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College of Engineering faculty lead UGA Interdisciplinary Seed Grants

After a highly successful first round of grants, seven new faculty teams have been awarded funds through a second round of Presidential Interdisciplinary Seed Grants. The grants will facilitate research projects spanning 15 colleges, schools and other units at the University of Georgia.

Three faculty members in the UGA College of Engineering will lead projects awarded funding: Professor Brian Bledsoe and Assistant Professors Rawad Saleh and Brandon Rotavera. In addition, Associate Professor Kyle Johnsen is part of a team that submitted a winning proposal.

When the Presidential Interdisciplinary Seed Grants were first awarded in 2017, 12 faculty teams received funds totaling some $1.37 million. The work enabled by those seed grants supported subsequent applications for external funding that have brought nearly $13 million in new grants to UGA to date. This remarkable 10-to-1 return on investment led President Jere W. Morehead to announce a second round of grants for 2019-20.

“This initiative underscores the amazingly diverse expertise of our faculty across campus, and it capitalizes on the highly collaborative environment at UGA,” said Morehead. “This interdisciplinary research will result in meaningful benefits to our state, nation and world while helping to expand the university’s research enterprise.”

A total of 72 proposals were submitted for the new round of grants, which Morehead has included as part of the Great Commitments Initiative he launched this year. They were reviewed by a team of faculty and administrators led by Vice President for Research David Lee and Vice President for Public Service and Outreach Jennifer Frum.

UGA’s Great Commitments—Healthier People, A More Secure Future, and Stronger Communities—are intended to reflect some of society’s grand challenges, and faculty were asked to frame their proposals around one or more of these commitments. Their projects could include original research or strong public service and outreach components, or both.

The winning proposals and faculty teams involving UGA College of Engineering faculty are:

  • Overcoming Physical Distances with the Virtual Family Room: Virtual and Augmented Reality Communication Platforms for Deployed Military Families

Sun Joo “Grace” Ahn (Primary Investigator; Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication), Kyle Johnson (College of Engineering), Catherine O’Neal (College of Family and Consumer Sciences) and Dawn Robinson (Franklin College of Arts and Sciences).

  • Building a National Center of Excellence for Nature-Based Infrastructure Solutions

Brian Bledsoe (Primary Investigator; College of Engineering), Jon Calabria and Brian Orland (College of Environment and Design), Susana Ferreira and Craig Landry (College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences), Rhett Jackson and Nathan Nibbelink (Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources), Shana Jones (Carl Vinson Institute of Government), Don Nelson and Marshall Shepherd (Franklin College of Arts and Sciences), Scott Pippin and Mark Risse (Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant), Amy Rosemond (Odum School of Ecology) and Meredith Welch-Divine (Graduate School).

  • Anticipating the Regional and Global Impacts of Next-Generation Vehicle Engine Technologies

Rawad Saleh (Primary Investigator) and Brandon Rotavera (College of Engineering); Amanda Frossard, Gabriel Kooperman and Geoffrey Smith (Franklin College of Arts and Sciences).

Growing research, innovation and entrepreneurship is a strategic priority for the university. Research expenditures are up nearly 30% over the past five years, and UGA now ranks No. 53 in the National Science Foundation’s Higher Education Research & Development rankings, a 13-point jump from No. 66 over a five-year period.

Learn more about UGA Interdisciplinary Seed Grants here.

By Michael Terrazas

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