URSA grants awarded to six teams

Program encourages researchers to collaborate across disciplines

The Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research (OVCR) has announced the six winners of the 2013 University Research Strategic Alliance (URSA) grants.

URSA grants provide one-year, $25,000 seed funding to full-time WUSTL faculty members. The URSA program aims to encourage the formation and efforts of new groups of investigators working on new research or using new approaches to solve problems. The program strives to foster collaborations across disciplines, departments and schools. Interdisciplinary teams must work collaboratively to approach a research question in a novel way that cannot be accomplished by either discipline alone. In addition to such research efforts’ inherent intellectual value, the hope is the seed funds will enable new research applications that can compete for outside support.

Vice Chancellor for Research Evan D. Kharasch, PhD, MD, initiated the URSA program in 2011. With that initial investment of $150,000 in URSA funds awarded to six research teams, those awardees have gone on to secure $2.4 million in external funding.

With this year’s group of investigators, URSA grants now have been awarded to 18 interdisciplinary teams since the program’s inception. The next call for applications will be in early spring 2014.

“We continue to be enthusiastic about the vigorous response from faculty,” said Kharasch, also the Russell and Mary Sheldon Professor of Anesthesiology and professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics. “The proposals submitted this year represent 47 new collaborations involving faculty from six schools across the university. Five of the six new teams awarded an URSA grant include investigators from different WUSTL schools, and on different campuses, and all grants include faculty from different departments. There were far more meritorious applications than we were able to fund, but we hope that those new teams whose proposals we could not fund will continue their collaborative research efforts.”

Winners of the 2013 URSA awards are:

Dennis Barbour, MD, PhD, Department of Biomedical Engineering, and Nancy Tye Murray, PhD, Department of Otolaryngology, for research titled “A Novel Tool for Improving Auditory Training in Large Populations.”

Anne Drewry, MD, Department of Anesthesiology, and Yixin Chen, PhD, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, for research titled “The Use of Temperature Patterns to Predict Sepsis in Adult Intensive Care Unit Patients.”

Pirooz Eghtesady, MD, PhD, Department of Surgery, and Kilian Weinberger, PhD, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, for research titled “Machine Learning of Best Practice Patterns in Pediatric Cardiac Surgery: a Proof of Concept Study.”

Joshua Jackson, PhD, Department of Psychology, and Charles Kurth, PhD, Department of Philosophy, both in Arts & Sciences, for research titled “Reason, Emotion and the Good Life.”

Sharon Celeste Morley, MD, PhD, Department of Pediatrics, and Guy Genin, PhD, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, for research titled “Using Traction Force Microscopy to Probe the Molecular Regulation of Innate Immunity.”

Yan Mei Wang, PhD, Department of Physics in Arts & Sciences, and Susan K. Dutcher, PhD, Department of Genetics, for research titled “Genetics and Single-molecule Imaging: a Combined Method to Dissect Flagellar Signaling Pathways.”