Collaborative Research Seed Grant Recipients - Fall 2022

UMass ADVANCE is pleased to announce that four research teams are recipients of ADVANCE Collaborative Research Seed Grant awards for 2022-2023.  These competitive grants aim to foster the development of innovative and equitable collaborative research projects among faculty.  Recognizing longstanding gender gaps in the academy, the National Science Foundation (NSF) funds universities to build institutional transformation programs to advance gender equity for faculty in science and engineering.  Through the power of collaboration, ADVANCE cultivates faculty equity and inclusion—especially for women and minorities in science and engineering. The four winning teams demonstrated innovative research and well thought-out and equitable collaborations.

Growing a garden in a toxic swamp: Patient-derived metastasis model for studying bone regeneration.

The principal investigators for this team are:

Stacyann Bailey (left), assistant professor, department of biomedical engineering
Govind Srimathveeravalli (right), assistant professor, mechanical & industrial engineering

Cancer metastasis to bone is largely incurable. The mechanisms of bone extracellular matrix (ECM) modification by cancer cells leading to increased bone turnover and subsequent fractures are poorly understood. Difficulties in recapitulating bone metastasis in vivo and the simplicity of in vitro models are major barriers to progress in the field. Irreversible electroporation (IRE), a commonly used clinical technique to non-surgically treat cancer, has been developed by the Co-PI for decellularizing soft tissues to produce ECM scaffolds. We propose to refine IRE for decellularizing human bone with metastasis and understand the influence of Type I collagen alterations on bone remodeling. We hypothesize that pathogenic ECM in MBD can be recovered by healthy osteogenic cells in the absence of cancer cells, where the reduction of cancer-induced Type I collagen crosslinks will restore tissue-level mineralization and mechanical strength. Thus, we will decellularize human metastatic bone and reseed with healthy bone marrow derived- and mesenchymal stem cells to regenerate the tissue. Collagen synthesis and degradation, mineral-matrix ratio, and mechanical properties will be compared between metastatic IRE-treated and healthy bone. Our experiments will lead to the establishment of a new model for studying metastases-induced bone disease and preliminary data in support of extramural grants.

Understanding cybersecurity risk and resiliency for law enforcement vehicles.

The principal investigators for this team are:

Shannon Roberts (left), assistant professor, mechanical & industrial engineering
Lauren McCarthy (right), associate professor, legal studies and political science

Cyberattacks on law enforcement officers’ vehicles can compromise and disrupt emergency response or reveal sensitive personal information of civilians. To date, we have little knowledge of how law enforcement officers understand and respond to cybersecurity concerns within their work vehicles. As such, the objectives of this research are to: (1) document existing vehicle cybersecurity education materials for law enforcement officers; and (2) evaluate the utility of a training program (designed for civilians) on law enforcement officer behavior during real-world vehicle cybersecurity incidents. We will achieve these goals by first, conducting a thorough review of existing vehicle cybersecurity training programs for law enforcement officers, and then, engaging with law enforcement officers through a driving simulator study and subsequent interviews. We expect to identify a gap in terms of vehicle cybersecurity training specific to law enforcement officers. However, we also expect our previously developed training program (for civilians) to show moderate efficacy among law enforcement officers, suggested the need for refinement that is specific to law enforcement.

Quantifying the impact of road condition on drivers and residents in vulnerable communities.

The principal investigators for this team are:

Jessica Boakye (left), assistant professor, civil & environmental engineering
Egemen Okte (right), research assistant professor, civil & environmental engineering

Vulnerable communities are often located near deteriorated and/or high-volume roads. The condition of such roads can have negative impacts on both the drivers and residents. Excessive road roughness increases fuel consumption, vehicle repair, and tire wear and tear costs for the drivers. Residents are exposed to exhaust emissions, air pollution due to particulate matter, and increased road noise in high volume roads. Traditional road design and maintenance methods typically neglect these adverse impacts that are incurred on the user. We propose a user centric index that quantifies the impact of road condition on drivers and residents in vulnerable communities. To achieve this objective, our team will first create a graphical network model of vulnerable communities and their typical origin-destination pairs to identify the most traveled roads (Boakye group). Next, road condition components (roughness, skid resistance, texture, and distresses) will be collected and converted into a road condition rating system (Okte group). Then, the road condition rating system and population characteristics will be combined to estimate the additional user costs such as additional fuel consumption and increased vehicle maintenance costs (Okte group). Finally, a holistic impact index will be created by combining economic and health costs (Boakye group).     

Active particle dynamics at flexible interfaces.

The principal investigators for this team are:

Peter Beltramo (left), assistant professor, chemical engineering
Manasa Kandula (right), assistant professor, physics

Spontaneous absorption of colloids to immiscible fluid interfaces is used to control the properties of a wide range of flexible interfaces, from oil-water interfaces in emulsions to biological interfaces like phospholipid vesicles. Based on their size, shape, and chemistry, adsorbed colloids tune the properties of emulsions, foams, and vesicles that enable technologies across consumer products, petrochemicals, and biomaterials. The field is approaching the limits of what can be achieved with passive, isotropic, particles primarily due to limited on-demand tunability. The discovery of active (self-propelling) colloids has resulted in the development of novel materials that leverage their directed motion. Integrating active colloids with oil-water and biological interfaces offers the potential for developing reconfigurable interfaces and bio-mimetic materials for targeted drug delivery, respectively.  However, active colloid behavior at fluid interfaces is expected to depend on the fluid viscosity, interfacial tension, and bending rigidity of the interface.  Behavior at these complex interfaces is not well understood and is therefore the focus of the collaboration between Beltramo and Kandula. Towards this goal, we will synthesize active colloids and examine their diffusion at oil-water and lipid bilayer interfaces. Our studies will provide fundamental insights which can be leveraged to tailor materials with reconfigurable, functional, interfaces.