New Accelerator Grants Boost Research and Innovation in Ohio State



A new Ohio State University effort to support team-based research has provided funding for 19 proposals to study topics ranging from brain and bone health to drug manufacturing, new devices and learning in depth.

The Accelerator Grants were awarded under the President’s Research Excellence (PRE) program, an initiative launched this year to provide initial support to interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research projects likely to attract external funding. Accelerator grants of up to $ 50,000 fund small teams formed to pursue innovative, curiosity-driven, high-risk, high-reward research.

The PRE program supports the university’s goals of helping to grow its research and innovation enterprise by attracting more externally sponsored research funding to address large and complex societal challenges. The program also includes an additional funding mechanism, the Catalyst Grants, for large interdisciplinary and interdisciplinary teams formed to pursue large-scale research addressing emerging or existing challenges of national and international societal importance. These grants of up to $ 200,000 will be awarded in the fall.

Ji Wang, assistant professor of astronomy, is part of a team that takes up its own challenge out of curiosity: the search for habitable planets. He is the principal investigator of a project called Peering into Alien Worlds: A Synergistic Astronomical, Geochemical, and Laser Engineering Approach to Explore the Habitability of Terrestrial Planets.

“The first interesting question concerns the identification of life on other planets, which will be very important. But the second big question we try to answer is, “Do extrasolar planets look or are they similar to our solar system?”

The team includes Jennifer Johnson and Scott Gaudi, professors in the Department of Astronomy, Enam Chowdhury, assistant professor of materials science engineering, and Wendy Panero, professor of earth sciences, Wang said, because all three disciplines are needed. to understand the size, composition and structure of the planets.

“The structure of a planet is of crucial importance in understanding the habitability of an exoplanet,” he said. “This is why we believe that with this team of experts in high power lasers, stellar physics, exoplanet physics and earth sciences, we can really solve this very ambitious problem. “

Tessa Cannon, a graduate student in the Department of Anthropology, is part of an Accelerator Fellowship-winning team studying the microbiota in the digestive tract of sooty mangabeys. These monkeys carry the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), which is closely related to HIV, but show no symptoms of the disease.

“We can really look at the other factors that influence evolution… within the gut microbiome to allow these monkeys to be able to live with these very high infection rates and high rates of viral replication without ever having a problem,” said declared Cannon.

Vanessa Hale, assistant professor of preventive veterinary medicine and the project’s principal investigator, said research is the starting point for solving real-world challenges.

“The past year and a half has reminded us of how much animal health and environmental health relate directly to human health,” Hale said.

The interdisciplinary project is co-led by anthropology professor Scott McGraw and Yael Vodovotz, professor of food science and technology. The team approach helps tackle a problem involving virology, microbiome science, primate ecology and diet.

Hale said team research sometimes pushes experts out of their comfort zone.

“It can be a challenge for us, but it also means the possibility of advancing science – it’s so much stronger and more exciting,” she said.

Teams funded by this round of Accelerator grants are expected to report on their findings by August 2022, and another round of PRE grants is expected to begin in the spring.

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