2015 Seed Grant Program

Seed Grant Recipients

Climate and Ecosystem Change

DandeLion: A Versatile Atmospheric Observing System Comprising Networked Airborne Probes

Michael Hickner, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Yvette Richardson, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Paul Markowski*, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Jacob Langelaan, College of Engineering
Douglas Werner, College of Engineering

Experimental and Theoretical Determination of Isotopic Fractionation during Nucleation and Growth of Calcium Carbonates 

Jason Boettger
James Kubicki*

Influences of air pollutants on plant-insect interactions 

James Tumlinson, College of Agricultural Sciences
Jose Fuentes*, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Miriam Freedman, Eberly College of Science
Marcelo Chamecki 

Land and Water Revisited Film Project

Kirk French*, College of the Liberal Arts

Landscapes of fire and people: how climate, human values, and shifting ecologies will influence mid-Atlantic forest management 

Margot Kaye, College of Agricultural Sciences
James Shortle, College of Agricultural Sciences
Erica Smithwick*, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Alan Taylor, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Peter Newman, College of Health and Human Development
Brian Orland 
David Mortensen 

Paleobotanical and Genomic Biogeography of Living-Fossil Gondwanan Trees in SE Asian Rainforests: Informing Biodiversity and Watershed Conservation in the Face of Climate Change and Deforestation

Peter Wilf*, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Claude Depamphilis, Eberly College of Science

Quantifying the Impact of Mineral Recrystallization on Paleoclimate Reconstructions

Matthew Fantle*, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Christopher Gorski, College of Engineering

Future Energy Supply

A New Approach for Preparation of Catalysts for Conversion of Water to Hydrogen for Fuel

Suzanne Mohney*, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Robert Rioux, College of Engineering

Establishing high-throughput methodology to screen sorghum germplasm for improved biomass

Surinder Chopra*, College of Agricultural Sciences
Seong Kim, College of Engineering

Understanding the Impact of Nanoconfinement on Biomass Upgrading within Zeolites 

Robert Rioux, College of Engineering
Benjamin Lear*, Eberly College of Science

Health and the Environment

Characterizing Aerosol Particulate Emissions over the Lifecycle of a Marcellus Shale Hydraulic Fracturing Operation and Assessing Public Perceptions of Dustiness and Health Effects 

John Wang, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Jeremy Gernand*, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Shannon Monnat

Interdisciplinary Alliances for Vector Biology Research 

Manuel Llinas, Eberly College of Science
Andrew Read, Eberly College of Science
Matt Thomas*
David Mortensen 

Non-mutator/Mutator Switches Responsible for Aggressive Bacterial Disease 

John Watson, College of Agricultural Sciences
Cynthia Whitener, College of Medicine-Basic Sciences
David Craft, College of Medicine-Basic Sciences
Jessica Conway, Eberly College of Science
Michael Mwangi*

Smart Energy Systems

Development and Benchmarking of a Full-Scale Desiccant Dehumidifier Prototype Utilizing Microwave for Desiccant Regeneration and Inactivation of Airborne Microorganisms 

Gretchen Kuldau, College of Agricultural Sciences
Donghyun Rim*, College of Engineering
James Freihaut, College of Engineering
Jiping Cheng 

Energy Use and Carbon Emissions Assessment in Urban Settings Using a Smart Network Infrastructure Model

Somayeh Asadi*, College of Engineering
Chimay J. Anumba 
Kirby Calvert 

Integrating geophysical surveys and 3D X-ray computed tomography for improved mapping of subsurface gas 

Jules Lindau, ARL-Applied Research Laboratory
Zuleima Karpyn, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Eugene Morgan*, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Jonathan Pitt, College of Engineering
Henry Lin 

Market design and price formation in electric distribution networks deploying distributed resources 

Mort Webster, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Chiara Lo Prete*, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Vinayak Shanbhag, College of Engineering

Solar BASES: New Solar Data Informing the Next Generation of Smart Energy Systems 

George Young, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Guido Cervone, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Mort Webster, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Jeffrey Brownson*, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Vinayak Shanbhag, College of Engineering
Stephen Treado 

Water and Biogeochemical Cycles

3D Data Acquisition and 3D Printing to Construct “Digital Twins” for Water and Biogeochemical Research 

Li Li, College of Engineering
William Burgos, College of Engineering
Xiaofeng Liu*, College of Engineering

Chromium fate in groundwater systems: In situ investigation of chromium oxidation by manganese oxide using electrochemical and synchrotron diffraction analyses 

Peter Heaney, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Christopher Gorski*, College of Engineering

Controlling electrokinetic flows for preventing membrane fouling 

Thomas Wood, College of Engineering 
Darrell Velegol*, College of Engineering
Ayusman Sen, Eberly College of Science
Manish Kumar

Dissimilatory Nitrate Reduction to Ammonium: Effects on N2O Emissions, Nitrogen Retention, and Carbon Oxidation in Wastewater Treatment and Wetland Processes 

Mary Ann Bruns, College of Agricultural Sciences
Jay Regan*, College of Engineering

Evaluating the impact of dam construction on Hammer Creek

Jennifer Sliko*, EVP Provost - Academic
Karen Halnon 
Brian Maicke, Penn State Harrisburg
Martha Strickland, Penn State Harrisburg
Shirley Clark, Penn State Harrisburg

Exploring and Understanding a Riparian Disturbance Hypothesis 

Patrick Drohan, College of Agricultural Sciences 
Denice Wardrop, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Chaopeng Shen, College of Engineering
Robert Brooks*
Peter Kleinman, USDA - Agricultural Research Service

Exploring the influence of neonicotinoid insecticides on aquatic invertebrate communities

John Tooker*, College of Agricultural Sciences

Getting the Salt Out of Water with Sunlight and Biology

Peter Butler*, College of Engineering
John Golbeck, Eberly College of Science
Manish Kumar 

The Investigation of Methane Leak Rates from Natural Sources in the Marcellus Shale Region

Douglas Martins*, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
David Yoxtheimer, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Kenneth Davis, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Susan Brantley, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Terry Engelder 

Water Footprint of Cities in the US

Alfonso Mejia*, College of Engineering

Water resource and economic benefits of floodplain restoration  

Jason Kaye, College of Agricultural Sciences
James Shortle, College of Agricultural Sciences
Tess Russo*, Eberly College of Science

*=Principal Investigator


The Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment (PSIEE) has identified five strategic research themes where PSIEE believes that Penn State can achieve global prominence (alphabetically): Climate and Ecosystem Change; Future Energy Supply; Health and the Environment; Smart Energy Systems; Water and Biogeochemical Cycles.  

PSIEE has established a Seed Grant Program to foster basic and applied research focused on these strategic research themes. Appropriate activities for funding under the Seed Grant Program are: 

  • Development of new research teams and position them for substantial external funding success 

  • Collaborative interdisciplinary research in theme areas, especially high-risk proof of concept 

  • Junior faculty research initiation 

To increase the impact of the Seed Grant program, proposals addressing strategic priorities of water, the water energy nexus, and climate change will be given particular consideration, however excellent proposals in any of the strategic themes will be considered. 

Seed Grant Eligibility 

All Penn State faculty members (tenured, tenure track, and fixed term) who hold an appointment of half-time or more at any Penn State location, are eligible to submit a seed grant proposal as a Principal Investigator (PI). Researchers, students and staff from Penn State, Pennsylvania state agencies, federal agencies, and private industry may be included as collaborators in seed grant proposals. Please note that while most proposals are expected to include multiple investigators, there can only be one responsible PI for each application, and applicants may submit only one proposal as a PI.  New investigators will be given preference over those who may have previously received a PSIEE seed grant before.  

Funding Availability 

Approximately $200,000 of funding is available through this seed grant solicitation. 

To encourage establishment of new collaborations and enhancement of networks, larger grants will require innovative partnerships of investigators from multiple colleges and/or campus locations. Funds up to $ 5,000 can be awarded for a single investigator project and up to $25,000 for collaborative grants. Grant funds will be available by April 1, 2015 and must be expended by June 30, 2016. Funds can be used to support research development and coordination expenses such as: 

  • Graduate and undergraduate student support 

  • Instrumentation fees and sample analysis to collect preliminary data 

  • Equipment and supplies, and participant payments 

  • Travel associated with the conduct or reporting of seed grant research 

  • Hosting a research planning meeting for an interdisciplinary team 

  • Planning and hosting conferences and symposia 

Note that summer support for faculty is not available through this Seed Grant Program. 

Submission Instructions 

All pre-proposals must be submitted electronically to PSIEE via email to <upload.Letter_.fruu9mu4tn@u.box.com> or uploaded from http://www.psiee.psu.edu/seedgrant no later than 5:00 pm on 3 November 2014. Each pre-proposal will comprise a 1-page project description (including the dollar amount to be requested) and an appendix. The appendix will include a list of all collaborators and 1-page resumes for the PI and all co-PI’s. 

Timeline for pre-proposals and proposals 

3 November 2014 Pre-proposals due no later than noon 

1 December 2015 Pre-proposal result notified; full proposals requested 

26 January 2015 Full proposals due no later than 5:00 pm  

2 March 2015 Seed Grant funding decisions announced 

Review Criteria 

Pre-proposal and Proposal will be reviewed based upon the following criteria: 

  1. Intellectual merit of the proposal, including relevance to strategic priorities and contribution to global leadership in a prioritized theme; creativity and innovation; significance of goals and results; soundness of research plan; and likelihood of successful project completion. 

  1. A credible strategy for leveraging this seed grant investment into exceptional scholarship and/or significant external funding is required. Potential for additional/continued activity beyond the seed grant phase: plans for continued activity may include applications for external support from federal, state or local government agencies, industry, private foundations, etc.; plans for continued research activities involving in-kind support, teaching activities, on-going scholarly work, etc.; plans for public engagement and outreach; and expanded implementation by external stakeholders.  

  1. Realistic potential for developing new and productive collaborations between PIs or for strengthening existing collaborations, including possibilities for additional activities and projects which draw upon the seed grant partnership, should be specified. 

  1. Appropriateness of the budget request for supporting the research proposed. 

Pre-proposals will be categorized as “Request Proposal” or “Do Not Request Proposal.” Written reviews will not be provided. 

Feel free to direct any questions regarding the proposal process to: 

Jenni L. Evans, Acting Director of PSIEE

Review Committee