Since 2003, the University has helped initiate and develop research projects through the Seed and Salomon awards. The Office of the Vice President for Research recently announced the 2020 winners in both categories.
Vice President for Research Jill Pipher, Elisha Benjamin Andrews professor of mathematics, describes the Seed awards as an investment in Brown researchers who are just starting out. “The Seed awards are primarily to provide a starter fund to make the researcher more competitive for external funding,” Pipher said. “This is for someone to do a proof of concept, pilot program, run an experiment, get some data, get started on their project so that when they apply for federal awards they are more competitive.” The Salomon awards, which “are smaller amounts of money,” are designed to support existing projects, Pipher added. “The impact on their scholarship and their research is still tremendous.”
One Seed award will help a pair of professors research HIV in pregnant women in the East African country of Malawi. Assistant Professor of Epidemiology Angela Bengston and her co-PI, Assistant Professor of Behavioral and Social Sciences Jennifer Pellowski, plan to use the seed funding to study cardiometabolic health in mothers and children. “We’re partnering with a cohort called the Drakenstein cohort which is a long-standing cohort of mothers and their children … who (collected) lots of data on psychosocial factors and clinical factors and samples during pregnancy.” Bengston said. “We’re going to be leveraging our Seed funds to follow up (with) those kids and moms at 5-8 years post-partum to look at their cardiometabolic health outcomes, as well as test some stored samples from pregnancy,” Bengston said. She hopes that her data will eventually be used to develop interventions that help mothers and children at high risk for cardiometabolic issues, which can cause heart disease and diabetes.
Assistant Professor of Engineering Jongwhan Lee was also awarded Seed funding for his research on blood flow in the brain and Alzheimer’s. Lee’s lab uses 3D imaging to study blood vessel changes in rats over time. His lab plans to use their Seed funding to use these images to create a computational model of blood vessels in the brain, and ultimately use this model to understand how blood flow affects Alzheimer’s in human patients. “If we can understand how the vessels have defects in the early stage of the disease, we can detect such vascular changes from the retina … and (use) that to make some new diagnostic tool that enables us to screen patients at risk at very early stages.” Lee said.
Salomon awardee Professor of Environment and Society and Sociology Scott Frickel studies the “mobilizations in Argentina protesting (or) mobilizing against the industrial use of pesticides in agricultural regions.” For the selected project, his lab is studying the impact scholars have on the movement, both at the academic and social level.
“We’re using the Salomon award to fund a research trip for me to go down to Buenos Aires next fall to work (on) analyzing and organizing the data to write a book from this project.” Frickel said, adding that this research “will bring new insights as to how knowledge can be mobilized and used to advance social justice and environmental health issues.”
The Seed and Salomon awards together were presented to over 30 research projects. This year’s selected researchers join a large group of 247 Salomon recipients and 159 Seed award winners in fields ranging from public health to the humanities and social sciences.