Engineering faculty receive one-time-only IDEAS funds to support ‘breakthrough-level’ research

Vanderbilt University will provide more than $3 million to 43 of its faculty researchers – 11 from the School of Engineering – over the next three years to support “breakthrough-level” research with the potential to “advance society’s greater good and collective wisdom.”

The program, called Innovation and Discovery in Engineering And Science (IDEAS), will award a one-time-only investment of institutional funds beginning July 1 to “significantly advance a novel idea or eliminate a barrier to the solution of an important problem.”

Engineering recipients are Yi Cui with Anirudda Gokhale, Kenneth Pence, Douglas Schmidt and Jules White, Nilanjan Sarkar, Frederick Haselton, Clare McCabe, Zhiao Shi and Robert Weller, and Greg Walker.

“The original IDEAS program was intended to build on the successes of the Discovery Grant program and the now-concluded Academic Venture Capital Fund,” said Susan Wente, associate vice chancellor for research at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “We are keen to find new ways to seed innovative, faculty-driven research initiatives.”

Future direct investments of institutional funds are now being targeted to initiatives in graduate education, to the ongoing University Central Discovery Grant program, and to new strategies that allow more rapid turn-around for high-risk pilot experiments.

“Graduate education and faculty research programs are so intertwined that it can be difficult to tell where one leaves off and the other begins,” observed Dennis Hall, vice provost for research and dean of the Graduate School. “Investments in graduate education represent one approach to strengthening Vanderbilt’s research programs.”

Six of the IDEAS grants are funded by University Central, seven by the Medical Center, and one is jointly funded. Principal investigators are listed alphabetically below by grant category, along with their co-investigators, departments and project descriptions.

Recipients of University Central grants:

Yi Cui with Aniruddha Gokhale, Kenneth Pence, Douglas Schmidt and Jules White (electrical engineering and computer science) and Nilanjan Sarkar (mechanical engineering) – Project involving event-based service architecture.

Judy Garber (psychology and human development) – Identification of genetic markers in offspring of depressed parents.

Senta Victoria Greene with Charles Maguire and Julia Velkovska (physics and astronomy) – Exploring a new state of matter in relativistic heavy ion collisions.

Kelly Holley-Bockelmann with Andreas Berlind and Alan Tackett (physics and astronomy); Clare McCabe (chemical and biomolecular engineering); Jens Meiler (chemistry); Thomas Palmeri (psychology); Zhiao Shi and Robert Weller (electrical engineering and computer science); and Greg Walker (mechanical engineering) – “TurboComputing with graphics card supercomputers.”

Charles Lukehart (chemistry) – Project involving rapid synthesis of ceramics.

Laurence Zwiebel (biological sciences) – Search for novel anti-malarial compounds.

Recipients of Medical Center grants:

Nancy Brown with Dan Roden (medicine); and Richard Caprioli (biochemistry) – High-throughput screening for medication exposure.

Sunil Kripalani with Russell Rothman, Christianne Roumie and Chandra Osborn (medicine); and Kenneth Wallston (psychology) – Assessment of health literacy in the electronic record.

Hassane Mchaourab with Roger Colbran and Phoebe Stewart (molecular physiology and biophysics); and Jens Meiler (chemistry) – “Structural dynamics of calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II.”

David Miller with Ethan Lee (cell and developmental biology) – Genetic screen to identify a Wnt inhibitor target.

Melanie Ohi with Kathleen Gould (cell and developmental biology) – Unraveling the molecular organization of large macromolecular machines.

Matthew Tyska (cell and developmental biology) – “Novel form of actin-based membrane motility in gut host defense.”

Anthony Weil (molecular physiology and biophysics) with Andrew Link (microbiology and immunology) – Identifying regulators of gene-specific transcription.

Recipients of the joint grant:

David Wright (chemistry) with Frederick Haselton (biomedical engineering); and James Crowe (pediatrics) – Project involving detection of respiratory viruses.