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UMass President Awards $1.42 Million to University Science and Technology and Creative Economy Initiatives

First year for creative economy funding, fourth year of science and technology seed program to foster research, collaboration

BOSTON--Scientists working with nanotechnology to create fluorescent biosensors to understand and treat disease. The development of intelligent sensor technologies for Massachusetts roadways and a wide range of transportation applications. Combining classes, conferences, internships and community workshops to study and support today's multi-ethnic media environment. A wireless communications center that studies wireless system security, wideband wireless system design, and network synchronization. Partnerships to strengthen the Arts and Culture community in Lowell and build a broader, more engaged audience.

What do all of these projects have in common?

They are all research initiatives and partnerships developed by faculty at the University of Massachusetts and are among the 14 faculty projects across the university receiving seed grants this year from the University President's Office.

University of Massachusetts President Jack M. Wilson today announced a total of $1.42 million in awards from the President's Science and Technology Initiatives Fund and the newly created President's Creative Economy Fund for the 2007-2008 academic year.

"University of Massachusetts faculty are among the most talented researchers in the world. This year we received dozens of innovative proposals for work in exciting, cutting-edge areas of research as well as important cross campus and community partnerships," President Wilson said. "The Chancellors and I recognize the important social and economic role the arts, humanities and social sciences play and we were pleased to expand the grant competition this year to include a new fund for creative economy projects. The research, teaching and service of University of Massachusetts faculty significantly impact the lives of the people of the Commonwealth, the nation and the world."

This is the fourth year for the Science and Technology awards and a total of 31 projects have been funded since 2004, including seven this year. It is the first year for the Creative Economy awards and there were seven awardees this year. This year, over 60 proposals were submitted for the two University grant programs across all five University of Massachusetts campuses, demonstrating the considerable research strengths of individual UMass campuses and the significant opportunities to collaborate with UMass colleagues across the system. Funded initiatives also demonstrated significant collaboration with industry, private research institutions and community groups.

The President's Science and Technology Initiatives Fund provides seed investment for faculty-led projects to accelerate growth of the University's research portfolio and promote strategic development of expertise in science and engineering fields relevant to the Commonwealth's economy and its technology sectors. The Fund was created by President Wilson as part of the the university's efforts to accelerate research activity and technology commercialization, which are paying off at unprecedented levels. UMass research expenditures exceeded $403 million in Fiscal Year 2006, according to the latest available NSF data, and technology commercialization revenue topped $41 million in Fiscal Year 2007.

The Creative Economy Fund is intended to provide seed funding to UMass initiatives which support the contributions of the arts, humanities and social sciences to the social and cultural fabric of the Commonwealth and thus to the overall strength of its economy.

Information on the individual grantees is included below.

THE PRESIDENT'S SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY INITIATIVE GRANTS 2007-2008

Title: UMass Institute for Stem Cell Research and Regenerative Medicine

Principal Investigator/Campus: Robert Finberg, UMass Medical School

Partner: UMass Amherst

Funds will be used to initiate facilities planning and research program development for the system-wide Institute for Stem Cell Research and Regenerative Medicine. The Institute will include a set of core user facilities to enable investigations performed by UMass faculty and their partners and will support the recently announced Massachusetts Stem Cell Bank, which was proposed by Governor Patrick as a key component of the Commonwealth's Life Sciences Initiative. The bank is envisioned to be the world's largest repository of stem cell lines and will provide access to human embryonic stem cells and related products to scientists worldwide. Core facilities to be developed by the Institute include human embryonic stem cell production and gene silencing cores at UMMS and an animal embryonic stem cell core at Amherst. As it becomes fully operational, the Institute will directly support faculty recruitment and research on all UMass campuses. Combined with the infrastructure investments to develop the bank and core facilities, this will effectively position the Commonwealth and UMass at the forefront of emerging field of stem cell research and regenerative medicine.

Title: UMass NanoMed Institute

Principal Investigator/Campus: T.J. (Lakis) Moutziaris, UMass Amherst

Partners: UMass Lowell, UMass Medical School

The UMass NanoMedicine Institute is a multi-disciplinary collaborative effort of a dozen investigators across three campuses, aimed at developing novel fluorescent, magnetic, and biodegradable

nanostructures for applications in medical diagnostics and therapeutics. An initial program consisting of three projects is being pursued. Each effort involves engineering of biomolecule-functionalized nanomaterials and using them to advance medical research. The first will create fluorescent biosensors that will enable understanding of the underlying mechanisms and treatment of autoimmune and chronic inflammatory diseases. The second project will pursue a strategy for neutralizing viral infections and separating viruses from blood and tissues through the use of magnetic nanomaterials bound to virus receptors. The third project will employ a biodegradable immunogenic nanomaterial in the development of a novel vaccine for malaria. Broad applications beyond the three specific projects are envisioned and additional projects in the areas of personalized medicine, point-of-care diagnostics and biodefense-related research will be pursued in collaboration with academic and industrial partners.

Title: Massachusetts Center for Networked Sensing in Challenged Environments (NetSenCE)

Principal Investigators/Campus: Brian Levine and Prashant Shenoy, UMass Amherst

Partners: UMass Dartmouth, UMass Lowell, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

The core technology mission of the center is to develop affordable, robust, easily deployable wireless sensor networks and platforms, with an emphasis on marine (surface, sub-surface and ocean floor) and terrestrial environments. The center's efforts will accelerate ongoing federally-funded collaborations between Amherst and WHOI, focused on integrating Amherst's expertise in a range of networking technologies with WHOI's capabilities in acoustic communications and use of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), which will serve as one host network platform. System partners include UMass Lowell, which brings significant expertise in sensor networking, and UMass Dartmouth, which has strong collaborations with WHOI in the development and deployment of AUVs. The center's program is synergistic with the efforts of UMass Boston's Center for Coastal Environmental Sensing Networks, an effort supported through the 2006-07 S&T Initiatives Fund competition. Given the broad shift in environmental research toward the use of mobile sensornets with mixed RF (radio frequency)-acoustic links and mobile platforms over expansive geographic ranges, significant opportunities exist for the center to partner with companies in the marine, communications, and IT clusters.

Title: University Collaborative for Intelligent Transportation Systems

Principal Investigator/Campus: Marguerite Zarrillo, UMass Dartmouth

Partners: UMass Amherst, UMass Boston, UMass Lowell

The system-wide collaboration for intelligent transportation systems (ITS) will leverage existing expertise on all four UMass non-medical campuses around solutions to improve transportation mobility, efficiency, safety security and accessibility. The collaborative will work closely with state and local transportation officials and other stakeholders to identify and undertake research on a number of high-priority challenges, such as development of statewide integrated payment system (toll road, parking, transit), statewide deployment of an advanced traveler information system, development of emergency evacuation plans for at-risk areas of the state, and development and deployment of intelligent sensor technologies for a wide range of transportation applications. In addition to its research program, another major goal of the collaborative is the development of a system-wide transportation engineering education program which will provide undergraduate and graduate students with relevant research and training opportunities.

Title: Advancing Technology-based Interdisciplinary Health Promotion Research

Principal Investigator/Campus: Kyle McInnis, UMass Boston

Partner: Children's Hospital Boston

The goal of the center, which is a collaboration with Children's Hospital Boston, is to advance the underlying science and clinical practice of youth health and fitness promotion. The crisis in youth obesity and its related medical conditions in the U.S. and across the industrialized world is reaching epidemic proportions, prompting significant investment by public and private health agencies. The center will establish a niche area of expertise focusing on the use of interactive gaming technologies as a strategy to increase fitness and reduce obesity. Partnerships with industry, including a number of Massachusetts-based companies, will focus on the development and evaluation of technology-based health promotion tools and equipment. Funds will be used to develop the data collection and management infrastructure to support the center's research program, including creation of valid data collection protocols for participants and construction and management of a database system that be used for a range of cross-sectional and longitudinal research studies. The data system is a key mechanism for enabling interdisciplinary collaborations among medical, public health, epidemiological and exercise science researchers.

Title: Center for Human-Robot Interaction

Principal Investigator/Campus: Holly Yanco, UMass Lowell

The robotics industry cluster in Massachusetts has begun to emerge, with roughly 150 companies and research institutions in the state employing more than 1,500 people, according to the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council (MassTLC). One challenge to growth for the industry regionally and nationally is making robots easier to use when operators have little or no technical training. The center focuses on research and evaluation in the field of human-robot interaction (HRI), building on a proven track record of helping local companies improve their products. Core capabilities include articulating human-robot design and interaction principles, building system-level support to enable effective HRI, and defining new evaluation methods. Work at the center will emphasize two application domains: urban search and rescue and assistive technologies for disabled individuals. The center will also expand ongoing education activities for both undergraduate/graduate students and K-12 students and engage MassTLC to support its cluster development activities.

Title: Center of Excellence in Wireless Communications

Principal Investigator/Campus: Dennis Goeckel, UMass Amherst

The center will leverage campus expertise across a number of departments (electrical and computer engineering, mechanical and industrial engineering, and computer science) to implement a broad research program that builds on expertise in signal processing, networking and protocols and spectrum utilization. An initial agenda of three research projects has been identified: wireless system security, wideband wireless system design, and network synchronization. Working closely with established Massachusetts and national companies and with the venture capital community, faculty/industry working groups will be established in each area and large-scale federal funding opportunities will be pursued. The center will also expand its industry partnership base by working closely with the Massachusetts Network Communications Council.

PRESIDENT'S CREATIVE ECONOMY FUND AWARDS 2007-2008

Title:  Dance in Three Stages

Principal Investigator/Campus:Peggy Schwartz, Department of Music and Dance, UMass Amherst.     

The project seeks to strengthen the ties between the University Dance Program/Five College Dance Department, the Fine Arts Center, and University Outreach, in order to improve the professional experience of dance students, increase the diversity of dance programming, and generate revenue to develop and sustain dance performances in the Pioneer Valley.  The project will support auditions, rehearsals, and local productions; a performance by an ethnic or minority dance company in the Fine Arts Center; and a summer week-long program with professional choreographers in residence.

Title: Benchmarking the SouthCoast and Pioneer Valley Creative Economy through Consortium and Applied Research

Principal Investigator/Campus:Joel Martin, College of Humanities and Fine Arts, UMass Amherst, and Eileen Peacock, Charlton College of Business, UMass Dartmouth

The project will conduct primary research into the role of the University of Massachusetts in fostering the Creative Economy in the SouthCoast and Pioneer Valley Regions. The results will provide hard data to help the campuses better tap into their regional alumni networks, enhance their contributions to their regions' cultural and innovative activities, and promote sustainable economic development.

Title:  Two-pronged Project on Behalf of Lowell's Creative Economy

Principal Investigator/Campus:Robert Forrant, Dept. of Regional Economic and Social Development, UMass Lowell.  

In partnership with COOL/Cultural Organization of Lowell and the Revolving Museum, the project will conduct a study of the impacts on Lowell's economy of several local cultural initiatives and support a multi-dimensional outreach effort, including UMass student "cultural ambassadors," to strengthen ties between the UMass Lowell community and the City's arts and culture community.     

Title: Creating an Urban Village Arts Scene

Principal Investigator/Campus: Anthony Szczesiul, Dept. of English, UMass Lowell

This project builds upon existing collaborative relationships between the University's English Department, the Lowell Poetry Network's Urban Village Arts Series, and the Merrimack Repertory Theater.  It will seek to develop the existing Urban Village Arts Series into a central component of the cultural life of the City's Arts District, and to extend and enhance the value of these creative efforts by cultivating an engaged, informed, and participatory audience.

Title: Workforce Development Regionalism to Promote Competitive Interdependencies and Labor Market Stability in Massachusetts

Principal Investigator/Campus: Ramon Borges-Mendez, Dept. of Public Policy and Public Affairs, UMass Boston

In Massachusetts' knowledge-based industrial milieu, innovation requires creating new forms of collaboration and new interdependencies between sectors such as health, biotech, and informatics, and among various kinds of actors including education, government, non-profits, industry and communities.  This project will work closely with The Boston Area Advanced Technological Educational Connections (BATEC) to analyze and promote those new interdependencies (particularly labor market intermediaries) that are so critical to innovation.

Title: The Ethnic Media Project and New England Ethnic Newswire

Principal Investigator/Campus: Ellen Hume, Center on Media and Society, UMass Boston

This award will assist the Center on Media and Society to develop and expand the Ethnic Media Project and the New England Ethnic Newswire.  By using the internet to aggregate ethnic news content from different media sources in one place--together with face-to-face classes, conferences, internships and community workshops--the project will increase cross-cultural understanding and opportunities and build both consumers and creators of multi-ethnic news.

Title: A Partnership with the Boston Public Library for Access to Rare Books

Principal Investigator/Campus: Cheryl Nixon, Department of English, UMass Boston

This project seeks to create a new collaborative partnership between the University of Massachusetts Boston and the Boston Public Library, focused on expanding public access to rare books. The proposed partnership will bring the raw materials of humanities research--rare, historical, and unique books--to the public via UMB courses at the BPL, a series of free, guided, open-to-all "rare books" exhibitions, and a new community outreach program in the BPL's 27 branch libraries.

The University of Massachusetts was established through a land grant in 1863 as the Massachusetts Agricultural College and it became the University of Massachusetts in 1947. With campuses in Amherst, Boston, Dartmouth, Lowell and a Medical School in Worcester, the University's annual research expenditures exceed $400 million and more than 58,000 undergraduate and graduate students are enrolled in degree programs across all academic disciplines. The University is governed by a single Board of Trustees composed of 19 voting members and three non-voting members. The President of the University oversees the five-campus system, and each campus is lead by a Chancellor. The University's annual research expenditures exceed $400 million and more than 58,000 undergraduate and graduate students are enrolled in degree programs across all academic disciplines. The University of Massachusetts has more than 220,000 alumni living and working in Massachusetts.
 

Author:  "Libby DeVecchi, William Wright"
Date:  28-Sep-2007
Department:   News & Public Information

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