Research projects

AVU awards $19 million in STEM funding to 4 key research projects

The University of Virginia has awarded $19 million for Interdisciplinary STEM Research Across Fields as part of the Preeminence to Preeminence Fund.

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

“I also see them as part of AVU’s focus on STEM fields, as evidenced by hiring faculty, purchasing equipment, and improving infrastructure. The Prominence to Prominence Fund is one part of this continuum.

The University has emphasized STEM research since the establishment of the University’s strategic plan, “A great and good university: the 2030 plan”, including a variety of STEM investments that range from Cross-University Microbiome Initiative, to the creation of 14 Bicentenary Professorships in STEM fields, to ongoing commitments to innovative infrastructure like the Link Lab. These types of investments will continue to be a priority in the coming year, with a particular focus on environmental resilience and sustainability and on brain and neuroscience through the Grand Challenges Program.

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

Immunology, Imaging and Informatics for Precision Immunomedicine (iPRIME) in Cardiovascular Diseases

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 strengthen UVA’s position as a global leader in immunotherapy for cardiovascular disease. 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 the global and community scales

The Climate Science Project is built around three themes: using large-scale data to inform local and actionable advances in climate science; using cyber-physical systems to study and mitigate energy consumption and global climate change; and explore how different approaches to decarbonization can realistically be deployed at the regional level. This environmentally-focused project is led by Karen McGlathery, director of AVU’s Environmental Resilience Institute and professor of environmental science, with partner faculty from the College of Arts and 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 Cerebral and Glia Immunology, plans to bring together professors of medicine, engineering, and the arts and sciences to advance understanding of neuroinflammation in Alzheimer’s disease. There is an urgent need for new therapies to treat Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, and this brain and neuroscience project is designed to accelerate research into how the immune system affects the development and progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

PREPARE: An Integrative Science Program in Pandemic Science and Response

Led by Chris Barrett, executive director of the 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 disease through technology and engineering. It will also lead to new general theories for understanding complex large-scale networked systems. These concepts could be transposed to other disciplines such as cybersecurity, ecology and social sciences. Researchers from the Biocomplexity Institute plan to partner with others in UVA Health, the College of Arts & Sciences, and the Schools of Data Science, Engineering, and Medicine to establish this interdisciplinary, integrative science approach, which aligns with the emphasis of the 2030 digital technology and society plan.

“The choice of research themes, the breadth and depth of their scope, and the already established expertise in many disciplines coming together to tackle these difficult problems, is what has made [these research proposals] stand out,” said vice president of research, Melur “Ram” Ramasubramanian. “Unlike 3Cavaliers, which encouraged research in its early days, we were looking for established groups that were on the cusp of great discoveries. This group of recipients excelled in this regard.

The Prominence-to-Preeminence STEM Fund is one of AVU’s growing continuums of research scholarships supporting faculty at all stages of research and discovery, including 3Horsemen and Grand Challenges, as well as funding UVA community-focused research projects, such as the President’s and Provost’s Institutional Research Fund. 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 should attract longer-term funding from federal agencies, private foundations, and other sources to become self-sustaining.