2017 CAPS Seed Grant Program Awards

We are pleased to announce that after a thorough internal and external review process, 9 awards have been made to fund exceptionally promising, innovative materials research on campus through the 2017 CAPS Seed Grant Program.

The awardees/colleges are listed here with additional information below:

These awards total $553,306 in internal research funding. The program was able to fund 32% of the proposals submitted this year; 9 out of a total 28. Congratulations to the nine research teams whose projects were selected this year for seed grant funding.


Lead PI: Bharat Bhushan
Team Members: Nathan Ames
Title: Design and Nanofabrication Strategy for Bioinspired, Multifunctional Materials For the Collection of Water from Fog
Lay overview: Plant and animal evolution has provided mechanisms for organisms to survive in dry environments by pulling water from the air. Harnessing those mechanisms may provide a path to collect and provide safe drinking water, particularly, in areas of the world where clean water is scarce. Seed research is expected to attract major funding and collaborations. Through this transformative research, we aim to develop new nanomanufacturing techniques for the creation of bioinspired, durable materials for water collection. We plan to use such materials to calculate a water harvesting net to help improve the efficiency of existing fog-harvesting strategies. We plan to develop a portable water collection system for individual applications to fully establish the technique as a viable supplemental source of water for communities all over the world.

Lead PI: Richard Bruno
Team Members: Priyankar Dey, Katie England, Geoffrey Sasaki, Yael Vodovotz, Zhongtang Yu
Title: Green Tea (Camellia sinensis) for the Management of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
Lay overview: Green tea (Camellia sinensis) consumption protects against NFκB-mediated inflammation in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) through a mechanism involving the gutliver axis. This application aims to identify independent structure-function bioactivities of green tea catechins (GTCs) that are responsible for preventing gut microbial dysbiosis and consequent inflammatory responses implicated in NAFLD.

Lead PI: Jonathan Fresnedo
Title: Development of a haploidy-inducing system for out crossing plant species through gene-editing
Team Members: Anna Dobrista, Cheri Nemes, Katrina Cornish, Kyle Benzle
Lay overview: We will develop and implement a strategy to generate genetically homozygous individuals and progenies of cross-pollinated plant species, which are usually highly heterozygous. Such plants will allow more efficient plant breeding and research into the genetics of understudied crops, and will accelerate the domestication of new crops.

Lead PI: Patrice Hamel
Team Members: Alexandra Dubini
Title: Engineering pathways for biofuel production in microalgae
Lay overview: In the face of declining fossil fuel supplies and the world’s increasing demand for energy, there is an urgent need for alternative and economically viable energy sources. This project aims to engineer a freshwater microalga for the production of biohydrogen, a clean and renewable replacement fuel.

Lead PI: David Mackey
Team Members: Dr. Mingzhe Shen, Dr. David Bisaro, Aaron Burns
Title: Defining host and virus genetics underlying the contribution of Arabidopsis ethylene signaling to resistance against gemini virus infection
Lay overview: Crop losses caused by plant pathogens exacerbate the global issue of agricultural productivity. Effective and environmentally friendly control measures against geminiviruses are lacking. By elucidating the mechanism underlying our observation that the plant hormone, ethylene, contributes to resistance against geminivirus infection, we will inform rational strategies to develop resistant plants.

Lead PI: Peter Piermarini
Team Members: Harinantenaina Liva 
Title: Discovery of natural drimane sesquiterpene lactones from Madagascan medicinal plants (Cinnamosma sp.) for mosquito vector control
Lay overview: This proposal aims to identify natural products from Madagascan medicinal plants that kill and/or repel mosquitoes to facilitate the development of next-generation mosquito control products for limiting the spread of emerging mosquito-borne diseases, such as Zika virus.

Lead PI: Keith Slotkin
Team Members: Andrew P. Michel, Julie Annette Reynolds, Ashley Yates
Title: Identifying the Epigenetic Mechanism of Soybean Aphid Virulence
Lay overview: The soybean aphid is one of the most important insect pests for the over four million acres of Ohio soybeans and for 80% of the U.S. soybean growing regions. Soybean production is severely impacted by the invasive soybean aphid, causing more than two billion dollars in annual damage to the U.S. soybean industry. Soybean aphids can be managed by planting soybean cultivars with natural resistance to the aphid. However, resistance-breaking aphids that survive on resistant soybean threaten the durability of aphid management. To extend the durability of aphid resistance, a better understanding of aphid-plant interaction is required. Our unique team of plant and insect biologists investigates the epigenetic interaction between aphids and soybeans using state-of-the-art genomics and nanotechnology. This collaborative project aims to extend the durability of sustainable insect resistance to overcome a national agricultural problem that has a deep financial consequence for Ohio. 

Lead PI: Bob Tabita
Team Members: Jonathan Parquette, Justin North
Title: Bioconversion of Lignocellousic and CO2 Feedstocks to Ethylene
Lay overview: A new, highly productive pathway to biologically produce ethylene was recently discovered in organisms that metabolize CO2 and lignocellulosic feedstocks. A novel cell-free system to sequester this process in self-assembling nanoparticles will be employed to produce this valuable compound in high yields, free from competing cell metabolism.

Lead PI: David Wood
Team Members: Chris Taylor, Feng Qu, Hannah Shafaat, Kevin McGarry, Patrice Hamel
Title: Design and Production of a Catalytic BChE Enzyme to Treat Organo phosphate Poisoning
Lay overview: We seek to engineer a novel enzyme that can rapidly degrade organophosphorous (OP) pesticides and chemical weapons, and produce this enzyme in transgenic plants or algae. Applications include treatment for OP poisoning in humans, as well as decontamination of OP pesticides in foods and the environment.