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

Current IFI Awardees
March 2017 IFI Awardees
March 2016 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 2016 IFI Awardees:


Jennifer Buckley, Assistant Professor, English
Major Conference Grant
The Future of the Avant-Garde: Dada Archives

In Spring 2017, my collaborators and I will commence a multi-year celebration of Dada, the relentlessly experimental, highly influential, and pointedly international artistic avant-garde movement born a century ago on the stage of the Cabaret Voltaire in Zürich. We request funding for a major Spring 2018 symposium to mark the fortieth anniversary of a landmark meeting at the University of Iowa, which led to the establishment of the International Dada Archive in 1979. The International Dada Archive is a leading center for the preservation and study of early twentieth-century vanguard art, literature, performance, and publications, with holdings now exceeding 70,000 titles. This meeting will showcase new scholarship on Dada and on mid-century “neo-Dada”/Fluxus (also well-represented in UI’s collections). However, our primary purpose is to provide a forum in which stakeholders in several disciplines – scholars, artists, curators, librarians, and conservation specialists – can together address key theoretical and practical questions concerning the documentation, preservation, and circulation of avant-garde art across media. The main objective of this symposium is to develop digital strategies to make vanguard art, which is often ephemeral, as widely accessible as its creators intended it to be. The University of Iowa is a leader in this respect and has already created the Digital Dada Library, Fluxus Digital Collection, and the Lil Picard Interactive Website, but each is in need of further development. Our aim is to refine and expand the reach of these successful platforms by developing a more integrated strategy that could to offer scholars, students, and the public richly varied experiences of the University’s exemplary collections. To these ends, we have invited internationally prominent art historians, literary scholars, museum curators, librarians, and artists to join us as the University of Iowa once again shapes the future of the avant-gardes.

Jennifer Fiegel, Associate Professor, Chemical & Biochemical Engineering
Major Project Grant

Bioinspired Polymer Ligands to Target Nanoparticles to the PAF Receptor in Human Lung Cells

Current drug delivery strategies to target specific cells within the body are plagued by low levels of drug accumulation in the areas they are most needed. Our lack of knowledge of how to design drug carriers with appropriate properties to mediate their interactions within complex biological environments has significantly hindered progress towards more efficient drug delivery. The long-term goal of this research is to design next-generation, inhalable nanocarriers that specifically target drug therapy to the lung tissues. The goal of this proposal is to design a surface coating for nanocarriers to simultaneously address issues of biofouling and cell uptake in complex biological environments. Bioinspired polymeric ligands containing elements that molecularly mimic the surfaces of respiratory pathogens known to efficiently penetrate human fluids and the human lung epithelium will be developed. A high-throughput, optical biosensor technique (DMR) will be enable real-time observation of cellular responses to receptor-ligand interactions in living cells. Ligands that specifically activate the PAF receptor will be then assembled onto nanoparticles and their ability to be taken up by lung epithelial cells submerged in natural secretions will be quantified. The proposed studies will lead to more efficient design of ligands that simultaneously limit protein adsorption on nanoparticle surfaces and enhance nanoparticle uptake in cells. These studies will provide new knowledge of receptor activation and inhibition in lung epithelial cells, which is critical for the design of targeted drug delivery systems. In addition, results from these studies will improve our understanding of how nanocarrier surface design impacts nanocarrier interactions with lung fluids and cell surface receptors in a physiologically relevant environment.

Daniel Fine, Assistant Professor of Digital Media in Performance, Theatre Arts and Dance
Arts & Humanities Standard Grant
​Traditional Disciplinary Silos: Creating New Multi-Model Transdisciplinary Art and Performance

A fundamental change that emerging and digital technologies bring to our global society is the way in which traditional disciplines such as engineering, music, theatre and the visual arts are created, experienced, exhibited, remixed and shared, thus allowing for them to be interconnected as a vital presence in our increasingly networked society. Therefore, there is a critical need to create new methods in interdisciplinary art making and performance that include networked digital and physical environments in order to offer audiences contemporary experiences in the performing and visual arts. Our long term goal is to create a transmedia approach that allows an international audience to connect with each other by attending simultaneous performance events around the world in order to engage in alternative artistic expressions and depictions of our shared humanity. The transdisciplinary approach will be based on a data set of human global airline patterns that serves as a symbol of human movement and various cultures. This data will be used to create a real-time performance consisting of musical soundscapes, immersive digital video, and geometric shapes made via 3D clay printers. All performances will be interconnected via live-video streaming, so participants at each performance location can experience what is happening at all other locations. The airline flight pattern data driving the XYZ coordinates of the 3D clay printer at each location will produce a different individual ceramic artifact. After the performance, the 3D clay printed artifacts from all locations will be connected together to form one unified ceramic art object. This ceramic art object and documentation of the live performances will have a continued life through exhibition at galleries worldwide. Our objective in this proposal is to complete a prototype phase of the project which will include a local, public performance. For this grant funding, we propose five objectives that are detailed in the project narrative. The primary positive impact of the proposed project will be to create new methods for transdisciplinary approaches to artmaking in order for audiences to experience a unique, first of its kind, multimodal performance and art exhibition.

Lokesh Gakhar, Director, Protein Crystallography Core Facility
Core Facilities Grant
​/Shared Equipment for Research Grant
The Octet RED96 Biolayer Interferometry System as a Core Resource for Quantitating Protein Interactions for Biological and Biomedical Research

We propose to acquire the ForteBio Octet RED96 biolayer interferometry (BLI) instrument for relative high-throughput measurements of molecular interactions to supersede existing time consuming and more difficult methodologies on campus and house it in a Core facility for convenient access. The ease of use of this instrument along with support from Core facility personnel will ensure expert and non-expert researchers get the maximum benefit from this relatively new, but rapidly growing technology. This instrument will fulfill the needs of dozens of researchers in different departments and institutes on campus that require rigorous, quantitative analysis of molecular interactions (protein:protein, protein:DNA/RNA, protein:sugar, protein:small molecule/drug) to support conclusions having far-reaching effects in basic, clinical and translational sciences. We expect molecular interactions research data to become more robust leading to better publications, stronger grant proposals and satisfying the transparency needs of NIH, drug companies and the public.


Isabella Grumbach, Associate Professor and Vice-Chair, Internal Medicine
Major Project Grant
Identifying mechanisms of radiation endotheliopathy through novel in vivo models

About 500,000 Americans receive radiation therapy for cancer treatment every year. With increasing survival rates for many malignancies due to state of the art cancer treatment, long-term unintended side effects caused by radiation therapy such as pulmonary fibrosis or heart failure have become more prevalent. However, the underlying mechanisms remain poorly understood. For decades, damage to the endothelium, the inner lining of blood vessels, has been postulated as a major contributor to early and late side effects of radiation to the normal tissue surrounding the cancer. This notion of “radiation endotheliopathy” has remained untested because models to directly assess microvascular pathology in vivo after radiation are missing. Without robust in vivo disease models, it is very unlikely that substantial progress will be made towards identifying key molecular pathways in radiation endotheliopathy which will lead to mechanism-based therapies. One of the key mechanisms of normal tissue injury after radiation is believed to be reactive oxygen (ROS) species production by mitochondria, but this concept has remained untested in the context of endothelial damage by radiation. This research proposal is the first step towards closing critical gaps in our current knowledge. We propose to 1. determine whether mitochondrial ROS production in vivo protects from microvessel damage and 2. test the feasibility of retinal microvessel imaging as a direct indicator for endothelial damage post-radiation. This project is a new collaboration between the laboratories of Drs. Grumbach, Anderson and Allen. Of note, the NIH recently held a symposium on the topic of radiation endotheliopathy and the topic was identified as priority area in need of further study and funding. Thus, we anticipate using the data from this award to apply for external funding and build a long-standing collaboration to study normal tissue injury after radiation.

Syed Mubeen Jawahar Hussaini, Assistant Professor, Chemical & Biochemical
Major Project Grant

Redox-active Electrodilution (RED) Technique for Cardiac Output Measurement

The overarching goal of this proposal is to develop a novel and transformative technology for cardiac output (blood flow rate in the heart) measurement with significantly improved precision and accuracy. Cardiac output (CO) measurement is currently performed using thermodilution catheters where cold saline is injected into the flowing blood and the resulting temperature changes are used to estimate its flow rate. Limitations such as the need to inject large amount of saline rapidly at a consistent rate and the fact that temperature can be affected by many other factors, affect its accuracy and repeatability. We propose an alternative to thermodilution that circumvents its challenges. In an interdisciplinary collaboration between a cardiovascular device specialist and an electrochemistry expert, we propose a novel Redox-active Electro-Dilution (RED) approach for CO measurement. Instead of injecting saline, in the RED approach, a catheter with micro-machined electrodes at its tip is used to generate and release on-demand a biocompatible tracer element into the flowing blood in the heart. The tracer element’s specific electrochemical signature can then be tracked with high specificity by analyzing the transient nature of the current flowing between the electrodes. If shown to be effective, this method is likely to have significantly enhanced accuracy and repeatability while avoiding the key challenges of the existing status quo approach. In order to test the above hypothesis we propose experiments to fabricate a proof-of-concept device to investigate electrodilution technique. The experiments will be supported by computer simulation that will necessitate course corrections and provide feedback to the experimentalists for process optimization. We will also develop a calibration function for blood flow measurement from the collected electrical signals and known electrochemical models by performing tests in a CO mimicking in vitro flow loop with blood fluid medium. Because thermodilution is used widely for CO measurement and many other physiological flow measurements despite its limitations, this proposed alternative – if shown to be effective – will have broad positive impact on patient care worldwide. In the short term, the proposed efforts can also help generate external funding and intellectual property and would result in high impact publications.

Aaron Kline, Research Support Manager, Iowa Social Science Research Center
Major Conference Grant

Building Bridges: Nurturing Interdisciplinary Proposals

Funds are requested to support the Iowa Social Science Research Center’s (ISRC) mission of promoting interdisciplinary research through a campus-wide, social science-focused Building Bridges colloquium. This effort will further integrate social scientists into the campus network for supporting interdisciplinary research enabling new and innovative collaborations for University of Iowa (UI) researchers. Six colloquia will be held, each focused on a specific theme drawn from large foundations seeking to address the grand challenges of our time. Following each colloquia, there will an ideation session and team nurturing component to the project. The goal of this proposal is to catalyze collaborative relationships leading to pioneering interdisciplinary funding proposals targeting research agendas of large foundations. Building Bridges’ expected outcomes include: 1) facilitation of a community and culture of interdisciplinary grant seeking among researchers as well as research administrators; 2) build bridges across institutional silos generating new and innovative collaborative research; and 3) strengthen the network of research administrators and their interactions on campus.


Christopher Merrill, Professor and Director, International Writing Program
Major Project Grant

Next Horizons: The IWP at 50

On the occasion of the International Writing Program's jubilee year, a year-long calendar of special programming will inspire our campus, commission new work, and catalyze fresh thinking about how writers can take us to those next horizons—across all genres and in our communities. In addition to two anthologies, research projects, exhibits, reflections, collaborations with units across campus and outside organizations, a centerpiece of this programming will be a series of panel discussions featuring VIP writers from six continents, brought together to advance the spirit of creative innovation. The IWP’s numerous programs—such as its Fall Residency and its first-in-the-world creative writing MOOCs—have established forums in which writers the world over discover, explore, adapt, and translate creative processes. This is at the heart of how the IWP has catalyzed literary innovation for half a century. These inspiring discussions will address the roots, practices, and effects of different creative processes on literary works—and give an outlook on future developments. Accompanying anthologies will inspire and challenge writers in Iowa City and elsewhere. In a rapidly changing global communication environment, the proposed program will both update the understanding of the IWP’s historical impact and prime us to re-think and re-configure the flows of digital and face-to-face literary collaborations.

Daniel Miller, Assistant Professor, School of Art & Art History - Dimensional Practice/Sculpture
Arts & Humanities Standard Grant


We are witnessing the environmental effects of climate change in unprecedented ways. Floodwaters focuses on the rising waters that have become a way of life in many communities worldwide. I am interested the personal stories, juxtaposed against the larger changing landscape. Robotic systems and multi-media elements converge to activate the space and immerse visitors in a performative experience. Floodwaters invites a dialogue with the viewer about relevant global issues. This work seeks to raise viewer’s awareness through a direct physical media experience. Central features of Floodwaters are landforms that move and reshape to mimic different flooding scenarios. Strategies for creating this landscape include: 3D printed dissolvable structures and mechanical shaping of sand with the use of robotic systems. Video will interact with the built landscape in the artwork through projection mapping. Audio recordings of interviews with actual flood victims make us aware of their struggle. Recordings of natural sounds will also be introduced into this artwork. The impact of this completed project will be demonstrated in a number of ways. The ultimate goal for this work is to engage a wider public. This outreach happens through exhibition of Floodwaters at prominent national and international venues. The completion of Floodwaters will have a significant impact on my career, allowing for development of a major project that would be outside of my normal budget constraints. The Floodwaters project benefits the University and greater public through the dialogue and attention this work brings. This artwork will attract attention of individuals from a variety of disciplines including: hydroscience, engineering, environmental science, public digital arts and the broader fine arts. The successful completion of this work will translate into the classroom where new approaches and techniques will be disseminated to students and other faculty.

Kathleen Newman, Associate Professor, Spanish and Portuguese
Arts & Humanities Standard Grant

Argentine Silent Film (1923-1935)

“Argentine Silent Film (1923-1935)” will facilitate the research and writing of three chapters of Professor Newman’s current book project, Transnational Modernity: Argentine Cinema and Society, 1910-1935, a study of the relation between silent film, early feminist movements, and democratization in Argentina. This historical and theoretical book examines the role of both national and imported fiction feature films in shaping a new political imaginary in Argentina in the years leading up to and immediately after the nation’s first military coup of the twentieth century (1930). The central research question of this historical and theoretical book project concerns the role of cinema in social transformations of modernity in Argentina in the early twentieth century. Both local and foreign films of the period bear traces of social anxieties regarding changing local and international gender roles and the rise of authoritarianism within the nation. The book offers a new perspective for film theory and social theory as to how both external and internal forces shaped Argentina’s political future, that is, why this is a period of engaged transnational modernity rather than isolated peripheral or local modernity, as previously has been held within the disciplines of Film Studies and Latin American Studies. The book will demonstrate the role of Argentine cinema in globalizing democratic practices that transformed the very concept of the citizen.

Lisa Schlesinger, Associate Professor, Theatre Arts
Arts & Humanities Standard Grant

Iphigenia: Story of a Refugee

University of Iowa Associate Professor and playwright/writer Lisa Schlesinger, Brooklyn College Professor and filmmaker Irina Patkanian, international experimental theatre director, Marion Schoevaert, and Syrian composer, Kinan Azmeh are creating Iphigenia: Story of a Refugee, a new music theatre piece that blends documentary film, theatre, opera, hip hop, Syrian classical and folk music, punk, TED talk, YouTube confession and dance. Adapted from Euripides’ Iphigenia plays, the piece excavates the mythological character of Iphigenia from pre-classical history and brings her into the twenty-first century. Iphigenia is portrayed as the first refugee of war and the central metaphor for questions of forced displacement in global conflict. The piece will premiere in New York City in 2018 and, subsequently, tour in the U.S. and Europe. Iphigenia: Story of a Refugee is the culminating piece of The Iphigenia Project, a multiyear trans-media collaboration between four award-winning artists from different countries. Filmmaker Irina Patkanian (Russia/USA), playwright/theatre activist Lisa Schlesinger (USA/Greece), director/translator Marion Schoevaert (France/Korea/USA) and composer Kinan Azmeh (Syria/USA) join cultures, artistries, and different ways of seeing to bring the refugee crisis center-stage through film, music theatre, and digital arts. To date these works have been presented, performed and published through Iowa Public Television, the Social Justice Film Festival, Theatre Communications Group, a New York public library, the Iowa Arts Council, the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights, the Iowa City Festival of the Book sponsored by UNESCO, and elsewhere. In June members of the artistic team will return to Lesvos, Greece. In July and August, Marion Schoevaert, Irina Patkanian and Lisa Schlesinger will be in residence at the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies in with the support of an Interdisciplinary Research Grant in preparation for the New York City premiere, Iphigenia: Story of a Refugee, in 2018. We discovered Kinan Azmeh's music just after I submitted the Obermann Grant proposal and he agreed to compose the music for Iphigenia just after we received notification about our Obermann Grant. I am requesting funding from the AHI Grant to to bring Mr. Azmeh to Iowa to work with us at the Obermann Center in summer 2017.