Brown researchers honored with Seed Funds, Salomon Awards

March 14, 2011  |  By Richard Lewis |  401-863-2476
Constant revitalization of research Clyde Briant, vice president for research, right, congratulates award winners Ashutosh Varshney and Patrick Heller. Credit: Mike Cohea/Brown University
Twelve individual faculty researchers and four interdisciplinary research teams were honored with University grants at a noontime ceremony today. Competition for Seed Funds and Salomon Awards, administered by the Office of the Vice President for Research, allows researchers to develop promising projects for possible external funding.

Four interdisciplinary teams at Brown University have been awarded a total of $307,000 to pursue novel research projects, and a dozen faculty received individual research awards of up to $15,000, the University announced on Monday.

The winning individuals and teams were recognized at a ceremony today (Monday, March 14, 2011) at the Stephen Robert Campus Center. The competitive grants come courtesy of the Richard B. Salomon Faculty Research Awards and the Seed Funds administered by the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR).

“The Seed Funds and Salomon Awards that are given each year are among the most important ways we have at Brown to let faculty start new research areas and build new research programs,” said Clyde Briant, vice president for research. “They cover all areas of research at Brown and thus affect the entire campus. Building new research programs is key to the constant revitalization of Brown’s research programs, which in turn makes us a highly attractive university for faculty and students.”

Salomon Award winnersFrom left, Shreyas Mandre, Laura Kertz, and Joo-Hyun Song were three of the 12 faculty recipients of Salomon Awards.Credit: Mike Cohea/Brown UniversitySalomon Award winners
From left, Shreyas Mandre, Laura Kertz, and Joo-Hyun Song were three of the 12 faculty recipients of Salomon Awards.
Credit: Mike Cohea/Brown University
The Seed Funds program has been run by OVPR since 2003. It is designed to help faculty compete more successfully for large-scale, interdisciplinary, multi-investigator grants. Investigators may propose projects with budgets up to $100,000. To date, about $3.5 million in Seed Funds has been given to research projects. From that investment, the researchers have obtained, on average, 10 times more funding from outside sources, according to OVPR.

The Salomon Awards were established to support excellence in scholarly work by providing funding for selected faculty research projects of exceptional merit. Recipients receive as much as $15,000. The Salomon Awards have been administered by OVPR since 2003, and a total of about $1.8 million has been awarded to 117 faculty.

This year’s Seed Fund winners will explore whether particular bacteria can produce biodiesel fuels, the impact of agriculture on air quality and global warming in New England, urban governance in India, and new treatments for sudden cardiac death.

One of this year’s Seed Fund recipients is Meredith Hastings, assistant professor of geological sciences at the Environmental Change Initiative. She is teaming with Jianwu Tang, a scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory, to measure in real time the flow of nitrogen gases in the soil from agricultural practices in New England, in order to better understand agriculture’s effects on the region’s air quality and acid rain formation, as well as its role in producing greenhouse gases such as nitrous oxide.

“This funding is allowing Jim and me to start a collaboration and get some initial data that would make it possible for us to do external fundraising,” said Hastings, who joined the Brown faculty in 2008. “It’s a jumpstart to our collaboration and a way to seek even more funding later.”

At the ceremony, three former Seed Fund winners — Katherine Smith in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Mark Johnson in the Department of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry, and Gabriel Taubin in the School of Engineering — said financial support from the University was critical to advancing their research to the point where they had enough results to seek external funding.

The 12 Salomon Award winners:

  • Laurel Bestock, assistant professor or archaeology;
  • Linford Fisher, assistant professor of history;
  • Rodrigo Fonseca, assistant professor of computer science;
  • Sherine Hamdy, assistant professor of anthropology;
  • Laura Kertz, assistant professor of cognitive, linguistic, and psychological sciences;
  • Erica Larschan, assistant professor of biology, Department of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry;
  • Shreyas Mandre, assistant professor of engineering;
  • Susan Moffitt, assistant professor of political science;
  • Sriniketh Nagavarapu, assistant professor of economics;
  • Marc Perlman, associate professor of music;
  • Joo-Hyun Song, assistant professor of cognitive, linguistic, and psychological sciences; and
  • Kristi Wharton, associate professor of medical science, Department of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, and Biochemistry.

Additional information on the Salomon Award recipients is available at research.brown.edu/ovpr/awards_salomon_11.php.

The 2011 Seed Award winners:

  • The Impact of Agricultural Practices on Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Air Quality: A Case Study in New England
    Principal investigators: Meredith Hastings, assistant professor of geological sciences, and Jianwu Tang, assistant scientist, Marine Biological Laboratory
  • Governance and Inequality in Indian Cities
    Principal investigators: Patrick Heller, professor of sociology and international studies, and Ashutosh Varshney, professor of political science
  • Novel Micropatterned Culture Model for Developing New Therapeutic Strategies for Sudden Cardiac Death
    Principal investigators: Diane Hoffman-Kim, associate professor of medical science in the Department of Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology and Biotechnology; Bum-Rak Choi, assistant professor of medicine; Gideon Koren, professor of medicine; Ulrike Mende, associate professor of medicine
  • Genetic, Biochemical, and Bioinformatic Approaches to Understanding Microbial Degradation of Plant Biomass
    Principal investigators: Jason Sello, associate professor of chemistry; Rebecca Page, assistant professor of biology, Department of Molecular Biology, cell Biology and Biochemistry; Charles Lawrence, professor of applied mathematics

Additional information on the Seed Fund recipients is available at research.brown.edu/ovpr/awards_seed_11.php.