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 2018-19 fiscal year. The Sponsored Programs Office supports our faculty as they develop projects, apply for grants and receive funding.

Thomas Eissenberg and Alison Breland, co-directors of the CSTP, stand in front of a research poster
Thomas Eissenberg, Ph.D., and Alison Breland, Ph.D., co-directors of the Center for the Study of Tobacco Products

Massimo Bertino, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Physics, received an award in the amount of $493,479 from the Department of Energy to support the project “Inexpensive and durable aerogel-based VIP cores.” The project will focus on further development and optimization of chemical formulation and fabrication technology that will yield polymeric aerogels using ambient drying.

David Chan, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics, is collaborating with Randolph-Macon College on a project titled “Effects of disturbance on species-specific negative feedbacks, and the implications for forest diversity.” This project is being funded by the Jeffress Trust and David was awarded $25,928 to develop a quantitative model and conduct simulations.

The Center for the Study of Tobacco Products at Virginia Commonwealth University received a $19.78 million grant through a partnership between the National Institutes of Health and the FDA Center for Tobacco Products to launch a five-year project focused on predicting the outcomes of government regulations of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. The principal investigators directing the grant are Thomas Eissenberg, Ph.D., co-director of the Center for the Study of Tobacco Products and a professor in the Department of Psychology, and Alison Breland, Ph.D., co-director of the Center for the Study of Tobacco Products and an assistant research professor in the Department of Psychology.

Nicholas Farrell, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Chemistry, received an award in the amount of $100,000 from the Center for Innovative Technology to support the project “Sulfated glycosaminoglycans as disease biomarkers and molecular targets for precision medicine in cancer.” This project will advance toward human clinical trials a cytotoxic anti-cancer agent capable of selectively targeting tumors with high levels of sulfated glycosaminoglycan expression.

Shermaine Jones, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of English, received a Career Enhancement Fellowship in the amount of $29,995 from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. The fellowship supported the completion of Shermaine’s book, “Fear, Rage, and Mourning: On Blackness and Feeling,” a literary study that examines the ways that race, feeling and citizenship have been integrally related in the American cultural imaginary since the founding of the nation.

Danielle Kirkman, Ph.D., and Paula Rodriguez Miguelez, Ph.D., assistant professors in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Sciences, both received awards totaling $231,000 from the American Heart Association. Danielle’s project aims to identify novel therapeutic targets that could modify the key physiological abnormalities of heart failure with preserved ejection fraction in patients with chronic kidney disease. Paula’s project aims to further understanding of potential mechanisms that impact the exacerbated cardiovascular disease risk in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Cheng Ly, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Statistical Sciences and Operations Research, received an award in the amount of $11,863 from the National Science Foundation to support the Biology and Medicine through Mathematics! (BAMM!) Conference. The conference highlights recent developments in the broad fields of mathematical biology and medicine bringing together junior and senior mathematical biologists from the mid-Atlantic region and beyond.

Nicole O’Donnell, Ph.D., assistant professor with the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture, received an award in the amount of $11,904 from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to support the project “Promoting public health and ecosystem health in the Lower James River basin.” The project aims to engage citizens in Chesterfield, Henrico, Prince George, Surry, James City and Isle of Wight counties in watershed stewardship; initiate #ProtectYourRiver, a social media and web-based campaign that promotes pro-environmental behaviors; and to facilitate volunteer citizen water quality monitoring in the lower James River basin.

Michelle Peace and her lab team
Michelle Peace, Ph.D. (black jacket) and her lab team

Michelle Peace, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Forensic Science, received an award in the amount of $517,961 from the Department of Justice to support the project “Through the e-cigarette looking glass: The impact of vaping ethanol on DUI investigations.” This research project will evaluate the impact of vaping ethanol on two types of roadside field sobriety tests for assessing alcohol in breath: a preliminary breath test device and an evidentiary breath test device.

The National Science Foundation awarded a $390,000 collaborative grant to a team of researchers, including Amy Rector, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology in the School of World Studies. The team is conducting research at the Ledi-Geraru site in the Afar region of Ethiopia that aims to shed new light on the extinction of Australopithecus and the emergence of Homo and Paranthropus.

John Ryan, Ph.D., associate vice president for research development and professor in the Department of Biology, received an award in the amount of $439,085 from the National Institutes of Health to support the project “GGT targeting suppresses mast cell activation by IgE and IL-33.” Mast cell activation by factors such as immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies and cytokine IL-33 occurs early in many immune responses, and is a central factor in some pulmonary diseases. This project will determine how gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT) inhibition disrupts mast cell-mediate responses and how this can be accomplished in vivo.