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The Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development is proud to present the October 2013 IFI Awardees:

Walid Afifi
Walid Afifi, Professor, Communication Studies 
Major Conferences/Ideation Meetings Grant
The Samuel L. Becker Memorial Conference: Interesting Questions in Health, Technology, and Social Change

The Becker Memorial Conference (February 27-March 1, 2014) is an event that will bring together researchers from across the country with expertise in the study of health, technology, social change, or their intersections. The speakers are Communication scholars advancing the most promising ideas in these themes and who represent three unique areas of study: interpersonal communication, rhetoric and public advocacy, and media studies. In fact, what may be the most exciting aspect of this conference is that it the first in the history of the discipline, to our knowledge, to be a site for cross-area conversations about these critically-important themes. We have very little doubt that the seating room capacity of 250 will be reached for each speaker. As such, the opportunity for the emergence of inter-disciplinary discussions and collaborative grant proposals is rich. Those opportunities will be encouraged by incorporating time for extended Q&A; into every speaker slot and creating dedicated web spaces devoted to the live exchange of collaborative and cross-disciplinary grant ideas. In addition, we will be asking NEA and NIH representatives(among possible others) if they would be willing to devote 1 hour on March 10 (the 2nd Monday following the conference) for 15-minute phone meetings with Iowa faculty who will have sent one-pagers that emerged from conference conversations. More information about the conference can be found here.

Stephen Berry
Stephen Berry, Associate Professor, Journalism and Mass Communication 
Arts & Humanities Initiative Standard Grant
Harry Scott Ashmore: A Southern Liberal Journalist on the Road to Little Rock

In September 1957, the Little Rock school desegregation effort sparked a conflict that thrust a southern editor into a major role in a pivotal episode of civil rights history. For two years, Harry Scott Ashmore, executive editor of the Arkansas Gazette, put himself and his paper at risk with relentless editorial attacks on Gov. Orval Faubus for deploying state power to disobey the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown decision, which had declared school segregation illegal. Although he was known among some scholars and journalists for an important role that his first book, The Negro and the Schools, had played in the Brown case three years earlier, Little Rock brought him national standing in the modern Civil Rights Movement’s early years. It earned him a 1958 Pulitzer Prize and solidified his reputation as one of the few southern liberal-moderate journalists backing gradual extension of equal rights to blacks.

This project will produce the first biography examining Ashmore’s life, work, role, shortcomings and influence in civil rights history and southern journalism, thereby providing new knowledge and insights into the early years of the Civil Rights Movement and the Little Rock crisis, while refining our understanding of southern liberal journalists. Although he is included among southern liberal/moderate editors, his work has not been closely examined in that context. This project will be the first to examine a southern liberal journalist whose racial attitudes were exposed to the race relations milieu that World War II combat experienced imposed upon him and other southern war veterans.

Elizabeth Chrischilles
Elizabeth Chrischilles, Professor, Epidemiology 
Core Facilities/Shared Equipment Grant
Health Effectiveness Research Center Server Replacement and Expansion

Over 13 years collaborators in the Health Effectiveness Research Center (HERCe, http://cph.uiowa.edu/herce/) have developed a secure, CMS- (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) approved approach to harnessing very large electronic healthcare administrative databases for comparative effectiveness research. Two AHRQ Center grants, an NCI P20 grant, several ARRA grants, an FDA contract, and a PCORI award have expanded on an initial investment by the Colleges of Public Health and Pharmacy. This investment included two servers, office space and furnishings, and support for server maintenance, backups, and management of the human subjects protections and data use agreements. This investment has led to over $18 million in funded research grants and a total of 49 users and 14.2 terabytes of data on the servers. The growth in collaborations and server use has exceeded our expectations, and new projects are creating needs for additional space. We have recently established a charge formula to recoup the cost of a future server over a five-year horizon, as well as for server maintenance. Nonetheless, we are currently at capacity (using 14.2 of the available 17.85 TB) for our existing two secure servers and need to add a third. Current servers are at the end of or beyond their warranty and support agreements. At least one could fail any time without means to replace it. 

Edward Gillan
Edward Gillan, Associate Professor, Chemistry 
Major Project Grant 
Investigations of Unusual Botanically Templated Porous Inorganic Materials for Photocatalytic and Electrochemical Energy Applications

New inorganic materials and novel porous structures are beneficial and sorely needed to advance several important energy technologies critical to U.S. domestic non-fossil fuel energy production and storage. Inorganic oxides and non-oxides improve rates and efficiency of hydrogen (H2) fuel generation from solar irradiation (photocatalytic water splitting), undergo reversible energy storage in lithium batteries, or form porous structures that hold electrical charge for rapid high power uses (supercapacitors). Nanostructured materials are under intense investigation for these applications.  The Gillan group recently developed a flexible materials synthesis strategy that can potentially be applied to a wide range of metal oxides and select non-oxides. These materials have sponge-like macroporous structures with thin micrometer-sized walls consisting of fused nanoparticulates. We propose to target the synthesis of specific porous metal oxides and non-oxides relevant to the above energy research areas and investigate their electrochemical properties in collaborative studies with Professor Leddy’s group (Department of Chemistry), as they are experts in the electrochemical analysis of materials for energy applications.

Blaine Greteman
Blaine Greteman, Assistant Professor, English 
Arts & Humanities Initiative Standard Grant 
Shakeosphere: The Early Modern Social Network

Shakeosphere will allow users to create dynamic network maps using publication data from every book printed in the British Isles and North America between 1473 and 1800, as well as from thousands of manuscripts composed during that period. A user could quickly create a visualization that would show every book printed by one of Shakespeare's publishers, for example, as well as any known letters or manuscripts associated with that publisher. Such a network map could be limited by time range or overlaid onto a geographic map. This would provide a powerful tool for investigating epistolary and print networks from the birth of print to the age of enlightenment, with applications ranging from literary analysis, to history, to library and social science. Our initial data set will consist of the entire English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC) and a selection of the Bodleian Library Manuscript Catalogue, with future plans to incorporate data from Early Modern Letters Online and other manuscript catalogues around the world. The first stage of the project will extract and regularize data on author, title, publisher, printer, and place for each publication or manuscript. We will use this data to build a linked database, and then, using the D3 Javascript library, we will construct a web application where users can easily access, visualize, and navigate this information.

​Justin Grobe
Justin Grobe, Assistant Professor, Pharmacology 
Major Project Grant 
Novel signaling crosstalk between AT2 and NPR-C receptors: a common mechanism for the development of obesity and inflammatory pain

Obesity and chronic pain are among the most expensive and resource-consuming burdens upon healthcare. Current obesity therapeutics all target food intake behavior, and are minimally effective - new drugs that increase resting metabolic rate (RMR) are needed. Work from the Grobe laboratory has implicated the angiotensin II type 2 receptor (AT2) as a major regulator of RMR, but the signaling mechanisms involved are unclear. Work from the Mohapatra laboratory has implicated natriuretic peptide NPRC receptors in chronic inflammatory pain, which represents a novel function for this receptor type.

Preliminary studies have demonstrated that adipocyte AT2 stimulate the activity of NPRC, leading to the novel hypothesis that adipocyte NPRC may be involved in the pathogenesis of obesity. These findings are supported by the previous observations that throughout the body NPRC expression is highest in adipose tissue, and its expression is positively correlated with obesity in humans. This project may therefore identify a completely novel mechanism of obesity, which may lead to the development of an entirely new class of obesity therapeutics. Similarly, NPRC modulation by AT2 in sensory neurons may also identify novel targets for pain relief and therefore entirely new classes of analgesic medications.

​Paul Kalina
Paul Kalina, Assistant Professor, Theatre Arts 
Major Project Grant
Mask and Jazz Production

Assistant Professor Paul Kalina (Theatre) and Professor John Rapson (Music) request funds to produce a full-length mask and jazz performance piece as part of the Theatre Arts Department’s 2014-15 production season. The piece will explore a new style of performance pioneered by Italian artist Matteo Destro, and will examine issues that face America’s K-12 educational system. Mask theatre has traditionally taken current events as its subject matter but over the years it has become confined by its ancient traditions. Destro throws out the traditional mask characters and embraces a new comic world that engages rather than alienates modern audiences. This production will make use of his wildly inventive new masks and couple them with original, live jazz compositions. The collaborative team includes Kalina performer/writer), Destro(mask maker/co-director), Professor of Music John Rapson (composer/conductor), Professor of Sociology David Bills(dramaturgy), Italian theatre director Paola Coletto(writer/co-director), other professional artists, and faculty and students from the Division of Performing Arts. After its performances on campus it will be submitted for participation in the 2015 Chicago International Physical Theatre Festival.

Bob McMurray
Bob McMurray, Associate Professor, Psychology 
Major Project Grant
Pruning the associative thicket: Word learning in pigeons, people, and individuals with language learning disabilities.

Learning the words of one’s language is an immense task—children must acquire between 30,000 and 60,000 words by adulthood, and adults continue to learn new words across the life span. However, not all individuals accomplish this task easily; as many as 10% of people are diagnosed with Language Learning Disabilities (LLD). There have been heated debates about whether basic mechanisms like associative learning—mechanisms that are shared with many species—can help explain a phenomenon as complex and unique to humans as word learning. However, until recently there has not been an animal model that allows us to investigate a similar associative problem to word learning. We recently developed such a model, training pigeons to categorize 128 photos into 16 common categories (cars, babies, etc. Our work revealed a strikingly counterintuitive finding: namely, that the process of pruning associations between a category and incorrect responses may be more important than building associations between a category and its response. This proposal continues to develop our pigeon model to confirm the role of pruning. We will also conduct parallel experiments with both typically developing young adults and young adults with LLD to explore the implications of this animal model for humans, and to determine their relevance to language impairment. Finally, although pigeons require feedback for learning, people generally learn words in an unsupervised manner. Thus, we will investigate pruning in both groups of humans in unsupervised paradigms and develop one of the first assays of unsupervised learning for animals.

​Sara Mitchell
Sara Mitchell, Professor, Political Science 
Major Conferences/Ideation Meetings Grant
Journeys in World Politics: A Mentoring Workshop for Junior Women Studying International Relations

The Journeys in World Politics workshops (http://www.saramitchell.org/journeys.html) provide mentoring for young female Political Scientists. The three day workshops include research presentations by junior scholars and feedback from discussants, oral autobiographies by senior scholars, and career and gender discussion sessions involving topics such as networking, balancing family and work, and gender issues in the classroom. Professors Kadera and Mitchell have hosted eight Journeys workshops at the University of Iowa, three of which were funded with support from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and five of which were supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Funds are used to support the costs of the workshops and to track the success of the mentoring program through survey research and collection of outcomes assessment data.

​Andrew Norris
Andrew Norris, Associate Professor, Pediatrics
Major Project Grant
Early Life Origins of Insulin Resistance

Insulin resistance is a common condition that predisposes to type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Major risk factors for insulin resistance include several adverse fetal conditions, especially fetal exposure to mother's diabetes and to growth restriction. However, the mechanism by which such in utero adversity induces subsequent insulin resistance is unknown and ameliorating strategies do not exist. To better understand the mechanisms involved, we have investigated fetal and neonatal insulin signaling in a rat model of fetal exposure to diabetes and growth restriction. Our results show that fetal insulin sensitivity is highly plastic, easily perturbed by fetal adversity. Importantly, we find insulin resistance in offspring from this adversity. The work proposed will determine the molecular details as to how insulin signaling is perturbed in the adversely affected fetus. Additionally, similar studies will be performed in other established models of fetal adversity in order to determine the breadth of possible mechanisms perturbing insulin signaling. We expect that this work will discover mechanisms, uncovered for the first time, by which lifelong insulin resistance is induced by fetal adversity. Understanding of these mechanisms will allow development of strategies to reverse insulin resistance in persons born small or born from pregnancies complicated by diabetes.

Michelle M. Scherer
Michelle Scherer, Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Major Project Grant
The Hidden Cycling of Soil Minerals: Implications for Carbon Cycling

The Scherer research group has discovered a new, hidden pathway for cycling of minerals in soils and sediments. We propose to bring together the soil mineral expertise of the Scherer group (Engineering) with the inorganic nanomaterial synthesis expertise of the Forbes group (Chemistry) to address the question of what happens to carbon during this hidden mineral mixing. We will use advanced spectroscopy and electron microscopy techniques available on campus to collect preliminary data to prepare an NSF INSPIRE or DOE proposal. Results from this work on iron-carbon cycling will have direct implications for understanding the terrestrial response to climate change as the strong association of carbon with iron minerals suggests that iron cycling will significantly influence long-term storage of carbon. The implications of our work, however, will extend well beyond the direct link to climate change, but will also provide important insights into water quality preservation and some exciting new findings regarding biogeobatteries. Perhaps one of the most large-scale examples linking iron-carbon cycling to water quality is the arsenic epidemic in Southeast Asia which has been linked to reductive dissolution of iron minerals driven by organic carbon influxes.

David Stern,
David Stern, Professor, Philosophy
Arts & Humanities Initiative Standard Grant
Research on new Wittgenstein manuscripts in Cambridge, England

The aim of the proposal is to travel to Trinity College Library, Cambridge University, in May 2014, to study the so-called “Skinner Archive”: a collection of recently uncovered and as yet unpublished philosophical manuscripts written by Ludwig Wittgenstein and Francis Skinner during 1933-1936. Wittgenstein was one of the most influential and important philosophers of the twentieth century; the discovery of such an extensive collection of material from this pivotal period is an unexpected and extremely rare event. I have already seen a transcript of most of these documents, but now need to study the originals.

The archive consists partly of detailed lecture notes, partly of material produced by revising and extending those notes, and partly of highly polished philosophical writing. Wittgenstein usually wrote in German, his native language. However, all this material, because it originated from teaching Cambridge students, is in English. Because Wittgenstein’s English-language teaching and writing it is aimed at a student audience that needs an introduction to an unfamiliar approach to philosophy, it is much clearer and more accessible than his intricate and endlessly revised German-language writing. This not only helps us to see how he presented his work in a setting where very little could be taken for granted, but also enables us to gain access to the key themes in the development of his thought. We are now in a position to appreciate Wittgenstein as an accessible teacher in English, rather than as a writer of esoteric German.

Rachel Williams
Rachel Williams, Associate Professor, Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies
Arts & Humanities Initiative Standard Grant
Run Home If You Don’t Want to Be Killed: The Detroit Riot of 1943

The purpose of this project is to illuminate the events of the 1943 riot in Detroit and to contextualize them as a crucial part of a larger picture about race, gender, human rights, poverty, and violence during world war II in the United States. The activities of the project revolve around the completion of a graphic manuscript to be published in 2015 by The University of North Carolina Press and the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. The manuscript consists of historical photographs, hundreds of drawings, text, and accounts of people who lived through the riot. It builds on past scholarship but adds to the debate by sharing the stories of women who were affected by the events in 1943 as residents of Detroit. In the future I hope to also create a digital project around this research and work with the Charles Wright African American Museum to do educational outreach with young people in Detroit.