Seed Grant Programs

In support of its mission to promote world-class, interdisciplinary research, the Institute created an intramural grant program in 2020 to enhance interdisciplinary collaborations with the goals of increasing its members’ scholarly output and competitiveness for extramural funding. These awards are viewed as seed funding to build interdisciplinary teams and produce preliminary data toward writing competitive extramural funding proposals, especially center grant funding.

Open Seed Grant Program (2020)

For the initial offering in 2020, “…we designed the program to advance the mission of the BioInspired Institute:  promoting world-class research,” said Director Lisa Manning.  “Our goal is to jump-start exciting ideas that result from faculty collaborating across disciplines.” Manning notes that the application was intentionally designed to be less time-consuming for the inaugural year, recognizing the challenges that many faculty faced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. “The proposals we received are really exciting.  Each has the potential to be leveraged into high-impact research programs,” said Jay Henderson, associate director of BioInspired.

The awards of approximately $30,000 each have gone to six projects that started January 1, 2021:

  • Samuel Herberg (Principal Investigator, Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, SUNY Upstate) and Pranav Soman (co-Principal Investigator):  Investigating the effects of localized extracellular matrix stiffening on human trabecular meshwork biopolymer hydrogels.
  • Era Jain (Principal Investigator) and Zhen Ma (co-Principal Investigator):  Designer microgels for generation of synthetic blastocyst mimics.
  • Davoud Mozhdehi (Principal Investigator) and Pranav Soman (co-Principal Investigator):  Genetically programmable and mechanically adaptive engineered living materials.
  • Alison Patteson (Principal Investigator), Heidi Hehnly (co-Principal Investigator) and Jennifer Schwarz (co-Principal Investigator):  Deciphering the role of vimentin-centrosome interactions in cell function.
  • Minghao Rostami (Principal Investigator) and Melissa Green (co-Principal Investigator):  An Interactive Virtual Reality System for Microfluidics and Beyond.
  • Rachel Steinhardt (Principal Investigator) and Christian Santangelo (co-Principal Investigator):  Strong creases, active folds:  development of active matter for soft robotics.

After two years of the seed grants (winter 2023), our assessment data indicate that these funded projects  resulted in:

  • $3.7M in successful extramural funding
  • 14 published papers and 7 meeting presentations
  • 22 trainees impacted (7 undergraduates, 13 graduates, and 2 postdoctoral associates)

Postdoctoral Scholars Program (2021)

In support of its mission, the Institute solicited proposals to form the scientific core of an Institute-wide application to the Office of Research Postdoctoral Scholars Program 2021 internal funding opportunity, with the Institute providing a portion of the required matching funds via our intramural seed grant program. As the Institute is focused on research that requires diverse expertise and pushes disciplinary boundaries, projects supported by the Institute must have had one co-PI in addition to the lead PI. After review by the Office of Research, the Institute was awarded one postdoctoral scholar. The winning proposal will fund a postdoctoral associate jointly advised by Alison Patteson (Principal Investigator) and Roy Welch (co-Principal Investigator) to perform research in the area of experimental biophysics and microbial genetics. This postdoctoral scholar’s project will focus on uncovering genetic factors underlying the self-organizing behavior of Myxococcus xanthus bacterial biofilms in response to physical stress.

NSF MRSEC Ideation (2021)

A key mechanism for funding high-impact, interdisciplinary research projects is through center-level research grants. Therefore, identifying and supporting preliminary work towards promising ideas that can drive forward large-scale collaborative grants is an important goal of the Institute. Other seed funding mechanisms on campus are less well-suited to that goal. For this reason, BioInspired launched a seed funding mechanism explicitly focused on identifying and supporting large-scale collaborative research projects that are highly aligned with specific center-grant funding opportunities. This funding round focused on seed funding ideation for the NSF’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers (MRSEC) mechanism. We expect that the funding will catalyze collaborations over a longer timeframe, which will be important for future MRSEC or NSF Division of Materials Research funding opportunities.

We made one, two-year award for $60,000 that started March 30, 2022:

Open Center Grant Ideation (2022)

The Institute  launched a seed funding mechanism focused on identifying and supporting large-scale collaborative research projects that included any extramural center-type or multi-investigator funding mechanism that could lead to one. We expect that ideas and language developed for these seed funding proposals may generate components of potential center proposals lead by the Institute in the future or to form the core of a multi-investigator proposal organized by the proposing team(s). Consistent with typical center grants, which require diverse expertise and push disciplinary boundaries, these projects consist of teams of 3-6, although there are no constraints on the departments or fields for the PIs. The proposed work must identify a target center-type or multi-investigator funding mechanism and describe a research theme that fits within that opportunity.

We made two, two-year awards for $60,000 that started May 1, 2023:

  • Alaji Bah (Principal Investigator); and Liviu Movileanu, Steven Hanes, and Aaron Wolfe (co-Principal Investigators): Using the Co-evolution of the Ess1-CTD axis in Polar Fungi to Investigate the Role of Phase Separation as a Mechanism for Adaptation to Extreme Environments.
  • James Henderson (Principal Investigator); and Ivan Gitsov, Xiaocun Lu, and Mary Beth Monroe (co-Principal Investigators): Integrated, interdisciplinary experimentation and simulation to study multiscale spatial and temporal control of stimuli-responsive materials.

We are especially grateful to matching funds from the Offices of Research at SUNY Upstate Medical University and SUNY School of Environmental Science and Forestry for faculty from their institutions.