2017 Seed Grant Program

Seed Grant Recipients

Climate and Ecosystem Change

Toward a lower-carbon food system: Quantification of methane emissions from animal agriculture

Robert Meinen, College of Agricultural Sciences
Tara Felix, College of Agricultural Sciences
Alexander Hristov*, College of Agricultural Sciences
Kenneth Davis, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences

Biogeochemical, Isotopic, and Paleo-Metagenomic Interrogation of Ecosystem Change in Southwestern Madagascar

Katherine Freeman, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
George Perry*, College of the Liberal Arts
Douglas Kennett
Brendan Culleton, Vice President for Research

Ecological Migration in a Large-Scale Quasi-Experiment Design in China: Implications of Climate Change, Landscape Structure, Ecosystem Services and Government Intervention

Brian Thiede, College of Agricultural Sciences
Guangqing Chi*, College of Agricultural Sciences
Erica Smithwick, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Zhen Lei, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Junjun Yin, Vice President for Research

Invisible or White, but Always Bright

Felipe Montes, College of Agricultural Sciences
Armen Kemanian*, College of Agricultural Sciences
Roman Engel-Herbert, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Zhiwen Liu, College of Engineering

Social Adaptive Capacity in Reef-Proximate Communities: Coupled Natural-Human System Dynamics in Cartagena, Colombia

Leland Glenna, College of Agricultural Sciences
Roberto Iglesias-Prieto, Eberly College of Science
Monica Medina, Eberly College of Science
Carter Hunt*, College of Health and Human Development
Frederic Pollock

Future Energy Supply

Optimizing the conversion of salinity gradient energy into electrical power through computational simulations

Ismaila Dabo, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Christopher Gorski*, College of Engineering

Re-conceptualizing Impact Analysis of the Food-Energy-Water Nexus: Evaluating the Proposed Ethane Plant in Beaver County, PA

Kathryn Brasier, College of Agricultural Sciences
Jennifer Baka*, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences

Removing Radium from Hydrofracturing Fluids with Tailored Clays

Sridhar Komarneni, College of Agricultural Sciences
Nathaniel Warner*, College of Engineering
Amanda Johnsen, College of Engineering
Marek Flaska, College of Engineering
Fred Cannon

Smart Energy Systems

Smart traction systems for weak power grids

Seth Blumsack*, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences  
Chiara Lo Prete, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Nilanjan Ray Chaudhuri, College of Engineering

Water and Biogeochemical Cycles

Biogenic Manganese Oxides for the Removal of Emerging Contaminants from Wastewater

John Vanden Heuvel, College of Agricultural Sciences
William Burgos*, College of Engineering
Terry Kreiser
Frank Dorman

Feeding 11 Billion: The Biosynthesis of High-Quality Protein from Wastewater

Joshua Lambert, College of Agricultural Sciences
Rachel Brennan*, College of Engineering

Karst and Coastal Ecosystems

Jennifer Macalady*, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Monica Medina, Eberly College of Science

Riparian bird feathers as indicators of shale-gas development

Margaret Brittingham*, College of Agricultural Sciences
Matthew Fantle, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Nathaniel Warner, College of Engineering

*=Principal Investigator

Human Health and the Environment Multi-Unit Seed Grant

Cognitive Changes Associated with Hormonal Treatment for Breast Cancer

Sheri A. Berenbaum, College of the Liberal Arts

Environmentally Linked Viruses and Dynamic Transmission Networks

Nita Bharti, Eberly College of Science

Patient-Specific Prediction of Susceptibility to Acute Lung Injury Resulting from Exposure to Environmental Pollutants and Toxic Industrial Chemicals

Ali BorhanCollege of Engineering

Digital environmental monitoring of human water supply watersheds by high-throughput phenotyping of plankton and meiofauna

Keith C. Cheng, College of Medicine

From Environmental Change to Left-behind Children’s Well-being in Rural Highlands

Guangquing Chi, College of Agricultural Sciences

UPRITE (Universal Personal Rebalance Information Technology Enhancement) A Device for Anticipating and Preventing Elderly Falls

Andris FreivaldsCollege of Engineering

Therapeutic Modulation of the Tumor Immune Microenvironment in Skin Cancer with Localized Activation of Nanoparticle Delivered siRNA

Adam Glick, College of Agricultural Sciences

Predictive Modeling of Health Risks and Outcomes from Clinical, Environmental, Contextual, Behavioral Data: A Proof-of-Concept Study Focused on Breast Cancer in Central Pennsylvania

Vasant Gajanan Honavar, College of Information Sciences and Technology

Drug-Loaded Antimicrobial Nanogels for Combinatorial Therapy of Antibiotic-Resistant Tuberculosis

Scott H. Medina, College of Engineering

Using an Environmental Justice Lens: An Integrated Pest Management and mHealth Program Aimed to Reduce Pesticides Exposures for Vulnerable Hispanic Mushroom Farmers in Pennsylvania

Shedra Amy Snipes, College of Health and Human Development

Identification of Toxicity Parameters Associated with Combustion Produced PM2.5 Surface Chemistry and Particle Structure by in Vitro Assays

Randy Lee Vander Wal, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences


Penn State’s Institutes of Energy and the Environment (IEE) has identified five strategic research themes of focus (listed alphabetically): Climate and Ecosystem Change; Future Energy Supply; Smart Energy Systems; Water and Biogeochemical Cycles; and Health and the Environment.

IEE established the Seed Grant Program 3 years ago to foster basic and applied research focused on these strategic research themes. Over the three previous rounds IEE has awarded over 1.2 million dollars to 57 projects with investigators from 15 Penn State Colleges and Campuses. 

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
  • Collaboration between junior and senior faculty to promote research development, mentorship

To increase the impact of the Seed Grant program and align with expanding federal opportunities, proposals addressing the food-energy-water nexus, climate change, and the future of the electric grid will be given particular consideration; however, excellent proposals in any facet of the first four themes (Climate and Ecosystem Change; Future Energy Supply; Smart Energy Systems; Water and Biogeochemical Cycles) will be considered. 

A separate multi-Institute call on the theme of Health and the Environment will be issued later this fall.

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 campus 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 serve as PI on a single proposal.  New investigators will be given preference over those who may have previously received an IEE seed grant. 

Funding Availability

Approximately $300,000 of funding is available through this seed grant solicitation for 2016-2017.

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; up to $10,000 for two or more faculty from the same college (University Park) or Commonwealth Campus; and up to $25,000 for multi-college (across University Park) and multi campus (between campuses) collaborative grants.

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 conducting/reporting seed grant research (Penn State participants only)
  • 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

Funding is limited or not allowed for the following:

  • Single college/campus funding, even with several departments, is capped at $10,000
  • Summer or supplemental salary support for faculty
  • Postdoc salary
  • Travel support to attend conferences

Submission Instructions

All pre-proposals must be submitted electronically via upload from the link at http://www.psiee.psu.edu/psiee-seed-grant-program no later than 5:00 pm on Wednesday, November 2, 2016. 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, including college, department and/or campus
  • 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 deadlines are Wednesdays)

Oct. 13, 2016                             Informational webinar for pre-proposal questions, 9:00-9:45 am

Nov. 2, 2016                             Pre-proposals due no later than 5:00 pm

Dec. 2, 2016                             PIs notified of pre-proposal result; full proposals requested

Jan. 25, 2017                            Full proposals due no later than 5:00 pm

Early Mar. 2017                        Seed Grant funding decisions announced

Grant funds will be available by April 1, 2017 and must be expended by June 30, 2018.

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. Please note that these proposals are reviewed by a cross section of researchers with different backgrounds; communication to a broader audience is helpful to project reviewers.
  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. Providing specific examples has been helpful to prior seed grant recipients.
  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 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.