Resources & Special Projects



Collaborative Research Excellence And Translational Efforts
(CREATE) Award

Global challenges represent extraordinarily complex problems that require multidisciplinary experts to provide dynamic and highly innovative solutions on moderate time horizons. USF has the broad intellectual capital necessary to develop innovative, feasible solutions. Translational success in bringing solutions to scale can be achieved by integrating vastly different areas of research and scholarship expertise across the entire university. These collaborative efforts can further extend partnerships to accelerate innovative solutions. CREATE seed funding aims to mobilize multidisciplinary teams for large, collaborative efforts targeting transformative research that will lead to societal impact.


  • Encourage and facilitate a multidisciplinary and collaborative research culture at the university.
  • Increased interaction among colleges by having investigators from at least three USF colleges in each proposal team.
  • Support researchers to lead bold, long-term, large-scale research initiatives that can leverage the seed funds to establish financially sustainable research centers, institutes, and initiatives.

The CREATE research plan should broadly align with broad focus areas to address critical global challenges. The projects should demonstrate a long-term commitment to financial sustainability and growth with highly impactful research and scholarship.

Key Milestones

Due Date Action
November 16, 2023

Q&A Session & a Launch Workshop (Virtual)
Watch a recording of the Q&A

November 17, 2023 Q&A Session & a Launch Workshop (USF Health Downtown)
Workshop Slidedeck
Watch a recording of the Q&A
December 7, 2023 Pre-proposal Submission (required, via InfoReady) 
December 15, 2023 Research Development Institute Think Tank
January 2, 2024 Invitation for Full Proposal 
March 30, 2024 Invited Proposal Due 
June 1, 2024 Award Notifications 
July 1, 2024 Project Start Date 

CREATE Award Details

The workshop slidedeck also provides an overview of these elements. 


Principal Investigators (PI and co-PIs) must align with USF PI Eligibility criteria. For instance, only tenure and tenure-track faculty can lead as PIs. A PI can only submit one pre-proposal, although it can participate as CoPI in other initiatives.


Max 2 pages, 1 page per sheet, single-spaced, 12-point Font size (in either Arial or Times fonts), using a 1-inch margin layout.

  1. Project title.
  2. Project Team: names, department, and college affiliation.
    1. Three colleges must be represented in the team, external collaborators are welcome but do not count toward the three college minimum.
    2. The application has been updated to accommodate up to 50 members on a team (inclusive of PIs, Co-PIs, Partners and other Key Personnel).
      Synopsis of the work in sufficient detail within the two-page limit.
  3. Full proposal details and formal budget information will be provided at the next stage of the process.

Full proposal details and formal budget information will be provided at the next stage of the process.


Anticipated CREATE awards up to $1 million over three years.

Annual reviews will be conducted, and the continuation of the project will be subject to satisfactory progress. Budgets should reasonably reflect the scope of the work. Funds should be used primarily for supporting graduate students and other expenses related to the pursuance of research. Limited funding can be used for faculty salaries and staff support.


Applications* will be submitted through InfoReady:

*The application has been updated to accommodate up to 50 members on a team (inclusive of PIs, Co-PIs, Partners and other Key Personnel).


Will the pre-proposals be posted on the website? If yes, will it be the full pre-proposal or just the project titles and teams? 

Yes, preporposals will be posted.

The NSF Research Engines posted the concept papers, which enabled greater facilitation of research collaboration across the country. The goal of posting pre-proposals is to raise the visibility of the expertise right here at USF. There are too many silos. Too many disparate faculty working toward the same solution. Too many PIs seeking collaborators outside of USF, not knowing that the expert that they need is right here.

How will pre-proposals be evaluated?

We anticipate the merit criteria to be consistent with the criteria from the federal sponsor that aligns with the area of research.

Who will serve as peer reviewers for pre-proposals? 

We anticipate researchers to be invited by the Provost and this may include external reviewers.

How many will be selected to move forward to full proposal? 

There is not a set number, if you have an idea we encourage you to submit a pre-proposal. 

Will my pre-proposal be stronger / weaker if I have international partners? 

This is a unique opportunity to think big, be bold in your ideas. The CREATE grants are $1M over 3 years. If it makes sense to have international partners, and you have international partners already, then yes – include them. Design your pre-proposal with the grand vision in mind.

It appears that including students is a priority. Does it matter if the students are graduate students or postdocs? 

Of course, students are the future of research, we should always include students on our grants. As to the distinction between graduate students and postdocs, I would weigh the cost of the student and consider the USF performance benchmarks, which counts postdocs.

There is no budget required in the pre-proposal, but how should I consider this as I think about my proposal overall?

It's helpful to remember this is a seed grant. Like an acorn, the best investments take root and grow the research. This may include research capacity  (equipment/infrastructure), enable partnerships (travel), and any number of other major activities—moving you in the strategic direction of impact. 

Data on Invited Applications for the CREATE Competition

The CREATE Award will provide up to $1,000,000 over three years. CREATE seed funding aims to mobilize multi-disciplinary teams for large, collaborative efforts targeting transformative research that will lead to societal impact. After rigorous peer review, 13 of 72 (about 18%) pre-proposals were invited forward. These applications include about 145 co-applicants across 12 colleges representing research strengths from all USF campuses. 

pie chart showing data on proposals

CREATE Award - Thirteen Teams Invited to Full Proposal:

Center for the Advancement of Food Security and Healthy Communities:  A Multidisciplinary Translation Research Partnership

Project Team: David Himmelgreen (PI), Anthropology, CAS; Elizabeth Aranda (Co-PI), Sociology, CAS; Christian Brechot (Co-PI), Institute on the Microbiome, COM; Adam Carmer (PI), Hospitality and Tourism, Muma COB; Todd Chavez (Co-PI), Libraries; Rita DeBate (Co-PI), Center for Transdisciplinary Research in College Health and Wellbeing, COPH; Amber Dumford (Co-PI), Higher Education and College Student Affairs, COE; Heewon Gray (PI), COPH; Esteli Jimenez Soto (Co-PI), Geosciences, CAS; Patrizia La Trecchia (Co-PI), Environmental Humanities, CAS; Dillon Mahoney, Anthropology, CAS; Nancy Romero-Daza (PI), Anthropology, CAS; Willian Schanbacher (Co-PI), Religious Studies, CAS; Marilyn Stern (Co-PI), Child and Family Studies, CBCS; and Lauri Wright (PI), Director, Nutrition Programs, COPH

Synopsis: The CREATE award will increase the capacity and infrastructure of the USF Center for the Advancement of Food Security and Healthy Communities (CAFSHC) to conduct multidisciplinary, mixed method, translational research that addresses pressing food insecurity (FI) issues, fosters connections between USF and communities, and advances the training of students and post-doctoral scholars interested in finding solutions to the challenges of Florida.

Emergent Quantum Materials for Quantum Information, Energy Sustainability and Human Health

Project Team: PI: Hari Srikanth (Distinguished University Professor, Physics, CAS), Co-PIs: Kaushik Dutta (Professor, Muma College of Business), Subhra Mohapatra (Professor, Morsani College of Medicine), Jing Wang (Professor, EE, College of Engineering), Lilia Woods (Professor, Physics, CAS), Sarath Witanachchi (Professor, Physics, CAS)

Synopsis: The 20th century witnessed the revolution in science and technology with the birth of quantum physics and its impact on semiconductor devices based on conventional quantum materials. Now, in the 21st century, we have a paradigm shift with the discovery of emergent low dimensional unconventional quantum materials [1,2], which can bridge the gap between sensing, data acquisition, and enable AI/machine-learning (ML) based platforms to assess and automate responses to enhance functionality in a wide range of applications. The focus will be on transformational research from development to deployment of novel quantum materials in three thrust areas. The three areas are of national interest and critical for the State of Florida and USF in their mission for training the future workforce. Each of these have the potential to attract federally funded centers of excellence to make USF the hub for quantum materials research in the State of Florida and the southeastern United States.

Sustainable Energy Storage and Fuel Production

Project Team: PI: John N Kuhn, Dept. of Chemical, Biological, Materials Engineering (CHBME), College of Engineering (COE); Venkat Bhethanabotla (CHBME), Nancy Diaz-Elsayed (ME), Yogi Goswami (CHBME); College of Arts & Sciences: Matthias Batzill (Physics), Humberto Rodriguez Gutierrez (Physics), Ioannis Spanopoulos (Chemistry), Mahuya Pal (Communication); College of Global Sustainability: George Philippidis. External collaborators: experts in electrochemistry, Dept. of Energy National Labs (for DOE center funding)

Synopsis: Our team proposes a USF CREATE project focused on chemical and thermal storage and liquid fuel production from CO 2. The need to achieve net zero carbon emissions and diversification to renewable yet intermittent energy sources (e.g., solar and wind) is challenging in the face of increasing global energy demand. Sustainable energy storage and fuel production is a primary need to maintain and enhance quality of life while also combatting climate change. Although personal transportation is shifting to electrical energy storage, large-scale energy storage using batteries is economically challenging. Batteries have been the focus for too long and here we propose a paradigm shift to integrated chemical and thermal storage. The goal of our proposed Center is to integrate thermal energy storage with concentrated solar power (CSP) to enable the conversion of CO2 to liquid fuels via catalytic and other advanced reaction approaches. Such a combination would achieve enhanced sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), and related marine, rail, and diesel fuels of the future. While Virgin Atlantic recently demonstrated a commercial flight with SAF, there is a long road to meet the decarbonization goals of the aviation industry.

Research Center for Community-based Learning and Engagement to Advance Resilient Water, Sanitation and Health (CLEARWaSH)

Project Team: PI: James Mihelcic, College of Engineering; CoPIs: Qiong Zhang & Bernard Batson, Engineering; Christian Wells, Arts and Sciences; Mahmooda Khaliq Pasha, College of Public Health

Synopsis: CLEARWaSH addresses urgent Florida and U.S. water and sanitation service gaps through co-design with underserved communities to develop scale-able, resource-efficient, data-integrated solutions meeting local needs. We are focused on underserved communities and smaller critical infrastructures found at the household, community, or small utility scale. We define underserved communities as groups of people with a shared experience of WaSH insecurity for whom existing infrastructures fail to adequately safeguard human and environmental health. Such communities in the U.S. have lower socioeconomic status and are often communities of color. Our Center concept is necessary to propel sustainable, equitable, and resilient water and sanitation infrastructures for 2 million people in the U.S. without indoor plumbing, 43 million relying on wells at risk of contamination, 80 million without sewer service, and 21 million served by community systems violating health standards. Our next-generation solutions are designed to achieve a 75% reduction in water use through decentralized/distributed systems, water reuse, and conservation, and 50% reduction in energy leading to a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Creating a New Century of Protein-inspired and Protein-based Materials Via AI-accelerated Design

Project Team: PI David S. Simmons, College of Engineering (CoE); Co-PIs: Vladimir Uversky, Morsani College of Medicine, Jianfeng Cai, CAS Chemistry; Sameer Varma, CAS Molecular Biosciences; Co-PI Lawrence Stern, CoE, ChBME; Lawrence Hall and Sudeep Sarkar, CoE CSE.

Synopsis of Work: Synthetic macromolecules – large molecules that consist of many chemical units – are an indispensable material pillar of modern civilization. They underpin technologies as essential as IV lines and automobile tires and as advanced as next-generation batteries and lightweight aircraft bodies. However, synthetic macromolecules fall short of the extraordinary and exquisitely controlled structure, functionality, and properties achieved by biological macromolecules (biomacromolecules). Biomacromolecules are the ‘nanoengines’ of the natural world, empowering the hierarchical assembly processes that build cells and tissues and driving the enzymatic processes that underpin life itself. Their extraordinary properties result from their use of precise chemical sequences that can encode multiple functionalities – a level of structural control that is generally absent in synthetic macromolecules. An ability to rationally design sequence to control properties in macromolecular materials would represent a revolution in material technology for the 21st century, enabling transformational advances in economic sectors ranging from energy to computing.

Pushing the Frontiers of Precision Medicine with Interdisciplinary High-resolution Research 

Project Team: PI: Rays H. Y. Jiang Co-PIs: COPH Min Zhang (genomics facility core), Bi Zhao (genomics computational core), John Adams (Malaria genetics, vaccine, drug discovery), XiaoMing Lui (human population genetics), Monica Uddin (trauma epigenetics), Deborah Cragun (genetics), Katherine Drabiak (medical ethics), Rita DeBate (Behavorial medicine), CBCS Marilyn Stern (Behavioral medicine), COM Steven Liggett (Internal Medicine and of Molecular Pharmacology), Kami Kim (infectious Diseases), Thomas McDonald (cardiogenetics), Thomas Tylor-Clark (neural biology), XinMing Sun (gastrointestinal infectious diseases), Gopal Thinakaran (neural degenerative diseases), Hariom Yadav (microbiome), Christian Brechot, COM (microbiome), Dominic D’Agostino(metabolomics, epigenetics, biosensors) CAS Mark J. Margres (ecological genomics), Bill Baker (chemistry, drug discovery), COE Sudeep Sakar (computation vision, AI), Larry Hall (biomedical image analysis, AI), TGH Matthew L. Anderson (cancer genetics)

Synopsis: A new era for high-res research for individual patients: Precision medicine represents a transformative approach to healthcare, tailoring treatments and interventions to the unique genetic, epigenetic, metabolic, microbiome, and environmental characteristics of individuals1. Innovation: we propose to create ‘Bleeding Edge Precision Medicine’ by bringing together two frontiers, i.e., A) high-resolution and B) individuation. Critical gap at USF: We have a large cohort of researchers poised for harnessing the tech power, but the lack of critical expertise in bridging technology and biomedical research are the barriers for viable projects. ‘I have great ideas and materials but don’t know how’ is the most prevalent problem at USF. We propose to establish both lab and computational bridges, in the form of expertise building, training program, and individual cross-disciplinary projects, to breach the barriers between technology and specific research, which will enable broader and more diverse groups of projects (beyond the current 12) being successful.

Structure-Based Drug Design Initiative: Accelerating Drug Discovery by Combining High-performance Computing, Biology, and Chemistry

Project Team: Yu Chen, PI, (MCOM Molecular Medicine); Co—PIs: Sameer Varma (CAS Molecular Biosciences): Feng Cheng (Pharmaceutical Science); Jesper Madsen (MCOM/MM); Yu Chen (COM/ MM); Libin Ye (CAS/MB); Yu Chen (COM/MM); Stephen Liggett (MCOM/MM); Libin Ye (CAS/MB); Prahathees Eswara (CAS/MB); Elena Suvorova (MCOM/ Internal Medicine); Yu Chen (COM/MM); James Leahy (CAS/Chemistry); Jianfeng Cai (CAS/Chem); Bob Deschenes (COM/MM); Brian Shoichet (external consultant, UCSF/Pharmacy).

Synopsis:  The advent of the AI age promises a more prominent role of computational methods in scientific discovery. The long-term goal of our structure-based drug design initiative is twofold, both leveraging the CREATE grant as a steppingstone for funding and exposure. First, we aim to increase the awareness of high-performance computing among USF researchers and students and use our network of core researchers to keep up with the progress of the field and make the new tools accessible to the whole USF community. Second, we hope to further enhance our capability by connecting with other colleges, particularly those with strengths in computing, such as Engineering. Our initiative will serve as the foundation for tapping into the immense potential of high-performance computing at USF for a new age of discovery in the fields of biology and chemistry.

Geospatial Research and Innovation Center (GRIC)

Project Team: Ran Tao (PI); Joni Firat; Yi Qiang; Steven Reader; Barnali Dixon; Shawn Landry; Glenn Thompson (Geosciences, CAS). Kaiqi Xiong (Mathematics, CAS). Yicheng Tu (Computer Science, ENG), Yu Zhang (Civil, ENG), Benjamin Jacob (Public Health). Theresa Beckie (College of Nursing). Chuanmin Hu (Marine Sciences). Yongjei Lee (Criminology, BCS).

Synopsis: We aim to establish the Geospatial Research and Innovation Center (GRIC) to carry out externally funded innovative interdisciplinary research, while mentoring next generation geospatial professionals. The exponential surge in location-enabled data from smart cities, the Internet of Things, social media, and various sensors is fueling the rapid emergence and growth of geospatial artificial intelligence (GeoAI), Spatial Data Science (SDS), and GIS based on advanced computing and cyber-infrastructure (CyberGIS), which are crucial in meeting the complex challenges of processing and leveraging vast amounts of spatial information. Research at GRIC will focus on GeoAI, CyberGIS, SDS, Big Data Analytics, geovisualization, and location optimization to address a range of important problems in substantive scientific and engineering fields, such as environmental science, marine and coastal science, criminology, public health, and smart cities. Our vision is to build GRIC as a renowned center of advanced geospatial research and innovation leading research in five main themes of Environment & Sustainability, Disaster & Resilience, Transportation & Smart Cities, Health & Well-Being, and Justice & Society.

UNLOCKEDD Minds: Unraveling the Neurocognitive Landscape for Optimal Care and Knowledge by Embracing Digital Devices

Project Team: John Templeton, ENG (PI); Co-PIs: Engineering (Yu Sun, Robert Karam, Dayane Reis, Raiyan Abdul Baten, Julia Woodward, Stephanie Carey); Morsani College of Medicine (Nathan Schilaty, Eric Coris, Adrian Kohut, Byron Moran); Behavioral and Community Sciences (Michelle Kapolowicz, Hana Kim): Arts and Sciences (Ruthann Atchley, Paul Atchley, Elizabeth Schotter); Public Health (Jennifer Bleck); Nursing (Carmen Rodriguez, Christina McCrae); Muma College of Business (Ehsan Sheybani); USF Athletics (Steve Walz, Lee Dorpfeld)

Synopsis: Neurocognitive processes directly relate to an individual’s ability to initiate and complete important everyday activities in the real world. These processes, which are linked with specific parts and pathways of the brain, include speech, language, memory, executive function, behavior, perceptual-motor skills, among others. This initiative will focus on leveraging the systematic use of digital health technology devices (e.g., mobile phones, tablets, wearables, implantable, etc.) and their capabilities for unraveling the neurocognitive landscape (e.g., assessing motor, memory, speech, language, sleep, executive function, autonomic functions, behavioral and psychological functions, and sensory functions) in order to pave the way for innovations in healthcare clinical practice, public health outcomes, and medical education. The ‘UNLOCKEDD Minds’ initiative will include five core aims to allow for expansive outcomes for the collection, analysis, and use of compiled information in multiple capacities. 

Center for Antimicrobial Resistance (CAMRA)

Project Team: Lindsey Shaw, PI (CAS, MBS). Co-PIs: Kami Kim (CoM, ID); John Adams (CoPH, USF Genomics). Co-Is: Prahathees Eswara (CAS, MBS), Wenqi Yu (CAS, MBS), Maksym Bobrovskyy (CAS, MBS), Sophie Darch (CoM, MM), Xingmin Sun (CoM, MM), Yu Chen (CoM, MM), Anthony Canella (CoM, ID, VA ID), Suzane Silbert (Director of R&D and Microbiology Laboratories at Tampa General Hospital, TGH).

Synopsis: To create a Center for Antimicrobial Resistance (CAMRA) is a critical unmet need at USF and indeed in the state of Florida, where no such center exists. The unique resources that CAMRA will provide will give unparalleled connection between basic scientists, physicians, and clinical scientists. A primary focus of CAMRA will be to create a pipeline of samples and knowledge from TGH to USF and the Genomics Institute. We will create a repository and biobank of drug resistant isolates and patient samples from TGH, captured in real-time. USF trainees (undergraduates, graduate students, postdoc, technicians, and medical students) will spend significant time onsite at TGH allowing immediate acquisition of samples due to increased screening and surveillance (facilitated by our team). These will then be bio-banked at USF, subject to whole genome sequence at the Genomics Institute, and characterized phenotypically for pathogenic and drug resistance mechanisms. TGH to CAMRA pipe- line will allow study the biology of key AMR microbes, along with their pathogenic and drug resistance mechanisms. Our surveillance will capture novel outbreaks as they occur and define underpinning reasons for morbidity and mortality. It will enable us to detect and explain novel and unusual AMR public health threats as well as guide antibiotic stewardship at TGH and beyond. All these efforts work towards our ultimate goal, which is to understand AMR disease transmission mechanisms so that we may develop strategies to limit and prevent them.

USF Institute for Biodefense, Technology and Policy (BIOTAP)

Project Team: Edwin Michael (COPH), Lynn B. Martin (COPH), Troy Quast (COPH), Russell Kirby (COPH), Anthony Masys (COPH), Tapas Das (COE), Ankit Shah (COE), Timothy Fawcett (TPA-COE), Kami Kim (MCOM), Barnali Dixon (CAS-GS), Razvan Teodorescu (CAS-Math/Stats); Sundeep Sahay (Uni Norway), Derek Groene (Brunel Uni), Paul Kattuman (Uni Cambridge).

Synopsis: We envisage the development of the USF Institute for Biodefense, Technology and Policy (BIOTAP) that seeks to advance scientific research, innovation, and education for strengthening national and global effectiveness in assessing, preventing, and responding to threats posed by infectious agents. Our program aligns with several of USF’s Strategic Areas of Focus: (1) Health, Society, and Biomedical Sciences, (2) Global and National Security, (3) Sustainability, Environmental, and Oceanography Sciences; (4) Biology by Design, and (5) Analytics and Data Science. Its objectives are of growing interest to many funding agencies, including NSF, DOE, DOD, USAID, CDC, UKRI and many non-governmental agencies, such as the Belmont Forum, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Simon Wood Foundation. Grant proposals to develop research programs and organizations pertaining to pandemic forecasting has been made by members of the Team to NSF’s PIPP2 and CDC’s Centers for Outbreak Analytics and Disease Modeling.

A Center for Environmental Synthesis and Application

Project Team: T. Frazer (PI, Marine Science), Co-PIs: S. Murawski (Marine Science), M. Rains (Arts and Sciences), M. Graham (Florida Institute of Oceanography), and M. Bourgeois (Public Health) 

Synopsis: A Center for Environmental Synthesis and Application that emphasizes rapid compilation, synthesis, integration, and application of ecological, physicochemical, economic, and public health data to better inform environmental management and policy. The Center, by design, will be relevant and responsive to the needs of Florida and its citizens. Working groups will comprise USF faculty and researchers across all three campuses, as well as key agency scientists, top faculty from Florida’s premier research universities, experts from other leading academic institutions in the US, and exceptional post- doctoral Fellows recruited from around the world. Research topics will be identified in consultation with key public officials (decision makers) and agency leaders (resource managers) to ensure targets are of highest priority to the state of Florida (relevant). Proposals to address these topics by establishing specific working groups will be solicited from the community of experts.

Center for Innovation, Technology and Aging (CITA)

Project Team: Yu Sun (PI), Engineering, COE; William E. Haley (Co-PI), Aging Studies, CBCS; Tammy D. Allen (Co-PI), Psychology, CAS; Hariom Yadav (Co-PI), Neurosurgery & Brain Repair; MCOM. Additional 21 Center members from six colleges (COE, CBCS, CAS, MCOM, CON, College of Education)

Synopsis: By 2030, around 21% of the U.S. population will be over 65, surpassing the number of children for the first time in history (2019 U.S. Census Bureau). In Florida, a quarter of the population will be over 65, with the 85+ group expected to grow 177% to 18.5 million by 2050. This demographic shift has led to a caregiver shortage (both of professional care providers and family caregivers), contributing to a national crisis with potential consequences like unmet needs, poor care quality, and abuse. A team of 26 leading researchers from six colleges at USF will work together to establish a research Center focused on developing and evaluating innovative user-centered technologies to improve the quality of lives of older adults. The Center will build a strong partnership among the technology research labs, clinical and scientific research labs, home health agencies and long-term care facilities, and community-based healthcare organizations and will facilitate pilot studies leading to large federal grants and successful products and services to advance self-sustainability.


For more information and any questions, please contact Sandy Justice ( with the USF Research Development Institute.