2017 Grants and Funding

Department of Biological Sciences

Research Investment Awards

University of Memphis President David Rudd allocated $1 million to support research investments intended to increase sponsored projects activity and help the UofM reach its goal of $100 million in annual research expenditures. Several faculty members received funds to support cross-disciplinary collaborations.

Discovery and Development Grants

Omar Skalli and Ana Doblas for "Imagining Cell Motility in 3D Collagen Gels by Structured Illumination Digital Holographic Microscopy."
Ramin Homayouni and Dan Baker for "Identification of Nipsnap1 protein complexes in brain".
Abby Parrill and Judy Cole, for "GPCR-Reverse Pharmacology Studies"

Team Initiation Grants

Andrew Liu, David Freeman, Karyl Buddington, Richard Bloomer and Maria van de Merwe for "Novel Approach to Hypertension: Characterizing Circadian Regulation of Blood Pressure in Diurnal Nile Grass Rats"

Interdisciplinary Innovations Award

Tom Sutter, Su Chen, Marie van de Merwe, Wilfried Karmaus and Hongmei Zhang, "Eczema prevention in Children (EPIC)"

Center for Information Assurance

UofM Awarded $206,085 from NSA to Develop Cybersecurity Curriculum

The University of Memphis Center for Information Assurance (CfIA) has been awarded the CAE Cybersecurity Workforce Education Grant to develop interactive, hands-on exercises to integrate in cybersecurity curriculum. The primary purpose of funding through the CAE program is to address expansion of the national cybersecurity workforce in terms of both growth and workforce readiness. CfIA will develop cybersecurity educational and training tools which will contribute to the student's ability to apply tactical knowledge to cybersecurity practice.

From the cybersecurity undergraduate program, two courses (Digital Forensics and Software Assurance) have been identified to implement these interactive exercises. The interactive tool will be web-based, allowing it to be accessed by both private and public organizations to use to create a common understanding and learning experience in cybersecurity risk.

The project will lead by Dr. Dipankar Dasgupta, a professor of Computer Science at the UofM. He is the founding director of the Center for Information Assurance, which is a National Center for Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education (CAE-IAE) and in Research (CAE-R). As part of the project, CfIA will host Cybersecurity Workforce Workshops and community outreach activities to create a cybersecurity pathway process that integrates academic and experiential learning that link education, workforce acumen and training. These workshops will be available to the public during the fall of 2018, and the information will be disseminated through the center's website, http://cfia.memphis.edu.

Department of Chemistry

Principle investigator: Abby Parrill
Co-investigator: Daniel Baker
Project title: GPR88 Ligand Discovery
Sponsor: National Institutes of Health (National Institute of Mental Health)
Amount: $408,014
Period of support: 6/5/2016-5/31/2019

Short project description: G protein-coupled receptors (GPCR) comprise a membrane protein family and are the primary cellular sensors for external chemical stimuli. The orphan GPCR, GPR88, plays an important role in motor coordination and learning, and has been genetically associated with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Our proposed computational modeling-driven approach to identify the natural agonist that activates GPR88 would open the door toward a better understanding of the molecular events that lead to these devastating psychiatric diseases. Our analogous approach to identify drug-like antagonists (blockers) will pave the way for new psychiatric disease treatments.

Department of Computer Science

CAST and DRONES Research Cluster Grants

Several CS faculty (in bold below) have received research grants under the CAST and DRONES Research Clusters at the U of M.

CAST Research Cluster grants:

  • Lan Wang, Protecting Data Security in Smart Internet-of-Things (IoT) Environments
  • Sajjan Shiva, Collaborative Monitoring of Moving Target Defense Mechanisms for Cloud Computing
  • Dipankar Dasgupta and Mohd Hasan Ali, Investigation and Testing of Cyber Security in Protective Relay System of Smart Power Distribution Grid
  • Dipankar Dasgupta and Mohd Hasan Ali, Exploring Cyber Security Issue and Solution for Energy Storage at Smart Microgrid System
  • Dipankar Dasgupta and Bo Chen, Mitigating Ransomware Attacks by Leveraging Isolation Techniques
  • Deepak Venugopal and Naveen Kumar, Securing Online Review Platforms: An Anomaly Detection Framework using Advanced Machine-Learning

DRONES Research Cluster grants:

  • Lan Wang, Robust and Anonymous Information Sharing Among Autonomous Vehicles
  • Ernest McCracken and Aaron Robinson, Bridging the Gap Between Virtual Reality and Real World Automated Navigation

Institute for Intelligent Systems (IIS)

Title: Enhancing a Personal Assistant for Life Long Learning (PAL3) with Career Guidance Components

PI: Vasile Rus
Co-PIs: Art Graesser, Andrew Olney, Frank Andrasik, Zhiqiang Cai

Sponsor: ONR
Awarded: $500,000
Dates: 6/2/16-6/30/17

This project will develop career guidance components to be integrated into a comprehensive intelligent tutoring system called Personal Assistant for Life Long Learning (PAL3), which has been developed with support from the Office Of Naval Research by a multi-institutional team led by The University of Memphis' Institute for Intelligent Systems (IIS). The project will augment PAL3 with dialogue-based career guidance facilities and the related components of question answering and question asking. The proposed career guidance module will proactively monitor and offer learners, and in particular sailors, with guidance based on their career goals and profile (e.g., subject matter mastery, skill levels) that is stored in the learner model. The augmentation will also allow learners/sailors to initiate a counseling session whenever they feel so. The IIS team will work with the Institute for Creative Technology's team at The University of Southern California to achieve the integration of the proposed components in the PAL3 system and coordinate the interaction between the components and other key modules in PAL3, such as learner modeling, the life-long learning record, and the recommender system.

Title: Integration of ET with Components of Generalized Framework for Tutoring

PI: Xiangen Hu
Co-PIs: Art Graesser, Frank Andrasik, Zhiqiang Cai

Sponsor: ONR
Awarded: $487,048
Dates: 6/1/16-6/30/17

This project will integrate software components and standards of the Generalized Intelligent Framework for Tutoring (GIFT) with PAL3 (Personal Assistant for Life Long Learning), ElectronicTutor (ET), ASSISTments, and any additional e-Sailor course or learning system accessed by PAL3. Many of the GIFT assets will be implemented in software, whereas those that encounter integration difficulties will be identified in order to stimulate R&D efforts in the future. The Contractor will assist in integrating PAL3 with three learning environments: (1) ET, (2) one conversation-based intelligent tutoring system, such as an AutoTutor Application Programming Interface (AAPI) to improve reading literacy or mathematics, and (3) one or more courses with conventional computer-based-training that is available and used in the Navy.

Contractor will work with the Army Research Laboratory (ARL) to achieve the goals of standardization and scalability by specifying GIFT-based metadata for learner modeling, a life-long learning record, recommender systems, and learning management systems so that new courses and technologies can be incorporated under the umbrella of PAL3. The University of Memphis's Institute for Intelligent Systems (IIS) team will lead the 13-month Option C in collaboration with University of Southern California's Institute of Creative Technologies (ICT), the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), and ARL.

Title: Integration with PAL3 (Personalized Assistant for Life-Long Learning)

PI: Benjamin Nye (ICT)
Co-PIs: Arthur Graesser, Zhiqiang Cai, Frank Andrasik

Sponsor: ONR
Awarded: $645,380
Dates: 6/1/16-6/30/17

The Contractor will integrate PAL3 with ElectronixTutor (ET) and at least one other learning environment (such as a course or courses in the e-Sailor program). The University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT) will perform the majority of this work, in coordination with the University of Memphis's Institute for Intelligent Systems (IIS). This integration will allow students to transition seamlessly between different systems over time. Option I has three high-level goals:

Content Development: Expanding resources and sharing resources between the systems to cover a broader range of sailor training. This will demonstrate the capabilities of PAL3 and ET to support a wide range of learning and mentorship objectives.

Software Integration: Data Standards and Integration: Building data standards between the systems. At the end of this work, the software should be able to merge accounts from both systems and to move between systems while maintaining a synchronized record of progress for the multiple systems. This task will interact with the work in Option C, which will be performing complementary work on incorporating the Generalized Intelligent Framework for Tutoring (GIFT) in ET and other DoD courses to work toward such standards.

Student Modeling, Pedagogy, & Task Recommendations: Developing adaptive PAL3 mentorship conversations that unify the user experience across PAL3, ET, and other systems. This will enhance PAL3 by developing adaptive conversational facilities that are sensitive to: (1) a life-long learning record, (2) a sailor's career goals, (3) performance in courses, and (4) recommended future courses and activities. This task will be synergistic with Option E.

Title: Assessment and Evaluation

PI: Arthur Graesser
Co-PIs: Phil Pavlik

Sponsor: ONR
Awarded: $460,115
Dates: 6/1/16-6/30/17

Contractor shall perform a summative evaluation of the effectiveness of PAL3 for skill savings, as well as research and development to harden PAL3 for extended independent use by learners (e.g., durations of weeks to months).

The University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT) will take the lead on this Option J, with support from the University of Memphis and Arizona State University for the study design, data analysis, and maintenance of their existing content that will be used in the system.

Title: Enhanced Authoring with the BrainTrust System

PI: Andrew Olney
Co-PIs: Vasile Rus, Art Graesser

Sponsor: ONR
Awarded: $211,023
Dates: 6/1/16-6/30/17

The goal of this project is to improve the authoring process for ElectronixTutor and PAL3 using the BrainTrust system (Olney & Cade, 2016; Olney et al., 2016). In BrainTrust, students read and work with a virtual student on a variety of educational tasks related to the reading (e.g. Navy Electricity and Electronics Training Series). These educational tasks are designed to both improve reading comprehension and contribute to the creation of an ITS based on the material read. After a human student reads a passage, they work with the virtual student to summarize, generate concept maps, reflect on the reading, and predict what will happen next. The tasks and interaction are inspired by reciprocal teaching (Palincsar & Brown, 1984), a well-known method of teaching reading comprehension strategies. The virtual student's performance on these tasks is a mixture of previous student answers and answers dynamically generated using AI and natural language processing techniques. As the human teaches and corrects the virtual student, they in effect improve the answers from previous sessions, author tutorial dialogues, and improve domain models underlying the ITS.

Department of Physics and Materials Science

Physics  Faculty members Receive NSF Grants

Dr. Xiao Shen and Dr. Jingbiao Cui have recently been awarded an NSF grant to support a project titled "Silicon Telluride, A 2D Material with Unique Variable Structure." The research team combines theoretical and experimental studies to develop 2D materials with desirable properties and to achieve a fundamental understanding of the unique phenomenon in silicon telluride, which is expected to make significant impact on the field of low dimensional materials, electronic and optoelectronic industry. The research activities are integrated with educational efforts, augmenting the undergraduate and graduate curriculums through hands-on projects, enriched course materials, and summer workshops on nanomaterials to inspire the students' interest in science, The total award is $392,679 and it runs from July 1st 2017 through June 30th 2020. Read more on the recipients research

Dr. Thang Ba Hoang has also recently been awarded an NSF grant to support his project titled "Directional Superradiant Light Emission from Epsilon-Near-Zero Plasmonic Nanochannels." The project utilizes experimental and theoretical approaches to help realize new materials and structures that enable controlled light emission for use in next generation energy efficient electronics, such as nanoscale lasers, as well as well advanced optical communications and sensing technologies. The project supports undergraduate and graduate student involvement in research as a means of encouraging pursuit of advanced study and research careers in nanophotonics. The total award amounts $361,177 and it runs from July 1st 2017 through June 30th 2020. Read more on Dr. Hoang's research

Biologistics Funded Research for 2017 include:

Department of Social Work

The Department of Social Work has been awarded another Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training (BHWET) Program grant. The total award is $1,917,762 and will be distributed over a four-year period September 1, 2017 – August 31, 2021. Our new HRSA funded program is a collaboration between faculty in the Department of Social Work and faculty in the Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology, and Research. The five faculty on the award team are Susan Neely-Barnes (PI), Elena Delavega, Laura Taylor, Steve Zanskas, & Chloe Lancaster.

The award will establish the Midsouth Integrated Behavioral Health Training Initiative (MIBH-TI). The program will fund 30 master's level students per year from the fields of social work, school counseling, mental health counseling, and rehabilitation counseling. Students will participate in trainings on: interdisciplinary team work, working in integrated behavioral health settings, selecting evidence-based practices, identifying emerging mental health conditions, and promoting cultural and linguistic competency. Students participating in the training program will receive a $10,000 stipend to accompany their final year of field internship.