Grants Roundup

College of Health Sciences

Stephanie Capshaw, O.T.D., director of the Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) program, received a Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant to provide 50 scholarships to students in the MOT program. Scholarships are made possible for students from disadvantaged economic backgrounds through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services HRSA’s Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students program.

Anthony P. Salvatore, Ph.D., a speech-language pathology professor and chair of the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, and Timothy N. Tansey, former associate professor and director of the Master of Rehabilitation Counseling program, received a grant from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research to hire postdoctoral fellows to further study traumatic brain injuries (TBI). The goal is to increase advanced research capacity in TBIs among civilian and military populations.


College of Education

Pei-Ling Hsu, Ph.D., assistant professor of teacher education, received a grant from the National Science Foundation for a project titled “Transforming Students’ Partnerships with Scientists through Cogenerative Dialogues.” High school students, especially the underserved Hispanic population, and scientists will become partners to stimulate the students’ interest in science and research and create new avenues through which to recruit students into the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields. The goal also is to learn how to build interdisciplinary collaborations and networks among secondary and postsecondary instructors.


College of Engineering

John Walton, Ph.D., professor of civil engineering, received a grant from the SFWQ Corp. to help remove brine, or salt solution, from the naturally flowing springs that enter the Brazos River in central Texas. The brine degrades the water quality of the Brazos and leads to the necessity of desalination at downstream locations. Goals include removing the salt at its upstream source, which is more economical than downstream treatment, and producing marketable salts and potable water. The team will build one or more pilot plants to demonstrate technical feasibility and the economic cost-benefit of reducing the brine discharge.

David Zubia, Ph.D., associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, received a grant from the University of California, Berkeley, to perform collaborative research on low-energy electronics between UTEP and UC Berkeley’s Center for Energy Efficient Electronics Science. The research focuses on nanoscale crystal growth to create an efficient phototransistor. Other activities include jointly teaching courses and outreach for undergraduates.

Principal investigator Yirong Lin, Ph.D., assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and co-principal investigators Ahsan Choudhuri, Ph.D., professor and chair of mechanical engineering, and Ryan Wicker, Ph.D., director of the UTEP’s W.M. Keck Center for 3-D Innovation, received funding from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop technologies for “smart parts” with embedded sensors for high-efficiency and emission-free fossil energy systems using additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing.

Cesar Carrasco, Ph.D., associate professor of civil engineering, received a grant from Johns Hopkins University to help with NASA’s Solar Probe Plus project, whose mission is to “touch the sun” by 2024. The probe will face high levels of dust impact on its journey – which Carrasco will simulate. The engineer will help in the design of the solar probe by modeling the spacecraft’s trajectory and determining how many impacts will be made at which size, angle and speed. After Carrasco completes the simulations, he will give the information to the design team at Johns Hopkins to determine whether the vehicle needs more shielding.

Homer Nazeran, Ph.D., professor of electrical and computer engineering, received a grant from The University of Texas at San Antonio in addition to support from Loya Innovation Funds to create a biomedical instrument that monitors sleep and detects sleep apnea using cutting edge biosensing, biomedical signal processing techniques and smart mobile technologies. The instrument will enable a low-cost alternative to current labor-intensive and costly polysomnography and diagnostic approaches, and will facilitate home monitoring of sleep disorders.


College of Liberal Arts

Timothy Collins, Ph.D., associate professor of geography in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, and co-principal investigator Sara Grineski, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology, received a grant from the National Science Foundation to supplement a research experience for one undergraduate student in an ongoing project titled “Advancing Environmental Equity Research: Vulnerability to Air Pollution and Flood Risks in Houston and Miami.” The student will be supported for Year 3 of the project and will form part of an interdisciplinary research team that also includes investigators from the University of South Florida. This project aims to address several limitations associated with current environmental justice research and practice, and advance knowledge of social and spatial influences on residential exposure to environmental hazards.

Theodore Cooper, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology, received a grant from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation to broaden previously developed programs for light and intermittent smokers by comparing a group modality with an already-established individually based program. Since smokers who are more motivated to quit have a heightened likelihood of quitting, the current proposal focuses on smokers who are motivated to quit. Subjects will be recruited from throughout the El Paso community. The primary goals of this program are: 1) to assess the feasibility of the group program with light and intermittent smokers, 2) to assess program effectiveness in smokers highly motivated to quit smoking, and 3) to assess the effectiveness of the StopLite individual and group interventions in adult light and intermittent smokers.

Arvind Singhal, Ph.D., professor of communication, received a grant from the Population Media Center to investigate the effects of PMC’s highly successful “East Los High” web series and its multiple transmedia (website, mobile apps) extensions. Singhal will assist in the research planning, research design, and implementation tasks for the following aspects of the research: Viewer Exit Survey to assess audience involvement and health-related outcomes; Online Panel Experiment to assess the effects of the unique characteristics of the series as an entertainment-education health intervention; and Audience Feedback on Social Media to assess viewer response through comments, inquiries and interpersonal discussions.


College of Science 

Igor C. Almeida, Ph.D., professor of biological sciences, received a five-year grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences through Northwestern University to study the proteins of Trypanosoma brucei, a parasite that causes the human African trypanosomiasis (HAT), or sleeping sickness, and nagana in animals. HAT – a disease that causes fever, sleep cycle disruption and potentially even death in thousands of people in Africa every year – is transmitted by the tsetse fly, a large biting fly that feeds on blood. The hope is to identify potential targets to develop drug therapy against the parasite.

Tunna Baruah, Ph.D., associate professor of physics, received funding from the U.S. Department of Energy to support student travel expenses to a 2013 summer workshop in Italy. The workshop revolved around the theory and simulation of nanospintronics. Several energy scientists from the U.S. lectured and provided hands-on tutorials to describe the properties of such nano-magnets.

Steven Harder, D.Sc., research professor of geological sciences, received a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation to study the suturing of Appalachian terranes and Mesozoic rift history. In addition, to help engage students and early-career scientists, the grant will help fund two training workshops to teach basic but effective analysis methods with these new seismic reflection and refraction data

Craig Tweedie, Ph.D., associate professor of biological sciences, received funding from UMIAQ, a subsidiary of one of Alaska’s largest companies – Ukpeagvik Iñupiat Corporation. The grant will help create a coastal impact assistance program supporting Arctic science, with a special focus on the research hubs of Barrow, Atqasuk and Ivotuk on the north slope of Alaska. Known as the Barrow Area Information Database (BAID) Decision Support Tools Development Project, goals include compiling the most accurate, comprehensive picture to date of wetlands and erosion features of the coastal areas, and placing the tools for protection, conservation and restoration of coastal areas into the hands of local residents.

Jianying Zhang, Ph.D., professor of biological sciences, in collaboration with researchers at Loma Linda University, received a grant from the National Institutes of Health to identify and validate new biomarkers of prostate cancer that can be tailored to African-American men to enhance diagnosis, monitor disease progression and help guide personalized therapies. Zhang hopes the work will translate into a reduction of prostate cancer mortalities. African-American men are more likely to develop prostate cancer than Caucasian men, and are nearly two-and-a-half times as likely to die from the disease.

Rajendra Zope, Ph.D., assistant professor of physics, and Tunna Baruah, Ph.D., associate professor of physics, received a supplemental grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to study metal-organic frameworks using density functionals that can describe van der Waal interactions.


College of Business Administration

Tom Fullerton, Ph.D., professor of economics and finance, will conduct research for the Border Region Modeling Project, which received a grant from Hunt Communities to investigate metropolitan business cycle fluctuations. He will be assisted by Adam Walke, a research associate in the Department of Economics and Finance.

Fullerton also received an applied econometric research award from Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León for an empirical analysis of reverse dollarization in the form of peso payment acceptance by El Paso micro-enterprises.