The University Record, February 13, 1995

4 projects receive Presidential Initiatives funds

By Julie Robinson
Record Special Writer

Competition was tough for this year's awarding of Presidential Initiatives Fund (PIF) grants. Of 79 proposals, four were selected, representing a diverse cross-section of schools.

The PIF began in 1986 with a $5 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and matching funds from the University. After a hiatus of several years, this year's competition was initiated with the goal of "supporting faculty creativity in pursuit of that which is unique, significant and difficult to fund."

On the lookout for "cutting-edge projects," the selection committee aimed to choose projects "characterized by high risk--and high potential intellectual gain."

"While the competition for PIF has always been great, this year's pool of proposals was truly outstanding.

"I think we selected four exceptional projects that have great potential impact on our intellectual landscape," says President James J. Duderstadt.

Ranging in topics from the emerging field of organogenesis to the timely issue of welfare reforms, the four winning proposals show academic support from a wide range of departments. All proposals include plans to engage both senior and junior scholars in their research, bring in visiting experts and professionals in the fields, and arrange for continued external support upon completion of the three-year PIF funds.

Vice President for Research Homer A. Neal sees "the advancement of innovative research and training programs through the Presidential Initiative Fund awards as an important element in sustaining a stimulating and dynamic intellectual climate. We cannot always count on external sponsors to reach for what is new, hard to categorize within existing programs, or out of step with the sponsor's mission," Neal says. "The president's willingness to support faculty interests in this way helps keep Michigan in the forefront of research."

Duderstadt looks forward to seeing the projects develop. "The quality of these proposals," he notes, "enables us to maintain a high degree of selectivity and I am proud of the collective output represented in them."

The projects are:

"The Michigan Program on Poverty and Social Welfare Policy" project was proposed by Edward M. Gramlich, director, Institute of Public Policy Studies; Jeffrey Lehman, dean, Law School; and Paula Allen-Meares, dean, School of Social Work. The research will focus on the vast issues related to the current welfare reform movement. The researchers will then apply their findings, "to promote interdisciplinary applied research on policy questions and to translate this research to policymakers."

Their plans consist of organizing evaluation studies, testing welfare dependency programs, expand the training of law students advising community groups, and the involvement of students and faculty with nonprofit agencies and Detroit city leaders.

Key collaborators on the project inclue Sheldon Danziger, Institute for Public Policy Studies (IPPS) and School of Social Work; Sandra Danziger, School of Social Work; Mary Corcoran and Gary Solon, IPPS and LS&A; and Lauren Rich, IPPS.

  • The "Establishment of a Program for the Study of Organogenesis at the University of Michigan" will be directed by Seigo Izumo, professor of internal medicine and of biological chemistry and chief, Division of Cardiology. The overall goal is to establish an infrastructure for the study of organogenesis at the University. An important goal of the project is to facilitate communication between departments and disciplines.

    Described as "not the science of today, but the science of five years from today," the field of organogenesis "unites research in the clinical, basic science and applied arenas ... to understand the basic mechanisms by which organs and tissues are formed and maintained." Such information can be used to "create long-lasting artificial organs, stem cell therapies or organ transplantation systems that will correct genetic and acquired diseases.

    Also working on this project will be Deborah Gumucio, anatomy and cell biology, Medical School; Craig Harris, toxicology, School of Public Health; David Mooney, biologic and material sciences, School of Dentistry, and chemical engineering, College of Engineering; Peter Polverini, oral pathology, School of Dentistry; and Kathryn Tosney, biology, LS&A.

  • The focus of "Beyond the Traditional Codex: A 'Collaboratory' for the Humanities" is a "campuswide U-M Digital Library, through which faculty and students will study and create new methods of transmitting text in a social framework." Directed by John Price-Wilkin, Humanities Text Initiative librarian, the project aims to move into the information age and "play a role in conceiving the book of the future ... study the transmission of culture through text and implement new concepts of the text in an electronic movement."

    Collaborating with Price-Wilkin on this project will be George Bornstein, Department of English, and Colin Day of the U-M Press.

  • "MusEn" is a collaboration of the School of Music and the College of Engineering. Its directors are Gregory H. Wakefield, associate professor of electrical engineering & computer science and graduate chair, system division, and Mary Simoni, assistant professor of music and director of CPAT.

    The researchers will study emerging music technology in digital signal processing. Their aim is to "further study in the field to provide advances in musicology and music theory and stimulate further accomplishments within digital signal processing and its companion disciplines in electrical engineering and computer science."

    The primary objectives of the project are to make advances in the creation of a transcription system to improve musical instruction and performance, and in the development of technology for advanced musical synthesizers.

    Other researchers involved in the project are William J. Williams and William B. Ribbens, electrical engineering and computer science; Robert Grijalva, School of Music; and David Wessell, music department, University of California, Berkeley.

    The four projects will receive awards totaling approximately $1 million over the next three years.