News: Press Releases

May 17, 2017

President Meehan awards $735K to faculty science and technology initiatives

Grant program has generated an additional $350 million in research funding since 2004

BOSTON — University of Massachusetts President Marty Meehan today announced $735,000 in grants from the President’s Science & Technology (S&T) Initiatives Fund to support nine faculty projects that advance research in areas of strategic importance to the Commonwealth.

The projects showcase a range of cutting-edge faculty research being conducted across the UMass system, from enhancing clean energy technologies to developing materials that can autonomously release drugs and precisely target tumors.

“These funds empower our faculty, strengthen our research enterprise and spur breakthroughs that boost the economy and improve lives,” President Meehan said. “I’m proud to support our faculty while advancing our critical mission as a world-class public research university.”

Now in its 14th year, the S&T fund accelerates research activity across all five campuses, drives partnerships with state industry and positions researchers to attract larger investments from external sources to expand the scope of their projects.

Since 2004, the fund has awarded 104 grants totaling $12.5 million to UMass faculty, which has helped to generate additional funding of $350 million in areas such as medical devices, nano-manufacturing, clinical and translational science, bio-manufacturing, data science, robotics and personalized cancer therapy.

S&T awards have also helped to establish some of the most important research and development centers across the state, including the Center for Hierarchical Nanomanufacturing at UMass Amherst; the Center for Personalized Cancer Therapy at UMass Boston; the Center for Scientific Computing and Data Visualization Research at UMass Dartmouth; the Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center (M2D2) and New England Robotics and Validation & Experimentation (NERVE) Center at UMass Lowell; and the UMass Center for Clinical and Translational Science at UMass Medical School.

“These grants have generated a tremendous return on investment to our campuses and to the Commonwealth, strengthening our engagement in key areas including the life sciences, data science, climate science and advanced manufacturing,” President Meehan said. “This program underscores how critical a strong public research university is to the future of the state.”

The President's Science and Technology Initiatives Fund is one of three funds that President Meehan supports to help advance the work of University of Massachusetts faculty members, along with the Creative Economy Initiatives Fund and the Technology Development Fund.

The nine projects receiving grants from the Science & Technology Initiatives Fund — selected from a field of 23 proposals — are as follows:

UMass Amherst

  • Center for Autonomous Chemistry (with UMass Lowell and UMass Medical School) – S. Thayumanvanan, Chemistry, will serve as principal investigator (PI) – This project will develop the molecular design fundamentals for autonomous chemical systems, inspired by the immune system. Fully developed, this will form the basis to develop materials that can autonomously release drugs in response to a specific trigger and precisely target tumors. The S&T funds will be used to facilitate one or more proposed projects to NSF, NIH, etc. Award: $140,000
  • The UMass Unmanned Aerial System Research and Education Collaborative (UASREC) (with UMass Dartmouth) – Michael Knodler, UMass Transportation Center, will serve as PI  – UASREC is established to advance Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS, otherwise known as Drones) to advance interdisciplinary and collaborative research and education. With research already funded through MassDOT, the S&T funds will help position UASREC to become the New England Transportation Center, as well as, develop other proposals to NSF, US-DOT, etc. Award: $100,000
  • Center for Smart and Connected Society (CS2) (with UMass Medical School) – Prashant Shenoy, UMass Amherst Computer Sciences and David McManus, UMass Medical Cardiovascular Medicine, will serve as PIs – This project, as part of the creation of the new Interdisciplinary CS2, will focus on the advancement and application of smart and connected technologies. The smart application domains include: smart health and smart living; smart buildings and energy; smart and autonomous vehicles; and smart agriculture. The S&T funding will advance the planning for CS2 and coordination with Center for Data Driven Discovery and HealthCare (D³Health) which is also receiving an S&T award. Award: $25,000

UMass Boston 

  • Quantum Photonics (with UMass Lowell) – Dr. Greg Sun, Engineering, will serve as PI – This project focuses on photon generation, transmission and detection in a quantum photonic circuit, key elements in any type of optical system which are key to developing quantum photonic computing applications. This team leveraged a 2016 S&T planning grant to secure over $1M from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) and the National Science Foundation. This funding will enhance infrastructure to increase UMass’ competitiveness for major funding from programs at the NSF, AFOSR, DARPA-QUEST, IARPA (C3, CSQ, MQCO, and QCS programs), NASA, and ARO. Award: $100,000

UMass Dartmouth 

  • Probiotic Discovery, Engineering & Manufacturing Pipeline (PDEMP) (with UMass Medical School) - Christopher Brigham, Department of Bioengineering, and Vanni Bucci and Mark Silby, Department of Biology, will serve as PIs – This project will leverage a unique approach developed to establish a first of its kind Probiotic Discovery, Engineering & Manufacturing Pipeline (PDEMP). This approach allows for discovery of bacterial species and the related mechanisms of protection against different enteric infections as well as optimization of the delivery of immune systems modulating probiotics. Research results from this project will dramatically increase competiveness for SBIR/STTRs (Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfers) with microbiome companies, NIH, NSF-MCB, and DARPA-BRICS funding. Award: $125,000

UMass Lowell  

  • Emerging Energy Innovation Institute (EEII) – Professor Christopher Niezrecki of the Department of Mechanical Engineering will serve as PI – This funding will support the formation of an Emerging Energy Innovation Institute (EEII) in which university researchers will work closely with established and start-up companies to develop, validate, advance, and license clean energy technologies. The proposed Institute will be similar to M2D2, which was also initially funded through an S&T award, and will generate economic growth in the Commonwealth and foster scientific advancement by leveraging UMass Lowell’s and other UMass Campuses’ expertise and broad infrastructure assets in Wind Turbine Technology; Solar Energy Systems; Nuclear Energy; Combustion Efficiency & Bio-Fuels; and Energy Storage. Award: $95,000
  • UMOVE (UMass MOVEment Research Center): Exploring the mechanics of movement and muscle function (with UMass Amherst and UMass Medical School) – Dr. Matthew Gage, Chemistry, will serve as PI – This grant will support planning for a UMass system-wide research center for movement mechanics, focused on understanding movement in our aging population. UMass Lowell faculty with participation from faculty at UMass Amherst and UMass Medical School will combine existing research strengths at all three UMass institutions into a comprehensive program designed to approach research questions in the biomechanics of aging from a molecular to an organismal level. Award: $25,000
  • UMass Consortium for Research on Imaging and Informatics (with UMass Medical) – Dr. Hengyong Yu, UMass Lowell Electrical & Computer Engineering, and Michael King, PhD, associate professor of medicine at UMass Medical School, will serve as PIs. – This planning award is to seed the creation of a consortium for research on imaging and informatics (CORMI) in various medical applications with an emphasis on fighting cancer. Its mission is to foster new interdisciplinary collaborative relationships among researchers involved in medical imaging and biomedical informatics with clinical physicians towards improved cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment. Award: $25,000

UMass Medical School

  • Center for Data Driven Discovery and HealthCare (D³Health) – David McManus, MD, associate professor of medicine; Jomol Mathew, Ph.D., associate CIO; and Silvia Corvera, MD, professor, will serve as PIs – The UMass Center for Data Driven Discovery and HealthCare (D³Health) will use data, analytics, and decision support to optimize individual and population health through disease prevention, early diagnosis, and efficient disease management. This funding seeds an initiative to spearhead breakthroughs in smart/sensor device data capture, data integration, knowledge extraction, and decision support. It will be a hub that will leverage the UMass Medical School Data Lake to generate seed results with which to pursue private (industry, foundation, venture capital) support and/or NSF, NIH, AHRQ funding. Award: $100,000