USF Strategic Investment Pool (SIP) Awards

The University of South Florida Strategic Investment Pool (SIP) Awards, administered through USF Research & Innovation, offer tenured/tenure-track and full-time research faculty members the opportunity to apply for strategic investment pool funds. The goal of the SIP awards is to grow the research enterprise at the University of South Florida in alignment with our strategic plan.

USF Research & Innovation will continue to support strategic investments through increased funding from the Strategic Investment Pool (SIP fund) and the Research Council Internal Awards program.  Please look for future SIP funding opportunity announcements by the Research Council.

February 2024 funded projects

Following the initial July 2023 round of funding, several projects were slated for a second round of funding, pending additional support.

Having secured additional funding resources from the Provost in February 2024, the following four projects have been selected for the second round of funding.

  • Dr. Norma Alcantar, College of Engineering: The new equipment fills a critical need and replaces an atomic force microscope (AFM) acquired in 1994 by the Nanotechnology Research and Education Center (NREC).  Atomic force spectroscopy is a type of scanning probe microscopy with a resolution on the order of a few Angstroms (or fractions of a nanometer), more than 1,000 times better than the optical diffraction limit.  Dr. Alcantar was funded $200,000 toward the new AFM tool, which can illuminate reliable, state-of-the-art structure/property relationships and provide USF faculty with the leading-edge infrastructure required to create new materials, develop advanced technologies, and invent devices to produce novel semiconductors, quantum materials, catalysts, superconductors, and more.

  • Dr. Manas Biswal, Taneja College of Pharmacy
    Dr. Biswal’s funding in the amount of $199,882 for an Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) supports translational eye research at USF.  Additionally, it provides a group of vision researchers from three different colleges (Taneja College of Pharmacy, Morsani College of Medicine, and College of Engineering) access to high-quality data for publication and federal grant proposal submission.  With the acquisition of the new OCT, USF researchers can utilize a state-of-the-art, non-invasive, real time retinal imaging device to detect and monitor changes of blinding eye diseases in animal models.

  • Dr. Yu Chen, Morsani College of Medicine
    Dr. Chen’s SIP award purchased an SPT Labtech Mosquito Xtal3 system for protein X-ray crystallography, a powerful and important technique to determine protein structures, which provides critical information to understand protein functions and enable structure-based drug discovery.  The SIP grant, in the amount $113,110, made possible the replacement of a 14-year-old system.  The highly precise and efficient Mosquito Xtal3 instrument allows for accurate and reproducible dispensing of nanoliter-scale volumes of liquids, up to 20 times smaller than the current system – an exceptionally valuable feature. The equipment contributes to the USF strategic plan by fostering collaborative and innovative biomedical research while facilitating the training of both undergraduate and graduate students.

  • Dr. Aurelie Germa, College of Arts and Sciences: Dr. Germa’s SIP grant for $143,300 enabled the purchase of a Laser system to complement the current Perkin Elmer NexION 2000P Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer (ICP-MS). The Laser system is in the Center for Geochemical Analyses (CGA), a USF core facility hosted in the School of Geosciences.  The equipment expands the range of applications of the ICP-MS, particularly to the Volcanology/Geochemistry group, as well as to most of the School of Geosciences, the College of Marine Sciences, and regular USF and external users of the CGA. This new capability provides cutting-edge analytical services to USF faculty, supports the education and research of USF STEM students, and enhances development of new methodologies which can lead to novel research avenues for external funding.

2023 Funded Projects

During the spring of 2023, USFRI issued a call for proposals to be evaluated by faculty inclusive of each campus and college and members of the Associate Deans for Research, Research Advisory Committee, and the Research Council.  Multi-PI, multi-department, multi-campus proposals that focus broadly on supporting the facilities and research infrastructure at USF were considered for the spring 2023 round of funding.

The following seven projects were selected for funding in July 2023.:

  • Dr. Katherine Alfredo, College of Engineering: The equipment will assist in combating excess nutrient inputs to the environment and to provide access to clean water and restore and improve urban infrastructure, positioning USF researchers’ capacity for nutrient management in the Tampa Bay region, Florida, nationally, and internationally.

  • Dr. Parveen Bazard, College of Engineering: The equipment will enable Dr. Bazard and his team to combine biomedical engineering and imaging with hearing sciences, animal model techniques, and neuro-engineering to develop clinically relevant theragnostic tools for hearing impaired persons.

  • Dr. Laura Blair, USF Health Morsani College of Medicine: The purchase of new high speed and ultra centrifugation systems and rotors provides a mechanism for protein purification, plasmid purification, virus purification, protein solubility, sucrose gradients, and subcellular fractionation, and brings the USF Health Neuroscience Institute into better compliance of modern environmental, health, noise, and safety standards.

  • Dr. Jennifer Bugos, College of The Arts: This equipment enables examination of mechanisms that impact auditory learning and memory retention in childhood language discrimination and acquisition, children/young adults, older adults, rhythmic perception/decision-making, ERP spatial localization, speech/prosodic processing, and music learning.

  • Dr. Gary Daughdrill, College of Arts and Sciences: Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy is a superior tool for investigating the structure and dynamics proteins and small molecules, which is required for a deep understanding of protein function, the binding of drug candidates to viable targets, and the molecular basis of disease.

  • Dr. Yiqin Du, USF health Morsani College of Medicine: Purchase of state-of-the-art equipment essential for glaucoma-related research will enhance institutional infrastructure for faculty success.

  • Dr. Tempestt Neal, College of Engineering: This equipment grant enhances the computational capacity of the GAIVI high-performance computing cluster, currently utilized by the Institute for Artificial Intelligence + X at USF, through the acquisition of a state-of-the-art GPU server and performance storage, enabling the processing of larger training sets, faster learning, improved communication bandwidth, and efficient storage for a variety of AI applications, aligning with USF’s strategic goals and contributing to impactful research outcomes, student success, and interdisciplinary collaboration.

2020 Funded Projects

The following 14 projects were funded in April 2020:

  • Dr. Jean-François Biasse, College of Arts Sciences: The Center for Cryptographic Research (CCR) will engage in cryptography, the science of encrypting and decrypting messages, and will provide an integrated, interdisciplinary, synergistic response to the cryptography challenges and opportunities stemming from research in cybersecurity.

  • Dr. Sarina Ergas, College of Engineering: Equipment will be purchased to produce biochar from organic feedstocks (wood waste, crop residues, invasive weeds, livestock manure, and sewage sludge), and investigate an approach that can produce valuable materials and energy products while controlling pollution and improving crop productivity.

  • Dr. Jeffrey Krischer, USF Health Morsani College of Medicine: This award provides for the development of mobile platforms for data collection direct from patients utilizing devices and sensors that communicate via the Cloud to clinicians and researchers, reducing the burden of data collection.

  • Dr. John Kuhn, College of Engineering: Specialized equipment will be acquired to provide for acceleration of the advancement of biofuels production from municipal solid waste sources.

  • Dr. Randy Larsen, College of Arts and Sciences: USF is establishing a National Security Initiative (USF-NSI) to serve as an institutional focal point in all areas of national and homeland security for research, undergraduate and graduate education, executive education, and community and corporate engagement.

  • Dr. Hongdao Meng, College of Behavioral and Community Sciences: This award supports an interdisciplinary project to build a prototype mobile application for precision music intervention development and testing to support social/cognitive engagement and psychological resilience for persons living with dementia in the community.

  • Dr. James Mihelcic, College of Engineering: This project’s goal is to build research capacity that will reduce exposure to lead (Pb) and other toxic metals found in drinking water and neighborhoods in order to improve the well-being of children and their families, in the Tampa Bay region of Florida and Sub-Saharan Africa.

  • Dr. Subhra Mohapatra, USF Health Morsani College of Medicine: This research provides an interdisciplinary proof-of-concept collaboration to discover the connection between traumatic brain injury (TBI) and auditory dysfunction (collaborator: Dr. Robert Frisina), creating a significant pathway for genomics-based drug discovery (collaborator: Dr. Shyam Mohapatra) to treat hearing loss.

  • Dr. Merry Lynn Morris, College of The Arts: The award will enable the completion of a second-generation prototype for the Rolling Dance Chair Project, re-conceptualizing the design of assistive mobility devices (e.g. wheelchairs) from a dance movement prospective.

  • Dr. Joan Reid, St. Petersburg campus: The USF Human Trafficking Risk to Resilience Research Lab will link and leverage the expertise of interdisciplinary researchers across three USF campuses and community partners to establish a center of research excellence with the goal of transforming Tampa Bay from a region characterized by human trafficking risk to a region of resilience.

  • Dr. Elizabeth Schotter, College of Arts and Sciences: This award will be used to purchase eye tracking and electroencephalography equipment, allowing researchers from a range of disciplines to conduct cutting-edge cognitive neuroscience research and link brain activity with visual attention behavior.

  • Dr. Ryan Toomey, College of Engineering: A modern, well-equipped rheometer will be purchased to fulfill a critical need in the USF strategic research areas of Brain and Spinal Cord, Heart, Human Security, Water, and Research Translation, and enable USF scientists and trainees to compete for new significant grants, including from the NIH, NSF, and DoD.

  • Dr. Maya Trotz, College of Engineering: This award allows for the development of the University of South Florida Strong Coasts Convergence Center (SCCC), to foster interdisciplinary and community-engaged systems thinking research and contribute actionable science toward building more resilient communities in Florida, the Caribbean, and Latin America.

  • Dr. Lilia Woods, College of Arts and Sciences: The Florida IQ Center will comprise researchers in the colleges of Arts and Sciences and Engineering, along with Cyber Florida, seeking to build bridges and capacity in the emerging fields of quantum science and information.

2019 Funded Projects

The following nine projects were funded in April 2019:

  • Dr. Theresa Beckie, USF College of Nursing: A mini randomized controlled trial evaluating whether HerBeat™ is more effective than an Educational Usual Care (E-UC) comparison group for improving primary outcome, exercise capacity (EC), and other indicators of cardiovascular health.

  • Dr. Ramesh Ayyala, USF Health Morsani College of Medicine: The BioInnovation Research and Vision Enterprise (BRAVE) is a proposed new center to promote interdisciplinary collaboration to develop innovative research strategies that help eradicate blindness.

  • Dr. Rita Debate, College of Public Health: The StudentLife Application Project: Predicting and Impacting 1st year Persistence and 4 & 6 Year Graduation Rates.

  • Dr. Sudeep Sarkar, College of Engineering: Center for Artificial Intelligence AI+X proposes establishing a world-class academic R&D center to conduct externally-funded research in artificial intelligence and associated areas using a transdisciplinary approach.

  • Dr. Shyam Mohapatra, USF Health Morsani College of Medicine: A group of interdisciplinary collaborative investigators from the colleges of Medicine, Engineering and Arts and Sciences aim to advance precision management of cancers, especially focusing on colorectal cancers, via unique and novel predictive artificial intelligence.

  • Dr. James Leahy, College of Arts & Sciences: Improve and expand upon USF core facilities in nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and gas chromatographic mass spectrometry (GC/MS).

  • Dr. Venkat Bhethanabotla, College of Engineering: Research & development of point of care biosensor platform for cancer biomarkers.

  • Dr. Kevin Kip, College of Public Health: Equipment and a mini clinical trial to examine the mechanistic basis of Accelerated Resolution Therapy in the treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and related comorbidities.

  • Dr. Kyle Reed, College of Engineering: Interdisciplinary project to build prototypes and conduct a mini clinical trial validating devices that will help to quantify parts of the Friedreich's Ataxia Rating Scale (FARS).