Past Seed Fund Award Winners


Climate Change, Biological Evolution, and Biogeochemical Cycles in Lakes of Central Sulawesi, Indonesia

The overarching goal of our research is to investigate coupled climatic, environmental, and biological evolution in central Indonesia over the last ~700,000 years. Indonesia lies at the heart of the Indo-Pacific Warm Pool, the largest pool of warm ocean water on Earth. Evaporation and rainfall over Indonesia controls the amount of water vapor in the Earth’s atmosphere and globally important climate processes such as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. Long-term variations in Indonesian rainfall, combined with the tectonic evolution of the Indonesian archipelago, provide the environmental backdrop for the evolution of some of the most diverse ecosystems on Earth in Indonesia’s rainforests and lakes. We will investigate this variability by developing a Brown-led interdisciplinary science team to drill and analyze sediments from Lake Towuti, central Sulawesi, the largest lake in Indonesia.   


PI: James Russell, Associate Professor, Department of Geological Sciences

Co-PIs: Anne Giblin, Senior Scientist, Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole

Yongsong Huang, Associate Professor, Department of Geological Sciences

Stephen Parman, Assistant Professor, Department of Geological Sciences

Alberto Saal, Associate Professor, Department of Geological Sciences


Funded: $85,000


Traffic Pollution and Acute Cardiovascular Events in Post-Menopausal Women

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the U.S. Wellenius will lead the first detailed study in a nationwide context of whether traffic pollution may increase the risk of cardiovascular events. This project will evaluate the association between long-term exposure to traffic pollution and cardiovascular risk within the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), a large, national, prospective cohort study of 161,808 postmenopausal women. The proposed work is part of a broader research program to understand how different sources of ambient air pollution influence cardiovascular disease risk. The findings will likely have direct relevance on cardiovascular disease prevention by informing public health policy regarding the need for refinements to air pollution regulation, and position Brown University at the center of an exciting, important, and highly visible area of public health research.


PI: Gregory Wellenius, Assistant Professor, Department of Epidemiology

Co-PI: Charles Eaton, Professor, Departments of Family Medicine and Epidemiology


Eric A. Whitsel, Research Associate Professor, Department of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

Yi Wang, PhD, Post-Doctoral Research Associate, Department of Epidemiology

Melissa Eliot, PhD, Data Analyst/Programmer, Center for Environmental Health and Technology


Funded: $85,000


Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms Underlying the Transition from Acute to Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is a serious health problem affecting millions of people in the USA alone. Chronic pain is highly prevalent in patients with diabetes, cancer, autoimmune deficiency, and following peripheral nerve injury. Strong evidence supports the theory that chronic pain is a maladaptive response of neurons to tissue injury or inflammation. The synapse is the site where neural transmission is scaled up and down in response to changes in neuronal input, but it is also now recognized as the critical pathological site in several brain diseases. Lipscombe and Kauer propose to begin to define fundamental cellular and molecular steps that support the development and maintenance of long-term changes in synaptic efficacy in the spinal dorsal horn, and then examine synaptic plasticity in the dorsal horn in animal models of chronic pain. The seed grant will allow them to garner preliminary data for future NIH applications.


PIs: Julie Kauer, Professor, Department of Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biotechnology

Diane Lipscombe, Professor, Department of Neuroscience


Funded: $85,000


How Do Funding Mechanisms Affect Health Care Choices? Action for Health and Children’s Health in Mali

A key barrier to the cost-effective delivery of health care services in low-income countries is the lack of a full understanding of how families make decisions about when and where to seek healthcare. The aim of this project is to study these decisions in the context of children’s care. Sautmann and Dean will assess the relative importance of different factors that may affect the parents’ choice: financial constraints and costs; information and beliefs about the child’s need for care; and the preference of parents about trade-offs they must make e.g. between spending today and tomorrow, certain or uncertain outcomes or healthcare for their children versus other expenses. They frame their analysis in a dynamic model of healthcare decision-making, and use a randomized control trial of the “Action for Health” program of the Mali Health Organizing Project to estimate this model. The results will allow the researchers to predict changes in parents’ behavior and their impact on children’s health outcomes in response to different healthcare funding mechanisms.


PI: Anja Sautmann, Assistant Professor, Department of Economics

Co-PIs: Mark Dean, Assistant Professor, Department of Economics

Caitlin Cohen, M.D. Candidate, School of Medicine


Funded: $85,000



The Impact of Agricultural Practices on Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Air Quality: A Case Study in New England

 On a global basis, microbial activity in soils accounts for as much as 35% of nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions and nearly 20% of nitric oxide (NO) emissions. These trace gases are important in regulating Earth’s climate, while also influencing local air quality and acid rain deposition. Changes in N2O and NO emissions are anticipated with global changes in temperature, precipitation, and nitrogen fertilizer use, providing great potential for important feedbacks onto the climate and atmospheric systems. Hastings and Tang will develop a new system for automatically and simultaneously measuring the flux of N2O and NO from agricultural soils, and utilize this new technology in a pilot study to quantify the response functions of N2O and NO to parameters such as temperature, soil moisture, and nitrogen availability.


PIsMeredith Hastings, Assistant Professor, Department of Geological Sciences and The Environmental change Initiative
Jianwu Tang, Assistant Scientist, Marine Biological Laboratory, the Ecosystems Center, and Brown Assistant Professor (MBL), Department of Geological Sciences.

Funded: $52,000


Governance and Inequality in Indian Cities:  A Seed Grant Proposal

Indian cities face tremendous challenges of governance because of entrenched inequalities and accelerating urban migration. Yet the social science literature on urban governance in India is conspicuous by its absence. This interdisciplinary team proposes to fill this gap through a long-term research project that is motivated by three fundamental questions. First, what are the predominant patterns of inequality in urban India and how is inequality structured? Second, how are Indian cities governed and how do these patterns of governance both reflect and impact patterns of inequality?  Third, what forms of identity emerge in the migrant communities, as they come from villages to cities?  And how do they view the state and fellow citizens?  Who is us, who is them?  This question, not often asked, is important for governance, for forms of consciousness have a relationship with what kinds of politics and political structures emerge, how political parties or civil society organizations mobilize citizens.

PI: Patrick Heller, Professor, Department of Sociology
Co PI: Ashutosh Varshney, Professor, Department of Political Science 

Funded: $75,000


Novel Micropatterned Culture Model for Developing New Therapeutic Strategies for Sudden Cardiac Death

Sudden cardiac death is a leading cause of death in industrialized countries. It is most commonly caused by ventricular fibrillation, a fatal heart rhythm disturbance (arrhythmia). Emerging evidence indicates an important genetic contribution to sudden cardiac death; however, the molecular determinants have remained elusive. This project aims to develop a highly innovative and translational culture model of human cardiac arrhythmia by patterning cardiomyocytes derived from neonatal transgenic rabbits carrying a human mutation causing long QT type 2 syndrome, a common genetic cause for sudden cardiac death. Hoffman-Kim, Mende, Koren and Choi will use this new culture model to investigate arrhythmia formation, the mechanisms underlying the protective effects of progesterone as well as identify progestin molecules ideally suitable to prevent cardiac arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death in long QT syndrome.


PI: Diane Hoffman-Kim, Associate Professor, Department of Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology and Biotechnology
Bum-Rak Choi, Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Rhode Island Hospital
Gideon Koren, Professor, Department of Medicine, Rhode Island Hospital
Ulrike Mende, Associate Professor, Department of medicine, Rhode Island Hospital

Funded: $90,000


Genetic, Biochemical, and Bioinformatic Approaches to Understanding Microbial Degradation of Plant Biomass

 The development of renewable energy sources, which can supplant fossil fuels, is of utmost importance. As replacements for fossil fuels, biofuels are helping to meet the growing global demands for energy. The proposed research project will establish a conceptual framework for genetically engineering microorganisms to produce biofuels from plant biomass, a renewable and readily available source of carbon. Inspiration for this strategy comes from the abilities soil-dwelling microorganisms to degrade and consume plant biomass. We have assembled a research team with complementary and appropriate expertise to mine and elucidate the metabolic pathways for plant biomass consumption in soil-dwelling Streptomyces bacteria. By necessity, the project involves the synergistic application of experimental methods from genetics, biochemistry, computational biology, and chemistry.

PI: Jason Sello, Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry
Co-PIs: Rebecca Page, Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular Biology, cell Biology and Biochemistry
Charles Lawrence, Professor, Department of Applied Mathematics

Funded: $90,000







Pollen Tube Glycobiology — A Chemical Genetic Analysis of Galactose Biochemistry in Growing Pollen Tubes
This project aims to develop pollen tube growth as a model system that uses tools of chemical-genetics to explore how cell walls are synthesized and broken down. Focusing on the role of galactose in cell wall synthesis and degradation, the project will use a combination of focused forward chemical-genetic and targeted reverse genetics methods, along with protein localization studies, to explore galactose metabolism in the context of rapid pollen tube extension. This team is dedicated to unraveling the complexities of cell wall synthesis and breakdown, work that impacts the biofuels and energy arena. The development of energy from renewable resources is one of the greatest challenges facing scientists today, and this work will help Brown establish a strong presence in this area.


PI: Mark A. Johnson, Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, and Biochemistry 
Co-PI: Amit Basu, Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry
 Funded: $90,000


Tracking Disease Spread Through the Wildlife Trade: New Techniques to Identify Infectious Microbes in Aquarium Fishes
Since 2000, the US has imported more than 1.4 billion live animals, representing thousands of species from more than 194 countries. More than 90% of these animals were aquarium fishes intended for pet shop sales. Contact with aquarium fishes is increasingly linked to human infections by bacterial species including Salmonella, Streptococcus, Mycobacterium and Aeromonas. Using intensive sampling methods and experimental manipulations, Smith and Amaral-Zettler will track changes in pathogen species richness and infection rate in select aquarium fishes as animals arrive in U.S. pet shops and are sorted into store tanks. The findings will advance the conceptual bases of disease ecology and invasion biology and inform future efforts to regulate wildlife trade to reduce disease introductions.


PIs: Katherine Smith, Assistant Professor of Biology (Research), Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Linda Amaral-Zettler, Assistant Scientist, The Josephine Bay Paul Center for Comparative Molecular Biology and Evolution, Marine Biology Laboratory; Assistant Professor, Brown-MBL Joint Graduate Program, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Funded: $90,000

Advancing Digital Scholarship with Touch-Surfaces and Large-Format Interactive Display Walls
The project will focus on the development of a prototype multi-camera large‐format display wall with gesture recognition software to be tested in tandem with the development of scholarly applications and interfaces. These powerful multi‐user, gesture‐enabled interactive display surfaces will allow the authoring and “performance” of sophisticated interactive multimedia digital projects that will be installed in libraries and other performance spaces. They will blend hypertext, static, and dynamic imagery and enable scalable visualization and remote collaborations. This multi‐faceted proposal will address research and development issues related to developing a modular, integrated platform of systems and services designed to advance digital humanities at Brown and beyond.
PI: Gabriel Taubin, Associate Professor of Engineering and Computer Science, Division of Engineering

Co-PIs: Andy van Dam, Professor of Computer Science, Department of Computer Science

Harriette Hemmasi, University Librarian, University Library

Massimo Riva, Professor of Italian Studies, Department of Italian Studies

Funded: $90,000




Material Matters: A Collaboration Between Archaeology and Engineering
Rooted in existing collaborations between the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World and the Division of Engineering at Brown University, and in conjunction with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Alcock and Sheldon will develop and refine 3-D imaging techniques for archaeological analysis.  Scholars at Brown University will have the capacity to be among the very first, world-wide, to assess the significant capabilities of Dual Beam microscopy and Neutron Imaging in the three-dimensional mapping of a range of artifact types.  The resulting data will be of interest to both archaeologists and material scientists whose respective fields are joined by shared interests in material culture but which at present communicate far too little.

Co-PIs: Susan E. Alcock, Director, Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World, Joukowsky Family Professor of Archaeology, Professor of Classics; Professor of Anthropology;  Brian W. Sheldon, Professor of Engineering
Collaborators: Krysta Ryzewski, Postdoctoral Fellow in Archaeology and Engineering, Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology & the Ancient World, Division of Engineering;  Hassina Z. Bilheux, Senior Scientist and Instrument Developer, Spallation Neutron Source, Oak Ridge National Laboratory;  David Paine, Professor of Engineering;  John F. Cherry, Professor of Classics, Professor of Anthropology, Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology & the Ancient World;  Stephen D. Houston, Professor of Anthropology

Funded: $80,000


Discovering RNA Regulatory Elements in Drosophila
Conserved DNA elements that regulate gene transcription are increasingly well understood, thanks to recent advances in genome location (ChIP-chip and ChIP-seq). However, cis-regulatory elements in RNA are less well resolved, and comparable technologies have yet to be developed.  With the complete genomes of twelve species of Drosophila, opportunities present themselves to leverage the data-set into testable models for new RNA control elements.  Previous studies have demonstrated that splicing enhancer motifs have signature distributions relative to splice signals.  The project will apply this observation to discover sequences which are important for a variety of RNA processing or regulatory events.  In addition, the project will perform powerful biochemical, genetic and targeted knockout experiments to test its hypotheses.


PIs: Will Fairbrother, Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, and Biochemistry;

Robert Reenan, Professor, Department of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, and Biochemistry

Funded: $80,000


The Dawn of a New Era: Deciphering the past climatic and ecological changes using integrated DNA and lipid biomarker fingerprints
This project aims to integrate state of the art DNA sequencing technology with established geochemical-paleobiological approaches to decipher past biotic and climatic changes with unprecedented specificity and accuracy. This research will demonstrate that DNA molecules preserved in anoxic lake sediments can be used to identify and quantify variations in photosynthetic microorganisms during the past ten thousand years.  In addition, the project will reveal that DNA from fossil pollen grains in sediments allows quantification, at the species level, of past changes in grassland communities. The research will unite cutting-edge technologies in organic geochemistry at Brown and DNA sequencing at the Marine Biology Laboratory in an interdisciplinary collaboration.

PI: Dr. Yongsong Huang, Associate Professor, Department of Geological Sciences, Brown University
Co-PIs: Dr. Linda Amaral-Zettler, Associate Research Scientist, Marine Biology Laboratory, Assistant Professor, Brown-MBL Joint Graduate Program;  Dr. Erika J. Edwards, Assistant Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology;  Dr. James Russell, Assistant Professor, Department of Geological Sciences

Funded: $80,000

A New Method for Evaluating Vitamin D levels in Serum and Saliva
The ability to measure vitamin D levels accurately is an important tool in combating the increasing number of diseases associated with vitamin D deficiency. The project plans to develop a hand-held device that measures the level of vitamin D in a sample of serum or saliva from a patient, similar to a commercial glucose meter.  Additionally, the integration of the platform with conventional MEMS technology will enable the construction of a miniaturized biosensor that can be mass-produced at low cost. Based on our preliminary results, a patent application has been filed, placing Brown at the forefront of research in electrochemically-based vitamin D sensors.


PI: G. Tayhas R. Palmore, Professor of Engineering, Professor of Medical Science, Division of Engineering
Co-PI: G. Satya Reddy, MD, Epimer, LLC, Adjunct Professor, Department of Chemistry
International collaborator: Professor Toshiyuki Sakaki, Biotechnology Research Center, Toyama Prefectural University

Funded: $80,000






Molecular Analysis of a Bistable Switch in the Pathogen Candida albicans
Candida albicans is the most commonly isolated fungal pathogen and is responsible for debilitating mucosal infections as well as life-threatening systemic infections. Despite its prominence as a human pathogen, relatively little is known about virulence factors in C. albicans compared to bacterial pathogens. One feature of Candida biology that has been linked with pathogenicity is phenotypic switching, in which strains convert rapidly and reversibly between alternative phenotypic forms. This proposal will examine one such phenotypic transition, the white-opaque switch, which influences both the virulence of C. albicans strains and their ability to form biofilms.


PI: Richard Bennett, Assistant Professor of Biology, Department of Molecular Microbiology & Immunology

Co-PIs: Jeffrey Laney, Assistant Professor of Biology, Department of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, and Biochemistry; Suzanne Sindi, Prager Assistant Professor of Applied Mathematics, Division of Applied Mathematics; Joseph Bliss, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics; Nicola Neretti, Assistant Professor of Brain & Neural Science (Research), Institute for Brain & Neural Systems

Funded: $90,000

Mapping Monasticism
This project will use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to plot the landscape of a French abbey as a monastic eco-system. Diverse disciplines will converge to place the lands, parishes, and other dependencies of Saint-Jean-des-Vignes into the larger regional and European context. Visual data from the long tradition of mapping in Europe , such as seventeenth-century maps, land registries and charters, will be correlated with GIS data. Brown's strengths in both population studies and spatial analysis provide unique support for this endeavor.


PI: Sheila Bonde, Dean of the Graduate School ; Professor of the History of Art and Architecture, Department of the History of Art & Architecture; and Professor of Archaeology, Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World

Co-PIs: Clark Maines , Professor of Art History, Art and Art History Department, Wesleyan University ; Elli Mylonas, Associate Director, Computing and Information Services

Funded: $28,850

Pilot research to inform a childhood obesity prevention study to improve the nutrition and physical activity environments of low income children
Childhood obesity is an escalating public health problem, especially for low income and ethnic minorities. There is a pressing need to develop and evaluate effective, practical, sustainable interventions to prevent childhood obesity with these populations. An interdisciplinary team of Brown faculty from multiple departments and centers will conduct research to develop interventions to improve the nutrition and physical activity environments of low income, ethnically diverse families and to inform a future randomized controlled trial that will test the efficacy of these interventions. This research will advance Brown's position in the field by developing expertise in multi-level community-based approaches to prevent childhood obesity, establishing a national reputation in this research area, and fostering Brown's ties with the community on this critical public health issue.


PI: Kim Gans, Associate Professor of Community Health (Research), Department of Community Health, and Deputy Director, Institute of Community Health Promotion
Co-PIs: Michael J. Mello, Assistant Professor, Departments of Emergency Medicine and Community Health, Director of the Injury Prevention Center at Rhode Island Hospital; Bess H. Marcus, Professor, Departments of Psychiatry & Human Behavior and Community Health; Linda Shalon, Associate Professor of Pediatrics (Clinical), Attending Physician, Hasbro Children's Hospital Department of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Nutrition, and Liver Diseases, and Medical Director, Kids on the Move, RI

Funded: $85,000

High–Resolution X-ray Imaging of Tumor Angiogenesis
This project will pair a new tissue preparation method with state-of-the-art x-ray imaging in the study of liver cancer. The research will afford a detailed look at blood vessel formation using images with hundreds of times higher resolution than that of conventional x-ray images. This effort involves collaboration between the Liver Research Center at Rhode Island Hospital , and Brown University through the Warren Alpert Medical School and the Department of Chemistry.


Co-PIs: Gerald J. Diebold, Professor of Chemistry, Department of Chemistry; Christoph Rose-Petruck , Associate Professor of Chemistry, Department of Chemistry; Jack R. Wands, Jeffrey and Kimberly Greenberg-Artemis and Martha Joukowsky Professor in Gastroenterology, and Professor of Medical Science, Brown Medical School, Professor, Department of Molecular Microbiology & Immunology, and Director, Liver Research Center, Rhode Island Hospital

Funded: $90,000

Developing Highly Efficient Non-Pt Nanoparticle Catalyst for O2 Reduction and CO Oxidation
This joint proposal with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory will research nanoparticles toward applications in fuel cells. Specifically, the project will create and evaluate a new catalyst for fuel cell reactions that is not based in platinum. Brown will synthesize and characterize the catalyst while the national laboratory will evaluate its activity. This collaboration will ultimately foster a multi-disciplinary team to develop alternative catalysts for fuel cells.


PI: Shouheng Sun, Professor of Chemistry, Department of Chemistry
Co-PI: Sheng Dai, Leader, Nanomaterials Chemistry Group, Chemical Sciences Division and Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Funded: $50,000

Transcript Turnover in the Egg-to-Embryo Transition: Basic and Clinical Applications
The growing number of patients seeking assisted reproductive procedures underscores a critical need for a sensitive method to predict an embryo's successful development. Currently, clinicians rely strictly on a visual assessment to decide which and how many embryos to implant. However, the high risks and ethical, emotional, and developmental issues demand more of the clinician. Improved technology and a better understanding of the embryo can enable a more stringent evaluation for embryo prioritization. This collaboration between a clinician, three basic biologists, and two computational molecular biologists will study the mechanism of the oocyte-to-embryo transition and develop a molecular tool to help clinicians.


PI: Gary Wessel, Professor of Biology, Department of Molecular and Cell Biology & Biochemistry
Co-PIs: Mark C. Alliegro, Senior Scientist, Josephine Bay Paul Center for Comparative Molecular Biology and Evolution, Marine Biological Laboratory; Sandra Carson, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Brown Medical School, and Director of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility and the Center for Reproduction and Infertility at Women & Infants Hospital; Richard Freiman, Assistant Professor of Medical Science, Department of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry; Charles Lawrence, Professor of Applied Mathematics, Division of Applied Mathematics; William Thompson, Assistant Professor of Applied Mathematics (Research), Center for Computational Molecular Biology and Division of Applied Mathematics

Funded: $80,000






Toward a Closer Alignment between High School and University Curricula: A Pilot Study on International Comparison in Students' Study of Chemistry
This collaborative effort between the Education and Chemistry departments will examine the secondary education systems of nations that consistently outperform the US in 8th grade to determine the differences in their science curricula. This research will position the team to develop a chemistry curricular framework for U.S. secondary schools-and urban schools in particular-that prepares students for university-level scientific study.


PI: Kenneth Wong, Walter and Leonore Annenberg Chair for Education Policy Professor of Education, Political Science and Public Policy & Director of Urban Education Policy Program, Department of Education

Co-PI: Peter M. Weber, Chair, Department of Chemistry

Funded: $80,000

Integrin Mediated Adhesion and Retraction during T Cell Migration
Using newly developed biophysical and engineering tools, an interdisciplinary team of physicists, engineers and hospital-based research faculty will study the forces involved in the adhesion and migration of T cells. These tools will allow for the visualization and tracking of specific proteins such as integrin, which are involved in adhesion during migration. The knowledge acquired will be pertinent to understanding the precise mechanisms used by immune cells to fight infectious diseases.

PI: Jay X. Tang, Assistant Professor of Physics and Engineering, Physics

Co-PIs: L. Ben Freund, Henry Ledyard Goddard University Professor, Mechanics of Solids and Structures, Division of Engineering; Minsoo Kim, Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery, Brown Medical School; Jonathan Reichner, Associate Professor, Department of Surgery, Brown Medical School

Funded: $90,000

Evolutionary Response to Nanomaterial Exposure in the Environment: Functional Genomics of C60-Resistance in Drosophilia
The release of nanoparticles to the environment could have significant impacts on the genetic composition of natural communities. Using fruit flies as a model system, this project will address the ecotoxicological effects of Buckminster fullerene (C60) exposures to determine the long-term environmental effects on the genetic variation in populations. This project will further current nanotoxicology research by adding a novel ecological and evolutionary component and will enhance the work of Brown's emerging cross-departmental center, the Alliance for Molecular and Nanoscale Innovation.


PI: David Rand, Professor of Biology, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Co-PIs: Kristi Wharton, Associate Professor of Biology, Department of Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology and Biochemistry; Robert Hurt, Professor of Engineering, Division of Engineering

Funded: $55,000

Developing an Integrated Genomic Approach to Explore the Antitumor Activity of Vitamin D and Derivatives to Treat Ovarian Cancer
The goal of this project is to take a global genomic view to understand the effect of vitamin D and the vitamin D derivative, MT19C, on ovarian tumors. This cross-disciplinary team of experts from molecular biology, chemistry, mathematics and medicine will combine complementary genomic technologies to understand how cells respond to vitamin D. This research will provide important insights to develop novel therapeutic treatments for ovarian cancer.


PI: Alexander S. Brodsky, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Department of Molecular and Cell Biology and Biochemistry

Co-PIs: Laurent Brard, Assistant Professor and Director of the Molecular Therapeutics Laboratory at Women & Infants Hospital of RI; Charles Lawrence, Professor of Applied Mathematics; Richard Freiman, Assistant Professor of Medical Science, Department of Molecular and Cell Biology and Biochemistry

Funded: $90,000


Carbohydrate-binding Flourescent Nanoparticles: an Enabling Technology for Glycomics
This project brings together chemists, pathologists and biologists interested in studying cell surface carbohydrates and their functions. Using the tools of quantitative fluorescence microscopy and pattern recognition algorithms, this team will generate more accurate descriptions of cell surface carbohydrate compositions. This knowledge will contribute to a strategy for diagnosing cancer at the molecular level and for understanding the basic glycobiology of plant development.

PI: Amit Basu, Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry

Co-PIs: Douglas Gnepp, Professor, Department of Pathology, Brown Medical School and Rhode Island Hospital; Mark Johnson, Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry; Matthew Zimmt, Professor, Department of Chemistry

Funded: $90,000

Targeted Research Seed Fund Award for Energy Research:
Development of a "Spouted Bed" Direct Carbon Fuel Cell (SB/DCFC)
In 2005, one billion tons of coal were consumed in the US for electricity generation. Given the increasing demands for electricity and the constraints on natural gas and nuclear power, coal will continue to play a very important role in the energy future of this country. In conjunction with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, this research is focused on the construction and characterization of a prototype of a new kind of direct carbon fuel cell (DCFC) that is being developed to circumvent some of the more important shortcomings of current DCFC designs. DCFCSs are electrochemical devices that produce electricity directly from carbonaceous sources, such as coal and biomass, without combustion or gasification. With much higher theoretical efficiencies than thermal power plants, DCFCs can significantly reduce CO2 emissions, as well as many other pollutants generated by conventional coal-fired power plants.


PI: J.M. Calo, Professor of Engineering

Co-PI: E. Bain, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Division of Engineering

Funded: $50,000


Targeted Research Seed Fund Award for Scientific Computing:
The Cellarium Project: A Teaching and Research Environment for Computational Systems Biology
The goal of this project is to build a novel research environment that will address unmet challenges of computational and systems biology in the post-genome-sequence and systems biology era. Building on Dr. Istrail's experience in leading the construction of some of the most powerful genomics suites of tools to date, for whole genome comparison, annotation and analysis, and his biological systems research in protein folding and misfolding, and gene regulatory networks, he will collaborate with scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and California Institute of Technology to develop new computational environments for molecular reconstruction. This project will involve the world's most powerful accelerator-based neutron source to create an environment where for the first time, researchers can computationally reconstruct in vivo protein folding.


PI: Sorin Istrail, Julie Nguyen Brown Professor of Computational and Mathematical Sciences, Professor of Computer Science, Director of the Center for Computational Molecular Biology

Funded: $65,000






Development and Verification of CTX Imaging for Musculoskeletal Biomechanics Research
This team, composed of zoologists, bioengineers and a computer scientist, is collaborating on the development of “CTX,” a new biomedical imaging technology for dynamic visualization of bones and joints in motion. With this advanced technology researchers will be able to look inside living humans and animals and see their skeletons moving in 3D.  This new technology will find broad application in orthopedics and zoological biomechanics research, and possibly lead to clinical diagnosis and treatment of orthopedic problems.


PI: Elizabeth Brainerd, Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Co-PIs: Joseph J. Crisco, Associate Professor, Orthopedics; Braden C. Fleming, Associate Professor, Orthopedics; Stephen M. Gatesy, Associate Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; David H. Laidlaw, Associate Professor, Computer Science; Douglas C. Moore, Associate Director of Bioengineering Laboratory, Orthopedics; Thomas J. Roberts, Assistant Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Sharon M. Swartz, Associate Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Funded: $100,000


Nanoscale Biomimetic Materials for Nerve Regeneration
The goal of this project is to determine the critical cues needed to guide nerves, thus providing essential information for new strategies for nerve regeneration.  This interdisciplinary team from Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology and Biotechnology and the Division of Engineering, hopes to converge synergistically to develop and fabricate novel biomimetic biomaterial systems with drug delivery capabilities, to characterize these biomaterials in vitro, and to evaluate them in in vivo models of nerve injury.


PI: Diane Hoffman-Kim, Assistant Professor, Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology and Biotechnology

Co-PIs: Thomas Webster, Associate Professor, Engineering; Edith Mathiowitz, Professor, Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology and Biotechnology; Moses Goddard, Associate Professor (Research), Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology and Biotechnology

Funded: $98,727


Exceptional Children — Exceptional Challenges: Developing an Interdisciplinary, Multinational Project for Studying Work-Family Dilemmas among Parents Raising Children
This team of sociologists, along with an economist and pediatrician, will undertake an innovative pilot study to gather preliminary research on the prevalence and types of child disability, the choices families make to meet conflicting family economic needs and time constraints, and the relative public and private costs of raising children with disabilities.  The emphasis will be on the analyses that contrast and compare varying societies, starting with a U.S.-Australia comparison analysis of work/family dilemma.


PI: Dennis P. Hogan, Professor, Sociology

Co-PIs: Anna Aizer, Assistant Professor, Economics; Peter D. Brandon, Adjunct Associate Professor, Populations Studies and Training Center, and Australian Professorial Fellow and Professor of Demography and Sociology, Research School of Social Sciences, the Australian National University; Patrick Heller, Associate Professor, Sociology; Michael E. Msall, Professor of Pediatrics, Pritzker School of Medicine, University of Chicago; Susan Short, Associate Professor, Sociology

Funded: $81,654

Structural Biology and Function of Macromolecular Complexes.  Using Dynamic Light Scattering to Initiate the Establishment of a Brown University Facility for State-of-the-Art Biophysical Protein Characterization
This undertaking will add essential instrumentation to the cross-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary Laboratories of Molecular Medicine (LLM), which is home to a diverse set of faculty whose research interests span all levels of biology.  The acquisition of a dynamic light scattering (DLS) instrument will facilitate key collaborative research studies of eight primary uses and help to establish a centralized facility for protein biophysical characterization.


PIs: Rebecca Page, Assistant Professor, Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry and Gerwald Jogl, Assistant Professor, Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry

Co-PIs: Laurent Brossay, Assistant Professor, Molecular Microbiology and Immunology; Albert E. Dahlberg, Professor, Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry; David E. Cane, Professor, Chemistry; Dale F. Mierke, Associate Professor, Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology and Biotechnology; Wolfgang S. Peti, Assistant Professor, Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology and Biotechnology; Anatoly Zhitkovich, Associate Professor, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

Funded: $53,074


Brown Influenza Microchip: Rapid Identification of Sequence Specific Subtypes
In this project, the Division of Engineering teams up with Medical School faculty to develop an Influenza Detection Microchip capable of rapidly identifying influenza subtypes, which is not currently possible outside of specialized labs.  This new technology aims to provide health care and public health professionals with key information for determining a public health response appropriate to the viral threat.


PI: Anubhav Tripathi, Assistant Professor, Engineering

Co-PIs: Andrew W. Artenstein, Associate Professor, Medicine; Steven M. Opal, Professor, Medicine

Funded: $99,944






Brown University – Rhode Island Hospital Cooperative Research Network: A research problem selection paradigm based on medical needs


PIs: Gregory Crawford and Eric Suuberg, Engineering

Co-PIs: Susan Duffy, Emergency Medicine and Pediatrics; Gregory Jay, Emergency Medicine

Award: $82,638

Metrics for Quantifying White Matter Variation: image analysis, testing, and application


PI: David Laidlaw, Computer Science

Co-PIs: Stephen Salloway, Neuroscience; Paul Malloy and Ronald Cohen, Psychiatry and Human Behavior

Award: $100,000


Development and Optimization of Novel Chemotherapeutic Agents for Cancer


PI: Narasimha Swamy, Pediatrics

Co-PIs: Paul Williard, Chemistry; Edwin Forman, Pediatrics; Dale Mierke, Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology and Biotechnology; Richard Moore, Obstetrics

Award: $75,000

Quantitative Neuroimaging of Object Representation and Perceptual Decision-Making

PI: Luiz Pessoa, Psychology

Co-PIs: Michael Tarr, Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences; David Ress, Neuroscience

Award: $85,520


Using Physiological Measurements and Artificial Neural Networks to Monitor and Predict Cognitive States


PIs: William Heindel, Psychology and Predrag Neskovic, Brain and Neural Science

Award: $81,620






The Ersatz Brain Project: Brain-Like Computer Design for Cognitive Applications


PI: James Anderson, Cognitive & Linguistic Sciences

Co-PIs: Gerald Guralnik, Physics; James O'Dell, TCASCV

Award: $60,820


Strengthening Brown University Vaccine Development Capability.  A Collaborative for Vaccine Research and Development (CVRD)


PI: Anne De Groot, Community Health, TB/HIV Research Lab

Co-PIs: Luisa Marcon, Community Health; Steven Gregory, Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry, Liver Research Center; Jan Klysik, Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry, Transegenic Mouse Facility; John Sedivy, Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry; Steven Opal and Andrew Artenstein, Medicine; Georges Peter, Pediatrics

Award: $70,000

Management of the Wadi Khalil/Nahal Besor Environmental Borderscape


PI: Steven Hamburg, Environmental Studies, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Watson Institute

Co-PIs: Brian O'Neill, Watson Institute; Rachel Morello-Frosch, Environmental Studies and Community Health; Jeff Albert, Geological Sciences and Environmental Studies; Calvin Goldscheider, Sociology and Judaic Studies

Award: $63,380

Development and Validation of a Gene Expression Profile for Identification of Potentially-Carcinogenic Nanofibers


PIs: Agnes Kane, Pathology and Laboratory Mediineand Robert Hurt, Engineering

Co-PIs: Constantine Gatsonis and Suddhasatta Acharyya, Community Health

Award: $57,923

Impact of Adolescent Pregnancy Intention and Stress of Poor Birth Outcomes


PI: Maureen Phipps, Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Community Health

Co-PIs: Jenifer Allsworth, Gerontology Health; Jeffrey Peipert, Obstetrics and Gynecology; Caron Zlotnick, Psychiatry and Human Behavior; Geralyn Messerlian, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine; Sherry Weitzen, Obstetrics and Gynecology; Jeffrey Blume, Community Health

Award: $99,868

Neuroproteomics of Learning and Addiction


PI: John Marshall, Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology & Biotechnology

Co-PIs: Dale Mierke, Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology and Biotechnology; Mengia Pedotti-Rioult, Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology and Biotechnology; Gary Kaplan, Psychiatry & Human Behavior; Julie Kauer and Leslie Blair, Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology and Biotechnology; Zixu Mao, Medicine; Anna Dunaevsky, Neuroscience

Award: $90,000




Microsphere – Based Drug Delivery Systems and Hydrogels for the Creation of Cartilage Biocomposites.  A Tissue Engineered Solution to Joint Damage


PIs: Roy K. Aaron and Deborah McK. Ciombor, Orthopedics; Michael J. Lysaght and Edith Mathiowitz, Center for Biomedical Engineering and Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology & Biotechnology

Award: $93,920



PI: Clyde Briant, Engineering

Co-PIs: Kenneth Breuer, Engineering; Diane Hoffman-Kim, Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology and Biotechnology and Engineering; Jeffrey R. Morgan, Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology and Biotechnology; G. Tayhas R. Palmore, Engineering, Biology and Medicine; Thomas R. Powers and James R. Rice, Engineering

Award: $99,500


Transient Hearing Loss and Milestones of Language Learning


PI: James Morgan, Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences

Co-PIs: Katherine Demuth, Cognitive & Linguistic Sciences; Cynthia Garcia Coll, Education, Psychology and Pediatrics; Michael E. Msall, Child Development Center, RIH; Ronald Seifer, Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Center for the Study of Human Development

Award: $64,000

Understanding and Modeling Land Cover-Land Use Change


PI: John Mustard, Geological Sciences

Co-PIs: Johanna Schmitt and Mark Bertness, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Andrew Foster, Economics

Award: $83,578, with an additional $10,000 to incorporate the proposal of Warren Prell, “Understanding Eutrophication and Hypoxia in Narragansett Bay: An Initiative to strengthen Brown’s Estuarine Research Efforts.

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