Seeking to bolster important research and kick-start new ideas, four faculty projects have been selected for the second annual round of the Virginia Tech College of Science Dean’s Discovery Fund awards.

The Dean’s Discovery Fund was established by College of Science Dean Sally C. Morton after she heard a common refrain from faculty that the college needed pilot funding to boost new ideas and support pilot research.

To meet that need, Morton invested the discretionary funds from her Lay Nam Chang Dean’s Chair into the Dean’s Discovery Fund.

The funded projects meet the college’s core research themes of integrated science; data and decision sciences, including the adaptive brain; global change; and materials for health, information, and energy, which support the Virginia Tech Beyond Boundaries initiative launched by President Tim Sands.

“This year’s awards will enable some remarkable scientific research to move forward,” said Morton, who also holds a professorship in the Department of Statistics. “A look at the research topics and the manner in which the work will be done exemplifies the Beyond Boundaries mission by focusing on societal impact, collaboration across colleges and solving problems for the next generation.”

This year’s selectees are:

•    Who: Bruce Friedman, associate professor, and Russell Jones, professor, Department of Psychology. Amount: $20,000. Project: Establish a scientific understanding of the long-term psychological and biological impacts of mass shootings to help inform clinical decisions. Project brings together a transdisciplinary team including collaborators in psychology, and the Department of Human Development and Family Science and the Department of Sociology in the Virginia Tech College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, and the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine in the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, with outside partners at the University of Utah School of Medicine and the Yale School of Medicine.

•   Who: Christopher Franck, assistant professor, and Marco Ferreira, associate professor, Department of Statistics. Amount: $20,000. Project: Develop an easily accessible online platform that enables researchers to learn about and deploy modern, hierarchical model-based spatial analysis on a wide range of research problems. The student scholar funded to work on this project will have the opportunity to present the platform at national research meetings. This project fits into the Data Analytics and Decision Sciences destination area at Virginia Tech.

•   Who: Caroline Jones, assistant professor, and Liwu Li, professor, Department of Biological Sciences. Amount: $20,000. Project: Define and quantify principal factors that underlie the decision-making processes of neutrophil migration and activation in sepsis by utilizing state-of-the-art multi-sensing platforms that will overcome the limitations of conventional approaches. Jones and Li believe they will be better able to predict, diagnose, and eventually design effective treatments for sepsis, the
number one cause of death in hospitals, associated with as much as $17 billion in annual U.S. healthcare expenses.

•  Who: Michelle Stocker, assistant professor, Department of Geosciences. Amount: $10,000. Project: Document the early Late Triassic terrestrial fossil record of the Popo Agie Formation of Wyoming, which provides an underexplored spatial and temporal context for evaluating Triassic paleoecological and biodiversity patterns. Preliminary fieldwork has sampled multiple outcrops in the Popo Agie Formation and added an additional 21 fossiliferous localities and hundreds of fossils. Based on initial findings, the Popo Agie Formation has the potential to be as important as the best-known localities in the southwestern United States.

The Lay Nam Chang Dean’s Chair in the College of Science was established in 2016 by the College of Science Roundtable Advisory Board in honor of Lay Nam Chang, founding dean of the College of Science. The Roundtable Advisory Board comprises college alumni and friends that have helped guide the college since its founding in 2003.

In establishing the chair, the group sought to provide discretionary funds to enhance existing programs and develop new initiatives within the College of Science and help ensure its overall strong future.

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Inaugural College of Science Dean’s Discovery Fund provides support for faculty research

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