PULLMAN, Wash. – Genomics, antimicrobial resistance, clean stormwater and health disparities are the subjects of several multidisciplinary proposals awarded funding as part of Washington State University’s Grand Challenges research initiative. University officials also funded a comprehensive program aimed at supporting student resilience and growth through graduation.

Two “smart” proposals will receive planning funds: one looking at genomics and smart foods for optimal nutrition and health, and one to improve health and quality of life in smart cities.

Officials have also committed $500,000 over five years for student success and research seed grants. The research seed grants are aimed at developing humanities and social sciences relevant to the initiatives and sustaining multidisciplinary discussions among faculty.

The larger proposals, which will receive more than $29 million over five years, are strategic investments in the University’s research and teaching enterprise, serving as springboards into new fields of research while improving existing strengths. The application process, which yielded 13 research proposals and four initiatives to improve student success, has already had the side benefit of improving cross-college communications and multidisciplinary collaboration.

“I appreciate the work so many faculty and reviewers put into this effort and the investment the University community has made in helping us set exciting new directions for the University’s quest to create and share new knowledge,” said President Kirk Schulz.

The “Research, Scholarship, and Creativity Proposals” grew out of the Provost and Office of Research’s 120-Day Research Study, which identified the five Grand Challenges and 19 recommendations to enhance WSU research. Applicants were encouraged to submit proposals that would stimulate more multidisciplinary research and a greater investment in research infrastructure—two items considered central to the Grand Challenges.

University officials expect the research proposals will stimulate enhanced federal funding, as well as more impactful publications, increased commercialization activities and faculty recruiting. Current funding comes from the recent strategic reallocation of five percent of University unit budgets. Half of the reallocation has gone to faculty and staff pay increases.

Functional Genomics Initiative

This initiative will marshal the emerging science of genome editing to accomplish two goals: generating traits in large animals and livestock to control disease and feed a growing global population, and supporting life sciences across the University, including the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine.

The initiative will address both the Sustaining Health and Food-Water-Energy Nexus Grand Challenges. The College of Veterinary Medicine will act as the initiative’s lead unit in collaboration with the College of Agriculture, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS) and the College of Arts and Sciences.

Community Health Analytics Initiative

This initiative will boost WSU’s ability to analyze extensive datasets known as “Big Data” to promote information-based healthcare research. Initially it will look at the social determinants of antimicrobial resistance in human and animal populations.

The initiative addresses both the Sustaining Health and Opportunity and Equity Grand Challenges. The Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture and the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science will lead the initiative in partnership with the College of Veterinary Medicine, the College of Medicine, and the College of Arts and Sciences.

Research Collaborative for Addressing Health Disparities

This initiative will design interventions to address the persistent and damaging health disparities that grow out of poverty and discrimination.

The initiative, which addresses the Grand Challenges on Sustaining Health and Opportunity and Equity, will be led by the College of Arts and Sciences in collaboration with CAHNRS, the College of Medicine and the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication.

Green Stormwater Initiative

This will address the rising importance of stormwater, which carries toxic pollutants from urban and agricultural areas into streams and surface waters.

The initiative will be led by CAHNRS in collaboration with the College of Arts and Sciences and the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture. It will address the Sustainable Resources Grand Challenge to supply food, energy and water for future generations.

Student Success through Transformational Change is a merger of two proposals, one aimed at freshman and the other at upperclass students. The freshmen program is aimed at building resilience, purpose and growth through both faculty support and parental interventions. The program for upperclass students will integrate peer mentoring, programming and advising to move students into increasingly experiential learning opportunities.

Officials also awarded smaller planning grants to the following research initiatives:

Nutritional Genomics and Smart Foods

This initiative will explore the role of the genome in determining an individual’s nutritional needs. The Office of Research will assemble a team to refine and execute the planned work, which will support Grand Challenges on Sustaining Health, Opportunity and Equity, the Food-Energy-Water Nexus and National Security.

Holistic Approach to Developing Smarter Cities

This will develop a framework to monitor, predict and control energy and air quality in an urban environment and to record the resulting health impacts. It will be led by the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture in collaboration with the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Nursing, the College of Medicine and the Carson College of Business. The initiative will answer the Smart Systems Grand Challenge to harness technology to improve quality of life.
Contact:
Craig Parks, special assistant to the WSU provost, 509-335-5581, parkscd@wsu.edu