Federal Funding Fuels Research, Academics

Since start of the academic year, the university has received grants for projects ranging from obesity prevention to emergency preparedness.

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November 05, 2014

By Lauren Ingeno

The George Washington University has received a number of awards each greater than $750,000 from federal agencies since the start of the fall 2014 semester.

The federal grants will provide funding for research projects, new academic programs and fellowships within the Elliott School of International Affairs, the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, the School of Business, the School of Medicine and Health Sciences and the Milken Institute School of Public Health.

The millions of dollars in federal funding is a testament to GW’s growth as a major research institution as well as its faculty’s engagement in solving real-world problems, said Vice President for Research Leo Chalupa.

GW researchers, for example, are fighting the obesity epidemic, boosting vehicles’ fuel economy and creating tools to improve HIV prevention and care.

“At a time when federal funding for research is declining, it is very encouraging to see that schools and colleges at GW are continuing to be successful in a highly competitive environment,” Dr. Chalupa said. “Researchers and centers at this university are tackling a diverse number of societal problems and making direct impacts on our world.”

Project: Supporting development of the National Preparedness System
Award: $1.3 million Continuing Training Grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
Principal Investigator: Joseph Bocchino, senior associate dean for health sciences in SMHS

The National Preparedness System outlines an organized process for communities to prepare for emergencies such as earthquakes, cyber attacks or chemical spills. Dr. Bocchino and a team of emergency response professionals at GW will use the grant to develop training programs and other resources specifically focused on medical readiness for mass casualty events.

The goal of GW’s training is to better prepare citizens and responders to provide care during events where there may be a delay in response due to operational challenges. They also will teach responders to work in environments where they have not traditionally worked in the past.

GW experts and clinicians played a major role in developing the tenets of Tactical Emergency Casualty Care in 2011, which quickly has become the accepted standard for care during atypical events.

“Since the 1980s, GW has been a leader in providing training and education to our nation’s first responders,” Dr. Bocchino said. “Through this grant, GW’s clinicians will develop training programs that better prepare responders to act swiftly and effectively in emergency situations involving mass casualties.”

Project: Addressing obesity in a local Latino immigrant community
Award: $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
Principal Investigator: Mark Edberg, director of the Avance Center for the Advancement of Immigrant/Refugee Health in the Milken Institute SPH

GW researchers in the Milken Institute SPH will conduct a three-year intervention and evaluation study in Langley Park, Md., a Washington, D.C., suburb with a majority of residents from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and other Central and Latin American countries. These residents often come from rural settings where fresh fruits and vegetables are readily accessible. When they reach the D.C. suburbs, they find a landscape that is filled with fast-food outlets, Dr. Edberg said.

“In Langley Park, there is easy access to foods high in fat, sugar and salt—foods that can be low in nutritional value yet trigger rapid weight gain,” said Dr. Edberg. “We hope to find ways to address the barriers to healthier foods so that Latino families can reduce their risk of obesity.”

Dr. Edberg will lead the study with Uriyoán Colón-Ramos, a public health nutrition investigator at the Milken Institute SPH. The award is part of the Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) initiative launched by HHS in 1999. This initiative focuses on racial and ethnic minority communities that experience disproportionately high rates of health problems such as obesity.

Project: Increasing the fuel economy of vehicles by at least 2 percent
Award: $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy
Principal Investigator: Stephen Hsu, a professor in the SEAS Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

The auto industry is under pressure to make vehicles more fuel-efficient since President Obama introduced new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards in 2012. The new regulations require that automakers increase fuel economy to 54.5 miles per gallon for cars and light trucks by 2025. The current average is 27 miles per gallon. Consumers also would save $1.7 trillion on gasoline, said Dr. Hsu. But how will car companies double their vehicles’ fuel economy within the next decade?

“It’s very difficult to design new technology and then implement those changes that quickly,” Dr. Hsu said.

To help car manufacturers reach the president’s goal, the Department of Energy challenged researchers and corporations to develop advanced vehicle technologies. The federal agency chose Dr. Hsu’s proposal from dozens of competing teams.

GW researchers, who have teamed up with several industry partners, plan to use a variety of novel concepts to increase vehicle fuel economy, including surface texture designs, friction reduction and time-release functionality technology.

“At GW we have already developed a lot of energy efficient technology. We have been leading in the research side, but we have never been able to prove that these technologies work,” Dr. Hsu said. “Now we’ll be able to take basic research and turn it into practical applications. And hopefully we will solve a very important societal problem.”

Dr. Hsu said this project potentially could save the United States 140 million barrels of oil per year.


Other federal grants that the university has received this fall include:

Award: $1.1 million from the U.S. Department of Education
Project: The funding will renew the GWSB Center for International Business Education and Research (GW-CIBER) through 2018. The national CIBER program, founded under the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988, links U.S. businesses with the expertise of U.S. universities in areas of international education, language training and research.
Principal Investigator: Reid Click, director of GW-CIBER

Award: $930,000 from the U.S. Department of Education
Project: The award will support student language studies in the Elliott School’s Sigur Center for Asian Studies. The Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowships (FLAS) program, with added contributions from the Office of the Provost, will provide tuition and living stipends to graduate and undergraduate students at GW who study Chinese, Japanese and Korean. GW is one of only 16 universities that received this award, affirming the university’s position as a top university for East Asian language study.
Principal Investigator: Bruce Dickson, director of the Sigur Center for Asian Studies

Award: $980,000 from the U.S. Department of Education
Project: The grant will partially fund 25 rehabilitation professionals to complete a 48-credit master’s degree program in rehabilitation counseling with an emphasis on working with multicultural populations. The curriculum includes both online and on-campus courses. The rehabilitation counseling program, ranked seventh in the nation, prepares students to become practitioners who assist people who are physically, mentally, emotionally or socially disabled.
Principal Investigators: Jorge Garcia and Maureen McGuire-Kuletz, professors of counseling at GSEHD

Award: $750,000 from the U.S. Department of Education
Project: The funding will provide full tuition for 13 rehabilitation professionals to complete an online master’s degree program in rehabilitation counseling. While the master’s degree program has been offered online since 1999, this program will have a new focus on people who are mentally ill.
Principal Investigators: Kenneth Hergenrather and Maureen McGuire-Kuletz, professors of counseling at GSEHD

Award: Two grants from the U.S. Department of Education that total $1.8 million
Project: The funding will support language and area studies training in the Elliott School’s Institute for Middle East Studies (IMES). The Department of Education designated IMES as one of 15 National Resource Centers for Middle East Studies and awarded the institute with a Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowships (FLAS) grant. The foreign language fellowships, along with contributions from the Office of the Provost, will provide tuition and living stipends to graduate and undergraduate students across the university who study Arabic, Persian, Hebrew and Turkish. The National Resource Center grant provides funding for outreach programs that connect students to K-12 educators, policymakers, veterans, journalists and the public.
Principal Investigator: Marc Lynch, IMES director

Award: $8.8 million, the first year of funding from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, for a project totaling $23.8 million
Project: Researchers from SMHS, the Milken Institute SPH and more than 20 community partners will study a new model that aims to improve HIV prevention and care in Washington, D.C., while lowering health care costs.
Principal Investigator: Freya Spielberg, an associate professor of prevention and community health at the Milken Institute SPH

Award: $2 million 2014 Director’s New Innovator Award from the National Institute of Health
Project: Regenerating complex tissue using novel 3D bioprinting techniques
Principal Investigator: Lijie Grace Zhang, an assistant professor in the SEAS Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

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