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University Research Awards

Originally called Provost’s Multidisciplinary Awards, the University Research Awards (URA) are funded $250,000 every year by the president and as match by the schools for a total of $500,000 annually.

Applications are sought from faculty across the University, and funding is awarded to recipients who demonstrate their projects favor new research with a high probability of being leveraged by future external funding. A review committee of faculty from across UR provides peer review of the applications.

The RFP describes the process, and the fill-in application can be downloaded here:

Applications are due the first Monday of February each year. Decisions are announced just before Commencement.

Contact Adele Coelho, Faculty Outreach Coordinator, Office of the Provost and Senior Vice President for Research, with questions. Completed applications should be e-mailed directly to her as well.


2016-2017 University Research Award Winners


PROJECT TITLE: TARGETED DELIVERY OF CYTOTOXIC AGENTS FOR THE ERADICATION OF LEUKEMIA STEM CELLS IN THE BONE MARROW

INVESTIGATORS: Rudi Fasan, Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry; Danielle Benoit, Associate Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering; Benjamin Frisch, Research Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine Hematology/Oncology Division

GOAL: Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a major type of hematological cancer which remains associated to poor overall survival, overwhelmingly due to relapse of the disease after pharmacological treatment. This collaborative project is ultimately aimed at developing a novel nanoparticle-based system for the controlled and selective delivery of antileukemic agents to AML and leukemia stem cells within the bone marrow microenvironment. Support from the URA will enable an initial assessment of the functionality and therapeutic potential of this strategy and will be instrumental in collecting key preliminary data for securing external funding from the NIH National Cancer Institute, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and the Leukemia Research Foundation.

PROJECT TITLE: UNDERSTANDING CELL TURNOVER AND INJURY RECOVERY IN THE CORNEAL ENDOTHELIUM

INVESTIGATORS: Amy E. Kiernan, Associate Professor, Department of Opthalmology and Biomedical Genetics, Flaum Eye Institute; Jannick Rolland, The Brian J. Thompson Professor of Optical Engineering, Professor of Optics and Biomedical Engineering, Director of the R.E. Hopkins Center for Optical Design & Engineering, Director of NSF/IUCRC: Center for Freeform Optics, University of Rochester; Holly B. Hindman, Associate Professor, Department of Opthalmology, Flaum Eye Institute, the Center for Visual Research, University of Rochester; Patrics Tankam, Research Associate, The Inistute of Optics, University of Rochester

GOAL: Previously considered a quiescent tissue with little turnover, this research will identify potential stem cells in the corneal endothelium, as well as non-invasively track endothelial cell turnover using a combined micron-class optical coherence microscopy and fluorescence microscopy. Results of these studies will reveal important information regarding the capacity for cell regeneration in the corneal endothelium, whose failure contributes significantly to the 30,000 corneal transplants required each year in the U.S.

PROJECT TITLE: MOLECULAR IMAGING OF ARTERIAL OCCLUSION IN MICE

INVESTIGATORS: Vyacheslav "Slava" A. Korshunov, Associate Professor, Department of Medicine, Aab Cardiovascular Research Institute and Depatment of Biomedical Genetics, School of Medicine & Dentistry; Marvin M. Doyley, Associate Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Hajim School of Engineering & Applied Sciences

GOAL: This research will facilitate high throughput analyses of pathological arterial remodeling in genetically manipulated or pharmacologically treated mice and produce new therapeutic approaches for treating cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases. The data generated in this project will be used to support a collaborative NIH research grant (at R01 level) whose goal is to explore the biomechanics of vascular tissues to improve the treatment and diagnosis of cardiovascular diseases. Our findings in mice could produce a diagnostic tool for evaluating pathological arterial remodeling in humans.

PROJECT TITLE: ROLE OF MECHANICS IN ETIOLOGY OF CONGENITAL TALIPES EQUINOVARUS

INVESTIGATORS: Catherin K. Kuo, Associate Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering; Mark Buckley, Assistant Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering; Natasha O' Malley, Assistant Professor, Deparment of Orthopaedics

GOAL: Corrective treatment of congenital talipes equinovarus (clubfoot) involves a tedious 4-year process of surgery and leg bracing. Unfortunately, recurrence by the age of 10 is reported as high as 37%, and advancements in treatments have been limited by unknown etiology. This project will develop novel in vitro and in vivo experimental models to investigate the role of aberrant mechanical loading of embryonic tendons in the development of clubfoot. The findings of this study will help motivate novel prevention or treatment strategies for nearly 200,000 babies born with clubfoot each year.

PROJECT TITLE: CATCHING AN EXOPLANET’S RINGS PASS IN FRONT OF A BRIGHT STAR

INVESTIGATORS: Eric Mamajek, Associate Professor of Physics & Astronomy, Department of Physics & Astronomy

GOAL: The project will construct a small two-camera observatory which will be able to detect a circumplanetary disk (orring system) associated with the young gas giant planet β Pic b when it passes in front of thestar β Pic in 2017. The proposed mini-observatory will be a critical part of a small network of telescopes on three continents in the southern hemisphere. When combined they will enable nearly continuous monitoring of the star β Pic during the anticipated transit of its planet “b”. The β Pic b transit in 2017 gives astronomers an unprecedented opportunity to be able to detect and study the circumplanetary material orbiting a young gas giant exoplanet. If the eclipse is particularly deep or long, then statistically significant gaps in the rings could provide dynamical evidence for exomoons.

PROJECT TITLE: HIGH-POWER YELLOW FIBER LASER FOR SODIUM GUIDESTAR APPLICATIONS

INVESTIGATORS: John R. Marciante, Associate Professor of Optics

GOAL: The technical goal of this project is to demonstrate visible lasing using special optical fibers. Although high-power visible lasers are highly sought after for a host of environmental sensing, medical, and many other applications, their key and immediate impact is in their application to artificial guidestars for adaptive optical astronomical imaging (yellow) and digital laser cinema (green). Direct visible emission from solid-state lasers has remained elusive for half a century largely due to a combination of atomic processes that rob the laser material of its stored energy and results in either very low laser efficiency or no lasing at all. Using our proprietary method for suppressing the unwanted atomic processes, our concept enables the power scaling typical of high-power, high-efficiency, fiber laser technology. Preliminary measurements have produced solid data which, when fed into our experimentally benchmarked fiber laser models, predict that not only is our new concept scientifically feasible, but it is technologically viable and highly robust, with strong commercial potential.

PROJECT TITLE: EARLY DETECTION OF CHRONIC KIDNEY DISEASE

INVESTIGATORS: George J. Schwartz, Department of Pediatrics; Marvin M. Doyley, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Jeffrey M. Purkerson, Department of Pediatrics

GOAL: The goal of this project is to understand the pathophysiology of having too much acid in the blood (acidosis) and how it may cause the kidney to become damaged. Such knowledge would encourage clinicians to more readily correct chronic acidosis in children and adults. Our proposed studies will determine whether we can ameliorate some of the kidney damage induced by acidosis. We will also investigate whether acute correction of the acidosis with sodium bicarbonate therapy can reverse the acid-induced increases in kidney stiffness, calcium excretion, and inflammation. These innovative experiments will provide better understanding of the pathophysiology of acidosis and provide the confidence to treat it aggressively early in the setting of chronic kidney disease. Such treatment could slow down the progression of kidney disease and delay the need to initiate dialysis in kidney patients perhaps for many years.

PROJECT TITLE: ULTRAFAST IMAGING VIA INDUCED COHERENCE

INVESTIGATORS: Nick Vamivakas, Institute of Optics

GOAL: Concepts from quantum mechanics, quantum optics and quantum information are beginning to invade classical optics. These invasions are particularly fruitful when ideas previously thought to be quantum in origin inform classical optics in new and unexpected ways. The expected outcome of this work is a proof-of-principle demonstration using a digital camera to measure an ultrafast optical pulse. These initial results will not only provide the foundation for a larger externally funded research program, but will help maintain Rochester’s position a the forefront of advances in optical science. The essence of the idea is to induce coherence in the spatial domain that is a fingerprint of the interesting temporal dynamics. The end result of such a coherence mapping is that an ordinary digital camera can take a snapshot of ultrafast time dynamics.