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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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)
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.
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
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.
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 Mathematics
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 Art
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 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 Chemical, Paper, & Biomedical Engineering
Jones received funding from PsyBio Therapeutics to enhance and evaluate the commercial viability of a cost-effective psilocybin production method. Matt 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:
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.
Michael Lipsitz Economics
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 Geography
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
The Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) focuses on providing and enhancing undergraduate research opportunities for both faculty and students. CUR is one of the few professional organizations that focuses on all areas of academic research, including the arts and humanities, biology, chemistry, geosciences, health sciences, mathematics and computer science, physics and astronomy, psychology and social sciences. This allows for high-quality collaboration between undergraduate students and faculty, regardless of discipline.
CUR exists to support undergraduate research by providing networking opportunities and other resources to faculty. Broadly defined, undergraduate research is an inquiry or investigation conducted by an undergraduate student that makes an original intellectual or creative contribution to the discipline. By including undergraduates in their research projects, faculty members develop professionally while also serving the academic community.
Miami University values and supports CUR’s mission through its enhanced institutional membership, which covers all Miami affiliates’ membership costs.
Membership offers the following benefits to faculty:
By writing articles for CUR publications and listservs, faculty members can share their ideas via these media and can gather new ideas by reading colleagues’ articles.
Faculty members can also contribute to Miami’s strong reputation with undergraduate research. By joining the CUR, faculty members are declaring their involvement with such programs.
CUR offers a chance to interact and connect with other professionals interested in advancing undergraduate research.
Through CUR publications and outreach activities, faculty share successful models and strategies, adapting ideas to their own research processes.
Faculty members can build their professional skills by attending a CUR conference, which gives them the opportunity to actively engage with other faculty and discuss issues relevant to undergraduate research.
Improved opportunities and environment
CUR’s mentor network is beneficial to faculty members who are interested in initiating or sustaining undergraduate research programs.
Through its consulting services, CUR assists colleges and universities in a range of activities, including assessing undergraduate research programs, designing fundraising programs and organizing faculty retreats with guest speakers.
Funding opportunities and fellowships are provided to undergrads through the CUR website.
September 25, 2020, marks the sixth annual National Research Administrator Day. This year, we are commemorating the event by continuing our tradition of profiling staff in various research administration units at Miami University. This year, we introduce you to the team in Research Ethics & Integrity, who provide administrative support to the Institutional Review Board (IRB) for research involving humans as subjects, the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC), and the Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) Program. We also introduce you to the newest member of Research & Sponsored Programs (a team that was featured in our 2018 National Research Administrator Day post) and the Interim Vice President for Research & Innovation. (To learn more about the research administration profession, check out this post from our archive, by former Research & Sponsored Programs team member Tricia Callahan.)
Mike Crowder, Interim Vice President for Research
How long have you been a research administrator?
Almost 2 months.
Describe your job in five words or less. Learn the position (right now)
What’s something that seems obvious to research administrators, but is often misunderstood by other people? The VPRI job has many facets to it, and ORI oversees many entities on campus. The VPRI will jump from a meeting with a patent attorney, to a meeting with a state legislator, to a meeting with a research center director, to a meeting with business partners, to a meeting with a faculty member with very narrow research issues, all in one morning.
What is your research administrator superpower? Juggling, right now! I am trying to keep a lot of balls in the air right now, but learning new things is exciting.
If you weren’t a research administrator what job would you have? A professor, teaching my fermentation class and a biochemistry class, and working with my graduate and undergraduate students in the research lab.
Neal Sullivan, Director of Research Ethics & Integrity
How long have you been a research administrator?
Describe your job in five words or less.
Ensuring researchers meet ethical norms.
What’s something that seems obvious to research administrators, but is often misunderstood by other people? Sometimes, researchers, particularly those conducting human subjects research, provide much more information on applications than we need to conduct a review. A simple project should require a simple description. Providing unneeded information creates more work for the researcher and more work for the reviewers. We need enough information to understand the project and understand that the researchers respect the subjects, but not much more than that. Sometimes more information is needed and the reviewers will not hesitate to ask questions.
What is your research administrator superpower?
Always remembering and applying the fundamentals. We are reviewing each project to ensure it complies with regulations and ethical principles. Not every project needs to incorporate the same elements to meet that objective. The regulations were written to scale oversight to the degree of risk presented by the project. Low risk, low impact activities may proceed with minimal bureaucratic delay, and that is how we try and run this office.
If you weren’t a research administrator what job would you have?
Forest ecologist. My education and degrees are in forest ecology and management and I am a researcher by nature. Pondering about and studying the relationships between the elements in an environment is something I have done for as long as I can remember. By spending less time and energy on such projects, we are able to allocate more resources to those projects that require more rigor.
Jennifer Sutton, Associate Director of Research Ethics & Integrity
How long have you been a research administrator?
I have been a research administrator for nine of my 13 years at Miami.
Describe your job in five words or less.
Lots and lots of reading!
What’s something that seems obvious to research administrators, but is often misunderstood by other people?
The difference between exempted and expedited research. Exempted applications are reviewed and approved without going to the IRB for review and approval, whereas expedited applications go to the IRB for review and approval. To simplify this process, we call it Level 1 (exempted) and Level 2 (expedited) review and approval.
What is your research administrator superpower?
My superpower is being able to help researchers select the correct application (Level 1 or Level 2) that best suits their study.
If you weren’t a research administrator what job would you have?
You would find me “out to sea” on a cruise ship creating various vlogs for families looking for fun and affordable family vacations! I would have my own travel company that specializes in cruise vacations.
CaTia Daniels, Proposal & Contract Specialist
How long have you been a research administrator? I have been in research administration for 1 year.
Describe your job in five words or less. Detailed, honesty, integrity, organized, learning.
What’s something that seems obvious to research administrators, but is often misunderstood by other people? Something that is obvious as a research administrator is the details that are needed to pay attention to when in comes to contracts and proposals. When working with a PI who may not have experience in writing proposals, they learn how detailed they need to be in order to increase their chances of receiving funding.
What is your research administrator superpower? I think my research administrator superpower is relationship building. Everyone I work with, I always try to give them a great experience because I’m here to assist them with their career goals. So far, so good, I think 🙂
If you weren’t a research administrator what job would you have? If I wasn’t in research administration, I’d be in grant writing at a nonprofit. That was actually where I started working right out of college, but the transition to research administration has been great!
Updated 09/24/2020 at 10:35am to include information originally omitted from Jennifer Sutton’s response to Question 3. Exempted applications are reviewed and approved without going to the IRB for review and approval, whereas expedited applications go to the IRB for review and approval.