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Sample of Previously Awarded Projects

Discovery Grants

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Sample of Previously Awarded Projects | VU BreakThru (Blog)

Below you will find a selection of previously awarded Discovery Grants. The sampling showcases the range of projects that have won funding in the past.


 Impact of Sensory Eye Dominance on Binocular Vision 

Pilot/Feasibility Grant
PI: Randolph Blake, Arts & Sciences (Psychology)

Binocular Vision

Looking about our environment we see a single, 3-dimensional visual world, but underlying that perceptual experience are crucial neural transformations that combine separate channels of neural information from the left- and right-eyes. This process of neural combination highlights a fundamental property of vision – what we perceive includes 3D aspects of the visual world not contained in either eye’s view alone. The major goals of Prof. Blake's Discovery Grant project are to test three hypotheses concerning the neural bases of binocular combination (the accompanying image shows one of the optical devices used to present visual images separately to the two eyes). Blake’s work is evaluating a somewhat high-risk idea that, if substantiated, can led to a competitive proposal submitted to a federal agency.

Coordination of RNA and DNA synthesis activities in polymerase a-primase

Interdisciplinary Grant
PI: Brandt Eichman, Arts & Sciences (Biological Sciences)

 DG Grant_Eichman
Accurate duplication of the genetic material is a fundamental process in all living organisms. Our knowledge of DNA replication and the enzymes involved are largely from bacterial and archaeal systems. However, the process in eukaryotes is much more complex and is therefore not well understood. DNA replication in eukaryotes is carried out by large, multiprotein factories (replisomes) that coordinate unwinding of chromosomal DNA into single-stranded templates with synthesis of nascent daughter strands. This project focuses on a key component of the replisome, DNA polymerase alpha-primase, which initiates the synthesis of each DNA strand by first creating a short RNA primer followed by primer extension with DNA. The goal of this pilot grant is to define at the atomic level, how this enzyme coordinates RNA and DNA synthesis across two different regions of the protein, and how iron atoms bound to the protein facilitate the reaction.

MagRide

Pilot/Feasibility Grant
PI: Al Strauss, School of Engineering (Mechanical Engineering)

MagRide

Magnetic levitation transportation research in the U.S. is on its deathbed because of the high costs of tracks and control. This method of levitation and track cost is conservatively an order of magnitude cheaper than the cheapest current maglev track. This grant is designed to further our knowledge of magnetic levitation and the behavior/generation of magnetic fields within large sheets of conducting material. This pilot program produced a vehicle that safely levitates 300 pounds (150 pound vehicle with 150 pound payload – in this case, brave senior M.E. student Tengku Hafifie (Fifi)) over a one-half inch aluminum track using spinning NdFeB rare-earth magnets. Prof. Strauss, Pence, and Withrow and his team of undergraduate students have demonstrated a student controlling a vehicle in May 2016, levitating over an aluminum plate track. The design team consisted of undergraduate students from a variety of engineering disciplines. The current goal is designed to increase the payload to 500 pounds and add better directional control.

Coffee and Capabilities

Interdisciplinary Grant
Co-PI: Edward Fischer, Arts & Sciences (Anthropology)
Co-PI: Bart Victor, Owen Graduate School of Management

Coffee Farmers

While overall coffee consumption in the U.S. Has declines since the 1960s, the market for high-end coffee is booming. The so-called Third Wave coffees generally come from single farms, are grown under exacting conditions, and command $25 and up per pound. They are described using the language of fine wine, and these beans are grown at very high altitudes. Guatemala is ground zero for Third Wave coffee production. Guatemala has long been a primary exporter of coffee, and a coffee oligarchy long held political and economic power. But those coffee producers had low altitude, high volume estates, and the new Third Wave market is for coffees that come from the remote highland regions where the majority of the population are Maya. This study documented the shift in the coffee market, looking at what it means for poor Maya farmers and uncovering a number of ways that smallholding producers could benefit from more direct trade.