26, No. 3, Aug. 3, 2006
Critical research initiatives
receive recognition, funding
Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor
Six projects have
been selected to receive seed funding through the Critical Research
Initiatives program, an annual competition sponsored by the Vice Chancellor
for Research. The CRI program, now in its 11th year, was established
to stimulate continued innovation and outstanding scholarship on campus.
The competition provides full or partial funding of up to $50,000 for
one year for planning proposals and funding of up to $100,000 for three
years for full proposals. New to this year’s competition, the
UI joined with Carle Foundation Hospital to provide matching funds of up to $75,000
per year for two years for major translational research initiatives in biomedical
research that foster collaboration between the UI and the hospital.
An interdisciplinary review committee appointed by Charles Zukoski, vice chancellor
for research, and consisting of faculty members chosen for their vision, scholarly
excellence and knowledge of the breadth and depth of scholarship on campus recommends
which proposals submitted in the competition are most deserving of CRI support.
This year, these proposals were selected for funding:
- “Center for Air
Transportation Systems Research,” Michael Bragg, professor
of aerospace engineering, principal investigator. Co-principal investigators:
Kieran Donaghy, professor of urban and regional planning and director
of the European Union Center; P.R. Kumar, professor of electrical
and computer engineering and research professor in the Coordinated
Science Laboratory; Natasha Neogi, professor in the Institute of
Aviation and research assistant professor, Coordinated Science Laboratory;
Esa Rantanen, professor of psychology.
Research aimed at developing a revolutionary, highly efficient, adaptable
and scalable air transportation system based on a distributed information-rich
infrastructure to maintain capacity of the current voice-communication-based
system and minimize flight delays.
- “Discovery, Design and
Development of Phosphonic Acid Antibiotics,” Wilfred van der
Donk, professor of chemistry and in the Institute for Genomic Biology.
Co-principal investigator: William Metcalf, professor in the Institute
for Genomic Biology. Investigation aimed at the discovery of bioactive
natural products containing carbon-phosphorus bonds (phosphonates),
studies to find new genes for their biosynthesis, obtaining the corresponding
enzymes, determining the structure of newly discovered phosphonates
and providing analogs of natural phosphonates.
- “The Role of Small RNAs
in Shaping Diversity and Evolution of Crop Plants,” Lila Vodkin, professor
of crop molecular biology, principal investigator. Co-principal investigators:
Gustavo Caetano-Anollés, professor of bioinformatics, National Soybean
Research Center; Matthew Hudson, professor of genomics, National Soybean Research
Center; and Stephen Moose, professor of maize functional genomics/genetics, Edward
R. Madigan Laboratory. Research aimed at determining the extent to which non-coding,
small RNAs provide unique regulatory functions that shape diversity and evolution
in crop plants such as maize and soybeans.
- “Astrochemistry With
CARMA: Understanding Complex Interstellar Chemistry Using Molecular Ions,” Benjamin
McCall, professor of chemistry and of astronomy, principal investigator. Co-principal
investigators Leslie Looney, professor of astronomy, and Lewis Snyder, professor
emeritus of astronomy. An interdisciplinary project involving members of the
chemistry and astronomy departments aimed at detecting molecular ions in interstellar
clouds to better understand the chemical processes that lead to the production
of complex molecules, which may seed the formation of life on young planets.
- “Pattern Recognition
and Mind Reading: An Emerging Field,” Diane Beck, professor of psychology,
Beckman Institute, principal investigator. Co-principal investigator: Fei-Fei
Li, professor of psychology. Using techniques from the computer vision, statistical
pattern recognition and neuroimaging field, the investigation aims to overcome
a limitation in traditional functional magnetic resonance imaging and better
understand how humans perceive natural scenes.
- “Ninthletter.com: Creating
Original Literary Content for Mobile Technologies,” Joseph Squier, professor
of art and design and MFA curriculum coordinator, principal investigator. Co-principal
investigators: Jodee Stanley, managing editor, Ninth Letter; Nan Goggin, professor
of art and design and associate director of curriculum development; Jennifer
Gunji-Ballsrud, professor of art and design; Stephen Davenport, professor of
English and associate director of creative writing; Daniel Goscha, student. The
project will bring to campus two writers and two artists of national stature
to collaborate on original projects that will be carried out by the Ninth Letter
literary arts journal and Web site team and made available for download through
iTunes U. The team also will develop long-term strategies for sustainability
and exploration of the opportunities for partnerships among technologists, authors,
and artists to create literary art forms.