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Grant Highlights

When not in the classroom, our faculty can be found participating in ground-breaking research. Here is a sampling of some of the many grants funded during the 2020-21 fiscal year.

21.9 million dollars in grants for fiscal year 2021, a 6.8 percent increase over last fiscal year
danielle dick
Danielle Dick, Ph.D.

Danielle Dick, Ph.D., (Psychology) received an $810,000 grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to build an undergraduate research training program in hopes of diversifying addiction research. This program will offer an introductory research course for undergraduates focused on foundational research skill development and exposure to addiction research; engage class alumni, from underrepresented groups, in a semester-long, mentored research experience in the lab of a substance use researcher; provide fellows with professional and career development opportunities to strengthen students’ readiness to apply to graduate school and pursue research careers; and train the next generation of researchers in the dissemination and translation of research through scientific communication opportunities with other scientists and the broader community.

The University of Birmingham awarded Vivian Dzokoto, Ph.D., (African American Studies) a $20,000 grant to study the proverbs of the Akan of Ghana (West Africa). This study will investigate narratives about knowledge and belief inherent in these proverbs, and ultimately contribute to the literature on science and belief in the African context.

Mignonne Guy, Ph.D., (African American Studies) and Amy Rector, Ph.D., (World Studies) received a grant from the Virtual Library of Virginia (VIVA) for the development of a new course: CSIJ 200: Race and Racism in America. This course interrogates four key areas of inquiry: origins, ideology, maintenance and resistance to race and racism in the U.S., and applies an intersectional lens to examine how race interlocks with other systems of power.

heather jones
Heather Jones, Ph.D.

Heather Jones, Ph.D., (Psychology) was awarded a $1.4 million federal grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration to support the training of graduate students in VCU’s Primary Care Psychology Training Collaborative, which provides free behavioral and mental health services to underserved populations in health safety net primary care settings in the Richmond area. The grant will allow the program to expand its partnerships with three clinics: a safety net VCU clinic primarily serving low-income Black youth and their families, a community-based family medicine clinic serving a large number of Latinx immigrants and a community hospital serving rural Central Virginia.

ka un lao
Ka Un Lao, Ph.D.

Ka Un Lao, Ph.D., (Chemistry) received the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund Doctoral New Investigator Award for his work titled, “Understanding and Controlling the Aggregation Behavior of Petroleum Asphaltenes.” Understanding the fundamental aggregation behavior of petroleum asphaltenes is crucial to mitigate the contamination and equipment damage caused by asphaltene precipitation along the entire oil production chain in the petroleum industry. The award comes with a $110,000 grant.

fantasy lozada
Fantasy Lozada, Ph.D.

Fantasy Lozada, Ph.D., (Psychology) received a National Science Foundation CAREER award to investigate how African American youth develop a specific form of emotional competence, called emotion regulatory flexibility, that can protect themselves from racism. This project will focus on the home context and specifically the parent-adolescent relationship, in which African American parents communicate messages to their youth about their emotions and how to manage those emotions generally and within social interactions. As part of the study, Lozada will follow families over a three-year period to understand how parents change in the ways that they teach their adolescents these skills.

Karen McIntyre, Ph.D., (Robertson School) was awarded a $70,000 Facebook research grant. She is part of a research team with Meghan Sobel Cohen, Ph.D., of Regis University that proposed the project, “Digital literacy in East Africa: A three country comparative study.” Their study will consist of a cross-national survey conducted in Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya, three East African nations. The survey will focus on demographics, audience trust in various media platforms and media literacy/digital content evaluation via measures testing respondents’ believability of true and false social media posts.

bryce mcleod
Bryce McLeod, Ph.D.

The Institute of Education Sciences of the U.S. Department of Education awarded a $2 million grant to Bryce McLeod, Ph.D., (Psychology) and Clayton Cook, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Minnesota, for a project aimed at developing a way for elementary school teachers to accurately self-report on the practices that they use to support the social, behavioral and emotional competencies of the children in their classrooms.

The four-year project, “Developing and Validating a Technically Sound and Feasible Self-Report Measure of Teachers’ Delivery of Common Practice Elements,” will start in a lab setting and then be refined and validated with a sample of roughly 300 stakeholders employed at 20 elementary schools in Virginia and Minnesota.

Erica Miller, Ph.D., (Mathematics and Applied Mathematics) received a five-year collaborative grant from the Improving Undergraduate STEM Education: Education and Human Resources (IUSE: EHR) program at the National Science Foundation. The main purpose of the grant is to implement and examine the impact of an extended professional development program for mathematics graduate teaching assistants focused on engaged learning, inclusive teaching and equity (ELITE PD).

Kathryn Murphy-Judy, Ph.D., (World Studies) received a grant from the Virtual Library of Virginia (VIVA) to produce student-driven open education resource e-textbooks in Spanish, German and ASL, as well as instructor’s manuals for easy adoption and adaptation.

A proposal by Jessica Salvatore, Ph.D., (Psychology) titled, “Using genetically informed designs to understand the impact of parental divorce/separation and parental marital discord on offspring alcohol outcomes,” was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. This study will advance the understanding of the mechanisms through which parental divorce/separation and marital discord influence offspring alcohol use disorder (AUD) and related outcomes.

Michael Southam-Gerow, Ph.D., (Psychology) was awarded a $1.5 million grant from the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) to assist them in providing the best possible options to families served by the child welfare system in Virginia. The grant aims to help VDSS find regions or areas where there are not enough quality services happening, discover which particular services would be best to expand or grow, and to find ways to best strengthen their current workforce of dedicated child welfare workers.

Three College faculty members each received Jeffress Trust Awards: Alaatin Kaya, Ph.D., (Biology), Allison Moore, Ph.D., (Mathematics) and Julie Zinnert, Ph.D. (Biology).

Kaya’s project focuses on how the combination and interaction of two genomes, the nuclear and the mitochondrial, triggers changes in cellular processes that regulate the genotype-dependent lifespan variation.

allison moore
Allison Moore, Ph.D.

Moore’s project seeks to advance the mathematical understanding of basic operations on knots and links, to explore the relationships between invariants of knots and three-manifolds and to leverage these developments toward knot-theoretic models of DNA recombination mediated by enzymes and molecular knotting.

Zinnert’s project seeks to incorporate biogeomorphic processes in coastal evolution into models that accurately predict future scenarios for management planning. By combining mesocosm studies, field measurements, and modeling, this study will enhance the mechanistic understanding of how vegetation dynamics influence coastal dune and barrier island evolution.