methods to help predict whether mutations in the Ebola virus could weaken treatment efforts.
“I was fascinated by the idea that physics could be so deeply involved in biology,” Gonzalez said. “I had no idea what molecular modeling was, how computational methods worked, or how I would fit into his research group; but I thought it would be interesting. I decided to see if Marty would let me join the group despite my lack of knowledge.”
Even with the steep learning curve, Gonzalez joined Ytreberg’s IMCI working group, using molecular modeling to benefit human health. She quickly picked up the basics and found herself exploring the complex math and algorithms that can make research more efficient and less costly.
“It was cool to see how physics could be used to predict biological interactions that could then assist people on the experimental side,” Gonzalez said.
As Gonzalez’s interest and knowledge in molecular modeling grew, Ytreberg brought her in to a project to understand how amino acid mutations in proteins change the way proteins fold and bind and in turn how this changes plant and animal characteristics. The project, led by Ytreberg, involved researchers from Idaho, Rhode Island and Vermont.
“Using computational methods to narrow down the number of mutations a research group should study can be very beneficial, but it’s difficult; there are a bunch of models out there using different algorithms, and it’s not always clear which one would best suit a researcher’s needs,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez used special databases to thoroughly document the structure and binding strengths of various proteins, including those that result in notorious ailments like HIV, cancers and plagues. She used this database to test the speed and accuracy of eight computational methods that predict protein binding strength after mutations. In all, she tested 16 protein complexes involving two or more proteins interacting with each other.
Gonzalez originally believed that the more advanced calculations would be better at predicting final outcomes, but that wasn’t always the case.
“Many models did well at predicting how simpler proteins would bind and fold with other proteins,” Gonzalez said. “But some didn’t do as well, particularly in more complicated scenarios, like when viruses interact with antibodies.
Gonzalez and Ytreberg expanded their study to look at these more complex cases.
“We wanted to be able to suggest, ‘If you need a basic method for predicting a simple mutation, use this one. If you want to make predictions for a more complex scenario involving certain viral proteins and antibodies, this other method can work well.’”
Gonzalez’s work will be featured in a research paper that she and Ytreberg will soon submit for publication in a scientific journal.
“Tawny will be the first author on this paper, which is very unusual for an undergraduate student,” said Ytreberg. “She’s driven, motivated, self-sufficient, and capable of tackling tough projects alone. She’s really done the brunt of the work, and that’s very impressive for an undergrad working a handful of hours a week.”
Gonzalez graduated in May 2019 with a B.S. in chemistry and biochemistry, as well as a minor in physics. She plans to continue pursuing her interest in infectious disease through U of I’s WWAMI Medical Education Program. She also plans to earn a Master of Public Health degree before practicing medicine in Moscow.
“I want to be a real driver of public health in Idaho,” Gonzalez said. “Having an M.D. and a Master of Public Health degree can really help me do that!”
MW CTR-IN Multi Site Pilot Projects Program
The Research and Faculty Development team in the Office of Research and Economic Development (ORFD) requests notices of intent (NOI) to apply to the Mountain West IDeA Clinical and Translational Research – Infrastructure Network (MW CTR-IN) Multi Site Pilot Projects (MSPP) program, a limited submission funding opportunity. ORFD will use an internal review process to determine which one proposal will be submitted to Mountain West CTR-IN. Interested? Please submit an NOI to RFD by 5:00 p.m. PT on Monday, Dec. 2. Learn more.
Proposal Development Academy for Early-career Faculty
The Research and Faculty Development (RFD) team invites early-career faculty to attend its Spring 2020 Proposal Development Academy: What You Need to know Before You Write. This eight-session course offers a range of planned topics on select Fridays, 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., January through April. Faculty not located in Moscow can connect through Zoom. Contact RFD Director Carly Cummings to submit your name for consideration or ask questions.
Excellence in Research or Creative Activity Award
The Office of Research and Economic Development encourages U of I faculty to nominate a colleague for the university’s Award of Excellence in Research or Creative Activity. Submissions are due by Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Learn more.
- Faculty invited to attend Faculty Success Seminars:
- Dec. 11 M.J. Murdock Trust Commercialization Initiation Program Info Session
U of I Professor Becomes White House Fellow
ORED congratulates University of Idaho, Idaho Falls Assistant Professor Dakota Roberson, who was named a 2019-20 White House Fellow. Robertson will spend one year working for the U.S. Department of Defense at the highest levels of government, alongside Cabinet secretaries, senior White House staff and other top-ranking government officials. Regional and national selection panels chose Robertson among thousands of applicants based on his early career achievement, leadership skills, commitment to public service, and his ability to work effectively as part of a team.
Roberson teaches in the College of Engineering’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and is an expert in power systems and renewable energy integration. He has collaborated with numerous national laboratories, universities, and other organizations to develop high-performance control systems and detection algorithms that protect our nation’s power grids.
ORED Tip of the Month
Did you know that ORED, through the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP), maintains a listserv for both Principal Investigators and departmental grant administrative (DGA) staff? If you want to receive funding opportunities, grant management tips and tricks, training opportunities, and other information relating to sponsored projects, please sign up for the OSPPI or DGA listserv by emailing a request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Post Award Manager,
Office of Sponsored Programs