About USFRI

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.

During the fall semester of 2019, USFRI issued a call for proposals to be evaluated by the Research Advisory Committee, based on the following criteria: expertise of the PI/Co-PI; focus on novel, innovative, and inventive research and development; promotion of interdisciplinary and/or international collaboration; alignment with the USF Research Strategic Plan and/or other USF Strategic Priorities (e.g., PBF, Preeminence, AAU); potential for future funding and sustainability of project for a minimum of three years beyond initial funding; clarity of budget; and justification for funding.

The following fourteen projects have been selected for funding. Thanks to all who participated in this strategic research program.

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, 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, 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, USF St. Petersburg: 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.


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, 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, 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).