June 23: Six Campus Projects Awarded President’s Office Grants

Fourteen Amherst campus faculty and staff members are sharing more than $349,000 in grants from the President’s Office for science and technology research and arts and humanities/social sciences projects.

The awards are part of a package of $1,090,500 in grants announced June 21 by President Marty Meehan.

“With these grants, we are investing in the vision, expertise and commitment of faculty members from all five UMass campuses,” Meehan said. “We are supporting distinguished scholars who enrich us through their diligent pursuits.”

The President’s Science and Technology Initiatives Fund will provide $834,000 in grants to nine projects across the five-campus system that advance basic and applied research in areas of strategic importance to the Commonwealth.

Among the funded projects is “Bio-mechanics for Disease Diagnosis and Cell,” led by Jae-Hwang Lee, mechanical and industrial engineering, and Alfred Crosby, polymer science and engineering, which received $125,000. The project will create an interdisciplinary research program to establish the university’s bio-mechanical capabilities at the level of individual cells and organs. The study on mechanical responses of bio-materials will provide opportunities for progress in disease diagnosis, generation of new methods in cell engineering, and profound understanding in traumatic injuries. Participating partners are UMass Lowell and the Medical School.

“Soft Quantum Bio-Interface Center” is a project focused on developing a new center in the physics department that will be the first in the world to focus on research and technology at the interface between soft, biological materials and quantum-mechanical, electronic materials. The principal investigators are Jennifer Ross and Anthony Dinsmore of the physics department. The project was awarded $125,000.

A $25,000 planning grant is supporting the development of a remote sensing unmanned aerial data center (drones) to support scientific research and management of natural systems across the Commonwealth. “High Quality Environmental Data for Scientific Applications and Natural Resource Management” is being led by Paula Rees of the Water Resources Center, state geologist Steve Mabee, and Charlie Schweik, environmental conservation. They are partnering with colleagues at UMass Boston on the work.

Awards from the Creative Economy Initiatives Fund are providing $256,500 to 11 projects across the UMass system. Since it was created 10 years ago, the Creative Economy Initiatives Fund has awarded $2.75 million in grants.

Amherst campus projects include “Cross Town Contemporary Art: Public Art at the Intersection of the Town of Amherst and the University of Massachusetts,” an initiative aimed at transforming the gateway district between downtown Amherst and the campus by sponsoring an open air exhibition along North Pleasant Street, which will use art and other cultural experiences to connect downtown the town and campus. Project leaders Loretta Yarlow of the University Museum of Contemporary Art and Sandy Litchfield, architecture, were awarded $26,600.

“Cultivating Creative Economies through Digital Storytelling Labs,” led by Elizabeth Krause, anthropology, and Aline Gubrium, health policy and promotion, received $28,861 in funding. Using techniques developed through their earlier Ford Foundation-funded project, “Hear Our Stories,” the project leaders will collaborate with young Puerto Rican parents and community partners in Holyoke to employ digital stories to give voice to forms of diverse economic enterprise that may otherwise be hidden or undervalued.

A grant of $18,696 went to “Using 3D Modeling to Digitally Preserve the Architectural Heritage of Massachusetts,” a project involving Duncan Irschick, biology, Copper Giloth, art, and Marla Miller, history. The project proposes to digitally preserve a series of endangered historic architectural landmarks in Massachusetts using a modified form of the Beastcam technology developed by Irschick. Among other goals, this project will use 3D digital models to educate middle-school children in Pioneer Valley schools about animation techniques as well as elements of architectural design and cultural heritage.