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Iowa State researchers win $16.38 million in federal grants supported by stimulus funding

Iowa State University

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IMAGE: Martin Spalding, professor and chair of Iowa State's department of genetics, development and cell biology, is leading a research project supported by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. He and... view more

Credit: Photo by Bob Elbert/Iowa State University

AMES, Iowa - Iowa State University researchers have so far won 30 grants worth a total $16.38 million from federal agencies awarding money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

The grants range from $4.37 million to study how algae can be used for advanced biofuel production, to $1.33 million to build infrastructure and capacity for public health intervention programs, to $351,513 to establish a 10-week summer program that gives undergraduates research experience in environmental sciences and to $52,007 to develop new procedures to generate high-quality models of proteins.

Nineteen of the awards are from the National Science Foundation. Eight are from the National Institutes of Health. One is from the U.S. Department of Energy. One is part of a University of Kentucky project for the National Institute of General Medical Science. And one is part of a project by Fluorous Technologies Inc. of Pittsburgh for the National Institutes of Health.

"The ARRA funding the university has received is allowing us to build our research infrastructure and, thus, our ability to build highly competitive research in focused areas that will address solutions to societal challenges," said Sharron Quisenberry, Iowa State's vice president for research and economic development.

The recovery act provided the National Institutes of Health with $8.2 billion, the National Science Foundation with $3 billion and the Department of Energy with $2 billion to help stimulate the country's economy by supporting scientific research.

Arden L. Bement Jr., the director of the National Science Foundation, said the funding is "sorely needed to ensure that America remains a leader in science and engineering research and education."

A research project supported by the recovery act and led by Martin Spalding, professor and chair of Iowa State's department of genetics, development and cell biology, is focused on science at the center of America's energy future.

The research group recently won a three-year, $4.37 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to study how a genetically manipulated microalga could be used to efficiently produce advanced biofuels.

"Our goal within three years is to greatly increase the amount of oil that's made by the alga and that can be converted into biodiesel," Spalding said. "The long term goal is not to just make vegetable oil for conversion to biodiesel, but to incorporate genes that allow algae to directly produce hydrocarbons for fuels."

Working with Spalding on the project are Basil Nikolau, the Frances M. Craig Professor in the departments of biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology and food science and human nutrition, who's also the deputy director of the NSF Engineering Research Center for Biorenewable Chemicals based at Iowa State and an associate scientist with the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory; Larry Halverson, an assistant professor of plant pathology; Eve Wurtele, a professor of genetics, development and cell biology; and David Oliver, an associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and professor of genetics, development and cell biology. The project is expected to support five post-doctoral researchers and one graduate student at Iowa State. Researchers at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., will also collaborate on the project.

Here are summaries of 10 other Iowa State research projects supported by the recovery act since August 2009:

  • $1.33 million to a project led by Richard Spoth, the F. Wendell Miller Senior Prevention Scientist and the director of Iowa State's Partnerships in Prevention Science Institute, from the National Institutes of Health. Spoth will use the grant to build capacity and infrastructure in selected states to link extension and public school systems. They'll work together to deliver evidenced-based interventions that reduce substance abuse and related problem behaviors.

  • $700,000 to a project led by Vikram Dalal, the Thomas M. Whitney Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, director of Iowa State's Microelectronics Research Center and an associate scientist with the Ames Laboratory, from the National Science Foundation. Dalal will use the grant to acquire an electron beam lithography system for research in engineering and the physical and biological sciences. The instrument will, for example, be used to study advanced solar energy conversion devices.

  • $450,433 to a project led by Michael Shogren-Knaak, an assistant professor of biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology, from the National Institutes of Health. Shogren-Knaak will study how modifications to histone (a protein in a cell's nucleus) affect the structure of chromatin (a complex combination of DNA and the proteins of chromosomes). A better understanding of the modifications could lead to developments in disease diagnosis and treatment.

  • $395,992 to a project led by Nicola Elia, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, from the National Science Foundation. Elia will look for ways to uncover, mitigate and control the complexity of networked systems, thus improving performance of complex interconnected systems such as the electric power grid.

  • $370,203 to a project led by Eve Wurtele, a professor of genetics, development and cell biology, from the University of Kentucky as part of a grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. Wurtele will study the RNA molecules produced by medicinal plants with the goal of advancing drug development.

  • $351,513 to a project led by U. Sunday Tim, an associate professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering, from the National Science Foundation. The grant establishes a Research Experience for Undergraduates program in biogeosciences at Iowa State. The program will focus on the science of complex environmental systems.

  • $338,754 to a project led by Mei Hong, Iowa State's John D. Corbett Professor of Chemistry and an associate scientist for the Ames Laboratory, from the National Institutes of Health. Hong is using solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance technology to study how antiviral drugs block influenza A viruses by attaching to a site within a proton channel necessary for the virus to infect healthy cells.

  • $193,079 to a project led by Nikki Pohl, professor and Caldwell Chair of Chemistry, from Fluorous Technologies Inc. and the National Institutes of Health. Pohl and coworkers will study the automated synthesis, purification, and diagnostic potential of carbohydrates associated with bacterial pathogens.

  • $99,235 to a project led by Jue Yan, an assistant professor of mathematics, from the National Science Foundation. Yan will design, analyze and implement new algorithms for solving partial differential equations for physics and engineering.

  • $52,007 to a project led by Andrzej Kloczkowski, a scientist in the Plant Sciences Institute and adjunct professor of biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology, from the National Institutes of Health. Kloczkowski is developing new procedures for creating accurate protein models from lower-resolution data.

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Summaries of the other 19 ARRA-supported grants to Iowa State researchers are here: http://www.news.iastate.edu/news/2009/aug/ARRAgrants

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