About the Internal Funding Initiatives grant program
Examples of successful proposals (HawkID required)

Current IFI Awardees
December 2016 IFI Awardees
March 2016 IFI Awardees
September 2015 IFI Awardees
Arts & Humanities Initiative (AHI) Awardees
IFI Archives


The Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development is proud to present the December 2015 IFI Awardees:


Mériam Belli, Associate Professor, History
Arts & Humanities Standard Grant
Transient Deaths: Funerary Practices and Culture in a Global Perspective

My current project, Transient Deaths, contributes to the conversation on global history, particularly with regard to mobility, boundaries, and the tensions between homogeneity and difference brought about by globalization. My first work, An Incurable Past: Nasser’s Egypt Now and Then (University Press of Florida, 2013), focused on Egyptian re-imaginings of history and national identity. In contrast, my current project keeps at bay the gravitational pull of the nation-state. I extend the scope of my research to the Mediterranean in a global and transcultural perspective. Using mortuary practices and embedded ideas about the meaning and consequences of death as my research lenses, my project contributes to an understanding of mobility and boundaries from the late 19th century to the present. I will examine the interconnections among technocracy, global market, and cultural and political practices. I will study the implications of global citizenships, and scrutinize the reinvention of cultural and political boundaries. While my research is solidly grounded in history, my approach is interdisciplinary. I use diplomatic, military, and municipal archives, as well as medical and legal publications, thanatopraxy works, memoirs, interviews, iconography, news articles, literary works, and film. The proceedings of my earlier fieldwork in Egypt generated an article that is the basis of three chapter drafts for the first section of my project. This section is concerned with the global regulations of body transit and burials, the concept of municipal “cosmonecropolism,” and the placement of colonial soldiers’ remains. With research on the first part of my book project virtually completed, and given AHI support, I will focus on the research for the second part of my project, which addresses the changes brought about in eschatological beliefs, and mortuary practices and imaginations, in postcolonial spaces. I intend to tackle the international funerary industry of Jewish and Muslims bodies, as well as the remapping of citizenship as seen through burial policies and strategies.

Diana Cates, Professor, Religious Studies
Major Project Grant

Attributes and Practices of Nursing Units that Contribute to Nurse Thriving and Strong Job Satisfaction: A Pilot Study at athe University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics

Teams of intensive, acute, and palliative care nurses provide patients with essential care 24 hours a day. Yet a growing number of these nurses are leaving their jobs. Some well-known predictors of job flight are unmitigated moral distress, burnout, and compassion fatigue. Job satisfaction survey results and other data collected by the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC) suggest that some nursing units are more successful than others in buffering nurses’ emotional stress. Our team seeks to determine what it is that sets certain nursing units apart from the others. We are especially interested in what could be called ethical and broadly spiritual attributes and practices that enable some units—and the nurses who participate in them—not simply to continue functioning, but to thrive, despite the fact that the nurses encounter tremendously difficult situations on a daily basis. Thriving is an ethical concept, and thus our research question is fundamentally a question for the humanities. Yet thriving is also an identifiable set of phenomena, and the social sciences can profitably be brought to bear on the study of these phenomena. Our project has three aspects: first, a quantitative study based on three years of job-satisfaction survey results collected by the UIHC Dept. of Nursing; second, a qualitative study using focus groups, in which we ask intensive, acute, and palliative care nurses to comment explicitly on the attributes and practices that, in their view, characterize thriving units; and third, humanistic reflection on questions that can be asked to uncover the inter-group dynamics of high-functioniong units and to create thick descriptions of nurses' meaning-making, community-building, and resiliency-enhancing social practices. This project will arm clinical or bedside nurses, as well as nursing administrators and educators, with information that can be used to promote nurses’ well-being and job satisfaction, raise retention rates, and stabilize the provision of excellent medical care.

John Doershuk, State Archaeologist, Office of the State Archaeologist
Major Project Grant
Exploring Potential Ancient Human-Proboscidea Interaction at Lake Red Rock, Marion County, Iowa

We will conduct intensive, multi-disciplinary (geomorphology, geology, paleontology, archaeology) field investigations for two weeks in late spring of 2016 to collect environmental context and archaeological data related to recent discovery of ancient Proboscidea (mammoth/mastodon) remains along the shoreline of Lake Red Rock. Recent limited investigations sponsored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers demonstrated that additional Late Pleistocene (> 10,000 years ago) fauna are recoverable from the site. Recovery of a single stone artifact from the same location as the proboscidean bones suggests human activity co-occurred with the mammoth or mastodon but is insufficient to securely demonstrate this crucial fact. Funding is also requested for post-field conservation, analyses, reporting, and preparation for long-term curation of the materials recovered. Results will be published quickly, likely in Current Research in the Pleistocene or a similar peer-reviewed national journal. If present, evidence of human-Proboscidea interaction will generate intense national interest and create an opportunity for a larger-scale externally funded field expedition to fully investigate the deposit and develop a complete understanding of the geologic, geomorphologic, environmental, faunal, and archaeological aspects of how this deposit came to be preserved. No other early human occupation in Iowa containing skeletal remains of Ice Age mammals has yet been discovered and investigated. Even lacking human associations the site is significant because there are only two other such investigated and documented sites in the state. Unfortunately, the Lake Red Rock location is in a precarious landscape position threatened by lake level rise and wave erosion of the shoreline. This all but guaranteed destruction of the site adds considerable urgency to undertake the field investigation as soon as weather allows. Documentation and interpretation of a site with preserved evidence of human-Proboscidea interaction will add substantially to scientific discussion of world-wide human migration patterns.

​Michael Flatte, Professor, Physics & Astronomy
Major Project Grant
Multilayer Solar Cells Using Black Silicon and Hybrid Perovskites

The proposed project aims to demonstrate the first multilayer solar cells based on nanostructured black silicon and hybrid perovskite materials, as a pathway to highly efficient conversion of light from the sun into electricity. The two materials are complementary; nanostructure black silicon enhances the absorption of red sunlight into the pre-existing technology of efficient silicon solar cells, whereas hybrid perovskite materials efficiently absorb blue sunlight. The combination of these two inexpensive materials for the first time provides a pathway towards achieving US Department of Energy goals for efficient solar cells that are very inexpensive to produce. Black silicon has already been demonstrated to improve the absorption of red light in silicon solar cells, but reduces the efficient conversion of blue light to energy. Hybrid perovskites, which are a blend of inorganic pervoskite crystals and organic materials, efficiently absorb blue light but do not collect red light. By placing them together the undesirable effects of black silicon can be avoided (by collecting blue light in the hybrid perovskite). Several theoretical and experimental metrics for these materials in solar cells will be evaluated, so that a convincing argument based on preliminary data can be made for future external funding. These include theoretical calculations and experimental measurements of the motion of electrons in the solar cell prior to their exit from the cell, experimental measurements of the crystal structure of the black silicon and hybrid perovskite materials within the solar cell, and experimental measurements of the efficiencies of the solar cells. The experimental probes of electron motion will use high-speed electrical techniques as well as high-speed optical probes to measure the behavior of these electrons as they move around. If a multilayer solar cell based on these materials is demonstrated, even with initially poor efficiency, this preliminary data will convincingly demonstrate that such multilayer solar cells are possible, and provide internal device information that can be used to argue that device design and material improvements can lead to higher than state of the art efficiencies. This kind of preliminary data can be very effective at leading to future external funding.

Aloysius Klingelhutz, Associate Professor, Microbiology
Major Project Grant

Development of a Human White Fat Biomimetic

Adipose tissue is known to play a significant role in the development of metabolic disorders, particularly type II diabetes. There is a strong interest to expand the repertoire of therapeutic drugs that target adipose tissue for treatment of obesity and diabetes as well as to determine how different environmental and bacterial factors affect adipose function. Animal model systems are expensive and may not predict toxicity and metabolic responses that would be seen in humans. Since adipose tissue is complex, 2D monolayer human cell culture systems do not completely recapitulate in vivo responses. To overcome these issues, we propose to bioengineer a human fat biomimetic chip that can be used for studying human adipose physiology and pathophysiology. We have established a series of unique subcutaneous and visceral human preadipocyte cell lines that differentiate into functional mature white adipocytes that exhibit normal physiologic responses. We will use these cells to develop 3D tissue that contains endothelial cells and macrophages to mimic in vivo fat. The fat tissue will be integrated with nanowire sensing devices via microfluidics for sensitive and accurate real-time readouts of adipose-specific secreted factors and to measure adipose metabolism. The adipose chips will be validated for accurate physiologic responses to chemicals and hormones that are known to affect fat tissue. We have assembled a strong collaborative group that has experience in fat cell biology, biomimicry, bioengineering, microfabrication, quantum optics, chemical sensing devices, drug delivery, and fat physiology to carry out this project. The major goal of this pilot study is to generate preliminary data for individual components of the fat chip so that we can move forward in proposing to develop a complete integrated device. The development of the fat chip will then allow studies on fat metabolism, drug and chemical testing, as well as the possibility of interconnecting the chip with other tissue chips to study how different tissues affect responses.

​Kembrew McLeod, Professor, Communication Studies
Arts & Humanities Standard
Transcriptions and Image Rights for NEH Book: The Pop Underground

AHI funding is needed to hire additional transcribers that will allow me to expand the number of interviews I am conducting for a book project that received a NEH Public Scholar Fellowship (titled The Pop Underground: Downtown New York’s Converging Arts Scenes in the 1960s and 1970s). This AHI award would also fund the licensing costs required to reprint 50 - 100 photos and images that will appear in The Pop Underground, a book that focuses on a diverse and interconnected range of media, art forms, and performance practices. It aims to expand the literature in media, communication, and performance studies by providing a thorough account of the interlocking arts scenes that thrived in Lower Manhattan (i.e., “downtown”) during this period Even though these individual art, literary, film, video, theater, fashion, and music movements have each been well-documented, this project breaks new ground with its holistic approach. It is the first to provide a comprehensive account of the interlocking arts scenes that thrived in New York’s West Village, Lower East Side, Bowery, and SoHo neighborhoods during the 1960s and 1970s. The Pop Underground will map the social networks that developed below 14th Street, where artists planted subversive seeds that flowered aboveground and pollinated the mainstream. The downtown left a deep imprint on the country’s broader culture. The artists and misfits who occupied this roughly one square mile area of Lower Manhattan may have been underground, but their position deep inside this media capital provided them with a disproportionate amount of influence.  An AHI award would give me the opportunity to enhance The Pop Underground’s research by allowing me to conduct and transcribe more interviews; and by paying for image licensing, it will add vivid detail that can't be easily rendered in prose. In short, this AHI award is a crucial step towards turning a strong NEH project into a visually-stunning and intellectually-engaging book that will appeal both to scholars and a more general readership.

Michael Moore, Associate Professor, History
Arts & Humanities Standard Grant

Pope Formosus, Political Theology, and the End of Carolingian World Order

The Cadaver Trial of Pope Formosus in 897 occurred in the political turmoil unleashed at the end of the Carolingian Empire. Forced to choose among rival candidates for the title of Emperor, Formosus was threatened by his opponents. Upon his death, his enemies took revenge through exhumation and trial of his corpse, which was thrown into the Tiber River. The event demonstrates the end of 'Carolingian world order' in Europe. This study focuses on legal history, political theology, and politico-ecclesiastical concepts of the papacy. What allowed this pope to be treated as a scapegoat, and how was this trial possible? The purpose of the proposal is to complete research and writing of a monograph on this topic, by an examination of 9th century law, letters, and controversial literature. It is hoped that the resulting treatise will attract the attention of ordinary educated readers as well as scholars. The knowledge to be gained about the history of the papacy and the political world of late-ninth-century Europe will flow directly into my lectures in medieval history, particularly in Medieval Civilization I, a course which regularly draws substantial enrollments.

Jacki Rand, Associate Professor, History
Major Project Grant​

Iowa Native Spaces: A Collaborative Digital Mapping Project 

This proposal requests funding to support field schools, partner consultations, transcription services, equipment, and salaries necessary to the development and production of an enduring, online digital mapping project “Iowa Native Spaces,” featuring interpretive exhibits on selected village/community sites of the Iowa and Meskwaki Indians in the Mid-West from pre-contact time to the present. Digital maps, interpretive oral histories, linguistic content, and educational materials for middle school and high school classes will populate the site. Between March 2016 and February 2017, multiple UI and non-UI partners, including two tribal nations (Meskwaki and Ioway), will carrying out field schools and collaborative content development sessions, develop and test educational lesson plans, and build a digital map of “Iowa Native Spaces” through the student-managed website History Corps (https://thestudio.uiowa.edu/historycorps), which is housed in the UI Department of History. The project is a result of an 18-month development process (http://clas.uiowa.edu/ainsp/resources/events/digital-mapping-post-remova...) involving planning meetings, conceptualization, and relationship-building. This project marks the beginning of an enduring digital project that will evolve into an indigenous Middle West atlas.

Steven Ungar, Professor, Cinematic Arts
Arts & Humanities Standard Grant

Hiroshima Mon Amour: A Film in History 

Steven Ungar proposes to complete a book-length manuscript, “Hiroshima Mon Amour,” A Film in History, on Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima mon amour (1959). The project explores the place of Hiroshima in Resnais’ filmmaking between 1948 and 2014. Hiroshima began as a commissioned documentary before Resnais asked writer Marguerite Duras to collaborate on a screenplay. The result of this collaboration personalized memories of the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the form of a brief encounter between a French actress and a Japanese man a decade later in Hiroshima.  Hiroshima followed a series of eight non-fiction films directed by Resnais starting in 1948. The earliest among the eight, Van Gogh (1948), was awarded a 1949 Oscar for the best two-reel short subject. Statues Also Die (1953, co-directed with Chris Marker) began as a commission from the Présence Africaine group in Paris for a film about African artifacts on display in European museums. As a set, these eight documentaries disclose Resnais’ predilection for endowing non-fiction practices with elements of critique even when they seem at first to adopt a tone of reportage. They also disclose cinematic techniques such as slow tracking shots and a productive mix of voice-over and music tracks that would earn Resnais recognition as a filmmaker concerned with the aftereffects of individual and collective trauma.  Ungar’s book will draw on scholarly work to date on Hiroshima. In addition, it will draw on materials donated to a research center by the executors of the Alain Resnais estate following his death in March 2014. Because these new materials are due to be available to researchers in 2016, Ungar’s book will be among the very first to benefit from their availability. The timeline for completion of the book projects a publication date sometime before 2020.

Marian Wilson Kimber, Associate Professor, Music
Arts & Humanities Standard Grant

Female Composers at the White House: Phyllis Fergus’s Advocacy for Women in American Music 

I will research and write a substantial article exploring the role of Chicago composer Phyllis Fergus (1887–1964) in promoting the music of American women composers in the 1930s. Fergus first organized a concert by the Women’s Symphony, featuring music by thirteen women composers, at Chicago’s Century of Progress exhibition in 1933. The following year, under the auspices of the National League of American Pen Women, she arranged a concert held in the East Room of the White House for First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. The White House concert was the culmination of a series of events featuring music by twenty female composers from twelve different states, celebrating the fifty-year career of leading composer, Amy Beach (1867–1944). Fergus was also involved in the creation of similar events in Miami; San Diego; Springfield, Illinois; and Chautauqua, New York between 1934 and 1938.  The AHI grant will fund travel to examine historical sources located in five different archival collections: Roosevelt Presidential Library, the papers of composers Amy Beach at the University of New Hampshire and Frances Copthorne at the Eastman School of Music, the records of the National League of American Pen Women in Washington, D.C., and the scrapbooks of the Women’s Symphony at the Chicago History Museum. My research will also be informed by my study of five of Fergus’s personal scrapbooks, held in a private collection. The resulting article will explore Fergus’s role in shaping a nationalistic agenda in order to promote women’s music, advertising the Washington festival through patriotic emphasis on its “Americanness” in order to overcome lingering assertions about women’s lack of musical creativity. I will consider the possible reasons guiding the selection of the compositions heard at the White House and any possible relationship between the event and the Roosevelt administration’s larger arts agenda. I will submit the finished article to the Journal of the Society for American Music and will propose a paper for the American Musicological Society conference. The article will be of interest to scholars specializing in women’s history, gender studies, American studies, and Depression-era history, as well as American music.

Previous Awardees

Please note the revised comprehensive program above incorporates the Arts & Humanities Initiative and the Digital Studio for the Public Humanities programs and replaces the Biological Sciences Funding Program (BSFP), Math & Physical Sciences Funding Program (MPSFP), and the Social Sciences Funding Program (SSFP) shown below. 

Arts & Humanities Initiative

2013-2014 Award Recipients 
2010-2012 Award Recipients

Biological Sciences Funding Program

2013-2014 Award Recipients 
2010-2012 Award Recipients

Digital Studio for the Public Humanities

2013-2014 Award Recipients
2012-2013 Award Recipients

Math & Physical Sciences Funding Program

2013-2014 Award Recipients 
2010-2012 Award Recipients

Social Sciences Funding Program

2013-2014 Award Recipients 
2010-2012 Award Recipients