Grants Roundup

Last Updated on January 28, 2015 at 2:53 pm

Originally published in UTEP Magazine, Winter 2015

Between July and October 2014, The University of Texas at El Paso received research grants to study a range of topics. The following is a sampling of grant research in each college started during that four-month period.

College of Health Sciences

Eileen Aguilar, University Wellness Manager in the College of Health Sciences, in collaboration with Thenral D. Mangadu, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor in UTEP’s Department of Public Health Sciences, received a grant from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation’s “Two Should Know” initiative to fund “The Healthy Miner Sex Positive Peer Education Program” at UTEP. The program will focus on UTEP student sexual health with the primary aim of increasing self-efficacy among students to successfully engage in healthy relationships and prevent unintended pregnancies, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Center for Substance Abuse Prevention awarded Mangadu and co-principal investigator João Ferreira-Pinto, Ph.D., director of research and special projects in UTEP’s College of Health Sciences, a grant from SAMHSA’s Minority Serving Institutions Partnerships with Community-Based Organizations initiative to form a partnership for integrated substance abuse, HIV and Hepatitis C virus prevention.

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) awarded UTEP’s Department of Social Work a grant through the Title VI-E program to continue the Child Welfare Training Project in collaboration with Child Protective Services in El Paso through July 2015. In 2013, Mark Lusk, Ed.D., professor of social work and the project’s principal investigator, received a grant from the DFPS’s Title VI-E program to start the training program at UTEP. The project’s director is Adam McCormick, Ph.D., Master of Social Work program coordinator.

McCormick and co-principal investigators Candyce Berger, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Social Work, and Donna Cude-Islas, social work clinical assistant professor, received a Health Resources and Services Administration grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to provide scholarships to students in the Master of Social Work program who are committed to working in the field of child and adolescent behavioral health.

Connie Summers, Ph.D., and co-principal investigator Vanessa Mueller, Ph.D., assistant professors in the Speech-Language Pathology program, were awarded funding from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs for their grant titled, “Preparing Bilingually Certified Speech-Language Pathologists.”


College of Engineering

Carlos M. Chang, Ph.D., associate professor of civil engineering, is leading a multidisciplinary team to evaluate how a road’s condition affects vehicle emissions. The research project includes participation from Texas Southern University (TSU) and is funded by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). By the end of the study, Chang’s UTEP-TSU team will provide TxDOT with a detailed guide of road maintenance strategies that could help mitigate emissions.

The U.S. Department of Education has funded Roger V. Gonzalez, Ph.D., director of Engineering Leadership and professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering, and co-principal investigator Peter Golding, Ph.D., professor of metallurgical and materials engineering, to establish a partnership with the nationally recognized Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering. The grant will create novel classroom pedagogical paradigms in the new Engineering Leadership program. By working with and learning from the college, UTEP also hopes to increase the number of Hispanic engineering students, particularly women, resulting in higher graduation rates.34

Professor of civil engineering Austin Marshall, J.D., and co-principal investigator Adeeba Raheem, Ph.D., assistant professor of civil engineering, received a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to provide local, non-English-speaking construction workers and employers with training on fall protection. Sessions will be conducted in classroom settings and on work sites, educating workers on how to recognize fall hazards and how to properly inspect and wear equipment that can prevent accidents.

Raymond C. Rumpf, Ph.D., associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, will use funding from the Naval Postgraduate School to develop all-dielectric, or non-metallic, antennas. Avoiding metal will allow the antennas to operate at a higher power, survive in chemically hostile environments and be integrated into plastic enclosures more easily.

Calvin M. Stewart, Ph.D., assistant professor of mechanical engineering, received funding from Sandia National Laboratories to create a novel modeling and characterization approach for the multiaxial response of energetic materials. Current characterization techniques are highly complex, requiring expensive instrumentation, but Stewart’s new system aims to be simpler, relying on 3-D imaging to determine the surface deformation of energetic materials.


College of Science

Principal investigator Stephen B. Aley, Ph.D., professor of biological sciences, has received funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to develop the UTEP Program to Educate and Retain Students in STEM Tracks (UTEP PERSIST). With the help of co-principal investigators Lourdes Echegoyen, Ph.D., director of the Campus Office of Undergraduate Research Initiatives; Eli Greenbaum, Ph.D., associate professor of biological sciences; Arshad Khan, Ph.D., assistant professor of biological sciences; and Dino Villagran, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry, the program will focus on providing incoming freshman with authentic research experiences. The goal is to significantly increase the number of exceptionally trained science and engineering graduates from underrepresented and financially disadvantaged groups.

NASA has given a team of researchers at multiple universities, including UTEP’s principal investigator Thomas Gill, Ph.D., associate professor of geological sciences, a grant to help create a record showing how dust storm activity has changed in the southwestern United States over recent decades. Dust activity is a crucial indicator of regional climate change in dry regions, so the project results are expected to assist with future national climate assessments.

Chunqiang Li, Ph.D., assistant professor of physics, has received a grant from the National Science Foundation to develop advanced optical microscope technology for molecular and cellular imaging. Co-principal investigator Wei Qian, Ph.D., professor of electrical and computer engineering, will assist with the invention, while Kyung-An Han, Ph.D., associate professor of biological sciences; Jorge Gardea-Torresdey, Ph.D., professor and chair of chemistry; and Chuan Xiao, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry, will use the technology to further their own individual studies.

The National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities awarded principal investigator Robert Kirken, Ph.D., dean of the College of Science, a multimillion-dollar grant to build key infrastructure in the laboratories of the Border Biomedical Research Center. The funds also will be used to hire six disease-expert faculty members, to support travel to international science conferences, to provide technical support personnel and to purchase research equipment and supplies.

Juan C. Noveron, Ph.D., project lead and associate professor of chemistry, will work with Heidi Taboada, Ph.D., and Jose Espiritu, Ph.D., associate professors of industrial, manufacturing and systems engineering, to create the multi-institution program I-Discover. Funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the goal is to accelerate student research on time-critical, global sustainability issues, like clean water recycling, green energy systems, food safety and food sustainability.


College of Liberal Arts

Edward Castañeda, Ph.D., professor of psychology, was awarded a supplemental grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Drug Abuse for the Vulnerability in Drug Abuse (VIDA) project. The grant will fund a three-year stipend for postdoctoral trainee Luis Carcoba, Ph.D., who will be co-mentored by Castañeda and Associate Professor of Psychology Laura E. O’Dell, Ph.D. Carcoba received his doctorate in biology from UTEP. His work on the VIDA project will develop his skills at a behavioral, neurochemical and molecular level, and ensure he is competitive for faculty positions at the end of his training.

Ernesto Chavez, Ph.D., associate professor of history, received a grant from the University of California, Los Angeles to examine the life of Ramón Novarro, a Mexican-born, Catholic, gay silent screen actor. Chavez’s project will focus on how Novarro deployed his race and religion while masking his sexuality in order to gain success in the film industry from the Jazz Age through the Vietnam era.

The Paso Del Norte Health Foundation awarded a grant to Theodore V. Cooper, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology, to continue providing individual and group interventions for light and intermittent smokers and provide all smokers with cessation resources offered throughout the community.

Craig Field, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology, received a grant from the Paso Del Norte Health Foundation for screening and brief motivational intervention to reduce binge drinking in the Paso del Norte region by implementing and evaluating this type of intervention in medical and community-based settings.

The National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Child Health and Human Development awarded a grant to Wendy Francis, Ph.D., professor of psychology, to research the mechanisms by which bilingualism and language proficiency impact verbal memory.

Brenda Risch, Ph.D., director of women’s studies, received a grant from Humanities Texas for “Engendering Community,” an exhibit for the UTEP Centennial Museum, which will present objects and oral histories recounting gender experiences in El Paso, particularly among the local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Silvia A. Torezani, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of sociology and anthropology, and co-principal investigator Josiah Heyman, Ph.D., professor of sociology and anthropology, were awarded a grant from the Health Initiative of the Americas’ Programa de Investigación en Migración y Salud at the University of California, Berkeley. Their project aims to map the health status of elderly Mexican migrants and identify major health problems, identify the target group’s current health care access and gaps in that access, and identify strategies used by elderly persons to navigate the health care system.

Larry Valero, Ph.D., director of the National Security Studies Institute and an associate professor of security studies, received a grant from the Office of the Secretary of Defense to establish the National Security Studies Institute – an Intelligence Community Center for Academic Excellence – within the College of Liberal Arts. The major components of the grant proposal include: 1) a Bachelor of Arts in strategic intelligence and analysis; 2) an Open Source Intelligence Graduate Certificate; 3) a Center for Intelligence and Security Research; 4) strategic partnerships for study abroad; 5) strategic language funding; 6) support for student professional development; 7) an annual national security colloquium; 8) support for the employment of new faculty; and 9) funding for faculty professional development. The new National Security Studies Institute will prepare a diverse cohort of qualified students for future U.S. government employment through leading and innovative intelligence education and scholarship.

Ronald Weber, Ph.D., associate professor of history, was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for a four-week summer institute for 25 teachers and graduate students in the humanities, classics, history and social sciences to study in Rome.


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