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WPI and UMass Lowell Award Seed Grants to Interdisciplinary Research Teams

Funding Will Support Projects Focused on Health and Life Sciences
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Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and the University of Massachusetts Lowell have awarded nearly $100,000 in seed grants to five teams of researchers from both campuses for interdisciplinary research projects focused on health and the life sciences.

“We applaud the ingenuity and curiosity of these researchers as they strive to break ground on health matters across the breadth of the life sciences. It is in these interdisciplinary, and inter-collegiate searches that true discovery is made,” said Anne Maglia, UMass Lowell associate vice chancellor for research. “This is just the start. We are certain these ideas will blossom into productive research opportunities for both universities.”

“WPI and UMass Lowell researchers possess complementary expertise, ideal for partnering on research projects that will positively address important health issues,” says WPI Vice Provost for Research Bogdan Vernescu. “These seed grants will launch research that is meant to grow into larger projects funded by outside organizations.”

WPI is contributing $39,958 to the grants, and UMass Lowell is contributing $59,826. The projects are expected to run for one year.

Seed grants were awarded to the following projects and researchers:

  • “Evaluation of novel compounds against the bacterial pathogens M. tuberculosis and M. abscessus.” Scarlet Shell, associate professor, WPI Department of Biology and Biotechnology; and Mingdi Yan, professor, UMass Lowell Department of Chemistry. Award: $19,990.
  • “Wheel Up: Engaging communities in the development of a wheelchair training simulator for diverse bodies.” Kelilah Wolkowicz, assistant professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering; Erika Lewis, associate professor, Department of Physical Therapy and Kinesiology; and Yuko Oda, associate teaching professor, Department of Art & Design, all of UMass Lowell; Yunus Telliel, assistant professor, and Jennifer deWinter, professor, both of the WPI Department of Humanities and Arts. Award: $19,864.
  • “Interdisciplinary understanding of muscle across scales: recovery after injury.” Nicolai Konow, assistant professor, and Jeffrey R. Moore, professor, both of the UMass Lowell Department of Biological Sciences; Matt Gage, associate professor, UMass Lowell Department of Chemistry; and Sam Walcott, associate professor, WPI Department of Mathematical Sciences. Award: $19,930.
  • “Stable producer cell-line development for recombinant adeno-associated virus vector production.” Seongkyu Yoon, professor, UMass Lowell Department of Chemical Engineering; and Eric Young, assistant professor, WPI Department of Chemical Engineering. Award: $20,000.
  • “Plasmon-enhanced organic photoredox catalysis for biomanufacturing synthesis.” Michael Ross, assistant professor, UMass Lowell Department of Chemistry; and Patricia Zhang Musacchio, assistant professor, WPI Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Award: $20,000.
Scarlet Shell
Associate Professor-Biological Science, Biology & Biotechnology

I have a passion for understanding how living systems work, as well as for sharing my love of biology and research with the next generation of scientists and informed citizens.

The central goal of my lab is to understand the regulatory mechanisms that underlie mycobacterial stress tolerance. We combine genetics, genomics, transcriptomics and biochemistry to understand how mycobacteria respond to, and ultimately survive, stressful conditions.

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Yunus Dogan Telliel
Assistant Professor- Anthropology & Rhetoric, Humanities & Arts

I am an Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Rhetoric. Before joining WPI, I was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. My work is animated by an intellectual curiosity with how ideas travel across time and space, and generate diverse practices of acting, seeing, and being in the world. I am especially intrigued by situations in which people come to ask new questions about themselves and others, in ways that require reconsideration of past experiences and imagining of future possibilities.

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Jennifer deWinter
Professor-Arts, Communications, and Humanities, Humanities & Arts

Jennifer deWinter has long been interested in how culture (which is local) moves internationally. She has spent a number of years analyzing anime, comics, and computer games as part of global media flows in order to understand how concepts such as "art," "culture," and "entertainment" are negotiated. In 2003, Professor deWinter joined the Learning Games Initiative, a group of scholars and game designers dedicated to the general study of games and the use of games to teach concepts and skills in particular.

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Sam Walcott
Associate Professor-Interdisciplinary, Mathematical Sciences

I use physical principles at the molecular scale to solve macroscopic problems in biology, e.g. How do a molecule's mechanical properties influence the behavior of a cell?  How do single molecule measurements relate to muscle function?  To answer such questions, I use a combination of computer simulations and mathematical analysis.  This theoretical work is complemented by experiments performed by my collaborators.  In my teaching, I enjoy emphasizing connections between math and other disciplines.

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Eric Mosher Young
Assistant Professor, Chemical Engineering

My research is in the broad, interdisciplinary field of synthetic biology, which applies engineering principles to biology. Within this field, we apply chemical engineering tenets to reprogram the DNA of yeasts, bacteria, and fungi so their metabolism produces interesting molecules. By treating these cells as "chemical factories," we can approach and solve problems in biofuels, biomaterials, and biosensors from a chemical engineer's point of view.

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Patricia Zhang Musacchio
Assistant Professor-Chemistry, Chemistry & Biochemistry

The Musacchio research group is interested in utilizing radical intermediates to find common ground between organic chemistry and chemical biology. Specifically, we are interested in developing radical-mediated methodologies for complex molecule synthesis, identifying new bioconjugation strategies, and establishing radical-mediate biocatalysis systems.

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