A foil-wrapped Hershey's kiss sits in the spotlight on a dark woodgrain table. The "flag" sticking out of the wrapper reads "Congratulations." There are empty, crumpled-up Hershey's Kiss wrappers scattered around the still-wrapped Kiss.

CFR Faculty Research Grant recipients announced for 2020-2021

The University Senate Committee on Faculty Research (CFR) Faculty Research Grants Program awards three types of funding – summer research appointments, research graduate assistantships, and grants to promote research. Proposals are due annually during fall semester, with awards typically announced during J-term.

For 2020-2021, CFR received 32 proposals and funded 24. Congratulations to the following recipients:

  • Sara Arter (Nursing) – Summer Research Appointment
  • Kimberly Berg (Economics) – Summer Research Appointment
  • Jason Boock (Chemical, Paper & Biomedical Engineering) – Summer Research Appointment, Research Graduate Assistantship, and Grant to Promote Research
  • Scott Friend (Marketing) – Summer Research Appointment
  • Yingbin Hu (Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering) – Summer Research Appointment, Research Graduate Assistantship, and Grant to Promote Research
  • Jeffrey Hunger (Psychology) – Summer Research Appointment
  • Tetsuya Ishiu (Mathematics) – Summer Research Appointment
  • Michael Kennedy (Chemistry & Biochemistry) – Summer Research Appointment, Research Graduate Assistantship, and Grant to Promote Research
  • Lei Kerr (Chemical, Paper & Biomedical Engineering) – Summer Research Appointment, Research Graduate Assistantship, and Grant to Promote Research
  • Elizabeth Keslacy (Architecture & Interior Design) – Summer Research Appointment and Grant to Promote Research
  • Shashi Lalvanni (Chemical, Paper & Biomedical Engineering) – Summer Research Appointment, Research Graduate Assistantship, and Grant to Promote Research
  • Bo Li (Sport Leadership & Management) – Summer Research Appointment
  • Hongmei Li (Media, Journalism and Film) – Summer Research Appointment
  • David Prytherch (Geography) – Research Graduate Assistantship
  • Jennifer Quinn (Psychology) – Grant to Promote Research
  • Eric Rapos (Computer Science & Software Engineering) – Summer Research Appointment, Research Graduate Assistantship, and Grant to Promote Research
  • Sujay Sabnis (Educational Psychology) – Summer Research Appointment and Grant to Promote Research
  • Matthew Saxton (Biological Sciences) – Research Graduate Assistantship and Grant to Promote Research
  • Adam Strantz (Interactive Media Studies) – Summer Research Appointment
  • Nam Vu (Economics) – Summer Research Appointment and Grant to Promote Research
  • Jessie Wang (Marketing) – Summer Research Appointment
  • Qingcong Yuan (Statistics) – Summer Research Appointment
  • Ran Zhang (Electrical and Computer Engineering) – Summer Research Appointment, Research Graduate Assistantship, and Grant to Promote Research
  • Meixia Zhao (Biology) – Summer Research Appointment, Research Graduate Assistantship, and Grant to Promote Research

Heather Johnston to Leave ORI

Image of Heather Beattey Johnston
Heather Beattey Johnston

It is with great regret that I announce the departure of Heather Beattey Johnston, Associate Director of Research Communications, from the Office of Research and Innovation (ORI) at Miami University. Heather has started her own consultancy, Ogmios Research Solutions, and will spend most of the next two years fulfilling a contract to provide post-award project management for a clinical trial.

Heather joined ORI, then the Office of Research Advancement and Scholarship (OARS), in 2012 after several years in multiple roles at the University of Cincinnati. Heather has been the foundation of our research communications activities and has led a number of initiatives in support of researchers at Miami, including the New Faculty Grant Planning and Support (GPS) program, the Research & Innovation Report blog (formerly known as the OARS Research News newsletter and the OARS Research News blog), the Research & Innovation Annual Report of Extramural Funding and delivering funding opportunity information to researchers through the Funding Alert System, which she devised.

Heather regularly built relationships across campus to leverage expertise and knowledge across disciplines, catalyze research collaborations, and bring external proposal development and support resources to researchers. Heather shared with me that she is most proud of her efforts to transform the connective tissue of the research enterprise across Miami. She added, “Although the university’s motto is prodesse quam conspici, my job over the last eight years has been to help make Miami research more conspicuous. It has been an honor to help facilitate the work that animates Miami’s researchers, scholars, and creators and to amplify the impact of their discoveries and insights beyond the university.”

In addition to supporting researchers and advocating for research across the University, Heather has been active in national research professional development activities through the National Council of University Research Administrators (NCURA). She also provides formal training in the development of research ideas for funding through ENG 413/513 – Grant and Proposal Writing, offered this spring semester.

Heather’s final day within ORI will be Friday, January 29, 2021. In celebration of Heather and all of her contributions to Miami, we will have a virtual farewell on Wednesday, January 27, 2021, from 4-5:30pm.

We welcome all to join in wishing Heather luck on her new venture and the interesting opportunities in her new role.

Round, metal perpetual calendar. Text: Place Year Over Month. For 55 Yrs. Calendar. 1970-2024. Red Month for Leap Year. Th F S S M Tu W. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 27 28 29 30

Deadlines and events coming up in January

Two pages from a spiral bound calendar, each partially visible. Text: 6 W. 7 T. 8 FR. 9 SA. 7 8 9 10 11. 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16. 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19. 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16.

Be sure to check out the deadlines and events coming up this month:

January 1 . . . . . . . . . .  New Year’s Day: Federal agencies and Research & Innovation are closed
January 18 . . . . . . . . . Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: Federal agencies and Research & Innovation are closed
January 29 . . . . . . . . . Application deadline: Undergraduate Summer Scholars (USS) program for juniors and seniors

Perpetual calendar photo by Bryan Kennedy via Flickr. Paper calendar photo by photosteve101 via Flickr. Both used under Creative Commons license

Two children play kick the can

Required use of SAM.gov UEIs postponed

For those of you keeping track, we wanted to let you know that the federal government has postponed the deadline for transitioning away from DUNS numbers. The federal government was supposed to begin using their own unique identifiers for entities registered in the System for Award Management (SAM) by the end of this year, but are now targeting April 2022.

There’s nothing Miami PIs need to do at this time. Whenever Miami is assigned its UEI, we will update the institutional codes and identifiers section of our “Budget Resources” webpage and make the necessary changes to our institutional profile in Cayuse. Proposal consultants will also work with their assigned PIs to ensure the correct data is entered into applications prior to submission, both before and after the UEI rollout.

Kick the can image by Gan Khoon Lay from the Noun Project, used under Creative Commons license.

Round, metal perpetual calendar. Text: Place Year Over Month. For 55 Yrs. Calendar. 1970-2024. Red Month for Leap Year. Th F S S M Tu W. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 27 28 29 30

Deadlines and events coming up in November

Two pages from a spiral bound calendar, each partially visible. Text: 6 W. 7 T. 8 FR. 9 SA. 7 8 9 10 11. 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16. 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19. 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16.

Be sure to check out the deadlines and events coming up next month:

November 9 . . . . . . . . . . . . Deadline: NSF MRI internal competition preliminary proposals
November 10
. . . . . . . . . . . . Office of Research for Undergraduates student and faculty panel: Disciplinary Approaches to Research (4:00pm)
November 11 . . . . . . . . . . . . Office of Research for Undergraduates student and faculty panel: Disciplinary Approaches to Research (11:00am)

Perpetual calendar photo by Bryan Kennedy via Flickr. Paper calendar photo by photosteve101 via Flickr. Both used under Creative Commons license

Diagram shows components -- Sensay A, Antilles, and Sensay B -- arranged parallel to each other within an outer structure. The dimensions of the outer structure are labeled. It is 117mm long by 25 mm wide by 25 mm deep.

Miami faculty, small company team up to develop smaller, faster, more efficient computing device

We’ve all seen the message tacked onto the end of emails: “Please consider the environment before printing.” For those who do, indeed, consider the environment, digital often seems the better choice. Not printing that email saves a tree. Buying the digital version of a movie bypasses plastic waste. Holding a videoconference avoids the carbon emissions associated with travel to a face-to-face meeting.

But while having many of our digital possessions tucked away in the cloud may mean they leave virtually no footprint on our personal environments, they nevertheless leave a sizable footprint on the global environment. That’s because “the cloud” is actually millions of networked servers housed in huge data centers. According to an article in Yale Environment 360, “The biggest [data centers], covering a million square feet or more, consume as much power as a city of a million people. In total, they eat up more than 2 percent of the world’s electricity and emit roughly as much CO2 as the airline industry.”

Obviously, there’s no question of turning back; for environmental better or worse, digital is here to stay. So, where the analog world may have beat a path to the door of the inventor of a better mousetrap, the online world may beat a path to the door of the inventor of a better data center. That could end up being a team of researchers from Miami University and their industrial partner, Look Dynamics.

Powering artificial intelligence

The Miami researchers – Dave Hartup, Gokhan Sahin, and Chi-Hao Cheng in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; John Femiani in the Department of Computer and Software Engineering; and Anthony Rapp in the Department of Physics – are working with photonic processing company Look Dynamics on a project funded by the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The project aims to create computing hardware that is not only smaller and more energy-efficient, but also faster, enabling higher performance hardware for artificial intelligence (AI) systems.

According to Hartup, AI, and specifically deep learning, are “hot topics” in engineering because of their use in technologies such as autonomous vehicles, advanced medical imaging, and remote sensing. But generating the powerful algorithms behind that AI requires computers that consume large amounts of energy and space. These issues of sustainability (all those data centers!) and portability limit the application of AI to applications where power and space are readily available.

In collaboration with Look Dynamics, Hartup, Sahin, Cheng, Femiani, and Rapp – along with undergraduate students Owen Hichens and Janelle Ghanem – are helping to overcome these limitations by creating hardware that functions in a completely different way from conventional computers.

A prototype of the novel AI optical processing hardware being developed by Miami University researchers and Look Dynamics.

Replacing electrons with photons

Conventional computers and devices that are controlled by conventional computers – like smart TVs, gaming consoles, and microwaves – are sometimes called “electronics” because they function by moving electrons along circuits. The flow of electrons is controlled by computer chip components called transistors. To process large amounts of information, computer chips contain many transistors, but adding too many slows down processing speeds. And using more transistors results in higher power consumption and generates more heat, which must then be dissipated by fans, which require even more power. So far, scientific advances have enabled a steady increase in the number of transistors on each computer chip, but there’s consensus among electrical engineers that a hard limit is on the horizon.

What the Miami team and Look Dynamics are working on is optical computing hardware. Instead of electrons, optical computing devices rely on photons, particles that make up light. Because photons are transmitted in free space, they are unconstrained by the need for circuits and transistors. As a result, optical systems are able to achieve a high degree of what electrical engineers and computer scientists call “parallelism,” efficiently performing many calculations and carrying out many processes simultaneously.

“The hardware we’re working on can implement AI algorithms 1,000 times faster with 1,000 times less power,” Hartup says, “and it’s 500 to 1,000 times smaller than conventional hardware.”

That’s exactly what’s needed to expand the use of AI to new applications where power and space are limited. New contexts require new AI algorithms, and the more efficiently those algorithms can be implemented, the more quickly technologies can be brought to market. Smaller algorithmic computing devices enable more portable, wearable, or seamlessly integrated technologies.

Enabling new AI applications

Hartup says portable technologies are of particular interest to project sponsor DARPA. Many of the things that AI is really good at enabling, like image recognition and the detection and tracking of moving objects, have obvious relevance to defense. That relevance is sometimes lost if the technology can’t be applied in the field.

“If you’re talking about something like advanced AI algorithms for image processing, you’re not going to carry around a rack of electronics capable of doing that,” Hartup says. “It’s too big and heavy. But with an optical system, it’s small enough and light enough to carry around.”

In the context of data centers, optical computers’ small size means improved sustainability. Swapping out conventional systems with smaller, faster optical ones could allow the physical footprint of data centers to be maintained or reduced, even as the proliferation of AI-enabled technologies ratchets up demand for computing capacity. And because optical computers use less electricity, data centers’ carbon footprints could shrink as well.

For all the complex technology involved, what the Miami-Look Dynamics team is doing boils down to something very simple: applying new design – optics – to make an existing, useful thing – a computer – even more useful. Metaphorically speaking, they’re building a better mousetrap, and DARPA has been the first to take what will surely become a well beaten path to their door.

Images courtesy of Dave Hartup.

Red hardcover book gutter with sewn pages flipping through the air ready for browsing. The cover has a shiny, plastic texture.

Apply for CFR PREP program any time

The University Senate Committee on Faculty Research (CFR) invites Miami University’s tenure-eligible and tenured faculty (including librarians holding the M.S.L.S. degree or equivalent) to apply for support from the Publication, Reprint, Exhibition, and Performance (PREP) Costs program. The PREP program provides reimbursement up to $500 for the following:

  • Journal page charges
  • Book publication
  • Article or book chapter reprint costs
  • Exhibition or performance costs
  • Performance or composition costs

Applications to this program may be made at any time.  Reimbursement is limited to $500 per faculty member per academic year.

PREP awards were made to the following faculty in 2019-2020:

Brittany Aronson (Educational Leadership)
Rob Baker (Biology)
Per Bloland (Music)
Mary Ben Bonham (Architecture & Interior Design)
Michelle Boone (Biology)
Jim Bromley (English)
Tom Crist (Biology)
Brian Danoff (Political Science)
Annie Dell’Aria (Art)
Hailiang Dont (Geology & Environmental Earth Science)
Stefanie Dunning (English)
D.J. Ferguson (Microbiology)
Thomas Fisher (Statistics)
Nathan French (Comparative Religion)
Thomas Garcia (Music)
Daniel Gladish (Biological Sciences)
Ryan Gunderson (Sociology & Gerontology)
Kimberly Hamlin (Global & Intercultural Studies)
Huang Frank (Music)
John Humphries (Architecture & Interior Design)
Mariana Ivanova (German, Russion, Asian, and Middle Eastern Languages & Cultures)
Katie Johnson (English)
Brian Keane (Biology)
Michael Kennedy (Chemistry & Biochemistry)
Scott Kenworthy (Comparative Religion)
Anna Klosowska (French & Italian)
Jeff Kunzekoff (Interdisciplinary & Communication Studies)
Shashi Lalvani (Chemical, Paper, & Biomedical Engineering)
Chun Liang (Biology)
Jeremy Long (Music)
Patrizio Martinelli (Architecture & Interior Design)
Denise McCoskey (Classics)
Claire McLeod (Geology & Environmental Earth Science)
Imran Mirza (Physics)
James Moller (Manufacturing & Mechancial Engineering)
Ellen Price (Art)
Jennifer Quinn (Psychology)
Vaishali Raval (Psychology)
Noriko Reider (German, Russian, Asian, and Middle Eastern Languages & Cultures)
John Reynolds (Architecture & Interior Design)
Andrea Ridilla (Music)
Haifei Shi (Biology)
Aaron Shield (Speech Pathology and Audiology)
En-Jung Shon (Family Science & Social Work

Leland Spencer (Interdisciplinary & Communication Studies)
Cecilia Suhr (Humanities and Creative Arts)
Mike Vanni (Biology)
Xin Wang (Microbiology)
Craig Williamson (Biology)
Amy Yousefi (Chemical, Paper, & Biomedical Engineering)

Before applying for PREP program reimbursement, please read the program guidelines carefully.

Questions about the program may be directed to Research & Innovation or to Rick Page, 2020-2021 CFR Chair (513-529-2281).

About CFR

CFR is charged with supporting and encouraging the development of research and creative activity at Miami University.  In carrying out this charge, the CFR administers programs that support and celebrate faculty research and creative activities. Application to these programs is made through Research & Innovation.  Guidelines for all CFR programs — including detailed information, eligibility criteria, and application procedures — are available on the Research & Innovation website.

Orchestra photo by Miami University Photo Services.  Book photo by Horia Varlan via Flickr, used under Creative Commons license.

Interim Vice President for Research and Innovation offers perspective on FY 2020 extramural funding

The chart shows 10 years of funding totals: FY 2011 $23.3M; FY 2012 $21.3M; FY 2013 $21.5M; FY 2014 $20.6M; FY 2015 $18.8M; FY 2016 $23.1M; FY 2017 $17.8M; FY 2018 $24.1M; FY 2019 $24.1M; FY 2020 $27.0M
10-year funding trend

I am thrilled to announce that in FY 2020 Miami University set a new record for extramural funding: $26,951,278.

Although it is my privilege, as Interim Vice President of Research & Innovation, to announce this wonderful news, credit for the achievement is due in large part to the leadership of former VPRI Jim Oris, who retired on the last day of FY 2020. The year’s unprecedented level of funding is a culmination of Jim’s nine years of service to Miami’s research community, as a strategic thinker, an advocate, and a builder of relationships.

Even more directly responsible for the year’s success are the faculty and staff who applied for funding. They poured countless hours into gathering preliminary data, writing proposals, and developing relationships with sponsors. As a principal investigator myself, I know that each award of funding can represent five or ten – sometimes even more – proposals that were submitted but not funded. I also know that these low funding rates can make the proposal development process seem thankless. So, I will take this opportunity to extend a sincere thank you to the researchers, scholars, and artists behind every one of the 314 proposals Miami submitted in FY 2020.

Breaking down our record year

The chart shows the dollar value of awards and percentage of total awards, by division: College of Arts and Science $12.2M 45%; College of Creative Arts $156K 1%; College of Education, Health, and Society $1.7M 6%; Middletown Campus $306K 1%; Hamilton Campus $1.8M 7%; Farmer School of Business $450K 2%; College of Engineering & Computing $3.1M 11%; Research + Graduate School $3.6M 13%; Other Offices $3.7M 14%
Value of awards by division

Total funding in FY 2020 increased by nearly $3 million over FY 2019, a gain of more than 10%. Most of our divisions also saw increases. The College of Engineering & Computing led the way, more than doubling last year’s funding to achieve a total of $3.1 million. Significant gains were also seen by the College of Education, Health, & Society (up 70%), Research & Innovation + the Graduate School (up 20%), and the Middletown Campus (up 13%).

Although federal funding has been declining nationwide, our direct federal funding held fairly steady over the past year. Where the decline in federal funding may be more evident is in the 42% reduction in funds received from colleges, universities, and research institutions. This funding often comes in the form of subcontracts for work on projects sponsored by federal agencies. Fortunately, these losses were offset by increases in other sources of funding, including a tripling of funding from governments other than the federal government and the State of Ohio.

Chart shows the value of awards and percentage of total awards by source: Federal Government $9.7M 36%; State of Ohio $6.9M 26%; Associations, Foundations, & Other Non-Profits $4.6M 17%; Business & Industry $3.2M 12%; Colleges, Universities, and Research Institutions $1.8M 6%; Other Government $825K 3%. Breakout chart shows value of awards and percentage of Federal Government funding by federal agency: NSF $5.4M 61%; NIH $2.7M 31%; Department of Education $253K 3%; Other $1.3M 5%
Value of awards by source

hart shows the value of awards and percentage of total value of awards by purpose: Research $18.1M 67%; Service $4.3M 16%; Student Financial Aid $3.0M 11%; Instruction $1.1M 4%; Fellowship $470K 2%
Value of awards by purpose

In keeping with a historical trend, the overwhelming majority of FY2020 external funds were awarded in support of research activities. Funding for research, public service, and student financial aid all increased, but the biggest percentage gain — 92% — was in funding for fellowships.

Why we do what we do

Miamians are so dedicated to securing external funding because that funding enables work that couldn’t happen without it. Each proposal represents a potential intellectual breakthrough, transformative learning experience, or consequential service. These things are at the heart of our mission as a university. Directly or indirectly, they make lives better, and unparalleled extramural funding means unparalleled accomplishments on behalf of the citizens of Ohio, our nation, and the world. Following are some examples.


Louis DeBiasio

DeBiasio received a grant from NSF for research that leads to better understanding the mathematical structures at the heart of combinatorial problems with implications for computer science and network design.

Ann Dell’Aria

Ann Dell’Aria

Dell’Aria received funding from the non-profit arts organization FotoFocus to curate a public art exhibition featuring moving images projected onto buildings at Miami University. The exhibition engages the concept of “shedding light” onto a topic of conceptual, political, or social importance.

John Femiani

John Femiani
Computer Science & Software Engineering

Femiani was engaged by In-Depth Engineering Corp. to design algorithms that can be used in the development of a mine-detection system. Femiani’s approach augments conventional machine learning with novel techniques.

Andrew Jones

Andrew Jones
Chemical, Paper, & Biomedical Engineering

Jones received funding from PsyBio Therapeutics to enhance and evaluate the commercial viability of a cost-effective psilocybin production methodMatt McMurray, of Psychology, is a co-investigator. Psilocybin is perhaps best known as the compound responsible for the hallucinogenic effects of so-called “magic” mushrooms. But it is also increasingly recognized as a clinical treatment for substance abuse and addiction, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as reported in the following media outlets:

* Jones lab’s work mentioned

The expense of conventional production methods — including cultivation of Psilocybe cubensis mushrooms — has been a barrier to more widespread clinical use of psilocybin. The Jones lab’s cost-effective technique promises to increase access to this treatment option by enabling the development of affordable pharmaceutical drugs.

Mike Lipsitz

Michael Lipsitz

Lipsitz received funding from Duke University to contribute to analysis of the effect of non-compete agreement (NCA) enforcement on labor markets, workers’ earnings, and mobility. The analysis includes effects on workers bound and not bound by NCAs and disparate effects on men and women workers.

Jessica McCarty

Jessica McCarty

McCarty received a grant from NASA to map changes and model the future trajectory of land-coverage and land-use in the Mekong Delta region of southern Vietnam. McCarty’s departmental colleague Stanley Toops is a co-investigator.

Jody Perkins

Jody Perkins
University Libraries

Perkins received funding from the State Library of Ohio to host a three-day pre-conference workshop on digital storytelling for social change in conjunction with the 18th Annual Race, Class, Gender and Sexuality Symposium to be hosted by Miami University.

Janardan Subedi

Janardan Subedi
Scripps Gerontology Center

Subedi received funding from from UTHealth to contribute to research on the links between telomere biology and obesity, aging, and cardiometabolic disease risk. Results of the study will inform the assessment of risk, prevention, and treatment of accelerated aging and chronic disease. This funded research is part of the Fels Longitudinal Study, which was begun in Ohio in 1929. Now managed by UTHealth at the University of Texas, it is one of the longest and largest human health studies in the world, and has been the foundation of over 1,000 publications.

Craig Williamson

Craig Williamson

Williamson, an Ohio Eminent Scholar, was one of just seven scientists nationwide to receive an NSF Opportunities for Promoting Understanding Through Synthesis (OPUS) award. Williamson’s project will provide new insights into how dissolved organic matter influences long-term changes in water clarity, and the resulting consequences for lake ecosystems.

Sarah Woodruff

Sarah Woodruff
The Discovery Center

Woodruff received funding from SUNY Buffalo to evaluate perceptions and experiences of graduate students and postdoctoral associates involved in an NSF-funded interdisciplinary program involving 10 universities, three research institutes, three national laboratories, and an industry partner.

Matt Saxton

Matt Saxton
Biological Sciences

Saxton received funding from The Ohio State University to contribute to research on how microbes metabolize the herbicide glyphosate. Insight into this process is critical to understanding how herbicide use may contribute to harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie and other bodies of water.

Looking ahead

This is both my first and last reflection on Miami’s external funding success. Provost Jason Osborne recently named Alicia Knoedler as Vice President for Research & Innovation, effective November 1, 2020, and it will be her perspective you read in our next annual report. But even if I never have another chance to offer the people behind the numbers official thanks and congratulations, I want them to know that I will always be grateful for and proud of their contributions.

Photos by Miami University Photo Services.