Provost’s Seed Grants Help Grow Faculty Research Opportunities

Illustration by Marcia Staimer

Illustration by Marcia Staimer

The answers to new treatments and cures for debilitating diseases, new insights into how to treat substance abuse or prevent outbreaks of disease could be found on the fringes of disciplines from engineering to neuroscience to health care policy.

The next wave of innovative research from George Mason University was kick-started this year thanks to $500,000 in seed grants from the Provost’s Office.

The office is funding 14 projects working at the intersections of the disciplines, which could in turn lead to Mason researchers landing larger grants as they continue their research. It’s part of Mason’s strategic plan to support research of consequence.

“If it were easy, it would be something everyone would do effortlessly,” said Peggy Agouris, dean of the College of Science. “We are looking for the ‘unexpected’ factor.”

To spur research that reaches across fields, the Provost’s Office organized a symposium this spring to bring researchers together under the theme of health care. At that event, Provost S. David Wu challenged them to develop multidisciplinary research ideas and apply for the new seed grant funding. Other symposiums are forthcoming.

“Provost Wu’s commitment to multidisciplinary research is very deep and is a value he holds dearly,” said Kim Eby, associate provost for faculty development. “Even in these challenging budget times, he has carved out funding so we can move this project forward. The commitment is there.”

More than 60 research proposals were submitted.

“The proposals honestly blew me away,” said Agouris, who co-chaired the spring symposium.

The winning grants are diving into research that touches on spinal cord injuries, emergency response training, drug abuse relapse, public health, organ transplants and more.

The new projects include collaborations from researchers in the College of Education and Human Development; College of Science; College of Health and Human Services; Volgenau School of Engineering; College of Humanities and Social Sciences; College of Visual and Performing Arts; the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution; and the School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs.

The 2015 multidisciplinary research funding also offers support for up-and-coming researchers, Agouris said.

“We’re constantly asking ourselves ‘How do we do more?’ but that answer can’t come from tapping the same people,” Agouris said. “We need to grow our researchers and find new approaches.”

Another symposium focusing on security, including physical, data, biology and other aspects, is expected in early 2016. The deans from the Volgenau School of Engineering, the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, and the School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs are serving as co-chairs.

This article originally appeared on Mason News

Write to Michele McDonald at mmcdon15@gmu.edu

About the College of Science

George Mason University’s College of Science (COS) offers over 40 interdisciplinary degree and certificate programs in physical, life, mathematical, earth and space sciences, data, forensics and policy to over 3000 students each year. The college, a crucial part of the university’s goal to promote research of consequence, accounts for roughly 30% of the university’s research expenditure. The college’s broad regional presence, combined with strategic national and international connections, reinforces the college’s mission to provide world-class scientific leadership important to modern society. George Mason University, located just outside of Washington, DC, is Virginia’s largest public research university. For additional information, email cosnews@gmu.edu.