Rural Health and Wellbeing Grand Challenge Grant Program awards announced

The University of Maine System Research Reinvestment Fund (RRF) Advisory Board has announced the award of 14 new internal grants for the 2020–21 academic year. These one-year projects will foster research and development activities in three important areas: COVID-19 Rapid Response Grants; Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Research Collaboratives (IURCs); and UMS Research Collaboration Networks. 

Applicants were required to establish collaborations between two or more UMS campuses and to facilitate full research participation of undergraduate and graduate students. 

This grant program aligns with the UMS Research and Development Plan FY 20–24, and will continue work sparked by the Rural Health and Wellbeing Grand Challenge Initiative

The list of funded project titles and research teams follows.

COVID-19 Rapid Response Grants

  • “Community Resilience in a Time of Crisis: Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Project team: Sandra de Urioste-Stone, University of Maine; Karen Beeftink, University of Maine at Machias; Allison Gardner, UMaine; Brandon Lieberthal, UMaine; Linda Silka, UMaine.
  • “Expanding Municipal Capacity to Respond to Covid-19.” Project team: Vanessa Levesque, University of Southern Maine; Kathleen Bell, UMaine; Eileen Johnson, Bowdoin College.  
  • “Cellulose Nanofibril-based Materials as a Substrate for Disinfectant Wipes.” Project team: Islam Hafez, UMaine; Mehdi Tajvidi, UMaine; Erin Soucy, University of Maine at Fort Kent; Caitlin Howell, UMaine. 
  • “Repurposing an Existing Drug to Rapidly Fight SARS-CoV-2 and Influenza.” Project team:  Julie Gosse, UMaine; Samuel Hess, UMaine; Juyoung Shim, University of Maine at Augusta; Douglas Currie, USM; Joshua Zimmerberg, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development/National Institutes of Health.

Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Research Collaboratives

  • “Microbial Study in Healthcare: Undergraduates Learning Research Through the Lens of Multiple Disciplines.” Project team: Larry Feinstein, University of Maine at Presque Isle; Deborah Saber, UMaine; Erin Soucy; UMFK; Kirsten Thompson, UMFK.
  • “Assessing Disparities in Access to Advanced Medical Device Therapy in Maine.” Project team: Asheesh Lanba, USM; Jennifer Crittenden, UMaine; Nihar Kumthekar, USM; Amarpreet Kohli, USM. 
  • “Advancing Natural Resource Based Strategies for Rural Community Resilience.” Project team: Caroline Noblet, UMaine; Kathleen Bell, UMaine; Tracy Michaud, USM; Todd Gabe, UMaine; Laura Rickard, UMaine. 
  • “Fostering Biochar-Oriented Applications and Workforce in Maine.” Project team: Ling Li, UMaine; Yingchao Yang, UMaine; Yongjiang Zhang, UMaine; Larry Feinstein, UMPI; Jinwu Wang, USDA Forest Products Laboratory. 
  • “Climate Change Effects on Wild Mammal Ranges and Infectious Disease Exposure Risk at Maine Farms.” Project team: Suzanne Ishaq, UMaine; Danielle Levesque, UMaine; Pauline Kamath, UMaine; Jason Johnston, UMPI.
  • “Maine Coastal Community Partnership Undergraduate Research Collaborative.” Project team: Tara Casimir, USM; Tora Johnson, UMM; Paula Nersesian, USM; Sonya Lachance, USM; Beth Bisson, Maine Sea Grant.
  • “Building a Community Health Worker Workforce to Address Systemic Rural Health Inequities.” Project team: Katherine Weatherford Darling, UMA; Valerie Rubinsky, UMA; Jennifer Crittenden, UMaine; Erika Ziller, USM.
  • “Creating a Healthy Rural Ecosystem for Community Vitality.” Project team: Emily Newell, USM; Eklou Amendah, USM; Catharine Biddle, UMaine; Kathleen Gillon, UMaine.
  • “Maine Circular Food System Infrastructure Research Team.” Project team: Jesse Minor, UMF; Susanne Lee, UMaine; Mark Pires, University of Maine at Farmington; Travis Blackmer, UMaine; Ivan Fernandez, UMaine; Jason Bolton, UMaine. 

University of Maine System Research Collaboration Networks

  • “Building the Downeast Rural Health Research Collaborative Institute.” Project team:  Tora Johnson, UMM; Katherine Weatherford Darling, UMA; Lois-Ann Kuntz, UMM; Linda Silka, UMaine; Debra Kantor, UMaine; Tara Casimir, USM; Bridie McGreavy, UMaine; Valerie Rubinsky, UMA; Erika Ziller, USM; Amy Dowley, UMaine.  

Grantees will have the opportunity to learn from each other and from previously funded RRF grant projects in a series of meetings and symposia offered throughout the next year.  

For more information about the program contact Jason Charland, UMaine senior advisor to the president and director of research development,