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Grant Highlights

When not in the classroom, our faculty can be found participating in ground-breaking research. Below is a sampling of some of the many grants funded during the 2019-20 fiscal year. The Sponsored Programs Office supports our faculty as they develop projects, apply for grants and receive funding.

brian daugherity
Brian Daugherity, Ph.D., leads a workshop in 2015 for teachers about the struggle to desegregate schools in Virginia and the U.S. (Photo by Brian McNeill, University Public Affairs)

Erich Damm, Ph.D., and Jason Newton, Ph.D., (Biology) have both received National Institutes of Health Pathway to Independence awards bridging their postdoctoral work into new research grants. These awards provide independent research support to help awardees launch competitive, independent research careers. Newton will continue his work on uncovering the underlying mechanisms and enzyme roles in fatal lipid storage disease, whereas Damm will continue his work on characterizing the neural signals that influence how stem cells used in bone marrow transplants are generated.

The National Endowment for the Humanities awarded a Landmarks of American History and Culture award for a collaboration between Brian Daugherity, Ph.D., (History) and Old Dominion University, to lead workshops focused on the history of school desegregation in Virginia. The goal of the workshops is to provide 72 participating teachers—who teach grades 6-12, primarily social studies—with the latest knowledge related to school desegregation in Virginia so that they can use it in classroom instruction.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has awarded a three-year, $600,000 grant to Danielle Dick, Ph.D., and Joshua Langberg, Ph.D., (Psychology) to develop and test a new approach to preventing risky college drinking. They are designing a prevention program that focuses on the underlying factors that contribute to why students might use alcohol or other drugs in risky ways in the first place.

$20.5M in grants for FY20, a 14% increase in funding over last fiscal year

Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture faculty members Jeanine Guidry, Ph.D., and Nicole O’Donnell, Ph.D., were selected for a VCU Presidential Research Quest (PeRQ) Fund award. The $49,689 award was given for the research project “#Doesanybodycare: Encourage suicide-related bystander behavior on Instagram.” It is a joint project of the Robertson School, the Department of Health Behavior and Policy and Spit for Science, and will focus on identifying and supporting people at risk to prevent suicide by using computer-based message assessment, in-depth interviews and eye-tracking research.

Skepticism exists regarding the safety and efficacy of the flu vaccine. Jeanine Guidry, Ph.D. (Robertson School) was awarded a grant from the Arthur W. Page Center for Integrity in Public Communication to study the impact of narrative structures on flu vaccine receptiveness, providing health professionals with tools needed to create effective flu vaccination campaigns.

Alaattin Kaya, Ph.D., (Biology) received a four-year career development award from the National Institutes of Health totaling $512,000. Kaya aims to discover genes and environmental factors that strongly interact to modulate observed aging patterns. He hopes to advance understanding of the biology of aging and the fundamental relationship between genetic variation, metabolism and longevity phenotypes.

In collaboration with VCU’s School of Education, Fantasy Lozada, Ph.D., (Psychology) was awarded a $395,253 Department of Education grant that will support the development of local secondary teachers’ ability to implement culturally responsive teaching strategies in their classrooms. This project seeks to improve student academic and social/behavioral outcomes throughout Henrico and Chesterfield County Public Schools.

Heather R. Lucas, Ph.D., (Chemistry) received a $1.65 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the impact of brain metals such as iron and copper on a protein implicated in Parkinson’s disease. Through this research, Lucas and her team hope to uncover new details about how Parkinson’s disease progresses on a molecular level.

heather lucas with her student lab members
Heather Lucas, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry, and her research group

The sense of smell plays an important role in how we perceive food and drink flavors, largely due to odors that originate in the mouth and enter the nose via the back of the throat in a process called retronasal olfaction. Cheng Ly, Ph.D., (Statistical Sciences and Operations Research) is one of three co-principal investigators on a $922,531 grant from the National Science Foundation that is seeking to gain a better understanding of how this process works.

The Department of Forensic Science was awarded a total of $2.28 million from the 2019 National Institute of Justice funding cycle. This total is approximately 10 percent of the total funds awarded by NIJ this cycle for forensic research, development and evaluation. Included in this funding cycle was the largest single award in the history of the department, $1.2 million grant supporting the work of Michelle Peace, Ph.D., (Forensic Science) who studies adulterated e-cigarette devices.

The National Science Foundation awarded a $1.3 million grant to Derek Prosser, Ph.D., (Biology) to study a newly discovered cellular pathway in yeast that could shed light on important aspects of how cells function. The study is expected to provide new insights into the molecular machinery that controls clathrin-independent endocytosis, an important but poorly understood process in all eukaryotic cells — which include plant, animal and human cells.

Derek Prosser, Ph.D., (Biology) was one of 31 VCU researchers who received an internal grant for a COVID-19 rapid-research funding opportunity this spring. The funding was sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation and the C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research. Prosser's project, “Inhibition of Viral Uptake as a Mechanism for Reducing SARS-CoV-2 Infection,” explores whether it’s possible to stop SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, from entering cells, thereby possibly breaking the infection cycle.

The Primary Care Psychology Training Collaborative was awarded a three-year $1.35 million HRSA’s Graduate Psychology Education grant for continued training in nine different safety net primary care clinics in the city of Richmond. The grant will expand the focus to include training in substance abuse screening and treatment, behavioral services to supplement medically assisted treatment for opioid use disorder, and expanded telehealth services to primary care clinics in rural Virginia. Faculty on the grant include Bruce Rybarczyk, Ph.D. (PI), Heather Jones, Ph.D., Paul Perrin, Ph.D., Leila Islam, Ph.D., and Carla Schaffer, Ph.D., (program alum) from the Department of Psychology.

The Orphan Disease Center has awarded Xuewei Wang, Ph.D., (Chemistry) a grant to develop a prototype device for at-home use that will assist individuals with hypoparathyroidism with monitoring their calcium levels, thus allowing for improved calcium supplement management. The ability to maintain calcium homeostasis is an important indicator of parathyroid hormone changes in the body and has the potential to impact patient care in similar ways that the glucose monitor has done for diabetic patients.

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