October 2019 Newsletter
From the Vice President
The Office of Research and Economic Development (ORED) is off to a busy start this fall, especially with a number of new initiatives led by the Research and Faculty Development (RFD) team. For example, the fall series of Faculty Success Seminars covers a range of topics from preparing an NSF CAREER award proposal, to exploring humanities funding opportunities, to working with our own state HERC IGEM opportunities, to partnering with the W.M. Keck Foundation or M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust. There is also a great lineup planned for 2020.
These are investments in people. Not only has the University of Idaho invested in resources to assist faculty and staff in developing proposals for sponsored project funding, we have placed significant investment in proposal preparation skill development.
There is an old adage, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” Our office is here to help grow our research, scholarly, and creative activities, and one way we do that is to help our researchers build skills to increase both the quantity and quality of their scholarship and research.
As well as our campus seminar series, we have been fortunate to attract national audiences to our campus. While in Washington, D.C. last summer, I visited the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and invited them to Idaho to give a series of presentations. This month, we hosted DARPA program officials who met with over 60 of our researchers. In September, we were able to host the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) for a town hall event that rolled out a recent study titled Branches from the Same Tree: Integrating the Arts, Humanities and Sciences in Higher Education.
We have had the honor of visits from Moses Lee from M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, Parvesh Kumar from Mountain West Clinical and Translational Research Infrastructure Network (MW CTR-IN) , Mark Silver from National Endowment for the Humanities and David Pettyjohn of the Idaho Humanities Council. It was great to be able to show them the successes of their investments in us and to learn from their suggestions.
We introduced a Fulbright mentoring series and of course, we have our fantastic NSF CAREER All Year Series, and we were fortunate to take a group of faculty to Washington D.C. earlier this year to meet with agency sponsors. There is more to come, including our upcoming November workshop on broader impacts.
I believe strongly in investing in people, and I have been very proud to build our ORED resources, including the Research and Faculty Development team. I’d like to express my deep gratitude to all the ORED team members who are committed to supporting our research enterprise at the University of Idaho.
Janet E. Nelson Ph.D.
Vice President for Research and Economic Development
ORED News and Events
New Fish Rack System Helps Advance U of I’s Biomedical Research
Humans and zebrafish have more in common than one might think. They share 70 percent of the same DNA coding; and zebrafish muscles, blood, immune system, kidneys and even eyes share many human features. Consequently, zebrafish are an important animal model for human biomedical research.
Recognizing this, Professor Deborah Stenkamp and Assistant Professor Diana Mitchell, both cellular and molecular biology experts in U of I’s College of Science, proposed to conduct retinal regeneration and developmental studies on zebrafish. Such research could help us understand the mechanisms behind the successful regeneration and regulation of genes governing color vision. These studies can also help pave the way for new approaches to help treat humans with vision loss -- and possibly other disorders that can deteriorate the nervous system.
To conduct these studies, Stenkamp and Mitchell needed a clean, contained environment to keep these disease-susceptible animals safe and healthy. Several U of I entities stepped in to provide $73,000 in funding for the solution: three stand-alone ‘fish rack’ containment systems with advanced filtration features. The Office of Research and Economic Development, College of Science, Department of Biological Sciences, Idaho NIH IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) program, Institute for Bioinformatics and Evolutionary Studies (IBEST), and Institute for Modeling Collaboration and Innovation (IMCI) all helped support the effort.
The new racks will allow Stenkamp and Mitchell to perform ‘clean’ experiments on zebrafish tissue regeneration and development – without any pathogenic microbes that could complicate their experimental outcomes. The system, located in U of I’s Laboratory Animal Research Facility (LARF), will also help future U of I researchers conduct similar biomedical studies on zebrafish.
The three racks feature a variety of small and large tanks, all monitored and controlled by a computerized system that ensures a healthy environment for the fish. These computers bring precise amounts of sodium bicarbonate – better known as baking soda – into the water to ensure pH balance; deliver exact measurements of brine to simulate brackish waters, where some zebrafish naturally live; and perform various other functions. Water storage tanks are also included in the system as a safeguard in case of system leaks or other water loss events.
DARPA Visits Moscow, Discusses Defense-related Research
More than 60 individuals, including faculty and students from seven U of I colleges, filled up the Integrated Research and Innovation Center for the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) informational program on Oct. 9. The event, sponsored by ORED’s Office of Research and Faculty Development, helped connect U of I’s experts with DARPA’s areas of research interest. During the event, DARPA program officers from their Biological Technologies, Defense Sciences, and Information Innovation Offices gave presentations and engaged in one-on-one meetings with 28 U of I researchers. The intended outcome of this event: more research collaborations between U of I and DARPA. Mike Hanna, regional director for U.S. Senator James Risch, was also in attendance.
U of I Researchers: Prepare for Warp Speed
On Oct. 14 in Idaho Falls, U of I President Scott Green and other key leaders of Idaho’s research institutions celebrated the opening of the state’s new Cybercore and Collaborative Computing Centers. Their purpose: to process and protect the increasingly massive amounts of data generated by Idaho’s researchers. U of I will be the first university to move its equipment into the new 150,000 square-foot environment. ORED’s Northwest Knowledge Network (NKN), which provides data management support and applications for U of I researchers and their collaborators, will lead the installation. At the centerpiece of these new facilities is Sawtooth, one of the 100 fastest supercomputers in the world, capable of multiplying more than 5,000 16-digit numbers 1 trillion times per second. Sawtooth will help speed up the processing for U of I’s increasing number of computer modeling and simulation studies, while Cybercore will help protect the security of that research.
New Grant Brings Popular U of I Video Game to Mobile Devices
A $74,700 grant from the Idaho State Board of Education and Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission will soon allow gamers to learn the power of evolution through their mobile devices. Professor and IBEST Director Barrie Robison and Professor of computer science Terry Soule, will use the funding to create a mobile version of Darwin’s Demons, the first of two video games produced by U of I’s Polymorphic Games Studio. The student-centered studio employs a novel programming approach that uses evolutionary models to evolve original game content as the game progresses, rather than relying on pre-programmed content. Consequently, the game gets more difficult over time as the opponents’ appearance, behavior, and traits adapt to the choices and strategy of the player. Students currently working on the Darwin’s Demons mobile game come from a wide range of academic programs all across campus.
Get to Know ORED
Bringing Alien Concepts to Light
The disciplines of art and science do not commonly intersect. But at the Institute for Bioinformatics and Evolutionary Studies (IBEST), art and science go hand-in-hand.
This is a place where three-dimensional, crablike aliens teach evolution through video games, where highly technical information is communicated through visually pleasing graphs, charts and tables, and where grant proposals are embellished with original graphics to help potential research sponsors quickly understand difficult scientific concepts.
Katy Riendeau, IBEST’s new design and marketing coordinator, has quickly become one of the key figures who visually bring U of I’s complex research to life.
Through writing, photography, and graphic design, Riendeau promotes the interesting research projects proposed and delivered by IBEST’s faculty collaborators. She organizes proposal layouts, creates a wide range of graphic visuals to illustrate research, and promotes IBEST and its work – both inside and outside the U of I community.
Riendeau says that visually communicating complex research can be especially challenging.
“You’re not just making things look visually appealing, Riendeau said. “You have to accurately convey the information. There are a lot of visual elements you can bring into research, and you have to really boil them down into something simple.”
Riendeau’s technique: She meets with researchers to learn the details of their work. Once she understands the project, she works with the researcher to simplify the core concepts. They then discuss and develop visuals that can express those concepts.
Since starting at the University of Idaho just a few months ago, Riendeau has worked on a wide range of projects for IBEST and its collaborators. She promoted a recent grant success at IBEST’s Polymorphic Games Studio, which is developing and marketing a mobile version of their popular Darwin’s Demons video game; the work of IBEST’s Northwest Knowledge Network, which is using aerial imagery and weather data to track agricultural trends over several years; and U of I Professor Larry Forney’s research on the vaginal microbiome.
“This environment is new to me,” Riendeau said. “It can be intimidating if you don’t have a background in science, but I really like it. I enjoy interacting with the researchers and learning their projects so I can express them through writing and visuals. I learn something new almost every day.”
Art and creativity have always played a central role in Riendeau’s development.
“I’ve been interested in art since I was a child,” Riendeau said. “I was always drawing as a kid, and I looked at and appreciated art before I could really do it well.”
Riendeau took art classes in high school, then enrolled at Washington State University, where she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.
“It’s funny, but most of the classes I took in college were studio arts, like painting and drawing,” Riendeau said. “I explored and really began to like digital art and design when I started working professionally at WSU. And when I learned of this position at IBEST, I quickly hopped the border.”
To learn more about working with IBEST, contact Director Barrie Robison, at email@example.com or 208-885-7137.
Article by Phillip Bogdan, Office of Research and Economic Development
ARI Global Aquaculture Meeting and Workshop
U of I’s Aquaculture Research Institute (ARI) will discuss the latest research challenges of the global aquaculture industry at its first annual aquaculture research review, workshop, and industrial affiliates meeting on Oct. 29, 2019 at U of I’s Moscow campus. U of I faculty and students with ties to aquaculture and water resources management are encouraged to attend this free event. Learn more and register.
Broader Impacts 101
ORED’s Office of Research and Faculty Development, Idaho EPSCoR and Washington State University are co-sponsoring “Broader Impacts 101”: a workshop to help attendees develop competitive National Science Foundation research proposals that satisfy their ‘broader impacts’ criterion. Jory Weintraub, science communication program director with the Duke University Initiative for Science and Society, will lead the half-day training event on Wednesday, Nov. 6, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Learn more and register.
NIH Regional Seminar
An NIH Regional Seminar on program funding and grants administration will take place November 6-8 in Phoenix. Administrators, early-stage investigators, researchers, and graduate students are encouraged to attend and meet with NIH subject experts who can identify the best funding fits for research proposals. Learn more, register, and contact ORED’s Research and Faculty Development team at firstname.lastname@example.org to get the most out of this meeting.
NSF Fall Grants Conference
The Fall 2019 National Science Foundation (NSF) Grants Conference will be held Nov. 18-19 this year in Boston. NSF program officers representing each NSF directorate will be on hand to answer questions and provide up-to-date information about funding opportunities. Registration opens Sept. 5 at 9:00 a.m. Pacific and is expected to fill up quickly. View full details.
Excellence in Research or Creative Activity Award
The Office of Research and Economic Development encourages U of I faculty to nominate a colleague for the university’s Award of Excellence in Research or Creative Activity. Submissions are due by Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Learn more.
Sponsored Funding Opportunities
- Oct. 30 Exploring Humanities Funding Opportunities
- Nov. 13 MW CTR-IN Funding Opportunities
- Nov. 20 NSF CAREER All Year: Integrating the Research and Education Plans
U of I Coeur d'Alene Wins UEDA Award of Excellence
The University of Idaho Coeur d'Alene was recognized with an Award of Excellence from the University Economic Development Association (UEDA) for Inspire Idaho, a free program that teaches app development using Apple’s Swift programming language. U of I Coeur d'Alene launched the program in 2018 to reduce educational barriers in the state, offering the online education program to any Idahoan wanting to learn Swift. Today, there are more than 300 active Inspire Idaho participants statewide. Inspire Idaho was honored in UEDA’s “Talent” category, which focuses on lifelong education, experiential education and discovery-based learning. U of I Coeur d'Alene Center Executive Officer Charles Buck gave a presentation on the Inspire Idaho initiative at the UEDA summit Oct. 1 in Reno, Nevada. This is the second Award of Excellence for U of I in the past two years. Last year, U of I’s McCall Outdoor Science School won an Award of Excellence in the “Talent + Place” category for its immersive, place-based STEM education program.
U of I Faculty, Alumnus Receive Accolades from National Fisheries Society
Shawn Narum, adjunct U of I faculty member and lead geneticist at the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission (CRITFC), received the American Fisheries Society’s 2019 Award of Excellence at their annual meeting in Reno, Nevada, this month. It is the Society’s highest award, bestowed for original and/or outstanding scientific contributions to fisheries and aquatic biology. Narum published over 100 peer-reviewed papers since he began working with CRITFC. His research on genetic variations and adaptation, his development of genetic resources for conservation monitoring, and his evaluations on the genetic effects of hatchery practices have been major contributions to the science of salmonid conservation and management. Narum conducts his research at the Aquaculture Research Institute’s Hagerman Fish Culture Experiment Station. Zachary Penney, another CRITFC employee, who earned his Ph.D. in fisheries science from U of I in 2013, received the AFS 2019 Diversity & Inclusion Award.
ORED Tip of the Month
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Office of Research and Faculty Development