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UTEP Faculty Members Benefit from Latest Round of Research Grants


UTEP Faculty Members Benefit from Latest Round of Research Grants


UTEP Faculty Members Benefit from Latest Round of Research Grants

IDR Round IV grant recipients at their orientation on Sept. 27.
Photo by JR Hernandez / UTEP News Service

The University's rise toward Tier One research recognition continues with the dissemination of interdisciplinary research grants to groups of UTEP faculty engaged in critical collaborative work.

The second of this year's Interdisciplinary Research (IDR) Enhancement Program awards were announced in September by the Office of Research and Sponsored Projects (ORSP). It marks the fourth round of the IDR Enhance Program grants, which provide opportunities for faculty and staff to propose a wide variety of new projects that harness expertise from a range of disciplines, thus fostering greater collaboration across departments and colleges. These IDR grants contribute to the nearly $80 million that UTEP is spending annually on research.

"I'd like to thank UTEP for this distinguished award, an important springboard for my research career," said Stanley T. Mubako, Ph.D., research assistant professor at the Center for Environmental Resource Management (CERM). "It is such an honor to be recognized as one of the recipients for 2013, and I only realized how blessed I am to be in such great company when I looked at my IDR collaborators and the other teams who received this year's very competitive award."

The ORSP reiterates that Round IV was indeed the most competitive and saw a 75% increase in proposal submissions compared to the prior round of funding. A multi-disciplinary committee comprised of faculty reviewed the IDR proposals for eligibility, significance and innovation of theoretical contributions across disciplines, potential of impact beyond any one discipline, interdisciplinary nature of the team, strength and contributions of the team members, and potential of the team to secure extramural funding.

The projects and principle investigators awarded with Round IV IDR grant program funding are:

Using hybrid microscopic methods to study highly movable biological objects

  • Dr. Chunqiang Li, Physics, UTEP
  • Dr. Chuan Xiao, Chemistry, UTEP
  • Dr. Igor Almeida, Biological Sciences, UTEP
  • Dr. Wei Qian, Electrical and Computer Engineering, UTEP
  • Dr. Matthias Fischer, Max Planck Institute for Medical Research, Germany
  • Dr. Xiujun Li, Chemistry, UTEP

Novel Tools for Parasite Targeting and Delivery of a Chemotherapeutic Drug

Developing an environmental-economic accounting framework for water use in the United States

  • Dr. Stanley Mubako, Center for Environmental Resource Management, UTEP
  • Dr. Thomas Fullerton, Economics and Finance, UTEP
  • Mr. Adam G. Walke, Economics and Finance, UTEP
  • Dr. Tim Collins, Sociology and Anthropology, UTEP
  • Dr. Grace Mubako, Accounting, UTEP
  • Dr. Shane Walker, Civil Engineering, UTEP

Assessment of aridland aquatic biodiversity using second generation sequencing

  • Dr. Elizabeth Walsh, Biological Sciences, UTEP
  • Dr. Thomas Gill, Geological Sciences, UTEP
  • Dr. Ming-Ying Leung, Mathematical Sciences and Director of Bioinformatics Program, UTEP
  • Dr. Michael Moody, Biological Sciences, UTEP

"I was very excited when I heard our project was selected to be one of the only four proposals to be funded," said XiuJun James Li, Ph.D., assistant professor of Chemistry. "I believe this interdisciplinary project would not be possible without the IDR program support."

One point that the IDR grant program works to stress is the benefit of cross-disciplinary work to increase chances of funding, institutional support, and publication, along with better communication across the sometimes very isolating boundaries of specific disciplines. Tom Gill, Ph.D., associate professor of Geological Sciences, echoed that belief, saying, "These funds allow us to obtain the key preliminary data we need to best compete for funding from the National Science Foundation."

On Sept. 27, the teams gathered for an orientation meeting that gave them the opportunity to hear from previous grantees, who shared advice on making the most of not just the IDR's funding, but also the support systems available through the ORSP. The office has also been regularly scheduling networking opportunities for faculty who have been awarded through their programs, thus encouraging further possible collaborations across discipline lines.

The IDR Enhancement Program makes awards to emerging interdisciplinary teams in two categories: (1) Level 1 awards of up to $5,000 per team and (2) Level 2 awards of up to $20,000 per team. Further eligibility requirements, proposal structure, and review processes and criteria for both levels can be found on the IDR page of the ORSP website.

In fall 2011, the Provost and the VP of Research jointly announced the Interdisciplinary Research Enhancement Program, a program that awards funds to UTEP-centered teams of researchers to pursue interdisciplinary research through a competitive process. Including the four teams funded in IDR Round IV, 21 teams total have been funded through this program. With team members cutting across all UTEP colleges, multiple research centers, several external universities, as well as many private and public entities, the program has opened the door for innovative approaches to solving significant societal challenges. In addition to securing external funding, numerous spin-off collaborations and projects, both inside and outside UTEP, have been realized as a result of initial IDR Enhancement Program seed funding.

"What is more promising is that we are seeing more communication occurring across disciplines and a heightened awareness of the societal, scientific, and economic problems that can be solved through an interdisciplinary lens," said Vice President for Research Robert Osegueda, Ph.D., P.E.


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