The University of Nebraska–Lincoln selected 11 projects to fund through the Grand Challenges Catalyst Competition in 2023 for an investment of $10 million in the program’s second year. A total of $20 million has been granted so far through the four-year, $40 million initiative, a commitment by the Office of the Chancellor and the Office of Research and Economic Development to strategically invest funds earmarked for research.
The program’s aim is to invest in transformative, goal-based solutions that leverage Nebraska’s strengths and expertise to solve some of society’s greatest problems. The Grand Challenges initiative aligns with the university’s N2025 aims to increase the impact of research and creative activity and to foster interdisciplinary endeavors.
The seven Grand Challenges thematic areas are: anti-racism and racial equity; climate resilience; early childhood education and development; health equity; quantum science and engineering; science and technology literacy for society; and sustainable food and water security.
Catalyst award projects are bold and catalytic, representing significant new research, scholarly and creative activity that have potential to solve grand challenges critical to Nebraska and the world. A two-step external peer review process informed catalyst award project selection. The average amount of catalyst awards made in 2023 is $2,992,096.
Nearly 130 members of the university community are involved in the 2023 funded projects. The funded projects and principal investigators are as follows.
2023 Catalyst Awards
- Christian Binek, Charles Bessey Professor of physics and director of the Nebraska Center for Materials and Nanoscience, and Susan Hermiller, Willa Cather Professor of mathematics, “Quantum Approaches Addressing Global Threats,” $4,172,883.
- Lisa Knoche, co-director of the Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families and Schools and research associate professor, “Inspiring Outcomes for Children through Equitable Early Childhood Education Experiences (E4),” $3,441,572.
- Yusong Li, professor of civil and environmental engineering and associate dean for faculty and inclusion in the College of Engineering, “Release of Micro- and Nanoplastics from Plastic Food Containers – Characterization, Risk Assessment, Socioeconomic and Health Impacts,” $1,361,833.
2023 Planning Grants
Planning grants were selected through an internal review process. Review panels were composed of volunteers that included current and emeriti faculty and staff. The average amount of a planning grant funded in 2023 is $128,112.
- Mohammad Ghashami, assistant professor of mechanical and materials engineering, “Quantum Solutions for Energy Challenges: A Collaborative Leap towards Sustainability,” $150,000.
- Mohammad Hasan, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, “Building Community Connections for Improved Climate Resilience and Food Security: A Tribal Non-Tribal Partnership Investigating the Role of Artificial Intelligence in Affecting Behavior Change,” $150,000.
- Michelle Hughes, professor of special education and communication disorders, “Improving Healthcare Access for Underserved Populations,” $149,993.
- Clint Rowe, professor of Earth and atmospheric sciences, “Community Climate Resilience on the Great Plains,” $80,000.
- Julie Tippens, associate professor of child, youth and family studies, “Developing an Interdisciplinary Global Forced Migration and Health Collaborative,” $150,000.
- Ashley Votruba, assistant professor of psychology, “Equitable Access to Civil Justice: Uniting an Interdisciplinary Team to Develop an Open-Access Knowledge Hub,” $149,602.
- Bryan Wang, associate professor of advertising and public relations, “Media and Information Literacy (MIL) in the Age of Algorithms,” $149,942.
- Qiuming Yao, assistant professor of computing, “TrustGenViz: An Initiative to Advance Trust and Visualization for Generative Language Models of Biological Sequences,” $180,000.