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New BC Grant Programs Support Faculty Research

'ignite' and 'rads' programs will award up to $550,000 annually to faculty in all disciplines

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. (August 2014) – The Office of the Provost at Boston College has launched two new grant programs designed to provide “seed” funding for new faculty scholarship, encourage cross-discipline collaborations and help researchers compete for external funding, according to Vice Provost for Research Thomas Chiles.

Jessica Black
Graduate School of Social Work
Assistant Professor Jessica Black

The Ignite program will award three to four grants of up to $30,000 three times a year to full-time, tenure-track and non-tenure track faculty, Chiles said. The program, which recently awarded its first round of grants, is designed to respond to requests throughout the academic year and provide a relatively short turn-around time between application and funding.

The second new program, Research Across Disciplines and Schools, or RADS, will have a single funding cycle, annually awarding up to $50,000 to as many as five projects. This initiative is designed to encourage interdisciplinary research projects between faculty in different disciplines, departments and schools, Chiles said.

“We are a research university and innovation, new ideas and discoveries come from our faculty,” said Chiles, a professor of biology. “These programs give us a mechanism to help faculty make progress on ideas and innovations, with the goal of positioning them to be successful as they compete for federal and private funding.”

Combined, the two new grant programs make available up to $550,000 annually to faculty. The new programs join the existing University grant programs: Research Expense Grants and Research Incentive Grants.

After announcing the program to deans and department chairs this spring, Chiles’ office received a first round of applications, which were reviewed by external faculty. Awarded at the close of the spring semester, the first round of Ignite grants went to the following projects:

•    “Cyclic Adenosine Monophosphate (cAMP) Signaling in Mammals,” Professor of Biology Charlie Hoffman; demonstrating proof-of-concept for new methods to discover chemical tools for the study of cellular signaling.
•    “Using a Biopsychosocial Lens to Examine Risk and Protective Processes in Students with Learning Disabilities,” Graduate School of Social Work Assistant Professor Jessica Black; establishing new survey tools to assess neurological responses in youth with or at risk for learning disabilities.
•    “Smart ‘First Aid’ Fabrics,” Professor of Chemistry Marc Snapper; creating novel first aid fabrics that respond selectively to injuries.
•    “Building a Pipeline to STEM Careers for Minority Students: Next Generation NSF Proposals,” Lynch School of Education professors Mike Barnett and David Blustein; evaluating the use of robotics to teach science and strategic problem solving.
•    “Massachusetts Cranberries: Sustaining a Native Production System Amidst a Changing Climate,” Assistant Professor of Sociology Brian J. Gareau and Earth and Environmental Sciences Lecturer Tara Pisani Gareau; examining how to protect the state’s cranberry crop from threats posed by climate change.

Graduate School of Social Work’s Black, an educational neuroscientist, said her Ignite award will support her role on a team that includes researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, and Stanford University.

“This Ignite Award is important to expand learning disabilities research beyond deficit and risk to also include explicit focus on under explored protective processes – such as academic and non-academic strengths, future orientation, motivation, and mentor relationships – that may contribute to resilience outcomes for these youth,” Black said. The team is preparing to seek federal funding for a large-scale, long-term youth study using neuro-imaging.

Applications for the second round of Ignite awards are due on September 1 and recipients will be notified in approximately eight weeks. The broad range of Ignite proposals received during the inaugural round impressed Chiles.

“We had a great pool of applications and as a result we have funded projects across the university, across schools and across disciplines,” said Chiles. “We wanted to see that kind of breadth and I think the response exceeded our expectations.”

Central to both award programs is the need for researchers to outline a “leveraging plan” to use their initial BC awards to secure external funding, be it from government agencies, private foundations and institutions or corporate sponsors.

“The competition for federal and private dollars is as fierce as it has ever been,” said Chiles. “It is unprecedented, frankly. In this climate, faculty seeking external funding need to show a significant body of published and preliminary data to support the feasibility of their research. There very few places that will support that early work, so it was crucial for the University to create an internal option to support our faculty.”

Additional information about the new grant programs can be found at Office of the Provost website.

--Ed Hayward is associate director of the Office of News & Public Affairs