UVA Awards $19M in STEM Funding to 4 Key Research Projects

Photo by Sanjay Suchak, University Communications

The University of Virginia has awarded $19 million for interdisciplinary STEM research across Grounds as part of the Prominence-to-Preeminence Fund.  

“UVA faculty undertake groundbreaking and inspiring research every day,” UVA Provost Liz Magill said. “These proposals were no exception; all of them align with our mission and have the potential to advance solutions in the areas of greatest need.

“I also see them as part of UVA’s ongoing emphasis on STEM fields, demonstrated through faculty hiring, equipment purchases and infrastructure improvements. The Prominence-to-Preeminence Fund is one element of that continuum.”

The University has honed its focus on STEM research since instituting the University’s strategic plan, “A Great and Good University: The 2030 Plan,” including a variety of investments in STEM that range from the Trans University Microbiome Initiative, to the creation of 14 Bicentennial Professorships in STEM fields, to ongoing commitments to innovative infrastructure like the Link Lab. These types of investments will continue to be a focus in the coming year, with a special emphasis on Environmental Resilience and Sustainability and the Brain and Neuroscience through the Grand Challenges program.

Four projects received support from the Prominence-to-Preeminence Fund:

Immunology, Imaging and Informatics for Precision ImmunoMedicine (iPRIME) in Cardiovascular Disease

Led by Dr. Coleen McNamara, professor of cardiovascular medicine and director of the Beirne B. Carter Center for Immunology Research in the School of Medicine, the iPrime in Cardiovascular Disease project will further UVA’s position as a world leader in immunotherapy for cardiovascular diseases. The collaborative team includes faculty from the schools of Medicine, Data Science, Engineering and Nursing, and aligns with the 2030 Plan’s focus on precision medicine.

Climate Science: Bridging Global and Community Scales

The Climate Science project is organized around three themes: using large-scale data to inform local, actionable advances in climate science; using cyber-physical systems to study and mitigate energy usage and global climate change; and exploring how different approaches to decarbonization can be realistically deployed regionally. This environmentally focused project is led by Karen McGlathery, director of UVA’s Environmental Resilience Institute and professor of environmental sciences, with faculty partners from the College of Arts & Sciences, the School of Data Science and the School of Engineering.

BIG Steps Forward

Tajie Harris, professor of neuroscience in the School of Medicine and director of the Center for Brain Immunology and Glia, plans to bring together faculty from Medicine, Engineering and Arts & Sciences to advance the understanding of neuroinflammation in Alzheimer’s disease. There is a dire need for new therapies to treat Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, and this brain and neuroscience project is designed to accelerate research on how the immune system affects the development and progression of Alzheimer’s.

PREPARE: An Integrative Science Program in Pandemic Science and Response

Led by Chris Barrett, executive director of Biocomplexity Institute and Initiative and professor of computer science in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, PREPARE (Pandemic Research in Emergence, Planning, and Response) will seek to reduce the global burden of infectious diseases through technology and engineering. It will also lead to new general theories for understanding large-scale networked complex systems. These concepts could be translated to other disciplines like cybersecurity, ecology and the social sciences. Researchers from the Biocomplexity Institute plan to partner with others in UVA Health, the College of Arts & Sciences, and the schools Data Science, Engineering and Medicine to establish this interdisciplinary integrative science approach, which dovetails with the 2030 Plan’s emphasis on digital technology and society.

“The choice of the research themes, the breadth and depth of their scope, as well as the already established expertise across many disciplines coming together to tackle these challenging problems is what made [these research proposals] stand out,” Vice President for Research Melur “Ram” Ramasubramanian said. “Unlike 3Cavaliers, which encourages research in its early stages, we were seeking established groups that were on the cusp of great discoveries. This group of grantees excelled in this regard.” 

The Prominence-to-Preeminence STEM fund is one of UVA’s growing continuum of research awards supporting faculty at all stages of research and discovery, including 3Cavaliers and Grand Challenges, as well as funding for research projects centered around the UVA community, such as the President & Provost’s Fund for Institutionally Focused Research. It is designed to provide up to five years of funding for projects, and can include support for faculty, research staff, students, infrastructure and equipment. Projects are expected to attract longer-term funding from federal agencies, private foundations and other sources to become self-sustaining.

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