Engineering Faculty Selected for New MPower Seed Grant Funding

The Joint Steering Council of the University of Maryland Strategic Partnership: MPowering the State (MPower) has awarded funding to 17 targeted collaborative research seed grants in six research areas of high importance led jointly by University of Maryland, College Park (UMD) and University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) researchers.

Four are co-led by Maryland Engineering faculty.

After a review and ranking of 52 submissions by faculty peers from both UMD and UMB, the Steering Council awarded a total of $3 million to invest in the future and kickstart new research in critical areas of paramount importance to the state and to the nation. The funding of projects ranges from $49,000 to $250,000 per award, for durations of six to 24 months.

The selected teams capitalize on the research expertise of UMD and UMB and showcase collaboration across multiple colleges and schools. The six targeted research areas are artificial intelligence (AI) and medicine; cybersecurity and homeland security; neuroscience and aging; pandemic readiness, resilience, and mitigation; racial and social justice; and violence and crime reduction.

“The MPower seed grants offer further proof that we’re making good on our responsibility to engineer a safer, healthier world and improve the human condition,” said Samuel Graham, Jr., dean of UMD’s A. James Clark School of Engineering. “Congratulations to our faculty for their outstanding work. We’re excited to see what these collaborations, and the many others in which we’re involved, bring.”

MPower leverages the sizable strengths and complementary missions of the state of Maryland’s two most powerful public research institutions—the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD) and the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB)—to strengthen Maryland’s innovation economy, advance interdisciplinary research, create opportunities for students, and solve important problems for the people of Maryland and the nation.

Maryland Engineering’s winning projects:

Theme: Artificial Intelligence and Medicine

“AI Discovery and Sensing for Biomarkers of Chronic Pain”
Professor Pamela Abshire (ECE/ISR), Maryland Engineering; and Professor Robert Ernst (Dentistry), UMB

The aim of this research is to establish a scientific foundation for understanding and treatment of chronic pain in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract using data science and artificial intelligence techniques for pathway discovery and in vivo sensing of biomarker correlates of nociception and pain.

“AI to Determine Alterations of 4-Dimensional Erythrocyte Flow in the Retina”
Professor Yang Tao (BIOE), Maryland Engineering; and Associate Professor Osamah Saeedi, MD (Medicine), UMB

The aim of this research is to develop an automated method of determining four-dimensional retinal capillary erythrocyte flow, thereby enabling real-time in vivo analysis of erythrocyte dynamics and ultimately identification of early signs of age-related eye and systemic diseases such as glaucoma and Alzheimer’s disease.

“Exploring the Hidden Links Between Cannabis and Cardiovascular Health Using Deep Learning”
Assistant Professor Eleonora Tubaldi (ME), Maryland Engineering; and Professor Jean Jeudy, MD (Medicine), UMB

While in many U.S. states cannabis has been legalized for medical and recreational use, its impact on cardiovascular health is still not well understood. The aim of this research is to leverage artificial intelligence and cardiac magnetic resonance (CMR) to find hidden links between cannabis consumption and cardiac structure/function and cardiovascular health.

Theme: Pandemic Readiness, Resilience, and Mitigation

“Scalable Manufacture of mRNA Vaccines for Agile Pandemic Response”
Professor Don DeVoe (ME/REFI), Maryland Engineering; and Professor Peter Swaan (Pharmacy), UMB

The aim of this research is to validate and optimize a novel technology that will significantly exceed the scalability of current best-in-class technology used for LNP-mRNA vaccine production, while also addressing key deficiencies in size control, nanoparticle uniformity, and throughput. The project will result in enhanced technical capability for agile pandemic response by providing a modular platform for scalable manufacture of LNP-mRNA vaccines, enabling vaccine production to be quickly ramped up at distributed locations in response to a new pandemic at the scale and rate required to meet global demand.

Published March 9, 2022