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Office of Research Selects Six Projects for Seed Grant Awards Totaling Nearly $400,000

The Old Dominion University Office of Research will award nearly $400,000 in multidisciplinary seed grants for 2012, with the support going to six diverse projects, ranging from knee injuries to subsistence farming to pulse power technology.

Six teams involving 23 faculty researchers, plus three outside faculty, received the funding, according to Mohammad Karim, the ODU vice president for research. A total of 17 projects, including six featuring investigators from outside ODU, were proposed for seed grant funding. The six funded projects were chosen by independent reviewers.

The purpose of the program is to nurture fledgling research projects so that they can win support from external funding agencies.

Here are the funded projects:

"Noninvasive Neurostimulation through Focused Subnanosecond Pulsed Radiation" ($48,000 in seed grant funding)

Principal Investigator: Shu Xiao, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, Frank Reidy Research Center for Bioelectrics;

Co-Principal Investigators: Jiang Li, assistant professor of modeling and simulation research, Batten College of Engineering and Technology (BCET); Gene Hou, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, BCET

Consultants: Xiaoping Li, Neuroengineering Laboratory, National University of Singapore; Don Lewis, Department of Pediatrics and Division of Neurology, EVMS

Project Description: Neurostimulation has been increasingly used as a therapy in areas where conventional pharmacological approaches become ineffective, such as in treating refractory pain, Parkinson's disease, dystonia and obsessive compulsive disorder.

Most neurostimulation methods are invasive and rely on electrodes that are implanted into the stimulated structure through intraoperative surgery. This study will seek to verify the efficacy and safety of subnanosecond pulses in stimulating neurons, construct a human brain model for downstream simulation, and explore potential benefits of subnanonsecond pulse stimulation and identify the clinical applications of neural stimulation.

"Investigating the Feasibility of Exploiting Bluetooth Technology in Locating Vehicles at Intersections" ($61,000 in seed grant funding)

Principal Investigator: Tamer Nadeem, assistant professor of computer science, College of Sciences.

Co-Principal Investigator: Mecit Cetin, assistant professor of civil & environmental engineering, BCET.

Project Description: The research will explore a cost-effective, low-maintenance and efficient sensing mechanism that utilizes the Bluetooth devices in vehicles to collect traffic data such as the number of vehicles, their speeds, queue lengths, lane blockages, etc. By collecting field data to understand the travel demand, speeds and queue lengths at signalized intersections, the researchers aim to use Intelligent Transportation Systems to optimize traffic operations at those intersections.

"Virginia Legislators' Knowledge, Awareness and Perceived Risks Concerning Sea Level Rise" ($34,371 in seed grant funding)

Principal Investigator: Burton St. John III, associate professor of communication and theatre arts, College of Arts and Letters

Co-Principal Investigators: Ivan Ash, assistant professor of psychology, College of Sciences; Wie Yusuf, assistant professor of public administration, College of Business and Public Administration (CBPA)

Consultants: Jesse Richman, assistant professor of political science, College of Arts and Letters; Larry Atkinson, professor, eminent professor and Samuel and Fay Slover Professor of Oceanography, College of Sciences; Tancy Vandecar-Burdin, associate director of the Social Science Research Center, College of Arts and Letters

Project Description: Recent government reports indicate that low-lying coastal areas across the United States, including Hampton Roads, are vulnerable to flooding due to rising sea levels. In the U.S., individual states decide how to handle climate change issues. Thus at the state level, research must examine how public policy concerning sea level rise in vulnerable areas is understood and managed.

In particular, issues of awareness are crucial to track because state and local officials normally place mitigation of environmental issues low on their list of concerns. The researchers' information will provide the foundation for further examination of legislators' information seeking and decision making regarding policies pertaining to SLR.

"An Innovative Approach to Understanding the Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury Enigma: A Combination of In Vitro, In Vivo and Computer Simulation Techniques" ($94,665 in seed grant funding)

Principal Investigator: Joshua Weinhandl , assistant professor of human movement sciences, Darden College of Education

Co-Principal Investigators: Matthew Hoch, assistant professor of human movement sciences; Sebastian Bawab, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, BCET

Consultant: Stacie Ringleb, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, BCET

Project Description: Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury is one of the most frequent and debilitating lower extremity injuries. Research shows half of the 80,000 to 250,000 ACL injuries per year that occur in the United States happen to athletes between ages 15-25.

Many different techniques are currently in use to examine risk factors for ACL injury, such as in vivo methodological approaches (relying in observation), in vitro (studies using cadavers) and laboratory studies (or motion analysis). This project aims to develop an integrative approach that includes in vivo, in vitro and computer simulation techniques to understand the association between previously hypothesized risk factors and ACL loading.

"Localized Electron Cryo-tomography for High Resolution 3-dimensional Imaging of the Cell Membrane Protrusion from the Nanopores Induced by Nanosecond Electric Pulses" ($88,417 in seed grant funding)

Principal Investigator: Jing He, associate professor of computer science, College of Sciences

Consultants: Hani Elsayed-Ali, professor and eminent scholar, and director of the Applied Research Center, BCET; Olga Pakhomov, research associate professor, Reidy Center; Andrei Pakhomov, research associate professor, Reidy Center; Howard White, professor at EVMS

Project Description: Electron cryo-microscopy (cryoEM) is becoming a major biophysical technique to visualize the three-dimensional (3D) structures of large complexes at high resolutions. CroyEM is a technique used to study the 3D structure of the molecular complexes in which multiple molecules are bound to each other.

As cryoEM becomes a mature technique, electron cryo-tomography (cryoET) is becoming the next grant technology challenge. CryoEM has successfully demonstrated that it is possible to freeze the biological samples and to obtain the atomic resolution 3D structure of molecules if they are purified from the cells. Inspired by this success, CryoET has been identified as the most potential method in studying the sub-cellular arrangement of organelles. However, the current cryoET technology cannot produce high resolution 3D image of a mammalian cell due to its large size.

The researchers hope to utilize a novel method "localized cryoET" to reconstruct the 3D image at the local region of interest, the cell membrane containing the protrusion in this case. The localized cryoET provides a practical approach to reconstruct the target in its native environment while dealing with a local region that is much smaller than the entire cell.

"Simulation and Education in Evergreen-Agriculture Decision-making (SEED) for Subsistence Farmers" ($64,563 in seed grant funding)

Co-Principal Investigators: Rick McKenzie, professor of modeling, simulation and visualization, BCET; Andy Collins, research assistant professor, Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center; Michael Seiler, Robert M. Stanton Chair of Real Estate, CBPA; Yuzhong Shen, assistant professor of modeling, simulation and visualization engineering, BCET.

Project Description: Subsistence farming is a third-world phenomenon that has significant implications about the economic, social, and environmental health of a region. This type of farming is typically characterized by low socioeconomic status, heavy use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and little understanding of the variables that affect agricultural productivity.

To counteract this negative social phenomenon, the Sri Lankan government funded the establishment of the Saaraketha Company. Saaraketha's purpose is to encourage the farmers to better their situation though entrepreneurship and education.

Due to the low literacy rate among the farmers, the Saaraketha Company has decided to develop a visualization tool to help educate the farmers on new ways to use their land. To develop such a visualization tool will require the expertise from many different areas including visualization, optimization, real estate, and education. We have assembled a strong team from all of these areas and we believe this will be a highly successful and inspiring project.

The goal of this research project is to develop a prototype simulation tool, utilizing expertise in modeling and simulation, optimization, real estate and education, to demonstrate the potential for its use in increasing the social esteem and economic status of the subsistence farmer. This goal will be accomplished by the following objectives.

This article was posted on: December 17, 2011

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