Inaugural grant program awards $245,000 to interdisciplinary undergraduate research

The Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Research Collaborative has announced nine winners of its inaugural grant program funded by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School and the UMS Research Reinvestment Fund (RRF).

Funded projects involve teams of two or more faculty members from different disciplines with primarily undergraduate researchers working in areas of interest, such as UMaine’s Signature and Emerging Areas of Excellence.

“We are delighted for our students who, as part of their undergraduate education at UMaine, have the opportunity to gain invaluable knowledge through the interdisciplinary team-based research experience provided by the IURC program, where learning goes beyond the classroom, and where students are prepared to become successful professionals and lifelong learners,” said Kody Varahramyan, vice president for research and dean of the Graduate School.

The Office of the Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School review panel received 31 grant applications from 10 disciplines. Five proposals were chosen and awarded approximately $25,000 per project to span a 12-month performance period starting March 1, 2018.

“Making Maine’s local food system sustainable: Opportunities to address hunger and reduce waste”
Principal Investigator: Deborah Saber, Nursing
Partners: Jean MacRae, Civil and Environmental Engineering; Cindy Isenhour, Anthropology; Balu Nayak, Food and Agriculture; Travis Blackmer, Economics; Linda Silka, Mitchell Center
Sector: Environment, Food

“Planning for uncertainty: The role of schools and community institutions in preparing the next generation for a new economy”
Principal Investigator: Catharine Biddle, Education and Human Development
Partners: Mindy Crandall, Forest Resources; Kathleen Bell, Economics
Sector: Socioeconomics, Education

“Assessing riparian management as a tool for balancing Maine’s forest economies and freshwater resources: a collaborative undergraduate research approach”
Principal Investigator: Hamish Greig, Biology and Ecology
Partners: Amanda Klemmer. Biology and Ecology; Mindy Crandall, Forest Resources; Robert Northington, Biology and Ecology; Shawn Fraver, Forest Resources
Sector: Ecology, Forest Economy, Agriculture

“Risk of zoonotic disease from an iconic wildlife reservoir: An interdisciplinary approach”
Principal Investigator: Pauline Kamath, School of Food and Agriculture
Partners: Sandra De Urioste-Stone, Forest Resources; Anne Lichtenwalner, Food and Agriculture
Sector: Wildlife, Human Health

“Fall detection and prevention research collaborative”
Principal Investigator: Ali Abedi, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Partners: EMHS; Vince Caccese, Mechanical Engineering; Marie Hayes, Psychology,
Sector: Health Device, Aging

The RRF Advisory board received nine grant applications and selected four for funding. These projects were awarded approximately $30,000 each and will commence in the coming months.

“Maine ag data monitoring app — undergrad interdisciplinary”
Principal Investigator: Joline Blais, New Media
Partners: UMaine Presque Isle, Sustainable Year Round Agriculture Initiative (SYRA)
Sector: Agriculture, Computer Science

“High throughput predictive bioenergetics through statistical machine learning for big-data to assess biological responses to environmental stressors”
Principal Investigator: Nishad Jayasundara, Marine Sciences
Partner: Wei Zheng, Mathematics and Statistics
Sector: Biology, Data Science

“Muscular Dystrophy genomics research collaborative”
Principal Investigator: Benjamin King, Department of Molecular and Biomedical Sciences
Partner: Clarissa Henry, School of Biology and Ecology
Sector: Health Care, Genomics

“Track III: Coastal ecosystem science for Maine’s marine economy and coastal communities”
Principal Investigator: Heather Leslie, Darling Marine Center
Partners: University of Maine at Machias, University of Southern Maine
Sector: Marine Sciences

The IURC grant program will continue to award projects annually.

Contact: Christel Peters,