2016 Seed Grant Program

Seed Grant Recipients

Climate and Ecosystem Change

Characterizing mechanisms of rapid fire spread under low wind speed conditions that lead to high intensity/severity fire

Alan Taylor*, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Thomas Lauvaux

Leveraging rapid advances in computer science to feed the world and preserve the environment

David Hughes*, College of Agricultural Sciences
C Lee Giles, College of Information Sciences and Technology
James Wang, College of Information Sciences and Technology

Linking genotype, phenotype and environment to understand adaptation to climate in forest trees

Laura Leites*, College of Agricultural Sciences
John Carlson, College of Agricultural Sciences
Kim Steiner, College of Agricultural Sciences
Jesse Lasky, Eberly College of Science

Mapping and Measuring Forests and Wetlands with a UAS-Based Lidar/Multispectral System

Marc McDill, College of Agricultural Sciences
Margot Kaye, College of Agricultural Sciences
Douglas Miller*, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Erica Smithwick, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Robert Brooks

Future Energy Supply

Accurate Prediction of Soot Emissions and Morphology in Turbulent, Fuel-Flexible Combustors

Randy Vander Wal, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Adrianus Van Duin, College of Engineering
Jacqueline O'Connor, College of Engineering
Yuan Xuan*, College of Engineering

High Efficiency Sn(S,Se) 2 /Crystalline Silicon Tandem Photovolatics

Suzanne Mohney, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Joan Redwing*, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Nasim Alem, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences

Sustainable biofuel production from ecological wastewater treatment systems: maximizing starch content and carboxylic acid production from aquatic plant biomass

Rachel Brennan*, College of Engineering
Charles Anderson, Eberly College of Science

Health and the Environment

Collecting and characterizing Saharan dust and associated pathogens for evaluating disease risk across the meningitis belt and Cape Verde

Jeremy Gernand, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Gregory Jenkins*, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Donghyun Rim, College of Engineering
Matthew Ferrari, Eberly College of Science

Composition, Morphology, Size, and Agglomeration of Nanoparticles in Indoor Air

Donghyun Rim*, College of Engineering
Miriam Freedman, Eberly College of Science

Examining the Healthy Parks Criteria Tools & Informing Baseline Indicators of Health

Mallika Bose, College of Arts and Architecture
B. Derrick Taff*, College of Health and Human Development
Andrew Mowen, College of Health and Human Development
Joshua Smyth, College of Health and Human Development
Melissa Bopp, College of Health and Human Development
Peter Newman, College of Health and Human Development
Jacob Benfield, Penn State Abington

Modeling the Host-Gut Microbiota Metabolic Interactions to Elucidate the Role of Perfluorooctane Sulfanate on Obesity Outcomes

Andrew Patterson, College of Agricultural Sciences
Costas Maranas*, College of Engineering

Smart Energy Systems

An Integrated Platform For DC Microgrid Data Acquisition And Stationary Energy Storage System Optimization

Hosam Fathy
Dale Litwhiler*, Penn State Berks

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
Long-Qing Chen, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Donghai Wang*, College of Engineering
James Freihaut, College of Engineering
William Bahnfleth*, College of Engineering
Thomas Mallouk

Unraveling efficiency roll-off in white light-emitting diodes

Jian hsu, College of Engineering
Noel Giebink*, College of Engineering

Water and Biogeochemical Cycles

Capacitive Desalination for Agriculture Using Biochar

Randy Vander Wal*, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Ramakrishnan Rajagopalan, Penn State DuBois
Khanjan Mehta
Kofi Adu, Penn State Altoona

Development of Dynamic Controlled Nano-membranes for Water Purification

Andrew Zydney, College of Engineering
Wook Jun Na*

Novel Analytical Methods for Groundwater Quality Analysis Near Shale Energy Sites

David Yoxtheimer*, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Frank Dorman

Sediment Record of Anthropogenic Changes in the Upper Allegheny Watershed

Patrick Drohan, College of Agricultural Sciences
Nathaniel Warner*, College of Engineering
William Burgos, College of Engineering

*=Prinicpal 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 (listed alphabetically): Climate and Ecosystem Change; Future Energy Supply; Health and the Environment; Smart Energy Systems; and Water and Biogeochemical Cycles.

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

  • Development of new interdisciplinary research teams to position them for substantial external funding success
  • Novel research in theme areas, especially high-risk proof of concept projects
  • Demonstrated collaborations between junior and senior faculty involved in research development and mentorship

To increase the impact of the Seed Grant program and align with expanding federal opportunities, this year proposals addressing health and the environment, the water energy nexus, climate change, and the future of the electric grid will be given particular consideration; however, excellent proposals in any of the strategic themes will be considered. In addition, special consideration will be given to projects that either help translate data to knowledge to impact, and/or help make existing data collections more generally available. Additional criteria are discussed below.

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. In addition, investigators may only participate in a single proposal. New investigators will be given preference over those who may have previously received a PSIEE seed grant.

Funding Availability

Approximately $400,000 of funding is available through this seed grant solicitation for 2015-2016.

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 multi college (across University Park) and multi campus (between campuses) collaborative grants. Grant funds will be available by April 1, 2016 and must be expended by June 30, 2017.

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, 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
  • Funding for data conversion technology and wages to support date conversion

There are several kinds of funding that is not allowed:

  • Single college funding, even with several departments, is not allowed at the $25,000 level.
  • Summer or supplemental salary support for faculty
  • Postdoc salary
  • Travel support to attend conferences

October 12, 2015

Submission Instructions

All pre-proposals must be submitted electronically to PSIEE via email to

upload.Letter_.7c0zt5i9ve@u.box.com or uploaded from http://www.psiee.psu.edu/psiee-seed-grant- program-2015 no later than 5:00 pm on Wednesday, 18 November 2015. Each pre-proposal is limited to a 1-page project description and additional pages for an appendix.

The project description must include the following:

  • Title of project
  • List of PI and collaborators
  • Short description of the project
  • Short description of how this project will leverage seed funding
  • Nature of collaboration (new/existing; mentorship opportunities)
  • Total funding to be requested, including short description of anticipated expenditures

The appendix will include a list of all collaborators, their colleges and/or departments, and 1-page resumes for the PI and all co-PI’s.

Timeline for pre-proposals and proposals (note, all days are Wednesdays)

Oct. 21, 2015 Webinar for pre-proposal process, 1:00 to 1:45 pm

Nov. 18, 2015 Pre-proposals due no later than 5:00 pm

Dec. 9, 2015 PIs notified of pre-proposal result; full proposals requested

Jan. 27, 2016 Full proposals due no later than 5:00 pm, Wed., Jan. 27th, 2016 1st week of March 2016 Seed Grant funding decisions announced

Review Criteria

Pre-proposal and Proposal reviews are 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.
  2. A credible and clearly articulated strategy for leveraging this seed grant investment into exceptional scholarship and/or significant external funding. Potential for additional/continued activity beyond the seed grant phase may include plans for continued activity such as 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.
  3. Realistic potential for developing new and productive collaborations between PIs with special consideration given to mentorship and collaborations between junior and senior faculty. Possibilities for additional activities and projects which draw upon the seed grant partnership should be specified.
  4. Appropriateness of the budget request for supporting the proposed research.
  5. Extra consideration will be given to proposals that digitize, access, utilize or archive data that are inaccessible or at risk of being lost, where that data will serve a new or existing community of scholars. Projects that develop such communities will also be prioritized.
  6. Extra consideration will also be given to projects that are able to take data and help leverage that into knowledge and on the ground impact. For more on this, see http://www.psiee.psu.edu/research.

Pre-proposals will be reviewed by a set of reviewers, and categorized as “Request Proposal” or “Do Not Request Proposal.” Those invited to submit a full proposal will be given additional information.

Please direct any questions regarding the proposal process to psiee@psu.edu.