News: Featured Stories

June 3, 2015

President Robert L. Caret announces $1.17 million in faculty awards

  • The UMass System
Says faculty work aids “quest for a better and richer future,” awards to date have leveraged $245 million in additional funding

BOSTON – Describing faculty research and scholarship as work that “distinguishes us as a university and is essential to our quest for a better and richer future,” President Robert L. Caret today announced the awarding of $1.17 million in grants to UMass faculty members.

The awards will fund work ranging from a project that will see faculty members engage with industry partners in the development of a big data research center in Amherst, to a project aimed at bringing local history to life for Lawrence school children.

President Caret made the announcement as the Board of Trustees’ Committee on Academic and Student Affairs held its quarterly meeting in Boston.

The grants are being made available via two programs established to spur research, scholarship and outreach throughout the UMass system.

The President’s Science and Technology Initiative Fund this year is awarding $914,000 to support nine promising research projects. Including this year’s awards, this fund, created in 2004, has provided $11 million in funding for nearly 90 projects that have helped to accelerate research on all five UMass campuses. The UMass presidential funding has helped to attract more than $245 million in federal and private funding.

“Faculty research not only expands the boundaries of human understanding and supports the state’s innovation economy, it also enriches the academic experience of students who learn from professors undertaking cutting-edge work in their fields,” President Caret said.

The President’s Creative Economy Initiatives Fund this year provides nearly $260,000 for nine projects aimed at enhancing the quality of life in communities across the Commonwealth.

Including this year’s awards, the Creative Economy Initiative Fund has, since 2007, distributed more than $2 million for 82 projects and has contributed to historical preservation, artisan cooperatives, music, theater and many other projects. 

“The defining characteristic of a research university is an engaged faculty that is constantly immersed in exploration, not only for its own sake, but also to make a difference in people’s lives,” said Marcellette G. Williams, senior vice president for Academic Affairs, Student Affairs and International Relations. “These projects demonstrate the breadth of activity that occurs on the campuses of the UMass system and are indicative of the impact our faculty members have on the Commonwealth and the world.”

Trustee Alyce J. Lee, chair of the Committee on Academic and Student Affairs, said both programs support the Trustees’ strategic priority of strengthening the University’s research enterprise and “contribute to the economic and social well-being of the Commonwealth.”

President’s Science and Technology Initiative Fund recipients:

  • Center for Data Science, Industrial Outreach: Andrew McCallum and David Jensen of UMass Amherst. This award provides support to Amherst’s recently announced new initiative in big data. While the campus has already made strategic investments in this center, the S&T funds are specifically designed to support the center’s efforts to engage industrial partners and to develop as a leading source of research and talent in this field.  Award: $85,000.
  • Institute for Cyber Security: Brian Levine and Emery Berger of UMass Amherst. This award provides support to a new strategic initiative in cyber security.  The Institute builds on a strong collaboration among five colleges at Amherst and envisions partnerships with other UMass campuses and industry to build a critical mass that will enable it to pursue R&D projects in several strategic areas including the Internet of Things, data security, cryptography, and networks. Award: $125,000.
  • Integrating Physical Sciences and Oncology: Vincent Rotello of UMass Amherst and Arthur Mercurio of UMass Medical. This project represents a unique combination of the physical sciences at Amherst (e.g., polymers, chemistry) with molecular biology at Worcester to help develop new diagnostics and therapeutics for cancer. Award:  $134,000.
  • Sustainable Seafood Collaboratory: Robyn Hannigan of UMass Boston, with UMass Amherst, and UMass Dartmouth. This collaborative effort addresses issues in the state’s marine economy about maintaining sustainable seafood, especially in light of climate changes issues affecting the state’s fishing grounds. The project will involve research and extension activities to help bring cutting-edge science to aquaculture practices in the marine industry of Massachusetts. Award: $125,000.
  • Multi-Scale 3-D Printing: Joey Mead of UMass Lowell, with UMass Amherst.  This project involves a strong collaboration between materials and manufacturing expertise at Lowell and the e-Design group at Amherst and builds off an earlier grant awarded last year. The two campuses will work with industry partners to drive development of high performance engineering thermoplastics and composites in the emerging field of 3-D printing. Award: $125,000.
  • Establishing a Core Facility for Genome Engineering in Model Organisms: Vivian Budnik and Marc Freeman of UMass Medical with UMass Amherst. This award represents the development of a new core research facility that will enable the characterization and understanding of nearly any human genetic disease through new tools such as high throughput sequencing and gene editing, thus enabling scientists to better understand the pathogenesis of disease. Award:  $125,000.
  • Developing a Chemical Screening Initiative: Paul Thompson, UMass Medical with UMass Amherst. This initiative focuses on accelerating the identification of small molecule targets for therapeutics by taking advantage of new advances in synthetic and combinatorial chemistry to help UMass researchers move more effectively to drug development. The combined capabilities of genome engineering and chemical screening at UMass Medical will significantly enhance the ability of UMass faculty across the system to pursue translational R&D opportunities, move their research toward the development of therapeutics and collaborate with industry. Award:  $125,000.
  • Marine Bioprospecting Initiative: Sivappa Rasapalli and Steven Lohrenz of UMass Dartmouth with UMass Amherst, UMass Boston, UMass Lowell and UMass Medical. Planning grant for a complex, five-campus effort that is focused on sustainable bio-prospecting of marine resources for applications in pharmaceuticals, biofuels, cosmeceuticals, and biomaterials.  Award: $35,000.
  • Concussion Prevention and Diagnosis Initiative: James Sherwood of UMass Lowell and Constance Moore of UMass Medical. This planning grant is for a multi-disciplinary initiative to improve the understanding of concussions to drive improvements in protective equipment, rules and standards in various sports, and protocols and treatment. Award: $35,000.

President’s Creative Economy Initiatives Fund recipients:

  • Making Places Matter: Arts, Culture and Community in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Max Page and Joseph Krupczynski, Department of Architecture, UMass Amherst. This project will create public, pop-up art in three of the most important revitalization sites in Holyoke. Award: $27,500.
  • The Arts and Politics Project. Tanya Fernando, Department of English, Susan Jahoda, Department of Art, and Gilbert McCauley, Department of Theater, UMass Amherst.  This initiative involves development of two multi-disciplinary performance pieces that are designed to engage Five College Consortium and community participants from Holyoke and Springfield in cultural dialogue about equality, diversity and race. Award: $24,000.
  • Circles of Care and Native Crafts: A Culturally Focused Intervention Addressing Violence Against Native American Women. Cedric Woods, Institute for New England Native American Studies, UMass Boston. Including instruction in native crafts, as well as counseling, referral and entrepreneurship training, this project will use the arts to address a pressing violence against women problem for Native American communities in Massachusetts. Award: $35,000.
  • From Boston to Baghdad: Healing the Wounds of War through Art, Theater, and Community Engagement. Thomas T. Kane, Director, William Joiner Institute, UMass Boston. This project will bring Iraqi and American academics together in cross-cultural literary, musical and artistic initiatives to promote understanding, recovery and reconciliation. Award: $14,500.
  • Building Community Capacity for HIV-Positive Individuals in Southcoast, Massachusetts: A Pathway to an Interdisciplinary Academic-Community Partnership. Caitlin Stover, College of Nursing, and Margaret Drew and Jason Potter Burda, College of Law, UMass Dartmouth.  The project aims to establish multi-disciplined community partnerships to reduce physical, social, healthcare, and legal barriers for HIV-positive individuals living in New Bedford and Fall River; and to contribute to the workforce development of community health workers in the Southcoast region. Award: $32,000.
  • UMass Dartmouth Grows—Southcoast Permaculture Incubator for Food Justice. Rachel Kulick and Isabel Feo Rodriquez, Department of Sociology, Anthropology, Crime & Justice Studies, and colleagues from the Departments of  English and Political Science as well as the Charlton School of Business, UMass, Dartmouth.Working with multiple established community partners, this project seeks to build and model a permaculture food system by revitalizing the UMass Dartmouth garden and forging a stronger relationship between the University’s garden and the larger regional community in order to promote local production and distribution of affordable, healthy, organic food. Award: $38,750.
  • Re-envisioning Lawrence, MA: Youth Interpret Historic Sites and Create Community. Robert Forrant, Department of History, UMass Lowell. The proposed project, based at the Lawrence History Center, is collaboration between UMass Lowell, the Lawrence History Center, and Andover Bread Loaf, an outreach program of Phillips Academy to create a three-week intensive program for Lawrence students in grades 5 - 7 involving history and writing, guest speakers and field trips to area cultural exhibits and institutions. Award: $20,000.
  • Lowell Tex: Embracing Lowell’s Cultural, Historical and Educational Assets to Create Pathways to STEM. Sarah Kuhn, Department of Psychology, and colleagues from Departments of Engineering, and Mathematics and UTeach, UMass Lowell. This highly innovative project will use the fiber arts to teach STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) concepts, enhancing the visibility of the fiber arts and the potential to use the arts as a means of reducing math anxiety. Award: $34,500.
  • Lowell Earth Day Celebration 2016: Organizing a city-wide, month-long celebration of the arts, nature and sustainability. John Wooding, Department of Political Science, and many others, with multiple community partners, UMass Lowell. This project seeks to build on efforts already underway in Lowell for Earth Day 2015 to create an April 2016 month-long calendar of events, support the planned Earth Day festival and parade, and serve as a model to other UMass campuses for cross-departmental as well as community engagement in promoting social and cultural events. Award: $30,000.


Contact: Jan Brogan, 617-287-4027