Author: Jessica McBride

OVPR Quarterly Reports

Dear Colleagues,

Now that data have been finalized, I would like to provide you with several reports relating to sponsored program activity—both research and education/service—managed by Sponsored Program Services within the Office of the Vice President for Research at UConn and UConn Health. Please visit the OVPR website to view the following reports:

  • List of Proposals Submitted: FY18 4th Quarter
  • List of Awards Received: FY18 4th Quarter
  • Proposals, Awards, Expenditures: FY14-FY18Q4

In the reports, data are presented in two ways: by the PI’s Academic Home Department and by the Managing Department or Center/Institute. Please refer to the first pages of the reports for definitions and information regarding the data. Should you have any questions regarding these quarterly reports, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Please note that we have included an additional Summary of Sponsored Program Activity, which includes the Effective F&A rate on awards. This information provides a snapshot of our activity as compared to the same period last year.

The OVPR continues to seek creative solutions that allow UConn and UConn Health to grow our research enterprise through federal funding, industry partnerships, and collaboration with foundations. I am confident we can continue upward trends by continuing to work together, aggressively applying for extramural funding, and pursuing new channels of support for the tremendous research, scholarship, and creative activities taking place every day at UConn and UConn Health.

Thank you for your continued commitment and contribution to our students, to your research and scholarship, and to UConn/UConn Health.

Sincerely,
Radenka

 

Innovation Partnership Building Officially Open

A view of the Innovation Partnership Building onAug. 6, 2018. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

UConn is home to some of the most active and innovative researchers in the world. Across all of the University’s campuses, scholars, artists, and scientists are working on projects that will help our state, society, economy, and the world.

That global commitment was demonstrated at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for UConn’s Innovation Partnership Building (IPB) on Discovery Drive in Storrs September 20, 2018.

UConn President Susan Herbst, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, various state legislators, and faculty, staff, and students took part in the morning event.

To read more and see photos from the event, visit UConn Today.

New OVPR Website

The Office of the Vice President for Research is pleased to present a new and improved website. The new site is still home to all of the important information you need to take care of the day-to-day of your research projects, just in a prettier package. There is some new information as well, including:

  • Cross Campus Collaboration resource page
  • Training page related to all types of research-related trainings

Please note that the OVPR’s new sites for information pertaining to Storrs, the regional campuses, and UConn Health have new URLs. If you have bookmarked pages, you will need to update to the new URLs.

If you are having trouble locating something you need, please don’t hesitate to contact the relevant service unit. Visit the OVPR Contacts page to find the office or OVPR team you need.

Exec. Director, Innovation, External Engagement & Industry Relations

Dear Colleagues,

I am pleased to announce that Dr. Mark Aindow will serve as Executive Director for Innovation, External Engagement, and Industry Relations beginning this coming fall. In addition to introducing Dr. Aindow, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the search committee and the other members of the university community who assisted during the search process.

In this role, Dr. Aindow will serve as a catalyst for new interactions between faculty, potential commercial partners, and other research organizations to support and articulate UConn’s technology innovation and research capacity. He is tasked with identifying and promoting initiatives that provide growth opportunities for applied research through technology transfer and industry partnerships. We will also look to Dr. Aindow to develop large-scale interdisciplinary, center-level initiatives, and proposals involving multiple researchers, and to coordinate with the OVPR and Government Relations to keep state agencies and congressional offices informed as appropriate, as we seek to gain support for new federal initiatives that align with UConn’s strategic priorities.

Dr. Aindow brings with him 27 years of experience in collaborative, interdisciplinary research with industry, academic, and other partners. He understands that in order for UConn to expand our research funding portfolio, it is essential that we look beyond the boundaries of traditional opportunities and that we increase outreach in emerging areas of strength for the University.

Dr. Aindow’s research, which is often interdisciplinary and invariably includes an industrial partner or sponsor, involves the study of microstructural development in engineering materials using, primarily, electron microscopy techniques. These projects include work with companies like GE Energy, Thermo Fisher Scientific (formerly FEI), and UTC Aerospace Systems, and all are associated with broader industry partnerships with UConn including: the GE/UConn partnership, the UConn/FEI Center for Advanced Microscopy and Materials Analysis (CAMMA), and the UConn/UTAS Center for Advanced Materials.

Dr. Aindow received a BEng in Metallurgy and Materials Science in 1985 and a PhD in Materials Science and Engineering in 1988 from the University of Liverpool. He joined the faculty at the University of Connecticut in 1999 and is currently a Professor of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE). While at UConn, Dr. Aindow served as Director of the MSE Program from 2006-2009 and as Associate Director for the Institute of Materials Science from 2013-2017. He has published over 350 peer-reviewed papers in journals and conference proceedings, and has graduated 29 PhDs.

We are thrilled to have someone with Dr. Aindow’s extensive experience as both an internationally recognized scientist and collaborator to lead these efforts. Please join me in congratulating Dr. Aindow on his new role!

 

Sincerely,

Dr. Radenka Maric
Vice President for Research
UConn/UConn Health

Attending Veterinarian and Director of Animal Care Services

Dear Colleagues,

I am pleased to announce that following a national search, we have selected Dr. Curtis Schondelmeyer, DVM, DACLAM to serve as Attending Veterinarian and Director of Animal Care Services for UConn’s Storrs and regional campuses, effective June 22, 2018. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the search committee and other members of the university community who assisted in conducting the search, met with candidates, and provided feedback.

I would also like to thank Attending Veterinarian and Director of the Center for Comparative Medicine at UConn Health, Dr. Ramaswamy (Ramy) Chidambaram, DVM, PhD, DACLAM. During the national search, Ramy served as Attending Vet for UConn Health as well as Storrs/regionals, which allowed programs at all campuses to be maintained and for research to continue uninterrupted. Ramy will return to his prior roles as AV and Director of CCM at UConn Health upon Curtis’ arrival. Thank you, Ramy!

In his role as institutional attending veterinarian, Curtis will have oversight and direction of all animal facilities at the Storrs and regional campuses; maintain a veterinary care program that ensures compliance with federal, state, and local regulations, laws, policies, accreditation agency standards, and guidelines for the ethical care and use of animals; develop and maintain a collaborative relationship with faculty, staff, and students; and lead the administrative, management, technical, and operational functions of ACS.

Prior to UConn, Curtis served as Senior Scientist and Veterinarian at Biogen, a multinational biotechnology company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, specializing in the discovery, development, and delivery of therapies for the treatment of neurodegenerative, hematologic, and autoimmune diseases to patients worldwide. He also has extensive previous experience working in an academic setting and held various positions in animal care services at Delaware Valley University, Emory University School of Medicine and The Yerkes National Primate Research Center, and Harvard Medical School’s Center for Animal Resources and Comparative Medicine. He earned his BS in Small Animal Science from Delaware Valley University in 2001, his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2004, and held a postdoctoral appointment at Emory University School of Medicine and The Yerkes National Primate Research Center beginning in 2006. He is also a Certified Professional in IACUC Administration (CPIA) and a Diplomate, American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine.

Curtis brings extensive experience, expertise, and a history of collaboration and engagement with colleagues from the private sector and academia to this appointment. Please join me in welcoming him to UConn and congratulating him on this new position.

 

Sincerely,
Radenka Maric

NE Underwater Research, Technology & Education Center Closure

UConn’s Northeast Underwater Research, Technology and Education Center Closes

Exploration and Research that Made a Difference

 

The University of Connecticut’s Northeast Underwater Research, Technology and Education Center (NURTEC) officially closed on December 31, 2017 after 34 years of activities across the global ocean and large lakes of the world.  Reduced funding and retirement of key personnel necessitated this action.  The Center was established at UConn in 1983 with funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Undersea Research Program (NURP) and began fieldwork with research submersibles, remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and advanced wet diving technologies in 1984.  Over the next three decades the Center compiled a remarkable record of scientific accomplishment, technological advancement, and operational safety along with developing unique education and outreach programs.  Using the scientific results generated by this work, the Center also influenced ocean policy and management.  A brief retrospective of the Center recognizes that it was guided both by the mandates and mission of NOAA, focused on conservation and sustainable use of ocean and large lake resources and by the spirit of innovation and exploration that runs deep at UConn.

For the first 25 years NURTEC operated as one of six regional National Undersea Research Centers (NURC’s), soliciting, reviewing and funding undersea research projects that required placing scientists directly, or virtually, underwater.  After federal budget priorities shifted and NURP was eliminated, NURTEC operated as a University cost center for 11 more years, based on a diversity of grants and contracts.  Over time, the Center used 9 different occupied submersibles, ten different remotely operated vehicles, and multiple approaches for wet diving systems including surface supplied, mixed gas and rebreather technologies.  The Center’s annual request for proposals was based upon NOAA’s national and related regional research priorities and was distributed to over 2,500 scientists across the nation.  Over this period the Center brought in over $43 million of federal funds that supported 246 peer-reviewed undersea research and education projects.  While research was focused primarily off the northeast and U.S. Great Lakes, projects also spanned the globe including Antarctica and U.S. Arctic waters, South China Sea, Eastern Tropical Pacific, African Rift Valley Lakes, Lake Baikal in Russia, Gulf of California, Mediterranean, Red Sea, and the northeast Atlantic off Portugal.  Scientists supported by the Center produced 213 peer reviewed publications with data collected from over 8,750 dives.

map of NURTEC dives
Location of NURTEC supported dives

Staff scientists at the Center and those supported at other institutions, often working with NOAA partners, made direct contributions to improve management and conservation of ocean resources.  Center scientists took results from their underwater studies to State governments, regional Fishery Management Councils, the U.S. Congress, the United Nations, and even the White House.  Some notable examples include the use of research results to significantly influence the development of essential fish habitat and deep sea coral provisions in national fisheries legislation, implementation of fisheries closed areas off the northeast US to enhance sustainable fisheries, identification of management plan alternatives for National Marine Sanctuaries, development of measures to protect vulnerable ecosystems on the high seas through the United Nations, and designation of the first Marine National Monument in the U.S. North Atlantic by President Obama. Such research also aided decisions about Long Island Sound in regards to assessing impacts of a proposed liquid natural gas terminal and impacts of the disposal of harbor dredge material on seafloor habitats.

Studies with other partners focused on the use of underwater technologies to explore our nation’s rich maritime history.  ROVs were used to identify and survey the remains of the steamship Portland, a sidewheel passenger steamer that sank in 1898 in a surprise storm with loss of 192 lives including crew and passengers.  Called the “Titanic of the Gulf of Maine,” the exploration was featured on Discovery’s Science Channel. Thirty-five additional shipwrecks were surveyed while working with NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary program, four of which have been provided additional protection by placement on the National Register of Historic Places.  Further, the Center surveyed the wreck of the Lightship LV-51 that sank at the mouth of the Connecticut River, resulting in its being designated as Connecticut’s second submerged heritage site.

Since its inception the Center played a leading role in developing underwater sampling tools to meet the needs of sponsored researchers working on a variety of diving technologies.  In 1987 the Center initiated its remotely operated vehicle (ROV) program with the purchase of the first commercially available low-cost vehicle, the MiniRover, capable of diving to 1,000 feet and collecting samples using a simple manipulator arm. Over the next thirty years the Center acquired, operated and upgraded a number of ROVs to better serve the research community, culminating with the development of the 1,000-meter Kraken2 (K2). The K2 is widely recognized as one of the most capable and affordable “science class” ROV’s in the country and conducted a wide range of missions in support of ocean science and infrastructure.  Over the past decade the K2 has provided subsea maintenance to help keep the NSF Ocean Observatories Initiative’s Pioneer Array, located on the continental shelf south of Martha’s Vineyard, operational; recovered NOAA’s $500K HabCam towed imaging system that was lost on the wreck of the Bow Mariner; supported numerous projects focused on deep sea corals in the Gulf of Maine, Atlantic seaboard, Gulf of Mexico and National Marine Sanctuaries off the coasts of Oregon and California; and surveyed over 65 nautical miles of subsea cables for the U.S. Navy operating from the Research Vessel Connecticut.

Recovering the K2 ROV onto the RV Connecticut following a dive in the Gulf of Maine
Recovering the K2 ROV onto the RV Connecticut following a dive in the Gulf of Maine

Ocean science education was an enduring mission of the Center with a focus on the unique contribution that underwater technologies make to the advancement of science and the engagement of students and teachers.  The High School Aquanaut Program, conducted over the course of 20 years, engaged students and teachers in hands-on field science using submersibles, remotely operated vehicles and acoustic technologies.  The NSF-funded Classroom of the Sea program developed innovative ocean science education approaches for deaf and hard of hearing students.  Most recently, the Center led one of the 14 Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence (COSEE) funded by the NSF – COSEE-TEK – Technology and Engineering for Knowledge that utilized ocean science and technology to provide professional development for high school teachers, and engage and expose students to ocean sciences and engineering career opportunities, including dozens of undergraduate students from the New England Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation.

While NURTEC has ceased to operate, the legacy of excellence and innovation will continue within the Department of Marine Sciences.  Former Center Director Ivar Babb is now a Research Scientist within the Department with a focus on science education and the broader impacts of ocean research.  Research Professor Emeritus and former NURTEC Science Director Peter Auster, who has had a faculty appointment with the Department since 2002, continues his studies on the ecology and conservation of marine fishes, human impacts on the sea, and the use of marine protected areas as conservation tools.  The Underwater Vehicles Laboratory and ROV operations, led by Kevin Joy, will now be directed by the Department’s marine operations program.

 

New Research Initiatives Supported by the Office of the Vice President for Research

Dear Colleagues,

In the current climate of declining federal funding and impending reductions in state support, the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) is taking measures to provide faculty with critical additional assistance to guarantee that UConn proposals have the best chances of success. I wanted to share a few new initiatives with you as you prepare to submit new grant proposals.

Reduction of Overhead Costs

In order to provide faculty with more buying power on proposals, reduced overhead costs will be charged to grants of up to $50,000 where total costs are inclusive (i.e., direct and indirect costs capped at $50,000). This policy will be in place at UConn and UConn Health. The effective overhead rate for such grants will be capped at 20% instead of the standard 59%. This reduced rate will apply to future grant proposals, and is not applicable retroactively. Existing grants will continue to be charged the standard 59% rate. In the case where agencies, such as NSF, view a reduced F&A rate as cost share, faculty should apply the full rate and the OVPR will return the F&A back to the PI. Additional guidelines will be forthcoming on how to incorporate this lower rate on new proposals.

Faculty Grant Mentorship Incentive Program

Faculty members with a history of grant success have valuable expertise that can benefit faculty colleagues. Through this program, experienced PIs will be eligible to serve as mentors for three untenured faculty in return for a stipend of $10,000. Faculty mentors will provide untenured faculty with strategic insight and guidance to more successfully navigate the grant submission process. Activities will include introductions to program managers, review of proposals, guidance and support, help to establish individualized goals and professional development plans for each mentee, and insight on how to learn about grant solicitations that may not be announced through standard methods. In the coming weeks, we will announce an open call for senior faculty to nominate their colleagues or themselves to serve as mentors. The selection process will include an evaluation of nominees’ previous experience as a mentor for untenured faculty, as well as a review of their success winning extramural funding. Additional guidelines, mentor/mentee applications, and program requirements will be forthcoming and available on the OVPR website.

SBIR/STTR Funding

Funding through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs encourage domestic small businesses to engage in federal research and development that has the potential for commercialization. Each year, Federal agencies with extramural research and development budgets that exceed $100 million are required to allocate 3.2 percent (FY 2017) of their R&D budget to these programs, and agencies with research budgets over $1 billion are required to set aside a portion of these funds for STTR. SBIR/STTR grants range from $300,000 to $1 million each and can be a valuable source of non-dilutive funding for startups and eligible small companies. Under SBIR, the PI must be primarily employed with the small business at the time of award and for the duration of the project period, but subcontracts often occur with collaborating research institutions. Under the STTR program, primary employment is not stipulated, so the PI may be primarily employed by a collaborating institution.

These programs can be an effective tool for entrepreneurial faculty and the university’s efforts to boost our industry sponsored research portfolio. The OVPR is initiating several support programs to increase the number of successful SBIR/STTR awards submitted with UConn/UConn Health PIs or co-PIs.

First, we will host a series of workshops to expose faculty to the programs and how to successfully apply. The first workshop is sponsored by CTNext and will be held on November 29 & 30 at 400 Farmington Ave on the UConn Health campus. For more information and to register, visit the CTNext site.

The OVPR is also piloting an effort to connect faculty to SBIR/STTR program managers, as well as existing companies seeking R&D partnerships to support SBIR/STTR proposals. In order to do this we are developing a team able to offer assistance directly to faculty, their startups, and outside industry partners that are eligible for SBIR/STTR support. If you are interested in learning more about these support services, please contact ovpr@uconn.edu.

Collaboration with the UConn Foundation

Finally, in partnership with the UConn Foundation, we will continue to seek creative solutions and establish innovative programs and initiatives to increase philanthropic dollars for student and faculty research.

For existing and new initiatives to support research, we will establish metrics and methods to track success to ensure that our investments result in returns for our faculty and the university.

We will be in touch again soon to share additional information and more specific details about these new programs and initiatives as soon as they become available. In the meantime, this message serves to reassure faculty and students that we are dedicated to helping UConn’s world-class researchers succeed despite the fiscal challenges we are currently facing. We are committed to supporting UConn’s vibrant research community, and we thank you for your invaluable contribution to the university, the state of Connecticut, and the global scientific community.

 

Sincerely,

Dr. Radenka Maric
Vice President for Research
UConn/UConn Health

Elimination of Graduate Research Assistant Tuition on Grants

April 4, 2017

 

Dear Colleagues:

In our continuing effort to reduce the costs of research at UConn and UConn Health, we are eliminating the requirement to charge any portion of graduate research assistant tuition to research grants, effective Spring 2017.

From 2009 to 2016, University policy required that 60% of full-time in-state tuition per graduate assistant be charged to external grants funding faculty members’ research projects. In Fiscal Year 2016, we reduced the impact of this policy on grant funds by returning an amount equal to half of the tuition collected from grants to faculty investigators’ indirect cost return accounts.

Beginning with charges for the Spring 2017 semester, faculty will no longer be required to charge any portion of graduate research assistant tuition to their grants. Faculty will also no longer be required to include [tuition] charges for graduate research assistants on future grant applications, thus increasing their competitiveness with funding agencies. Savings from graduate research assistant tuition charges can now be applied toward other direct cost needs for faculty research projects. This applies to all sponsored projects, including those being conducted at UConn Health.

Researchers with existing grants or grant applications that include graduate research assistant tuition for Spring 2017 and beyond should rebudget those dollars into other direct cost items, at their discretion within sponsor specific rules. For questions or to request assistance with the rebudgeting process, please reach out to your department grant administrator or your regular contact person in Sponsored Program Services within the Office of the Vice President for Research.

Although this is another positive step towards increasing the buying power of grants for our faculty, we recognize that it does not directly address a major concern contributing to the high cost of doing research at UConn and UConn Health: very high fringe rates relative to our peers and aspirants. While these rates are controlled by the state, we will continue to seek solutions for this important issue.

Despite significant financial constraints, we will continue to pursue creative solutions to decrease the cost of doing research at UConn and UConn Health. Some of the recent initiatives to accomplish this include: providing financial support to PIs impacted by large increases in fringe rates in 2016, establishing direct IDC returns to PIs for the first time at UConn Health, non-research IDC returns for the first time in Storrs, and supporting the NIH-driven increase in minimum salaries for postdoctoral fellows.

Thank you for your continued contributions to UConn/UConn Health’s success as a leading research institution. We look forward to supporting you in your future research activities.

Sincerely,

Dr. Jeff Seemann
Vice President for Research UConn/UConn Health
Dr. Jeremy Teitelbaum
Interim Provost & Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
Scott Jordan
Executive Vice President for Administration &
Chief Financial Officer

Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

August 17, 2016

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing today about the recently announced changes to federal overtime regulations that will affect the compensation of postdoctoral associates as of December 1, 2016.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a federal law regulated by the Wage and Hour Division of the United States Department of Labor (DOL).  This law regulates wage and hour standards such as minimum wage, overtime, equal pay, and time reporting requirements.  On May 18, 2016, President Obama and Secretary Perez announced the publication of the DOL’s final rule updating overtime regulations.  The University is required to comply with the changes to this law, effective December 1, 2016.

The regulations mandate that the standard salary level to qualify for exemption from the FLSA minimum wage and overtime requirements will increase from $455 per week ($23,660 per year) to $913 per week ($47,476 per year). In practice, employees who do not meet the revised salary threshold and other requirements, or who fail to qualify for other specific exemptions as outlined in the regulations, must be treated as hourly employees and be paid for each hour worked.

In order to comply with this new regulation, Human Resources at both Storrs and UCH has determined that postdoctoral associates will remain exempt and (where requisite), their salaries will be increased to the new threshold of $47,476.

Given this decision, all submitted proposals must include budgets that reflect the new minimum salary requirements for research staff. Information regarding these salaries is available on the OVPR website for UConn Health and the Storrs and regional campuses. Please contact OVPR Preaward Services staff with any questions at 860.486.3007 (Storrs/regional) or 860.679.4040 (UConn Health).

With regard to the added burden of increased postdoctoral associate salaries on existing projects after December 1, 2016, Central Administration at both Storrs and UCH will provide one-time financial support in FY2017 for postdoctoral associates whose salaries will increase to the new federally regulated threshold. This support will allow projects already underway in Storrs and UCH to maintain their budgeted buying power and complete the research or scholarship activities they set out to do. The Office of the Vice President for Research will work closely with Principal Investigators (PIs) to transfer these funds into the appropriate accounts.

PIs with awards from the National Science Foundation are encouraged to contact their program officer to discuss requesting additional funding to cover the increased cost of postdoctoral associate salaries, per a recently released notice from the NSF.

Thank you for your cooperation. We look forward to continuing to support your research and scholarship in every way that we can.

Sincerely,
Dr. Jeff Seemann
Vice President for Research
UConn/UConn Health

New Export Control Policy

The Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) would like to announce a new policy related to Export Control compliance, effective 12/14/2015. Intended to protect national security and support foreign policy, export controls are federal laws that regulate how certain controlled information, technology, software, services and goods can be shipped, transferred or transmitted to individuals or organizations overseas.  They also regulate the release of certain information to foreign nationals who are in the U.S. and their ability to work with or have access to certain technologies and software while in the U.S.  This policy has been put in to place to ensure that the University and its employees remain in full compliance with federal regulations, has been approved for all UConn campuses, and can be found at the University’s Policies & Procedures page.

The OVPR has developed resources related to Export Controls to assist faculty and other members of the University community that are available on the Research Compliance Services page.

If you have any questions relating to Export Control and/or this policy, please contact:

Dr. Wesley Byerly
Associate Vice President for Research, Research Compliance Services
Office of the Vice President for Research
(860) 679-2230
byerly@uchc.edu