Faculty Development Council Grant Program Awardees

The Faculty Development Council Grant Program provides funding to facilitate research, scholarly and creative productivity to increase awardee competitiveness for extramural grant funding. These are project-based grants for up to $5,000, and can be made to faculty in any discipline, as long as they are in continuous appointments. Although the Office of Research and Economic Development took over management of the program in 2017-18, this program is one of the longest-standing sources of internal funding on campus, with records dating to 1986. 

2020 Awardees

Ashley Flagge

Dr. Ashley Flagge
Assistant Professor, Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology
College of Allied Health

"The Effect of Music Therapy on Respiration, Phonation, and Swallowing in Patients with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis"

Abstract: Limited prior research has demonstrated beneficial effects of music therapy (MT) on respiration, phonation, and swallowing in adult patients with neurological impairments, including post-stroke patients and patients with Parkinson’s disease. To date, no study has explored the impact of music therapy on bulbar function (respiration, phonation, and swallowing) in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), despite the high occurrence rate of bulbar dysfunction in this patient cohort. The purpose of this study is to explore the effectiveness of a four-week music therapy protocol on measures of respiration, phonation, and swallowing in five patients with ALS. This pilot study will provide valuable preliminary data required for a future external grant submission.

Hee Kim

Dr. Hee Kim
Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering
College of Engineering

"Villus-like Flexible Fin Array for Active Sensing and Power Management"

Abstract: The goal of this project is to initiate an emerging research field at the University of South Alabama by integrating direct energy conversion with soft electronics technology. The objective of this proposal is to equip a heat treatment system to establish a complete manufacturing route of polymer based thermoelectric membranes through spin coating and thermal curing processes. This work will be a stepping-stone to the development of self-powered human-interfaced wearable bioelectronics. This will lead to increasing competitiveness for extramural grant funding in research on wearable smart health monitoring systems. The first part of this project is design and simulation of a 3-D structured villus-like flexible fin array system. Second, self-standing thermoelectric polymer membranes will be fabricated through the combination of spin coating and multiple heat treatment processes. Metal electrodes for an electrical circuit will be patterned through aerosol jet printing technology on the processed membranes.

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Dr. Padmamalini Thulasiraman
Associate Professor, Department of Biomedical Sciences
College of Allied Health

"Impact on the suppression of Proteinase Inhibitor 9 by hydroxytyrosol on mammary carcinoma cell death"

Abstract: By understanding how the immune system destroys cancer cells, novel immunotherapies can be identified for cancers. Proteinase Inhibitor 9 (PI-9) affects the ability of immune cells to kill cancer cells and due to this, it is associated with poor prognosis in carcinomas. PI-9 blocks the apoptotic activity of Granzyme B (GrB) released by cytotoxic cells and protects cells from death. Hydroxytyrosol (HT), a component in olive oil, strengthens the immune system. It is unknown whether HT can enhance apoptosis of cancer cells by regulating PI-9. Preliminary studies from my laboratory suggest that treatment with HT suppresses MCF-7 breast cancer cell growth, while causing a reduction in PI-9 protein levels and an increase in GrB. The proposed studies will 1) identify the optimal dose of HT to elicit changes in PI-9 and GrB levels, and 2) directly test whether treatment with HT increases sensitivity of cancer cells to targeted cell death.

▼   2019 Awardees
Dr. Lesley Gregoricka

Dr. Lesley Gregoricka
Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work
College of Arts and Sciences

"Investigating Mobility and Pastoralism Among Kerma-Period Communities in Sudan"

Abstract: The early African state society of Kush in what is now Sudan is typically characterized as a secondary state relative to Pharaonic Egypt to the north. Initially centered at the urban site of Kerma, the Kushite state flourished throughout the third and early second millennium BC until conquest by Egypt ushered in a period of colonial rule. Unlike Egypt, whose economy centered on agriculture, the people of Kush were thought to be pastoralists who exercised authority through the control of exchange networks and prestige goods. Even today, however, the extent to which pastoralism contributed to subsistence practices and long-distance exchange networks in the Nile Valley of Sudan is poorly understood. The proposed research is designed to investigate the mobility of rural people living in Kush during the Kerma period and in the subsequent phase of Egyptian colonialism through the analysis of strontium and oxygen isotopes from human dental enamel.

Dr. Will Jackson

Dr. Will Jackson
Assistant Professor, Department of Earth Sciences
College of Arts and Sciences

"Exploring the development of the Rocky Mountains: Implications for plate tectonic models"

Abstract: In plate tectonics, the unifying theory of geology, mountain belts develop when the margins of two plates collide at a convergent plate boundary; resulting in the exhumation and uplift of the overriding plate. Examples include oceanic-continental plate collision such as the Andean Mountains and continent-continent plate collision such as the Himalayan Mountains. In contrast, the exhumation and uplift of the Rocky Mountains from Montana to New Mexico present an anomaly to plate tectonic predictions because the mountain range developed 700-1000 kilometers away from the plate margin. Jackson et al. (2016) and Jackson et al. (2018) provide field-based data (paleoseismites) from Montana that question established plate tectonic models for the Rocky Mountains. I propose to conduct further fieldwork in New Mexico to build upon this perspective and collect seed data for a NSF CAREER proposal. Results will advance our understanding of the Rocky Mountains and how fundamental plate tectonic processes operate.

Dr. Kelly Urban

Dr. Kelly Urban
Assistant Professor, Department of History
College of Arts and Sciences

"Politicosis: Tuberculosis, Public Health, and Politics in Cuba, 1925-1970"

Abstract: My book manuscript, Politicosis: Tuberculosis, Public Health, and Politics in Cuba, 1925-1970, explores - through the lens of tuberculosis control in Cuba - how citizenship, inequality and the politics of disease intersect. It offers one of the first social histories of disease of twentieth-century Cuba, and draws on a varied "medical archive," pairing quantitative health outcome data with qualitative sources on the socio-political context of TB control. Reversing current assumptions in medical humanities scholarship and Cuban historiography, my manuscript argues that the Cuban state pursued a serious public health project (the effort to eradicate TB) before 1959, that there were continuities in the lived experience of health across the 1959 revolution, and that health rights were won from the bottom up by ordinary citizens. Politicosis proves that advances in rights consciousness and innovative experiments in state health policy often arise in regions frequently considered peripheral to the development of public health.

▼   2018 Awardees
Dr. Kendrea Garand

Dr. Kendrea Garand
Assistant Professor, Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology
Pat Capps Covey College of Allied Health Professions

"Pulmonary Function and Its Influence on Speech and Swallowing Function in Patients with Motor Neuron Disease"

Abstract: Swallowing impairment (dysphagia) and speech impairment (dysarthria) resulting from bulbar dysfunction emerge in the majority of patients with motor neuron disease (MND). Pulmonary dysfunction likely exacerbates dysphagia and dysarthria in these patients due to progressive weakness of the upper aerodigestive tract over the course of the disease. To date, no study has examined the impact on pulmonary dysfunction on both speech and swallowing simultaneously despite the high occurrence rates of bulbar dysfunction in this patient cohort. The purpose of this study is to examine the impact of pulmonary function on motor speech and swallowing function in patients with MND compared to age- and sex-matched healthy controls. This seminal study will address the current gap in knowledge and will provide valuable preliminary data required for a future external grant submission.

Dr. John Lanicci

Dr. John Lanicci
Associate Professor, Department of Earth Sciences
College of Arts and Sciences

"Numerical Modeling of an Extreme Rainfall Event in a Future Climate"

Abstract: We propose to continue research on the potential impacts of climate change on extreme rainfall events along Florida's Atlantic coast. Using conventional observations and computer simulation, we examined the structure and evolution of a coastal storm that affected the Kennedy Space Center complex in October 2011. To study how this storm might behave in a warmer climate, we performed an integration of global climate model projections into computer simulations of the same storm and performed a preliminary comparison to those in the present climate. Initial results show that average storm rainfall increases in the future climate simulations compared to present-day climate, with the greatest average rainfall occurring in the moderate warming scenario, not the extreme scenario. By analyzing atmospheric structures in these simulations, we hope to gain insights that can be shared with engineers, managers, and planners facing the challenges of building resilient structures and systems for a future climate.

Dr. Krista Mehari

Dr. Krista Mehari
Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology
College of Arts and Sciences

"Life and Stress During Pregnancy"

Abstract: The goal of this project is to examine the role of contextual stressors in the health of pregnant women. Very little is known about the extent to which these risk factors (also called social determinants of health) are associated with women’s health during pregnancy and pregnancy outcomes (e.g., preeclampsia, gestational age). Understanding these relations as well as potential mechanisms of change is a vital first step to develop interventions that will promote maternal and fetal health. This study represents a collaboration between faculty members in the USA Department of Psychology and the Center for Women’s Health. Women who are receiving prenatal care in the high- and low-risk pregnancy clinics and who agree to participate will complete a survey, and their medical charts will be reviewed. Data will be used to apply for an intervention development grant application focused on mitigating the impact of contextual stress on pregnant women.

Dr. Gregory Poole

Dr. Gregory Poole
Associate Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering
College of Engineering

"Additive Manufacturing of Flame Retardant Polymers Using Stereolithography"

Abstract: Additive manufacturing (aka AM/3D printing) has received immense attention due to its potential for improvements in product performance, decreased development times, and reduced costs. Although there’s been some studies on plasticizer additives in AM techniques, work on incorporation of flame retardants (FRs) in AM technologies are almost non-existent. A project is proposed to investigate incorporation of commonly-used FRs into polymeric components produced using the stereolithography method, as well as study the potential of ionic liquids as FRs. Preliminary studies will evaluate the solubility of candidate FRs in commercial acrylic resin, as determined by NMR and mass spectroscopy. After specimen printing, flame mitigation will be evaluated using thermogravimetric analysis (TGA), with degradation in inert atmosphere used as a baseline. To investigate possible plasticization effects, flexural modulus will be measured using the 3-point bend test. This will be coupled with differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) experiments to determine the glass transition temperature.

Dr. Dania Rishiq

Dr. Dania Rishiq
Assistant Professor, Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology
Pat Capps Covey College of Allied Health

"Masking Level Difference with Digits (MLDD) Test in Children"


The Masking Level Difference with Digits (MLDD) is a new test developed by Mayo Clinic to address the need for a speech-in-noise test that is linguistically primitive. The test rationale is that digits are overlearned speech stimuli and thus may require minimal linguistic processing. The test also measures the binaural release from masking effect – an ability that may diminish with central auditory nervous system (CANS) dysfunction. The anticipated clinical benefits for the test are numerous including evaluating pediatric patients with CANS dysfunction [e.g. patients with Auditory Processing Disorders (APD), and auditory neuropathy]. However, the clinical administration of the test has been limited due to the lack of pediatric test norms. Much remains unknown regarding the developmental time course of the MLDD performance in children, and how age influence test performance. Thus, the goal of this study is to evaluate age effects on test performance, and to establish pediatric test norms.

Dr. Steven Schultze

Dr. Steven Schultze
Assistant Professor, Department of Earth Sciences
Pat Capps Covey College of Allied Health

"In-grove Frost Warning System"

Abstract: Frost damage and dangerously cold temperatures have been one of the few factors limiting the growth of the Gulf Coast citrus industry. Frost events can cause heavy damage to a fruiting tree, particularly after flower bloom. This proposal seeks support for the development of a prototype frost warning system that would sit within a grove of fruit trees in the central Gulf Coast region. By working in conjunction with Auburn University’s Gulf Coast Research and Extension Center, the PI will develop a system that uses common instruments used in the field of agricultural technology to inform a grower when potentially damaging temperatures are occurring in their grove, rather than trusting a third party site or application (such as Accuweather) to use a generalized air temperature reading. If successful, such a system could save growers millions of dollars while also contributing to the current literature on frost damage to crops.

Dr. Shenghua Wu

Dr. Shenghua Wu
Assistant Professor, Department of Civil, Coastal, and Environmental Engineering
College of Engineering

"Evaluation of Bio-based Graphene Reinforced Asphalt Mixtures"

Abstract: Collaborating with US Forest Service, this study is to evaluate the effectiveness and applicability of a newly developed bio-based graphene that can used in asphalt pavement. This new type of graphene is made from kraft lignin which is natural abundance in all plants. Currently none of research is conducted on whether this bio-based graphene would be compatible with asphalt pavement and potentially improve pavement performance. As such, a series of laboratory experiments will be conducted at asphalt lab at USA to characterize the material properties of bio-based graphene reinforced asphalt mixtures. Different asphalt types, graphene types and dosages, and asphalt mixtures used in Mobile will be investigated. Also, the cost benefit and environmental impacts will be analyzed. Upon completion of this project, best practice of use of bio-based graphene reinforced asphalt mixtures will be provided, which will be beneficial for asphalt industry practitioner, asphalt paving contractor and transportation agencies.