The Lay Nam Chang Dean’s Discovery Fund in the Virginia Tech College of Science recently announced research awards to support such diverse projects as discovery of non-opioid pain killers, wildlife disease, a mobile app for rural parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and bat guano.

This year's awarded grants exceed $120,000. In its seven years, grants from this fund have supported research and educational programs valuing more than $790,000. Critical additional support also comes from several departments that share in the cost of supporting these research projects. Some projects also include faculty from other colleges at Virginia Tech.

“In this year’s awarded projects, you can see work aimed at problems that have long afflicted our society,” said Kevin Pitts, dean of the College of Science. “I hope these awards serve as a catalyst to propel our research and to improve peoples’ lives and the communities in which we live.”

The Dean’s Discovery Fund was established in 2017 by Sally Morton, a former dean of the college, to support innovative ideas and research. To meet that need, Morton gained support from the College of Science Dean’s Roundtable and the College of Science Annual Fund.

The awards are named after Lay Nam Chang, the founding dean of the College of Science and a professor of physics. Chang served as dean of the College of Science from 2003-16, and before that, was dean of the former College of Arts and Sciences. Chang died in December 2020 at age 77.

The 2023 Dean’s Discovery Fund award recipients are:

  • Developing and Piloting a Parenting Mobile App to Reduce Treatment-time for Families in Rural Appalachia. Primary investigator: Angela Scarpa-Friedman, professor, co-investigator: Rosanna Breaux, professor, both Department of Psychology.
  • Can Insect Chitin in Bat Guano be Used to Reassemble Past Vegetation in Temperate Southwest Virginia? Primary investigator: Rachel Reid, research scientist Department of Geosciences; co-investigators: Sally Entrekin, associate professor, Department Entomology, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Lisa Kennedy, associate professor, Department of Geography, College of Natural Resources and Environment.
  • Sexual Minority Stress and Alcohol-Related Intimate Partner Violence Among Bisexual+ Couples: A Daily Diary Feasibility Study. Primary investigator: Meagan Brem, assistant professor, Department of Psychology.
  • Collaborative Discovery of Non-Opioid Analgesic Molecules for Chronic Pain. Primary investigator: Ann M. Gregus, assistant professor, School of Neuroscience; co-investigator: Webster Santos, professor, Department of Chemistry.
  •  Context Matters: How Ambient Temperature Influences In Vivo Host and Pathogen Responses for a Wildlife Disease System. Primary investigator: Dana Hawley, professor, Department of Biological Sciences.
  •  Targeting Pseudomonas Aeruginose Infections: Development of a Ligand Screening Assay for the Pivotal Signaling Histidine Kinase GacS. Primary investigator: Florian Schubot, associate professor, Department of Biological Sciences.

The next solicitation cycle will appear in January.

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