New Strategic Initiative Grants support KU research on energy, human health, environment

Mon, 02/03/2014


Kevin Boatright
Office of Research

LAWRENCE — Three new University of Kansas research projects are the latest recipients of internal Strategic Initiative Grants, designed to achieve goals laid out in KU’s Bold Aspirations strategic plan. The three Level I projects address significant global challenges and will receive more than $982,000 in funding over the next three years.

“KU faculty and staff continue to make innovative proposals in response to this unique research opportunity,” said Jeffrey S. Vitter, provost and executive vice chancellor. “By making focused investments, KU is able to build competitive research capacity by forming multidisciplinary teams to work on important, high-priority problems.”

The three new projects involve 17 different researchers representing 12 different departments and centers at the Lawrence and Medical Center campuses. Each project is aligned with one or more of the Bold Aspirations strategic initiative themes: Sustaining the Planet, Powering the World; Promoting Well-Being, Finding Cures; Building Communities, Expanding Opportunities; and Harnessing Information, Multiplying Knowledge.

The latest award recipients:

  • “Sustainable Hydrocarbon Recovery in Unconventional Reservoirs” ($299,000, two years)  

Participating researchers are Jenn-Tai Liang, Cory Berkland, Reza Barati, Jyun-Sung Tsau, Steve Johnson, Ed Peltier, Belinda Sturm and Karen Peltier, representing the Tertiary Oil Recovery Program, the Department of Chemical & Petroleum Engineering, and the Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering.

KU already has a reputation for research into enhanced oil recovery in conventional reservoirs. This initiative will utilize a range of technologies and involve the formation of joint industry projects in four thrust areas: produced water treatments, hydraulic fracturing in shale formations, enhanced oil recovery in shale formations and reservoir characterization and simulation.

  • “Developing a Research Consortium on Aggression and Drug Abuse” ($383,174, three years)

Participating researchers are Marco Bortolato, Merlin Butler, Paula Fite, Erik Lundquist and Ann Manzardo, representing the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, the Center for Molecular Analysis of Disease Pathways, the Clinical Child Psychology Program, the Department of Psychology and the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at KU Medical Center.

The consortium will be the first multidisciplinary network in the country for studying how and why pathological impulsive aggression and substance abuse and addition disorders exist concurrently but independently in a subject. Using a unique combination of clinical and preclinical studies, the goal is to develop effective preventive and therapeutic interventions.

  • “Creating a Center for Metagenomic Microbial Community Analysis” ($299,925, two years)   

Participating researchers are Belinda Sturm, Sharon Billings, Stuart Macdonald, Jennifer Roberts and Ben Sikes, representing the Department of Civil, Environmental & Architectural Engineering, the Kansas Biological Survey, the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, the Department of Geology and the Department of Molecular Biosciences.

Microorganisms are abundant in humans, soils and waters throughout the world. Understanding the structure and function of microbial communities promises to provide revolutionary insights for human health, environmental sustainability, and energy generation. This project applies existing next-generation DNA sequencing and computing infrastructure at KU to advance knowledge of microbial communities in diverse environments.

The Research Investment Council, which reviews all Level I Strategic Initiative Grant proposals, has now recommended 12 Level I awards totaling nearly $4.4 million since the program began in 2012. A number of smaller Level II awards have also been made. The final Level I proposal deadline for the 2013-14 academic year is March 1. Proposals are submitted and evaluated using a secure, online system.

More information about the Bold Aspirations strategic plan is available online.

KU in the news
Christian Science MonitorThu, 08/21/2014
Columbia Journalism ReviewThu, 08/21/2014
This past week, new Jayhawks moved in and started their first semester at KU. Madisen Pool, a freshman in computer engineering, captured one of his first sunrises on the Hill. With a fresh start, and a feeling of accomplishment for starting college, Pool thought this view was a great reminder to enjoy life. We asked Pool what his advice would be to his fellow new Jayhawks and he said, "make your time here at the university memorable. Have fun, do something you’ve always wanted to do, meet new people, and most importantly get the most out of your experience and shape your life the way you want it to be. Rock Chalk!" We couldn't agree more. Rock Chalk, Madisen! Show us your new experiences with the hashtag, #exploreKU.

KU student tricks monkey flower into growing protective ‘hair’ Thanks to a KU Undergraduate Research Award (see more at, Sukhindervir Sandhu, a KU junior in biochemistry, figured out which genetic button to push to get a monkey flower, or Mimulus guttatus, to grow protective trichomes, or plant hair. Sandhu was able to track it down to a gene called SKP-1. By silencing SKP-1, he discovered that gene regulates plant hair growth in monkey flowers.

One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
26 prestigious Rhodes Scholars — more than all other Kansas colleges combined
Nearly $290 million in financial aid annually
1 of 9 public universities with outstanding study abroad programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
46 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
$260.5 million in externally funded research expenditures
23rd nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets," Military Times