Eight junior faculty awarded seed grants

From the impact of a Universal Basic Income to safer nuclear fuel to muscle genes in trout – this year’s eight New Faculty Seed Grant awards span a wide range of topics and disciplines. The program, which is funded through WSU’s Office of Research and the President and Provost offices, awarded a total of $155,370 this year.

The New Faculty Seed Grant program helps junior faculty build a foundation for their research and creative programs. This kick-start funding also provides a basis for faculty to apply for extramural funding and creates opportunities for professional growth.

The awarded faculty and projects for 2020/21:

Mariana Amorim


Mariana Amorim.
Amorim will explore the impact of Universal Basic Income payments by studying the only such program existing in the western world today, the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend. Amorim will analyze the financial decisions made by affluent and poor Alaskans after receiving payouts to help determine how scaling up such programs may help mitigate or exacerbate poverty and economic inequalities.

Xiaofeng Guo


Xiaofeng Guo.
Guo will study and improve a promising new type of fuel for nuclear reactors: molten salts. Using high temperature thermodynamic techniques coupled with spectroscopy and synchrotron X-ray techniques, Guo will work to understand, predict and optimize the physical properties, structure and dynamics of chloride-based actinide fuel molten salts.

William Hall

Mathematics & Statistics

William Hall.
Hall will study how the conference experience influences the professional identity and preparation of students pursuing careers as mathematics teachers, particularly as it impacts their ability to persist in this high turnover profession.

David Jenson

Speech & Hearing Sciences

David Jenson.
Jenson will work to identify objective, disorder-specific markers that characterize the core neural impairments of people who stutter and those with autism spectrum disorder. He will use EEG mu rhythms, which can help detect movement-related brain  activity, and pupillometry, which measures pupil reactivity as an indication of cognitive processing, to compare people with these disorders to a typical control group.

Shanthi Manian

Economic Sciences

Shanthi Manian.
Manian will undertake a study of women’s empowerment in Western Kenya and how it relates to maternal and child nutrition outcomes. Manian will use a longitudinal survey to identify the measures that best predict nutrition outcomes as well as studying the impact of seasonality on income and women’s empowerment in these agriculture-dependent households.

Hallie G. Meredith

Fine Arts

Hallie Meredith.
Meredith will examine ancient Roman and Byzantine archaeological fragments with a focus on their production and use, taking a cross-disciplinary approach that combines archaeology, art history, classics and economic history. As part of this project, Meredith will visit archeological sites and conduct library and archival research in Europe, Turkey and the United States.

Michael Phelps

Animal Science

Michael Phelps.
Phelps will use genome editing technology to investigate the function of a gene called activin A, a potential master regulator of muscle growth in fish. The goal is to determine how this gene functions in rainbow trout to better understand the evolution of skeletal muscle in vertebrates with potential applications in finfish aquaculture.

Aravind Sukumaran-Rajam

Electrical Engineering & Computer Science

Aravind Sukuraman-Rajam.
Sukumaran-Rajam seeks to make developing high-performance software easier. Sukumaran-Rajam’s goal is to create new and simple programming languages and automatically translate programs written in the new language to software that works on different machines with good performance.

Learn more about the New Faculty Seed Grant program.

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