University research funding: grants for six new research projects
Tuesday, January 18, 2022
The University Committee for Research and Innovation (UCRI) annually funds the strategic development of promising and ambitious research ideas and emerging initiatives at the University. In a recent competitive process, the Committee awarded £180,000 to six new projects.
The funding supports projects up to two years in duration that align with the University’s strategic priorities or their respective research themes, and that:
- demonsassess ambition to achieve growth in revenue, scale, methodologies, partnerships, reputation, or research audience
- enable high-risk research – for example providing proof of concept to inform external grant applications, or
- support innovation and the translation of research into products and processes, for example by supporting pilot projects.
Professor Dominik Zaum, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation, said:
“This funding supports the development of innovative research that has the potential to raise the reputation and profile of our work. The high number of responses to the call for proposals and the quality of submissions reflect the drive and ambition of our research plans.
“Congratulations to the researchers who won awards in this cycle; the level of nominations was exceptional and represented an impressive range of research ideas from applicants at all stages of their careers.”
Those receiving funding include:
James Cooper (Chemical Science): Reversible Permeability Polymer Membranes for Next Generation Filtration Technologies (£31,097)
Permeable polymer membranes are essential for a wide range of filtration technologies, for example blood dialysis or industrial-scale water purification. Unfortunately, most filtration devices containing polymer membranes have a limited lifespan and are discarded once used, resulting in significant amounts of waste. Scientists are working to develop membranes with variable permeability that could remove specific ions or molecules from a target solution, release them at another location, and then be recycled for reuse. In this project, we will incorporate stimuli-responsive supramolecular assemblies into polymeric membranes to achieve controllable filtration properties. Polymeric membranes with a high level of selectivity or filtration control will then be used to manufacture prototype devices for use in filtration applications (for example, sensors for biomedical implants or filters for the removal of environmental pollutants).
Rob Hosfield (Archaeology): Neanderthals and Early Modern Humans in the Mendip Hills, Somerset (£14,840)
This archaeological project will conduct new fieldwork at a Paleolithic (“Old Stone Age”) site in the Mendip Hills. As one of the few UK sites dating back to both the time of Neanderthals and early modern humans (“hominins”), the site has the potential to reveal how these species survived and adapted to a single landscape during the climatic fluctuations of the last ice age. The project aims to improve our understanding of the antiquity of the site and the paleo-environmental contexts of hominid occupations. The project is a collaboration between Reading, Exeter, Brighton and Royal Holloway.
Michael Levitin (Mathematics): Old and New Conjectures in Spectral Geometry (£34,192)
Spectral geometry studies, in rigorous mathematical terms, the relationships between the shapes of solid bodies (domains) or curved surfaces (varieties) and the sounds they produce (the frequency spectrum). These natural frequencies, especially the high ones, are difficult to calculate numerically, hence the need for advanced analytical tools to study the relationships between geometry and spectra. The project aims to tackle some of the oldest and most difficult conjectures in spectral geometry, which quantitatively relate frequencies to geometries, as well as some new problems.
Donal O’Sullivan (Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems): Other applications made possible by the continuous and spatially explicit mapping of soil moisture in agricultural and environmental sciences (£49,900)
This project uses a new combination of technologies – actively heated fiber optic cables below ground and radar imagery above ground – to map field-scale soil moisture with unprecedented spatio-temporal resolution and will explore how the more accurate root zone soil moisture models obtained can drive innovation in precision agriculture and flood management applications. The proof-of-concept study, which will be implemented at Sonning Farm’s Crop Research Unit, will involve continuous measurement throughout the 2022 growing season of the dynamic 3-dimensional soil moisture profile. under hundreds of individual plots of wheat varieties selected for their contrasting water use dynamics.
Daisy Powell and Holly Joseph (Education): Does bilingualism mediate the effects of social disadvantage on early literacy? (£17,391)
The so-called disadvantage gap – the educational attainment gap between the poorest students and their peers – begins early in life and persists throughout the school years, culminating in reduced life chances. However, children with English as an additional language (ALA) show a lower gap than their English-only peers and we do not yet know the reasons for this. This project examines the social, environmental and economic factors that may aggravate or protect against the punitive effects of poverty among EAL and English-speaking children only in the Whitley, Reading area.
Simone Varotto (ICMA Center): Calm Mind, Smart Choices: The Impact of Mindfulness on Financial Decisions (RETF £32,875, ICMA Center £3,000)
This survey aims to shed light on how mindfulness meditation could potentially help improve financial decision-making for retail investors. Possible pathways for this include stress reduction, more rational (rather than emotional) processing of information, and better valuation of long-term versus short-term rewards. Findings from this research could have the potential to influence financial education in schools and colleges where mindfulness meditation could be taught to help individuals counter common behavioral biases that are known to lead to self-defeating outcomes. in matters of money.