Office of the Vice Provost for Research

Awards: Faculty Research Support Program 2015-16

Seed Round 1

Development of Young Children's Neuropsychological and Behavioral Self-Regulation
John Bates, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences

This project proposes to advance feasibility of a study of preschoolers’ neural and behavioral regulation in the context of academic and social adjustment and in the context of their individual and family characteristics. Of special importance are child sleep deficits, which may affect self-regulatory development. The study builds on an ongoing study of toddlers’ development as a function of sleep, family characteristics, neural and behavioral self- regulation, and temperament. Forty children will be followed at 4 ½ in the lab with neurophysiological and behavioral measures and observations at their preschools, and with parent and teacher reports of academic and social adjustment. This provides the basis for a much larger study.

Psycholinguistic processing of variable structures in second language Spanish
Kimberly Geeslin, Department of Spanish & Portuguese

The study of the acquisition of second languages is an excellent avenue for better understanding human cognition. Likewise, investigating how second language learners come to acquire the ability to use language in a social context can further knowledge about how linguistic and social information are acquired, stored and modified as proficiency increases. Native speakers vary their language according to social, geographic and situational factors even though much of the variation inherent in language is implicit, research findings remain largely based on production data. The present investigation employs real-time processing methodology to the study of linguistic and social variation.

Rational Attenuation of Medically Important Alphaviruses
Richard Hardy, Department of Biology

The current epidemic of Chikungunya virus in the Americas shows alphaviruses to be a present and persistent public health threat. Clinical manifestations of alphavirus infections range from polyarthritis to fatal encephalitis. There are no approved vaccines to prevent alphavirus infections in humans. During virus infection of a cell new virus genomes must be encapsidated by the viral capsid protein to produce progeny virus. This proposal uses a robust discovery tool to identify sites in the genome of medically important alphaviruses bound by capsid protein. Identifying, mutating, and characterizing the importance of these interaction sites for virus growth will lead to the design of attenuated viruses and a proposal to the NIH focused on vaccine development.

Metal-Nanographene Complexes as Electrochemical and Photoelectrochemical Catalysts for CO2 Reduction
Liang-shi Li, Department of Chemistry

Conversion of CO2 to fuels and other materials has a great potential to decrease its adverse environmental impacts. This project will support preliminary work on metal-nanographene complexes that are to be used as electrochemical and photoelectrochemical catalysts for CO2 reduction.  This work is based on strength of the PIs research group on nanographenes and previously reported work on metal complexes as CO2 reduction catalysts. Introducing nanographenes as novel ligands for the metal ions could potentially overcome the limitations of this type of catalysts. Our work will shed light on mechanisms and design principles for these catalysts, which are indispensable for optimizing their activity and efficiency.

Enhanced Biological Natural Gas Production from Coal Following Fungal Pretreatment
Flynn Picardal, School of Public & Environmental Affairs

The long-term research objective is to develop an engineered process for biological production of methane (natural gas) from low-grade coals. The rate-limiting step is the initial biochemicalbreakdown of coal geopolymers. The proposed research relieves this roadblock by using fungal treatment under oxic conditionns to partially degrade the large geopolymers into lower­ molecular-weight compounds , and to aerobically 'activate' and solubilize coal organic matter by insertion of oxygen-containing functional groups , e.g., -OH or -COOH. This activated organic matter will subsequently be treated anaerobically using complex microbial consortia to convert the activated organic matter into methane precursors and, ultimately, into methane.

Seed Round 2

pXRF Chemical Stratigraphy: Transforming Understanding of Mass Extinctions in the Geologic Record
Patrick McLaughlin, Indiana Geological Survey
Late Ordovician rocks in the eastern US are the most complete record of the Earth’s second largest mass extinction. The new capabilities of portable X-ray fluorescence analysis are opening research frontiers. We will explore the high-reward potential of this analytical tool with 10,000 stratigraphically oriented analyses through the Late Ordovician mass extinction in Indiana. The results will allow us to order events with 1000 year resolution, establish stratigraphic correlation at unprecedented precision, and investigate the chemical inner workings of ancient marine processes that resulted in this catastrophic event. This study will fill a critical gap in our knowledge of this event, securing our potential for NSF funding.

Using a Medical Linear Accelerator to Study Photonuclear Production of Radioisotopes
Matthew Shepherd, Department of Physics
We will use an electron accelerator to study photonuclear production of radioactive isotopes, which, when compared with common proton beam production methods, provides access to different isotopes or allows one to utilize different target materials.  This research may lead to advances in production capability of isotopes for use in medicine, industry, or research.  The Center for the Exploration of Energy and Matter has a medical linear accelerator that is, in principle, capable of being used to conduct research on radioisotope production.  We will validate the capability of this machine, which would be an essential component of a future proposal for external funding for research on radioisotope production.

cAMP Signaling in the Corneal Endothelium
S.P. Srinivas, School of Optometry

Fuchs corneal endothelial dystrophy (FECD) is a late-onset genetic disorder affecting the corneal endothelium. In advanced stages of FECD, corneal transparency is lost secondary to chronic edema of the corneal stroma. This edema occurs if the fluid pump and/or barrier functions of the endothelium are compromised. Currently, there are no pharmacological approaches for the treatment of FECD. Only recourse is endothelial transplantation. In this project, we will investigate cAMP signaling in the endothelium with a goal to establish pharmacological strategies for enhancing the endothelial barrier function.


Seed Round 3

Genome Evolution of Bacterial Pathogens in the Disease Environment
Clay Fuqua, Department of Biology
We will collaborate with the IU CGB to examine using the facultative plant pathogen Agrobacterium tumefaciens as a model for the temporal, population-level adaptation and evolution of bacterial disease agents during pathogenesis.  Through collaboration with the IU CGB, we will examine the genotypic diversity of A. temufaciens during disease progression via whole genome sequencing and comparative genomics.  Results obtained will provide critical preliminary data towards larger scale analyses and funding.  Our long term aim is to describe temporal evolution of virulence for facultative pathogens both on infected hosts and in their environmental reservoir.

Spindle Checkpoint Regulation of Meiosis
Soni Lacefield, Department of Biology

This work focuses on the spindle checkpoint, a monitoring mechanism in the cell ensuring that chromosomes attach to spindle microtubules. Our experiments address the question of how the spindle checkpoint regulates meiosis.

Explaining the deteriorating relationship between tree growth and drought in across different landscape conditions throughout the Midwestern USA
Justin Maxwell, Department of Geography

This study seeks mechanistic explanations for a recently detected weakening in the relationship between tree growth and drought condition. Over recent decades, tree-ring data collected in the Midwestern and Southwestern United States (US) show a decrease in the sensitivity to soil moisture as measured by multiple widely used metrics of drought, including the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PSDI). During this time period, certain regions of the US have experienced changes in the severity and duration of drought, and many biologically relevant hydrologic cycle variables, including soil moisture and atmospheric demand for water vapor, have been affected by climate change.

Risk and Resilience Among Young South African Women Facing the Threat of HIV
Laura McCloskey, Department of Applied Health Science

HIV is highly prevalent in South Africa with 13% of the general population infected.  The fastest growing risk group is 15-19 year old girls and young women.  The ratio of teenage girls to boys is 8:1.  This study is designed to unpack the different areas of risk for HIV through a case-control design.  It is unclear which risk factors apply to girls and which play a role in girls' early exposure to HIV.  This information is essential for future interventions.  Among the risk factors are having an HIV positive parent, being orphaned, beginning sexual activity early, and having multiple partners.  The findings will lay the foundation for a cohort study proposal to NIMH.