UMass President awards $750,000 for Innovative Faculty Research

BOSTON - President Robert L. Caret today announced nearly $750,000 in grants to faculty members from the President's Science and Technology Initiatives Fund to support six promising research projects, which range from creating standards for testing robotic systems to detecting financial fraud in large-scale securities data to developing new skin cancer imaging technologies.

The initiatives showcase a range of innovative research being undertaken by UMass faculty members that contribute to the growth of the Commonwealth's economy, especially in the science and technology sectors, and extend the boundaries of human knowledge. The grants provide seed funding to accelerate research activity across all five campuses and position researchers to attract larger investments from external sources to expand the scope of their projects.

"The Science & Technology fund advances the work of producing the discoveries and technological breakthroughs that will improve lives, create jobs, and preserve our planet," said President Caret.  "It supports the ideas and inventiveness of our faculty and fosters a culture of collaboration across all five campuses that attracts investments and underscores our role as an innovation engine for the Commonwealth."

This marks the ninth year the President's Science and Technology Initiatives Fund awards have been handed out. It's one of three funds that President Caret taps to help advance the work of University of Massachusetts faculty members: the other two are the Commercial Ventures and Intellectual Property Technology Development Fund and the Creative Economy Initiatives Fund.

Since 2004, the Science & Technology fund has provided $7.5 million to UMass researchers, which, in turn, has generated $207 million in funding from outside sources for vital research efforts and led to the creation of nearly 20 research centers on the five campuses.

UMass's annual research expenditures climbed to $587 million in Fiscal Year 2011; that same year the University generated income of $36.5 million from faculty discovery and innovation.

To date, the President's Science & Technology fund has financed more than 60 projects representing the breadth of academic inquiry at the University of Massachusetts.

This year the following initiatives and faculty researchers were selected to receive grants from the fund:

  • Big Data Informatics Initiative (BDI2) - UMass Amherst - This project focuses on areas such as detecting financial fraud in large-scale securities data, correlating video/audio surveillance data to spot trends or anomalies in real time; and smart-meter data processing by energy utilities. Collaborators include the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center, Holyoke Gas & Electric, MIT, and commercial partners such as EMC, Nokia, GE Global Research, and Yahoo Research.
    Award: $136,250; Principal researchers: Yanlei Diao and Preshant Shenoy
  • NE Robotics Validation & Experimentation (NERVE) Center - UMass Lowell - The center will provide robotics companies and research institutions with a National Institute of Standards and Technology designed test course for year-round validation of robots and robotic systems. Collaborators include UMass Amherst's Rod Grupen and Tufts University, while Worcester Polytechnic Institute and local robotics companies such as iRobot, QinetiQ, Black-I Robotics are likely to use the NERVE Center.
    Award: $135,000; Principal researcher: Holly Yanco, founder, UMass Lowell Robotics Lab
  • Institute for Computational Biology, Biostatistics & Bioinformatics (ICB3) - UMass Amherst -This institute will develop the University's bioinformatics research capabilities in applied biotechnology, pharmacology, and bioinformatics, as well as establish a center to train the regional workforce and researchers on all five campuses in computational and bioinformatics methods and use of software tools.
    Award: $97,500; Principal researcher: Andrea Foulkes
  • mHealth-based Behavioral Sensing & Interventions - UMass Medical School/UMass Worcester - This center will research mobile health technologies such as wearable jewelry and smartphones on patients with a variety of health conditions, including an initial study to develop wearable sensor software with real-time data analysis and patient feedback. Partners include mobile health device companies such as Jawbone/Aliphcom, Rock Health, Nexercise, Runkeeper, Microsoft Research, IBM, Google, as well as the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center in Holyoke.
    Award: $185,000; Principal researchers: Deepak Ganesan, UMass Amherst; Sherry Pagoto, UMass Medical School/UMass Worcester
  • Biomedical Applications of Terahertz Technology - UMass Lowell - This research center is focused on developing terahertz imaging technologies (currently used in government defense applications) for the biomedical industry and health care such as skin cancer imaging, cancer tissue screening, and testing for exposure effects of THz radiation. Partner institutions include UMass Medical Center/UMass Worcester and Massachusetts General Hospital/Partners HealthCare.
    Award: $101,000; Principal researcher: Robert Giles
  • Expansion of Hydrokinetic Energy Programs to Chile - UMass Dartmouth School of Marine Science & Technology - SMAST - This project builds on the campus's research strengths in marine renewable energy and the work of the New England Marine Renewable Energy Center, and follows Gov. Deval Patrick's 2011 trade mission to Chile, where he signed a joint memorandum of understanding with Florida International University and Pontifica Universidad Catolica de Chile (PUC) for research and education projects related to tidal research and marine renewable energy. Chile is considered one of the top international sites for hydrokinetic energy research globally, and has identified multiple industry and university partners as part of the coastal research to be studied.
    Award: $90,000; Principal researcher: Brian Howes

The six initiatives were chosen from 30 proposals submitted by UMass faculty for consideration for the fund.

Contact: Ann Scales, 617-287-4084; Robert P. Connolly, 617-287-7073


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