Delaware State University, the University of Delaware, Delaware Technical Community College, and Wesley College are partners in Delaware’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) Research Infrastructure Improvement Program (RII-3) grant. EPSCoR is a federal grant program led by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to help states develop their research capabilities and institutions.
The four current research themes:
- The effect of sea level rise on contaminant mobility and cycling
- The impact of climate change and land use patterns on water quality and ecosystems
- Development and deployment of environmental sensors at multiple spatial and temporal scales
- Innovations in environmentally sound renewable energy sources
DESU and EPSCoR
At Delaware State University, the EPSCoR program helps strengthen existing research and establish new research programs and also to train the next generation of talent in diverse fields. Through DSU EPSCoR, Center for Integrated Biological and Environmental Research (CIBER) was established and is a pivot to all DSU EPSCoR activities.
A. Theme-Focused Research:
- Plant Genetics, Molecular Genetics, and Epigenomics: The Molecular Genetics and Epigenomics laboratory, led by Dr. Venugopal Kalavacharla, plays a significant role in the plant genetics research at Delaware State University and currently focuses on the analysis of switchgrass, marsh grass, the common bean, and other legume crops.
- Water Quality, Climate Change, and Environmental Sciences: CIBER has supported the implementation of research under supervision of Dr. Gulnihal Ozbay. This research includes the obsercation fo water quality and population dynamics of aquatic organisms, as well as, land use impacts on ecosystems, sea level, aquatic health, community-based habitat restoration, water preservation, and environmental conservation.
- Plant Biotechnology: The Plant Biotechnology laboratory, led by Dr. Bertrand Hankoua, focuses on overcoming the recalcitrance (resistance of plant cell walls to deconstruction) of lignocellulosic biomass, which is necessary to achieve sustainable energy production.
- Bioinformatics: Through CIBER/EPSCoR support, the hiring of a Bioinformatics tenure track faculty (Dr. Tomasz Smolinski), Computer and Information Sciences, College of Methematics, Natural Science, and Technology was initiated at DSU to establish and develop capacity in bioinformatics and computational biology.
B. Other Research Areas:
Benefits of CIBER EPSCoR Funding:
- Development of infrastructure
- Increased research capacity
- Production of preliminary results that help DSU research to compete for federal and state research funds.
- Training of staff and students in order to expand past EPSCoR research themes
Example of Funding Benefits:
The Soil Evaluation laboratory led by Dr. Mingxin Guo received grants from CIBER that allowed for preliminary research to be conducted. The data acquired in the preliminary projects helped to get the new federal grants in biofuel development, bioenergy education and climate change literacy training. Research capabilities were also increased by nonexpendable equipment procured with DSU EPSCoR assistance.
Other funded projects focus on:
- Conducting high-resolution side-scan sonar surveys along with hydrop acoustic surroundings into the Delaware River navigation area to observe changes brought by dredging on sturgeon fish and benthic habitat.
- Designing an integrated fiber-optic based sensor for performing trace gas measurements which will be utilized to determine microbial activity in the soil samples.
- Development of a low cost photo-thermal lens spectrophotometer for characterization of turbid samples.
Research-based training opportunities were made available through EPSCoR, NSF-Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU), The NIFA-funded Northeast Bioenergy Consortium (NEWBio), the USDA-funded Farm Experiences Program (FEP), and the student support through the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) programs.
These training experiences provided opportunities to middle and high school trachers, and introduced K-12 students to research and lab facilities. Additionally, CIBER hosted international scholars from over-seas to provide hands on research experiences.
The Ethics Resrouce Site (http://www.desu.edu/ethics-resource-site) directed by Dr. Stephen Taylor, was founded at Delaware State University as a part of the EPSCoR RII Grnat and was established as a repository of expertise in both normatice ethical theory and applied ethics.