The University of Arizona

Grants Support Junior Faculty, Community Outreach Projects

By UA Foundation, October 26, 2011

The UA Foundation and the UA Office of the Vice President for Research are funding faculty members and projects with grant support.

Assistant professor Noah Whiteman is using his Faculty Seed Grant funding to better understand the detoxification effects of plant-based chemicals known as “mustard oils” in flies. (Photo by Noah Whiteman)
Assistant professor Noah Whiteman is using his Faculty Seed Grant funding to better understand the detoxification effects of plant-based chemicals known as “mustard oils” in flies. (Photo by Noah Whiteman)
With the aid of a Community Connection Grant, the Arizona Insect Festival attracted community members of all ages to the UA Mall to learn more about the world of insects. (Photo by Chip Hedgcock)
With the aid of a Community Connection Grant, the Arizona Insect Festival attracted community members of all ages to the UA Mall to learn more about the world of insects. (Photo by Chip Hedgcock)
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Sixteen up-and-coming University of Arizona junior faculty members and six UA projects that partner with the local community are recent recipients of grant funding through the UA Foundation and the UA Office of the Vice President for Research.

The UA Foundation's Grants and Awards Program funds faculty research and community projects through the Faculty Seed Grants, or FSG, and Community Connection Grants, or CCG. Since its inception in 1986, the program invests about $200,000 annually in University innovation and success.

FSG recipients include Kacey Ernst (epidemiology and biostatistics); Hanna Fares (molecular and cellular biology); Leah Fabiano-Smith (speech, language and hearing sciences); Faten Ghosn (government and public policy); David Gramling (German studies); Kathryn Matthias (pharmacy practice and science); Rebecca Mosher (plant sciences); Tracey Osborne (geography and development); Kelly Reynolds (environmental health sciences/public health); Sujata Sarkar (medicine); Lisanne Skyler (theatre, television and film); Beth Weinstein (architecture); Noah Whiteman (ecology and evolutionary biology); Stephen Wilson (speech, language and hearing sciences); Guang Yao (molecular and cellular biology); and Hussein Yassine (medicine).

CCG recipients include Linda Green (Latin American studies); Heather Hiscox (Skin Cancer Institute); Daniel McDonald (ecology and agriculture sciences); Ander Monson (English); Wendy Moore and Kathleen Walker (entomology); and Anna Spitz (biology and space sciences).

Faculty Seed Grants

The FSG program supports junior faculty members and researchers, providing them with seed funding to launch innovative research projects. Recipients are awarded up to $10,000 as short-term, one-time support for projects that have the potential to generate additional, external funding. These awards have historically generated up to 20 times their worth in additional grants.

One of the recipients is Noah Whiteman, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, who is studying the detoxification effects of plant-based chemicals known as "mustard oils" on flies to understand the oils' protective health benefits as anti-cancer, anti-aging agents.

As the flies ingest mustard oils, detoxification enzymes in the fly are turned on, which may then mop up other bad molecules that the flies produce as a result of normal cellular processes. This could be the mechanism for slowing the aging process when flies feed on mustard oils, Whiteman said.

The results of this study will help him infer what might happen in humans because mustard oils, which are in all cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, are known to reduce cancer risk and could help people live longer. But, flies are easier to work with than humans to study such phenomena.

"My work has been pushed forward dramatically as a result of this funding," Whiteman said. "Having the confidence of your peers is one of the most important motivators for moving forward on a project, and getting that vote of confidence from the Faculty Seed Grants panel encouraged me to start contacting my colleagues to collaborate. I'm grateful for the UA Foundation's belief in this project."

Whiteman has already connected with faculty members from the BIO5 Institute, the McKnight Brain Institute and the department of molecular and cellular biology.

"What started out as an evolutionary biology project has blossomed into something with potential for direct biomedical implications," he said. "Our goal is to involve as many people and as many systems as possible on campus to understand the mechanism for the anti-aging phenotype and its generality across life."

Community Connection Grants

The CCG program helps to foster the UA's land-grant commitment by encouraging and promoting education, research and community outreach. Awards of up to $10,000 are given to faculty and staff recipients who are completing innovative projects that connect the University to Tucson and the greater community.

The Arizona Insect Festival was one of six UA programs to receive CCG funding. Wendy Moore, assistant professor of entomology and curator of the UA Insect Collection, was one of the organizers of the campus event, designed for participants of all ages, which took place on the UA Mall over Family Weekend in September.

The festival grew out of a desire of UA entomologists to spread the word about the importance of insects in our lives and to highlight research on insects that is taking place in many labs on the UA campus.  

The festival included 25 tents filled with insect-related activities, many of which highlighted UA research, and most of which included live insects. Every faculty member in the department of entomology participated, as well as several faculty from other departments, including neurobiology, ecology and evolutionary biology. Graduate and undergraduate students conducting research in entomology labs also participated.

"This was the first Arizona Insect Festival, and it was an amazing experience for all of us to work together to give back to the community in positive and productive ways," Moore said. "A committee of faculty, staff and students collaborated for more than a year to plan the festival. From the beginning, we wanted to make the event absolutely free and attract thousands of new visitors to the UA campus, and our CCG grant helped us make those dreams come true."

Contacts

Stephanie Balzer

UA Foundation

520-621-5581

Stephanie.Balzer@uafoundation.org