Progress made on interdisciplinary round table projects


The Office for the Advancement of Research and Scholarship (OARS) facilitated interdisciplinary collaboration at two round table events in 2013 and 2014. After the events, collaborative teams were eligible to apply for seed money. OARS is pleased to announce that since then, the nine teams awarded seed funding have made substantial progress in their efforts to gather information and data necessary for developing a proposal for extramural funding. We update you on their progress below.

Recruiting and Retaining Women in STEM

Amanda Diekman (Psychology)
Bo Brinkman (Computer Science & Software Engineering)
Kimberly Hamlin (American Studies/History)
Stacey Lowery Bretz (Chemistry & Biochemistry)

At the 2013 round table, Diekman, Brinkman, Lowery-Bretz and Hamlin discussed their interest in figuring out how to attract and retain women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math – the so-called STEM fields. Since being awarded seed funding, the team has led a series of meetings with numerous STEM faculty who are also interested in gender representation and conducted interviews about the challenges departments have experienced in recruiting and retaining faculty from underrepresented groups, including women. According to the team, these discussions have led them “to focus particularly on how we might improve recruitment and issues related to family life.” Other opportunities have emerged indirectly from the initial collaboration, including an NSF S-STEM grant for the Electronics and Computing Service Scholars project on which Brinkman is lead PI and Diekman is co-PI.

The team has submitted or plans to submit proposals, for the following NSF programs:

  • Increasing the Participation & Advancement of Women in Academic Science & Engineering Careers (ADVANCE), IT-CATALYST
  • Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (S-STEM)


Optical Sensors

Samir Bali (Physics)
Jason Berberich (Chemical, Paper, & Biomedical Engineering)
Jon Scaffidi (Chemistry & Biochemistry)

Coming together at the 2013 round table, Bali, Berberich and Scaffidi began collaborating on Bali’s method of using optical sensors to analyze opaque substances such as human tissue, milk and crude petroleum. Bali’s technique to look at fundamental optical properties of materials interested Berberich and Scaffidi because they recognized additional applications. They hoped to use the seed funding to discover the limitations of Bali’s techniques in order to identify the most promising applications. Since then, the team has completed experiments on sensitive detection of aggregation in highly dense suspensions of plasmonic and non-plasmonic nanoparticles, which led to data for two manuscript submissions and two poster presentations at the international meeting of the American Physical Society’s Division of Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics (DAMOP). Next steps, according to the trio, are to “significantly enhance sensor applicability by incorporating flow capability and temperature control.”

Efforts are under way to obtain funding from the following programs:

  • NSF Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation (CMMI) Division
  • NIH Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA/R15)
  • NSF Instrument Development for Biological Research (IDBR)


Interdisciplinary Science Communication

Michelle Boone (Biology)
Annie-Laurie Blair (Media, Journalism, & Film)
David Gorchov (Biology)
Scott Johnston (Architecture & Interior Design)
Richard Moore (Biology)
Valarie Ubbes (Kinesiology & Health)
Michael Vanni (Biology)
Roscoe Wilson (Art)

Recognizing that as scientists, they are not trained to a broad audience, Boone, Moore, Gorchov and Vanni used the 2013 round table to connect with Blair, Cummins, Johnston, Northcutt, Tonski, Ubbes, Wilson and Yamashiro, who they hoped could help engage the public in science through art and other disciplines. Since receiving the seed funding, this team has continued to write proposals seeking external funding. In addition, they held a faculty and graduate seminar on science communication and have run a successful program bringing students from the arts, communications, and science together to develop science communication projects. Recently, they also worked with a sculpture class to pair artists with scientists to produce pieces for display on campus.

The team has submitted or plans to submit proposals for the following funding programs:

  • NSF Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL)
  • Knight Foundation
  • NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU)


Synthetic Bone Scaffolds

Amy Yousefi (Chemical, Paper and Biomedical Engineering)
Paul James (Biology)
Jens Mueller (Research Computing Support Group)
Jing Zhang (Statistics)
Shouzhong Zou (Chemistry and Biochemistry)

Amy Yousefi was interested in synthetic bone graft substitutes, or bone scaffolds, to heal human bone defects. At the 2013 round table, she and James, Mueller, Zhang, and Zou formed an interdisciplinary team to work on the complex scaffolding process. They sought to develop a strategy and an experimental design to offer to the research community. Since being awarded the seed money, they have produced scaffolds by a hybrid 3D-bioplotting/porogen-leaching technique, which enhanced mass transport and production of bone tissue. They have also continued to test hypotheses and write and submit proposals for additional funding.

The team has submitted or plans to submit proposals for NSF and NIH programs.


Air Curtain

Mazyar Amin (Engineering Technology)
Xiao-Wen Cheng (Microbiology)
Nancy Kern-Manwaring (Nursing)

This team’s project, “Application of Air Curtain in Controlling Infectious Diseases in Healthcare Facilities,” got its start at the 2014 round table. Since then, Amin, Cheng, and Kern-Manwaring have completed their literature study, performed 2-Dimensional computational simulations (CFD), and designed and built an experimental air curtain. Several students in the Department of Engineering Technology have been involved in the above phases as well as in performing tests using novel experimental techniques. In addition, two students from Microbiology Department will evaluate the system by other tests.

The team has submitted or plans to submit proposals for the following U.S. Army Medical Research & Materiel Command programs:

  • Military Infectious Diseases Research
  • Medical Simulation & Information Sciences Research Program
  • Special Investment Areas/Innovation Funding


Childhood Obesity Reduction

Stephanie Nicely (Nursing)
Marisol del-Teso-Craviotto (Spanish & Portuguese)
Beth Miller (Kinesiology & Health)
Geralyn Timler (Speech Pathology & Audiology)
Jon Patton (Computer Science & Software Engineering)

Coming together at the 2014 round table, Nicely, del-Teso-Craviotto, Miller, Timler and Patton are collaborating on “Empowering Community Members to Create a Shared Vision of Childhood Obesity Reduction in Head Start Preschoolers.” By October 2014, the team had created and recruited a Growing Healthy Kids Advisory Board, made up of parents, service workers, and members of Head Start families. With that board, they have held meetings and collected quantitative data responses through the use of a parent survey on 265 participants across the country. One focus group of Head Start teachers and family service workers has been held, and the team also conducted a six-week photovoice project at one Head Start location. Another focus group will be held later this month and an additional photo voice project is planned for this coming fall. Preliminary findings have been presented at one conference and one annual meeting, and will also be presented to the Head Start leadership team later this month.

The team has submitted or plans to submit proposals for the following funding programs:

  • General Mills Foundation’s Champions for Healthy Kids
  • NIH


Risk of Falls in Older Adults

Amit Shukla (Mechanical & Manufacturing Engineering)
Jennifer Kinney (Sociology & Gerontology)
Robert Applebaum (Sociology & Gerontology)
Carol Bashford (Nursing)
Mert Bal (Engineering Technology)
Greg Reese (Research Computing Support Group)

At the 2014 round table, Shukla, Kinney, Applebaum, Bashford, Bal, and Reese came together to develop methods of predicting the risk of falls in older adults. Since then, the team has partnered with a local senior center and the Butler County Falls Prevention Task Force to recruit study participants. Following development of their next phase of implementation and additional data collection, the team plans to submit a manuscript summarizing the results of their study to ASME Dynamics and Controls conference, which is scheduled for October 2015.

The team has submitted or plans to submit proposals for the following funding programs:

  • NIH Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA/R15)
  • NSF Dynamic Systems (DS)


Focused Learning and Innovation with Students

Bob Setlock (College of Engineering & Computing)
Wayne Speer (Farmer School of Business)
Randi Thomas (Institutional Relations)
Denise Taliaferro Baszile (Educational Leadership)

Since the 2014 round table, Setlock, Speer, Thomas, and Baszile have extended the outreach of Setlock’s Project Highflight into regional communities. The team has delivered 12 weekly creative thinking activity sessions to Cincinnati students in grades K-8 that have earned them an invitation to speak with the Board of Directors of The National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering at the Procter & Gamble Company’s headquarters. In addition, they plan to continue offering creative thinking sessions and to apply for additional funding.

The team has submitted or plans to submit proposals for the following funding programs:

  • Procter & Gamble
  • Duke Energy
  • NSF Discovery Research K-12 (DRK-12)


Infant Mortality & Disparity

Cameron Hay-Rollins (Anthropology)
Paul Flaspohler (Psychology)
Ann Elizabeth Armstrong (Theater)

Partnering with alumni Jennifer Bailer and Toni King, Hay-Rollins, Flaspohler, and Armstrong have hosted events to discuss issues surrounding infant mortality and newborn care and will be conducting a person-centered interview study further exploring these issues as they emerge in the lives of individual women. With these preliminary data, the team will hold a series of community-based participatory research (CBPR) conferences to do partnership-research training and artistic expression exploration, and as a CBPR team move forward in research and advocacy on disparities in infant mortality in Butler County.

The team has submitted or plans to submit proposals for the following NIH programs:

  • Academic-Community Partnership Conference Series (R13)
  • Addressing Health Disparities in Maternal & Child Health Through Community-Based Participatory Research (R03)
  • Behavioral & Social Science Research on Understanding & Reducing Health Disparities (R01 or R21)
  • Women’s Mental Health During Pregnancy & the Postpatum Period (R01 or R21)


Written by Kailey Decker, Communications Intern, Office for the Advancement of Research & Scholarship, Miami University.

Photos of Winchester Round Table by Mike Peel via Wikimedia Commons, used under Creative Commons license.

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