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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University December 1, 2008 | Vol. 38 No. 13
Framework Announces First Grants

Provost's committee selects 11 proposals for funding

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

The Office of the Provost is planting 11 hybrid seeds that it hopes will bloom into areas of cross-disciplinary excellence at the university, and possibly positions of world leadership.

Among those that could come to fruition are a Johns Hopkins Space Science Institute, a Johns Hopkins Individualized Medicine Program and a Discover East Asia Program.

These initiatives and eight others are the inaugural grant winners out of 74 submitted to the Framework for the Future's Discovery Working Group. They will receive start-up funding in the form of planning/seed grants of up to $200,000 per year for three years. The university hopes these grants will ignite new areas and strengthen existing ones where cross-disciplinary interactions make a major difference.

Six initiatives were funded for three-year grants and five selected for one-year grants. The initiatives, which will involve all 10 divisions of the university, cover a range of disciplines, including stem cell research, computing, bioinformatics, bioenergy and global water. (For a list of the funded proposals and their primary faculty and staff members, see below.)

The proposals came in response to Provost Kristina Johnson's call for initiatives in research, scholarship, creativity, teaching and practice that have the capacity to make major breakthroughs at the boundaries and frontiers of disciplinary knowledge.

The request was one part of Framework for the Future, a strategic planning process that Johnson and President William R. Brody initiated in May to engage the university community in thinking about what Johns Hopkins needs to do to maintain its leadership in research, discovery, education and practice, while continuing to positively influence a global society. The other working groups are People, and Ways and Means.

The Discovery Working Group, which is facilitated by Michela Gallagher, vice provost for academic affairs, reviewed the 74 proposals during the summer and early fall. The group then identified and recommended a portfolio of 25 initiatives to present to the Provost's Strategic Planning Steering Committee, which includes the Council of Deans.

Johnson said that she was extremely pleased by both the response and the work of all involved in the selection process.

"The intellectual conversations stimulated by this process have been terrific," she said. "A number of faculty have commented to me that this is one of the best things they have been involved with. They said it's not about the money; it's about intellectual collisions between faculty that they would not have met had they not participated in the working group, or in one of the 74 teams that submitted a proposal to the RFP process."

Gallagher said that the working group organized the proposals thematically and then prioritized them on the basis of their innovation to deepen the university's selective excellence and further differentiate Johns Hopkins from its peers.

"The proposals varied greatly, from the physical sciences to the humanities," she said. "We were looking for initiatives that could help move a larger theme or area even further to where JHU can really distinguish itself. We also wanted it to foster collaboration across a wide spectrum of [divisions]."

Several proposals fell under the theme of sustainable environment and global health, intended to build on the university's excellence in public health, medicine and nursing and expand into the areas of environmental science and sustainability.

Gallagher said that the Discovery Working Group found merits in all proposals submitted in this broad area. Two were selected for three-year grants, a global water program and a proposal for a bioenergy initiative.

Gallagher said that the committee felt that Johns Hopkins could capitalize on its historical leadership in the field of global water issues through an initiative involving public health practitioners, engineers, economists, behavioral scientists and specialists in international relations and communications.

One funded initiative — which will involve the schools of Medicine, Arts and Sciences and Engineering — will seek to apply the expertise of faculty in diverse disciplines to confront the looming energy crisis in an innovative bioenergy research program. The work will exploit various methods to greatly enhance the ability to convert lignocellulosic biomass into fuel.

Another theme identified by the Discovery Working Group was discovery in complex systems, including a funded proposal in bioinformatics and computational biology submitted by faculty bridging the schools of Public Health, Medicine, Arts and Sciences and Engineering.

Given existing strengths in medicine and genetics, the group agreed that Johns Hopkins is poised to take the lead in individualized medicine under a funded proposal that will build on expertise in genetics and medicine and be strongly tied to biology, public health, computation, informatics and bioethics.

The Discovery Working group is chaired by Marilyn Albert, a professor of neurology in the School of Medicine. Albert said that the group knew going in that solutions to many of the world's problems will involve the cooperation of multiple disciplines and that Johns Hopkins could and should play a vital role.

Albert said that the list of proposals is clearly not an "exhaustive list" of multidisciplinary initiatives that could be undertaken at Johns Hopkins but areas where "fires could be stoked." She said the university's work in space science, for example, is already outstanding but could be greater still.

"We selected a proposal to create a Johns Hopkins Space Science Institute because we wanted to bring our expertise here to the next level," she said. "We also recommended an initiative in Africana Studies, realizing that we have the capability to be leader in this area."

Albert called the selection process an invaluable learning experience.

"You could clearly see from the proposals where the institution has enough depth and strength," she said. "And you could also see [the areas with] the potential for us to be world class, but we're just not there yet."

Additional information on the proposals and the selection process is available at:


Funded Discovery Proposals

Three-Year Grants

Johns Hopkins University Global Water Program
Public Health, Engineering, SAIS, APL
Principals: Kellogg Schwab, Maria Elena Figueroa, Public Health; William Ball, Seth Guikema, Engineering; Scott Barrett, SAIS; Charles Young, APL

Johns Hopkins Bioenergy Initiative
Arts and Sciences, Medicine, Engineering
Principals: Doug Barrick, L. Mario Amzel, Evangelos Moudrianakis, Arts and Sciences; Jan Hoh, Medicine; Pablo Iglesias, Engineering

Johns Hopkins Space Science Institute
Arts and Sciences, APL, Engineering
Principals: Warren Moos, Tim Heckman, Chuck Bennett, Darrell Strobel, Richard Henry, Arts and Sciences; Andy Cheng, Hal Weaver, APL; Andreas Andreou, James Spicer, Engineering; Matt Mountain, Space Telescope Science Institute

Johns Hopkins Individualized Medicine Program
Medicine, Berman Institute of Bioethics, Arts and Sciences, Public Health, APL
Principals: David Valle, Carol Greider, Ralph Hruban, Charles Flexner, Stephen Baylin, Garry Cutting, Chi Dang, Aravinda Chakravarti, Andrew Feinberg, Jef Boeke, Medicine; Kathy Hudson, Berman Institute; Karen Beemon, Arts and Sciences; M. Danielle Fallin, Rafael Irizarry, Public Health; Andrew Feldman, APL

Data Intensive Scalable Computing at JHU
Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Libraries, Medicine, Public Health
Principals: Alexander Szalay, Mark Robbins, Stephen Nichols, Randal Burns, Arts and Sciences; Charles Meneveau, Engineering; Sayeed Choudhury, Libraries; John Wong, Medicine; Stephanie Reel, Information Technology

Nucleating a Discipline: Creating Leadership in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology
Medicine, Public Health, Engineering, Arts and Sciences
Principals: Sarah Wheelan, Medicine; Rafael Irizarry, Jonathan Pevsner, Luigi Marchionni, Public Health

One-Year Grants

Hopkins All-University Africana Studies Initiative
Arts and Sciences, Business, Education, Public Health
Principals: Ben Vinson, Michael Hanchard, Arts and Sciences; James Calvin, Isaac Megbolugbe, Business; Alan Green, Education; Robert W. Blum, C. Michael Gibbons, Public Health

Initiative in Computational Learning
Arts and Sciences, APL, Medicine, Public Health, Libraries, Engineering, Human Language Technology Center of Excellence
Principals: Jason Eisner, Alexander Szalay, Arts and Sciences; Christine Piatko, APL; Michael Ochs, Medicine; Fernando Pineda, Public Health; Sayeed Choudhury, Libraries; Sanjeev Khudanpur, James Spall, Engineering; Gary Strong, HLTCoE

Discover East Asia at Johns Hopkins University
Arts and Sciences, SAIS, JHU Nanjing, Engineering, Public Health
Principals: Kellee Tsai, Arts and Sciences; David Lampton, SAIS; Jan Kiely, JHU Nanjing; Benjamin Schafer, Engineering; Ying Zhang, Public Health

Addressing the 'Gathering Storm' in STEM Education
Engineering, Education
Principals: Michael Karweit, Marc Donohue, Engineering; Robert Slavin, Education

Neuro-Education Initiative: Supporting Translational Research in the Brain Sciences to Transform Teaching and Learning
Education, Public Health, Medicine, Arts and Sciences, Nursing, Peabody
Principals: Mariale Hardiman, Barry Aprison, Susan Magsamen, Education; Guy McKhann, Public Health; Rick Huganir, Martha Denckla, Steven Hsiao, Medicine; Barbara Landau, Banchi Dessalegn, Arts and Sciences; Mary Ellen Lewis, Education


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