2018 - 2019 CAPS Seed Grant Program Awards

We are pleased to announce that after a thorough internal and external review process, 7 awards have been made to fund exceptionally promising, innovative materials research on campus through the 2018 CAPS Seed Grant Program.

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

These awards total $489,004 in internal research funding.The program was able to fund 64% of the proposals submitted this year; 7 out of a total 11. Congratulations to the seven research teams whose projects were selected this year for seed grant funding.
Lead PI: M. Soledad Benitez Ponce
Team Members: Alison Bennett, Christopher Taylor
Title: Examining and Harnessing theRegulatory Mechanisms that Govern Mycorrhizal-Plant Interactions
Lay Overview: Phosphate (P) uptake in plants is regulated by the physiological condition of the plant and symbiotic interactions with P-collecting mycorrhizae. Agrobacterium rhizogenes-induced hairy roots exhibit improved mycorrhizal interactions. We will determine whether P-uptake and utilization can be improved in plants by manipulating A. rhizogenes-regulated genes and orpathways.
Lead PI: Alison Bennett
Team Members: Jonathan Jacobs, Antonino Malacrino, Jason Slot, Joe Statwick, Mike Wilkins
Title: Examining Genomic Evolution in Plant Associated Soil Microbiomes
Lay Overview: We know little about the influence of abiotic stress on plant and soil microbiomes adaption. Our project has two objectives: 1) to determine the impact of bioavailable selenium on community composition of root and soil microbiomes, and 2) to investigate genome evolution induced in plant microbiomes in response to these compounds.
Lead PI: Patrice Hamel
Team Members: Ana Alonso, Bob Tabita
Title: The Contribution of Mitochondrial Respiration to Algal Biofuel Production
Lay Overview: Fossil fuels, the world’s primary energy source are a finite resource. With augmented energy needs, biofuels have now emerged as economically viable substitutes to burning fossil fuels. Here, we will enhance the accumulation of biodiesel precursors,namely triacylglycerol (TAG) by engineering a microalga, which is a natural biofuelproducer.
Lead PI: Nan Hu
Team Members: Natassia Brenkus, Katrina Cornish, Ajay Shah
Title: Corn stover (CS)-based biocomposite for sustainable building material characterization, structural durability and life-cycle impact
Lay Overview: To address the high level of embodied energy in the production of conventional building materials, this collaborative project attempts to evaluate the properties and performance of bio-based composites using corn stover(a major agricultural residue in Ohio) as an alternative material to design modular structural components for sustainable buildings.
Lead PI: Iris Meier
Team Members: Norman Groves, Katja Graumann
Title: Developing enabling technology for the specific manipulation of alocalized epigenetic environment in plants
Lay Overview: We will improve control of gene expression in plants by using new information on how a gene’s physical location influences its activity. This can be combinedwith CRISPR/Cas9 technology for geneticengineering of different plant traits, and furtherour understanding of gene regulatory mechanisms that have been only recentlydiscovered.
Lead PI: Gireesh Rajashekara
Team Members: Andy Michel, Yosra Mohamed, Ana Trabanino
Title: Optimizing successful RNA-interference in caterpillar pests using improved nanoparticles
Lay Overview: RNA-interference (RNAi) has tremendous promise to protect crops from insects. Many caterpillar species attack several types of crops; however, they are also extremely recalcitrant to RNAi. Our goal is to combine unique experience in nanoparticle delivery and insect genomics to develop a nanoparticle based RNAi tool for caterpillar control.
Lead PI: Yael Vodovotz
Team Members: Katrina Cornish, Kurt Koelling
Title: New bio-composites from invasive plant and waste-derived bio-fillers andrubber-toughened poly (3-hydroxybutyrate-co-3-hydroxyvalerate) (PHBV) bioplastic
Lay Overview: Improved strength is critical to move our novel bio-based, biodegradable composite to market.We propose utilizing invasive species and food-processing waste to reinforce PHBV. Thecomposites will be evaluated for food-contact materials with the goal of: Enhancing biocompositeperformance, adding commercial value to environmentally-harmful plants, andencouraging lignocellulosic biomass harvest.