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Maryland Engineers Awarded Grants to Address Humanity's Grand Challenges

Twelve projects led by or involving Maryland Engineering faculty have been awarded funding through the Grand Challenges Grants Program, the largest and most comprehensive program of its kind ever introduced at the University of Maryland.

"Congratulations to today's Grand Challenge grant winners," said Samuel Graham, Jr., dean of UMD’s A. James Clark School of Engineering. "Promoting equality, social justice, and sustainability through engineering design; reducing the impacts of climate change; and ensuring families and communities have access to clean drinking water: Solving these and other grand challenges requires an engineer’s ingenuity. We are excited to see the passion of the researchers we have in the Clark School for solving these challenges. The resources announced today will help them find new solutions and inspire the next generation of students who will work in these fields."

With an unprecedented $30 million investment, UMD’s Grand Challenges Grants Program is accelerating solutions to some of the world’s most complex problems, including climate change, global health, educational disparities, racial and social injustice, threats to democracy, pandemic preparedness, sustainability, and many others. 

Read more about the 50 grants spanning campus to spur world-changing, interdisciplinary research and solutions.

Learn more about Maryland Engineering’s grant-winning projects below:

Institutional Grants

Global FEWture Alliance: Transformative Food-Energy-Water Solutions to Ensure Community Resilience in a Changing Climate

PI: Amy Sapkota (SPHL), Co-PI: Allen Davis (CEE), et al.

The Global FEWture Alliance will collaborate with international partners to scale technology-based solutions, community building, and experiential education focused at the food-energy-water-climate-health nexus to alleviate food and water insecurity, protect environmental and global public health and bolster community resilience in a changing climate.

Impact Awards

Microbiome Sciences

PI: Mihai Pop (CMNS); Team Members: Bill Bentley (BIOE/Fischell Institute), Reza Ghodssi (ECE/ISR), Birthe Kjellerup (CEE)

This initiative will conduct transformative research, develop new technologies, advance microbiome science, and translate microbiome science into innovative interventions and economic growth.

Team Project Grants

Programmable Design of Sustainable, All-Natural Plastic Substitutes

PI: Po-Yen Chen (ChBE), Co-PI: Teng Li (ME)

This team aims to tackle the global challenge of plastic pollution by accelerating the development of sustainable, biodegradable, all-natural plastic substitutes via artificial intelligence and robotic technologies.

Observing Wildfires Through UAVs and Fire Imaging Technologies

PI: Fernando Raffan-Montoya (FPE), Co-PIs: Arnaud Trouvé (FPE), Lina Castaño (ENGR)

This study is aimed at using recent advances in technology — in particular Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and fire imaging technologies — to bring much needed observation data that can be used to increase the scientific understanding of wildland & WUI fire behavior and also provide innovative solutions to real-time incident response.

Using Machine Learning to Measure and Improve Equity in K-12 Mathematics Classrooms

PI: J. Liu (EDUC), Co-PI: Carol Espy-Wilson (ECE/ISR), et al.

This proposed interdisciplinary study combines cutting-edge machine learning techniques, rich educational theory, and behavioral sciences to deliver an effective, affordable, and scalable mechanism to measure and improve equity-focused teaching practices in K-12 mathematics classrooms.

Fostering Inclusivity through Technology (FIT)

PI: Yi Ting Huang (BSOS), Co-PI: Carol Espy-Wilson (ECE/ISR), et al.

This team will build Fostering Inclusivity through Technology (FIT), a video-calling platform that promotes mutual understanding by highlighting team sentiment, building rapport with strangers, connecting past and current topics in conversations, and unobtrusively identifying and resolving misunderstandings.

The Maryland Safe Drinking WATER (Water Analysis and Testing for Education and Research) Study: An Initiative to Protect Drinking Water in Underserved Communities

PI: R. Murray (SPHL), Co-PI: Allen Davis (CEE), et al.

The goal of this project is to characterize the drinking water quality of both public drinking water systems and private wells in Maryland's underserved communities using a combination of citizen science, field-based research, and laboratory analyses.

Helping Our Bodies Clear Respiratory Infections

PI: Louisa Wu (CMNS), Co-PI: Gregg Duncan (BIOE), et al.

This team proposes to engineer a protease specific to the mucin proteins that are produced in excess in numerous diseases (e.g., cystic fibrosis, COPD, COVID-19) while leaving other protective mucin proteins untouched.

Individual Project Grants

An Innovative Approach to Remove Emerging Organic Contaminants from Environment

PI: Guangbin Li (CEE)

This project aims to develop a new adsorbent through an innovative bio-chemically process for enhancing the removal of both short- and long- chain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in environments.

On-board Energy Harvesting for Long-endurance Earth Observation UAVs

PI: Cecilia Huertas Cerdeira (ME)

This project will exploit aeroelastic phenomena on the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)'s wings to harvest energy. The idea proposed will significantly improve current Earth observation capabilities.

Increasing Sustainability, Accessibility, and Equity in Urban Mobility with A Self-driving E-Scooter

PI: Derek Paley (AE/ISR)

The long-term goal of this project is to increase sustainability, accessibility, and equity in urban mobility through electric- powered scooters by enabling them to autonomously move where they are needed the most.

Understanding the Impact of Wind on Fire Dynamics in Mass-Timber Compartment

PI: Shuna Ni (FPE)

This project aims to generate a holistic, deep understanding of the impact of wind on the fire dynamics in mass-timber compartments and provide reliable modeling techniques and simplified methods for modeling or estimating mass-timber compartment fires for both windy and windless environments.

Published February 16, 2023