Interdisciplinary URSA grants awarded by research office

Grants support WUSTL researchers to facilitate collaboration

The Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research (OVCR) has announced the six winning teams of the 2011 University Research Strategic Alliance (URSA) grants.

OVCR’s URSA grants offer a one-year, $25,000 award to full-time faculty members at WUSTL who begin a new collaboration with investigators from different disciplines. Researchers who receive the grant work together in a new area of research or plan to approach a problem in a different way.

The goal of the URSA grants, says Evan D. Kharasch, MD, PhD, vice chancellor for research and the Russell D. and Mary B. Shelden Professor of Anesthesiology, is to promote new collaborations and new research among WUSTL faculty across departments and schools.

“With this new program and these grants, we hope to facilitate breakthroughs in addressing novel research questions in a collaborative manner and that will spawn new research that is competitive for extramural support,” Kharasch says.

Winners of the 2011 URSA grant are:

  • Gammon M. Earhart, PhD, associate professor of physical therapy, and of neurology and of neurobiology, and Abraham Z. Snyder, PhD, MD, research professor of radiology and a research associate professor of neurology, for research titled “Freezing of Gait in Parkinson’s Disease: An Interdisciplinary Approach.”
  • J. Aaron Hipp, PhD, assistant professor at the Brown School, Robert Pless, PhD, associate professor of computer science and engineering, and Amy Eyler, PhD, associate research professor at the Brown School, for research titled “Capture of Outdoor Scenes to Evaluate and Validate Physical Activity Policy and Built Environment Change.”
  • Chenyang Lu, PhD, professor of computer science and engineering, and Susan Stark, PhD, assistant professor of occupational therapy and of neurology, for research titled “An Interdisciplinary Approach to Detecting Falls Among the Elderly.”
  • Kevin Moeller, PhD, professor of chemistry in Arts & Sciences, and Kendall Blumer, PhD, professor of cell biology and physiology, for research titled “Targeting G Protein Signaling Networks with Novel Chemical Probes.”
  • Christina L. Stallings, PhD, assistant professor of molecular microbiology, and Yinjie Tang, PhD, assistant professor of energy, environmental and chemical engineering, for research titled “13C-metabolomics of Mycobacterium tuberculosis Surviving Harsh Conditions Related to Persistent Infection.”
  • Brad W. Warner, MD, the Jessie L. Ternberg, MD, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Pediatric Surgery in Surgery and professor of pediatrics, Christopher Erwin, PhD, research associate professor of surgery (pediatric surgery), and Eliot Herman, PhD, of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, for research titled “Transgenic Soybean Formula to Enhance Resection-Induced Intestinal Adaptation.”

The winners were chosen among 40 proposals submitted by teams of faculty across six WUSTL schools.

The URSA proposal review committee comprised 25 faculty from all WUSTL schools. Each application was reviewed by three committee members, and the best-scoring applications received funding. Scores were based on the following criteria:

  • the quality and expertise of the research and investigative team;
  • the interdisciplinary diversity of the investigative team;
  • the originality and innovation of the research; and
  • its likelihood of sustainability for future funding.

“We are extremely pleased with the faculty response and the success of this new program — as evidenced by the large number of applications representing approximately 40 new collaborations involving six schools across the university,” Kharasch says. “Every one of the grants selected represents a collaboration between departments, and almost all are across different schools of the university, if not between Washington University and a local research partner.

“Unfortunately, not every one of the excellent proposals could be funded, but we hope that all the new teams of collaborating investigators, with their new research questions and new approaches, will continue their research efforts and funding pursuits.”

Faculty from all departments and schools are invited to submit proposals for next year’s URSA grants with a focus on new collaborative innovative research. Applications for next year’s grants will be due fall 2012.

For more information about applying for URSA grants, contact Laura Langton at (314) 935-4119 or