Seed grants foster collaboration across Cornell campuses
By Krishna Ramanujan, Cornell Chronicle
The Office of Academic Integration has announced 14 new Multi-Investigator Seed Grants to foster multidisciplinary collaborations between Cornell’s Ithaca and New York City campuses – the latest in a series of efforts creating new opportunities for researchers to work together and leading to more than $64 million in federal funding over the past four years.
The current round of grants, totaling more than $1 million, supports preliminary work for such disease-related projects as engineering a therapy for degenerative disc disease and exploring telehealth best practices to maintain privacy for victims of domestic and gender-associated violence.
Since its launch in 2018, the Office of Academic Integration has reduced barriers and built infrastructure to support interdisciplinary research across campuses, partly through the seed grant program and 18 cross-campus thematic symposia held to date.
“I am thrilled that cross campus collaborations have become part of the fabric of the university, ” said Dr. Gary Koretzky, vice provost for academic integration, co-director of the Cornell Center for Immunology, professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine and adjunct professor of immunology in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology in the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM). “These programs, including both the intercampus symposia and seed grants, have more than met expectations in terms of catalyzing new faculty interactions, building mentoring teams and attracting extramural support, including large multi-investigator programs.”
Starting in 2023, the Multi-Investigator Seed Grant and the Intercampus Research Symposia programs will be overseen by Paula Cohen, associate vice provost for life sciences and professor of biomedical sciences (CVM), within the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation (OVPRI).
“Now that the culture has been established,” Koretzky said, “it is time to take all of these programs to the next level, and that can be done best through the OVPRI.”
Cohen added: “Moving these programs to the OVPRI enables us to really leverage all the unique research development expertise and compliance components of the office under one umbrella.”
For example, she said, when working with human or animal subjects, each campus has different protocols bound within a legal framework, which can complicate cross-campus collaborations. “The most important thing we can do is simplify the process for our faculty,” Cohen said.
These types of opportunities and structures speak to the fact that modern science requires collaboration across specialties.
“We absolutely need interdisciplinary research to achieve the best science,” Cohen said. “It’s going to enable us to make much greater leaps in our understanding.”
“We are appreciative of Professor Koretzky championing this effort to connect the research strengths across Cornell campuses and fields,” said Krystyn Van Vliet, incoming vice president for research and innovation. “I look forward to Professor Cohen’s leadership in building on this collaboration opportunity, with OVPRI support.”
The current grant recipients represent a variety of backgrounds, including pairings of junior and senior collaborators to encourage mentorships; researchers from all three campuses, seven colleges and nearly 30 departments; and close to 50% women, for gender parity.
Projects and researchers receiving seed grants this year:
- Defining Mechanisms of Treatment Shortening in Tuberculosis Regimens: Brian VanderVen(Microbiology and Immunology, CVM); Kyu Rhee (Medicine, Weill Cornell Medicine).
- Nanostructure-Enhanced Infra-Red Absorption Spectroscopy Assay to Improve Prognosis and Personalized Therapy of Drug-resistant Prostate Cancers: Gennady Shvets (Applied and Engineering Physics, Cornell Engineering); Olivier Elemento (Physiology and Biophysics, Weill Cornell Medicine); Justin Wilson (Chemistry and Chemical Biology, College of Arts and Sciences); Paraskevi Giannakakou (Pharmacology and Medicine, Weill Cornell Medicine); Giuseppe Galletti (Medicine, Weill Cornell Medicine).
- Leveraging Thermogenic Silencers as Potent Treatment Options to Combat Cancer Anorexia-Cachexia Syndrome; Joeva Barrow (Nutritional Sciences, College of Human Ecology); Marcus Goncalves (Medicine, Weill Cornell Medicine).
- Engineering MSC Mitochondrial Donation as a Regenerative Therapy for Degenerative Disc Disease: Lawrence Bonassar (Biomedical Engineering, ENG); Roger Hartl (Neurological Surgery, Weill Cornell Medicine); Michelle Delco (Clinical Sciences, CVM); Ibrahim Hussain(Neurological Surgery, Weill Cornell Medicine).
- Piloting Virtual Reality Environments to Treat PTSD in Healthcare Workers Consequent to the COVID-19 Pandemic: JoAnn Difede (Psychology in Psychiatry, Weill Cornell Medicine); Andrea Stevenson Won (Communication, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences).
- Enhancing Rotavirus Vaccine Efficacy Through Strategies to Evade Maternal Antibody Interference in Novel Preclinical Models: Dr. Sallie Permar (Pediatrics, Weill Cornell Medicine); Sarah Caddy (Baker Institute, Microbiology and Immunology, CVM).
- Improving the Robustness of Mobile Sensing and AI Systems for Mental Health Care: Qian Yang (Information Science, Cornell Ann S. Bowers College of Computing and Information Science); Fei Wang (Population Health Sciences, Weill Cornell Medicine).
- Preservation and Controlled Maturation of hPSC-derived Beta Cells in Zwitterionic Hydrogels: Shaoyi Jiang (Biomedical Engineering, ENG); Shuibing Chen (Chemical Biology in Surgery, Weill Cornell Medicine).
- Artificial Intelligence for the Identification of Ovarian Morphology on Ultrasonography: Marla Lujan (Nutritional Science, CALS); Iman Hajirasouliha (Physiology and Biophysics, Weill Cornell Medicine; Steven Spandorfer, (Obstetrics and Gynecology, Weill Cornell Medicine).
- Exploring Telehealth Best Practices to Enhance Safety, Confidentiality, and Privacy for Domestic Violence and Gender-Based Violence: Marianne Sharko (Population Health Sciences, Weill Cornell Medicine); Natalie Bazarova (Communication, CALS).
- KNITDEMA: The Development of a Personalized Rehabilitation Device for Improving Quality of Life for Persons with Hand Edema: Cindy Hsin-Liu Kao (Human Centered Design, CHE); Joan Stilling (Rehabilitation Medicine, Weill Cornell Medicine); Joel Stein(Rehabilitation Medicine, Weill Cornell Medicine).
- Epigenetic Determinants of Patient Outcome in Pancreatic Cancer: Rohit Chandwani(Surgery, Weill Cornell Medicine); William Lai (Molecular Biology and Genetics, CALS); Shauna Houlihan (Englander Institute of Precision Medicine, Weill Cornell Medicine); Frank Pugh (Molecular Biology and Genetics, A&S); Sheng Zhang (Proteomics and Metabolomics Facility, Cornell Institute of Biotechnology).
- SARS-CoV-2 Infection and Transposon Dysregulation in Placenta: Heidi Stuhlmann (Cell and Developmental Biology, Weill Cornell Medicine); Cedric Feschotte (Molecular Biology and Genetics, CALS); Yawei (Jenny) Yang (Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Weill Cornell Medicine); Robert E. Schwartz (Medicine, Weill Cornell Medicine).
- Development of a Team Science Collaboration to Investigate Individualized Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation Therapies: Felipe Teran Merino (Emergency Medicine, Weill Cornell Medicine); Joaquin Araos (Clinical Sciences, CVM); Manuel Martin Flores (Clinical Sciences, CVM); Clark Owyang (Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine and Emergency Medicine, Weill Cornell Medicine).
A request for applications for 2023 multi-investigator seed grant program has been released; the deadline for letters of intent is March 24.