Science and Technology Grants Awarded for Faculty Research Projects

July 14, 2014

Faculty members from geosciences, biochemistry and chemical engineering are among the recipients of $856,000 in grants from the President’s Science and Technology Initiatives Fund, which supports promising research projects.

Announced July 14 by President Robert L. Caret, the grants help accelerate research activity across all five campuses and position researchers to attract larger investments from external sources to expand the scope of their projects.

“With the level of the federal government’s support of R&D still in question, we must do all we can to support the University’s role in the state’s Innovation Economy,” Caret said. “We are committed to strengthening our economic engagement in strategic areas such as clean energy, the environment, life sciences, and Big Data, and these grants are another step in that direction.”

Robert DeConto and Raymond Bradley of the geosciences department, were awarded $104,000 for the Center for Computational Climatology and Paleoclimatology, an effort that brings together academic scientists and engineers, industrial researchers and users of high-performance computing resources to the issue of climate change. The grant will help develop a center for climate-related computation and numerical modeling of value to the Commonwealth and contribute to the field of climate science by applying “Big Data” computational analysis, modeling, data mining and visualization to climate change research.

An award of $150,000 is going to Mass. BioFoundry: Center for Discovery and Synthesis of Bioactive Molecules. Led by Elizabeth Vierling, biochemistry and molecular biology, and Susan Roberts, chemical engineering, the initiative establishes a “biofoundry” with the goal of discovering valuable molecules from unique plant and microbial species and developing processes, either biological or chemical, by which they can be produced in quantities sufficient for medical or industrial applications. The research center will include a natural-products (3,500 plant species) library donated by an industry partner, along with related research equipment, valued at more than $1 million. The team will work with the Medical School’s Small-Molecule Screening Facility and Northeastern University’s Antimicrobial Discovery Center.

Also, a $25,000 planning seed grant was awarded to David Kazmer at UMass Lowellto enable his campus, in coordination with the Amherst campus, to establish the groundwork to create a center for industry-university cooperative research in the area of 3-D printing materials, supply-chain and industrial processes. The proposed center would expand and strengthen the University’s leadership in the area of advanced manufacturing and next-generation materials and processes to enable mass production of integrated products by 3-D printing.

This is the 11th year for the President’s Science and Technology Initiatives Fund awards – one of three funds that helps advance the work of faculty members in the five-campus system. Since 2004, the Science and Technology fund has provided $10 million to researchers, which in turn has helped to generate $240 million in funding from federal and private sources. These science and technology investments have been one of the factors in helping the University grow its research and development budget to nearly $600 million.

The investments have helped to establish some of the most important R&D centers across the state, including the Center for Hierarchical Manufacturing in Amherst.

The fund’s goals are to provide seed-level support to better position faculty researchers for larger, long-term investments; to advance strategic university research priorities; and to spur partnerships with state industry that leverage the University’s expertise while enhancing the competitiveness of companies with which UMass is working. Nearly 80 projects have been funded to date.