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Jump-Starting New Directions in Research

Interdisciplinary teams including USC College faculty score Zumberge grants.

October 1, 2007

Jump-Starting New Directions in Research

Twenty-two teams of USC professors have been awarded 2007 Zumberge interdisciplinary research grants, the Office of the Vice Provost for Research Advancement recently announced. More than half of the winning proposals included faculty members holding appointments in USC College.

The winning projects, submitted by teams of faculty from different schools and disciplines, focus on subjects ranging from quantum computing and cellular development to a center for digital arts and humanities scholarship.

The James H. Zumberge Research and Innovation Fund, established by the former university president and renamed in his honor in 1991, promotes research at USC through two types of awards: individual and interdisciplinary.

The interdisciplinary awards were expanded in 2007 thanks to an infusion of funds from the Office of the Provost. The awards, funded by a total of $560,000 this year, now include smaller awards that range in value up to $10,000 and larger grants worth up to $50,000.

“The Academic Senate’s University Research Committee carefully reviewed the Zumberge program in light of revisions to the USC Strategic Plan,” said Randolph Hall, vice provost for research advancement. “We now have a program that invests in faculty ideas for creating and building research centers and initiatives, especially those focused on issues of great societal import, such as heart disease, aging and urban violence.”

The smaller awards, Hall noted, are a new feature of the program that can be applied for year-round. “With these, we can respond much more quickly, often within a month, to faculty ideas. I’ve found that the smaller grants are often all the faculty need to jump-start an effort,” he said.

Competition for the large grants was intense, with only about one out of four proposals receiving funding in 2007. But about two out of three of the small award proposals were funded this year, a strong success rate based in part on the fact that most faculty discussed the proposals with Hall’s group before submitting them, he said. Some of the grants were given out in January, while a second set was announced in fall.

In the most recent funding round, $50,000 was granted for the “Interdisciplinary Technology Center for Child-Centric Societal Applications” led by Shrikanth Narayanan, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering with joint appointments in linguistics and psychology at USC College. The USC Rossier School of Education’s Robert Rueda and Gayla Margolin and Jo Ann Farver, both of the USC College psychology department, serve as co-principal investigators.

“This award will support the work required to submit a major proposal to the National Science Foundation for the creation of a technology center focused on urban youth at USC,” Narayanan said. “It will enable us to do initial application designs and pilot studies as well as link faculty research on topics like urban education, urban health and urban violence.”

A key feature of the award program is a requirement that applicants provide a detailed plan for seeking future external funding to sustain and expand their efforts.

“A Zumberge award is not a substitute for writing proposals to outside agencies,” Hall said. “It is a resource for helping already successful faculty move their research in innovative, new interdisciplinary directions.”

The due date for the next round of large ($50,000) interdisciplinary Zumberge proposals will be in February. Proposals for small ($10,000) interdisciplinary proposals may be submitted at any time. Proposals for individual Zumberge awards are due in mid-January.

2007 Zumberge Interdisciplinary Award Winners in USC College

Large Grants: Up to $50,000

  • “USC Institute for the Digital Arts and Humanities”
    Phil Ethington, professor of history in USC College, and Tara McPherson, associate professor of critical studies in the USC School of Cinematic Arts

  • “Exercise-Induced Neuroplasticity in Individuals with Parkinson’s”
    Beth Fisher, assistant professor of biokinesiology and physical therapy in the USC School of Dentistry; University Professor Michael Arbib, holder of the Fletcher Jones Chair in Computer Science and professor of computer science, biological sciences and psychology; and Richard Leahy, professor of electrical engineering and biomedical engineering in the USC Viterbi School of Engineering

  • “Cardiovascular Research Core at USC”
    Tzung Hsiai, holder of the Robert G. and Mary G. Lane Early Career Chair and associate professor of biomedical engineering in USC Viterbi; Fengzhu Sun, professor of biological sciences in USC College;  Kelvin Davies, holder of the James E. Birren Chair in Gerontology in the USC Davis School of Gerontology and professor of biological sciences in USC College; and Mark Barr, associate professor of cardiothoracic surgery of the Keck School

  • “Center for Quantum Information Science and Technology”
    Daniel Lidar, associate professor of chemistry in USC College and of electrical engineering at USC Viterbi; Stephan Haas, professor of physics and astronomy in USC College; and Todd Brun, associate professor of electrical engineering at USC Viterbi

  • “Role of DNA Repair Proteins in Age-Dependent DNA Damage and Cancer”
    Valter Longo, associate professor of gerontology in the USC Davis School and of biological sciences in USC College; Michael Lieber, holder of the Rita and Edward Polusky Chair in Basic Cancer Research and professor of biochemistry in the Keck School and of biological sciences in USC College; and Lucio Comai, associate professor of molecular microbiology and immunology in the Keck School

  • “Interdisciplinary Technology Center for Child-Centric Societal Applications”
    Shrikanth Narayanan, Andrew Viterbi Professor of Engineering, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at USC Viterbi, and professor of linguistics and psychology in USC College; Robert Rueda, professor of educational psychology and technology in the USC Rossier School of Education; Gayla Margolin, professor of psychology in USC College; and Jo Ann Farver, associate professor of psychology in USC College

Other winning project were submitted by Yang Chai of the USC School of Dentistry and Joseph Hacia of the Keck School of Medicine of USC; Todd Grappone of USC Libraries and Ronald McCurdy of the USC Thornton School of Music; and Jesse Yen of the USC Viterbi with Brent Liu and Shirin Towfigh of the Keck School.

Small Grants: Up to $10,000

  • “Cultivating Interdisciplinary Technology Innovation: Collaboratory for Technology and Culture at USC”
    Anne Balsamo, professor of interactive media in Cinematic Arts and of gender studies in the College; Doug Thomas, associate professor of communication in the USC Annenberg School for Communication; and Milind Tambe, professor of computer science at USC Viterbi

  • “Emotion, Decisionmaking and the Brain”
    Antoine Bechara, associate professor of psychology in USC College; Ann Crigler, professor and chair of political science in USC College; Joseph Priester, assistant professor of marketing in the USC Marshall School of Business; Thomas Lyon, holder of the Judge Edward J. and Ruey L. Guirado Chair in Law and Psychology, professor in the USC Gould School of Law and professor of psychology in USC College; and Sheila Murphy, associate professor of communication at USC Annenberg

  • “Generating Sustained Funding for Interdisciplinary Research via the Southern California Population Research Center”
    Lynne Casper, professor of sociology in USC College, and Eileen Crimmins, holder of the Edna M. Jones Chair in Gerontology and professor of gerontology at USC Davis and of sociology in USC College

  • “Computation of Loads on the Musculoskeletal Systems of Humans and Animals Using 3-D Modeling”
    Henryk Flashner, professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering at USC Viterbi; Jill McNitt-Gray, professor of kinesiology and biological sciences in USC College and professor of biomedical engineering at USC Viterbi; Xiaoming Wang of biological sciences in USC College; and Reyes Enciso, assistant professor of craniofacial sciences and therapeutics in Dentistry

  • “Interdisciplinary USC Program in Microbiology”
    Steven Goodman, associate professor of diagnostic sciences in Dentistry and of biological sciences in USC College; Katrina Edwards, associate professor of biological sciences and earth sciences in USC College; and Steven Finkel, associate professor of biological sciences in USC College

  • “USC Center for the Study and Treatment of Bone-Related Disorders”
    Charles McKenna, professor of chemistry in USC College and of pharmaceutical sciences in Pharmacy; Parish Sedghizadeh, assistant professor of diagnostic sciences in Dentistry; and Stan Louie, associate professor of clinical pharmacy and of pharmaceutical economics and policy in Pharmacy

  • “Investigating How Genes Interact With Child Abuse and Neglect to Influence Mental Health”
    Penelope Trickett, David Lawrence Stein/Violet Goldberg Sachs Professor of Mental Health in the USC School of Social Work, and Carol Prescott, professor of psychology in USC College

Other winning projects were submitted by Dolph Ellefson of the Keck School and Stan Louie of Pharmacy with Kathy Rodgers and Gere diZerega of the Keck School; Tomlinson Holman of Cinematic Arts and Joanna Demers of USC Thornton; Toke Hoppenbrouwers of the Keck School and Michael Khoo of USC Viterbi; Andrea Kovacs of the Keck School, Kathleen Johnson of Pharmacy and Roseann Mulligan of Dentistry; Gerard Medioni of USC Viterbi and Scott Fisher of Cinematic Arts; and Robert Seeger and Anat Erdreich-Epstein of the Keck School with Antonio Ortega of USC Viterbi.