Studies of braille reading and the impact of skewed sex ratios on plant populations are among the five innovative research proposals chosen to receive grants from the Faculty Initiatives Fund (FIF) for academic year 2013-14.
“These grants are intended to help faculty members develop adventurous projects that might enhance the university and that might lead to larger endeavors, research breakthroughs, external funding opportunities or unusually creative works,” said Caroline Levander, vice provost for interdisciplinary initiatives.
Levander assembled a committee of faculty from across the university to review the proposals. Among the review criteria were relevance to the Vision for the Second Century, particularly the fostering of collaborative interdisciplinary relationships; quality, significance and potential impact; potential for additional external funding; and enrichment of research opportunities for students. The awards range between $5,000 and $50,000.
The FIF award winners are listed below.
Robert Englebretson will conduct a pilot study of empirical research on braille reading that uses a high-resolution finger-tracking system to better understand what goes on during the process of reading by touch. Englebretson is an associate professor of linguistics.
Thomas Killian and Barry Dunning aim to create a supersolid in an ultracold gas of atoms, which will require a new collaboration between their laboratories and could lead to technological advances in material design. Killian is chair and professor of physics and astronomy; Dunning is the Sam and Helen Worden Professor of Physics and Astronomy.
Caroline Masiello and her team of chemists, geologists, engineers and hydrologists want to integrate biologists in their efforts to transform plant biomass into charcoal and add the biochar to the soil to help remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Masiello is an associate professor of Earth science. Other investigators for this proposal are Jonathan Silberg, associate professor of biochemistry and cell biology; Kyriacos Zygourakis, the A.J. Hartsook Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, chair of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and professor of bioengineering; Brandon Dugan, associate professor of Earth science; Helge Gonnermann, assistant professor of Earth science; Daniel Wagner, associate professor of biochemistry and cell biology; and Valerie Huguet, postdoctoral research associate in ecology and evolutionary biology.
Tom Miller and Gerda Saxer intend to study Texas bluegrass to learn more about how environmental conditions at the edges of a species’ range can skew population sex ratios and how those skewed ratios can trigger population decline. Miller is the Godwin Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Saxer is a faculty fellow in biochemistry and cell biology.
Anthony Pinn plans to expand Rice’s role in the study of embodied religion and culture with a symposium in collaboration with the University of Kent, a leading national center for the cultural study of religion in the United Kingdom. Pinn is the Agnes Cullen Arnold Professor of Humanities and a professor of religious studies.