awards first FEST grants to fund excellence in science and technology
fall, the University established a new science and technology
grant program, called Funding Excellence in Science and Technology
(FEST), as a result of the Virginia
2020 Science and Technology Commissions recommendations.
President John T. Casteen III set aside a $1 million annual fund
for research, particularly collaborative initiatives.
is meant to encourage innovative and high quality research, foster
the creation of multidisciplinary groups and attract major external
funding. It includes two programs: exploratory grants (up to $10,000)
for pilot projects, feasibility studies and proposal development,
and excellence grants (from $50,000 to $500,000) for individual
or multidisciplinary groups who propose to solve a major scientific
and/or technological problem. Projects eligible for a FEST grant
are not limited to the research themes identified by the commission.
Fernandez, associate professor of chemical engineering, was
awarded $107,150 to develop interfaces constructed at the nanoscale
level for biological applications. Fernandez and assistant professor
Andrew Hillier of chemical engineering, associate professor of
biomedical engineering Michael Lawrence, and associate professor
of chemistry Cassandra Fraser and associate professor of chemistry
James Landers are working on the molecular engineering project.
The team is crafting surfaces with multifunctional chemical and
biological features for two different biological applications.
the first, the group of investigators will tailor surfaces to
aid in basic biomedical studies of cell adhesion relevant to wound
healing. Ultimately, this might help develop new artificial
materials to manipulate cell adhesion that could be used in implants
and other medical applications, Fernandez said.
group is also exploiting their engineered surfaces for lab-on-a-chip
devices, he said. These tools are crafted from microscale
channels, materials, and structures, often to chemically analyze
exquisitely small samples. Such tools are critically needed
for rapid and inexpensive diagnostic tests, as well as high-throughput
analysis of potential drug candidates emerging from the Human
Thomas Skalak, biomedical engineering professor, received
$100,000 for research using computer simulations and experimental
studies to understand the gene circuitry that controls tissue
development and functioning. Skalak is collaborating on several
projects that combine state-of-the-art computer technology and
the latest genetic knowledge with Dr. Ariel Gomez, recently named
interim vice president for research, and two others in the Medical
School: Gary Owens in molecular & biological physics and Doug
Desimone in cell biology.
researchers will apply the computer simulation to represent cell
to cell interactions as they occur through large circuits of signal
molecules. The circuits control behavior and interaction of cells
that become or make up functioning tissues or organs, such as
blood vessels or kidneys.
approach to understand tissue assembly will underpin new therapies
for organ diseases and wound healing, such as heart disease, kidney
failure or sight loss from diabetes-induced blood vessel disorders,
Albertson, associate professor of environmental sciences,
has received $93,000 to continue work on the dynamical interactions
between climate and the biosphere. Albertson and U.Va. environmental
sciences colleagues Howie Epstein and Michael Mann are studying
how change and variability in climate affect vegetation, and how
this, in turn, causes changes to climate, Albertson said. We
want to understand these changes in terrestrial vegetation to
be able to predict how they may amplify or dampen changes in the
weather and climate system, he said.
research, which incorporates field investigations in southern
Africa along with computer simulations, will produce more accurate
models for environmental scientists to use in long-term projections.
Most research now relies on models that have static vegetation,
he said, but things tend not to stay constant in the
face of changes in the weather and climate.
Jones, an associate professor in the physics department, has
received $156,000 for his work using high intensity laser beams
to shatter molecules in an effort to understand what pieces they
break into. He said the research is basic physics that gives a
glimpse into what happens inside a molecule.
like hitting a watch with a hammer to figure out how it works
by watching the springs fly out, he said.
his research, Jones works with Eric Wells, a post-doctoral research
fellow in the physics department.
said the laser equipment needed for his work will be constructed
in a joint facility with the chemistry department, so it will
also be available for use by researchers from engineering and
chemistry as well as physics.
equipment can do more than we can do with it, Jones said.
That is why we are building it instead of just buying it.
FEST grant winners
Milton Brown, chemistry: $9,860 for a porteomic approach
David Carr, biology: $8,685 for research on genetic
variation and resistance to insect-vectored viral infection
in natural plant populations
Laura Galloway, biology: $10,000 for a project on
producing evolutionary potential in polyploids
Lisa Palmer, pediatrics: $10,000 for study of nitric
oxide regulation of HIF-1 expression in vivo
Bellave Shivaram, physics: $10,000 for extension
of acoustic microscopy to 3-D elasticity of imaging of biological
Kevin Skadron, computer science: $9,954 for research
for high throughput branch prediction for next generation
Terry Turner, urology: $9,950 to organize the third
international conference on the epididymus
recently established private
Ivy Foundation set up a Biomedical Sciences Enhancement
Fund last fall to support innovative research initiatives
that will enhance the research priorities identified by
the 2020 Science and Technology Commission. Pamela Norris,
associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering,
and biology professor Robert Grainger are the first award
recipients. Norris received $100,000 to support her work
on production of chromatographic microchips using sol-gel
derived chromatographic media. Grainger was given $99,700
to work on the development of gene-targeting strategies