UCR’s Office of Research and Economic Development (RED) has announced over $1.7 million in competitive funding for faculty research projects through its Opportunity to Advance Sustainability Innovation and Social Inclusion initiative, known as OASIS. Projects range from investigating the severity of COVID-19 infection in Riverside County to agricultural sustainability and resilience; Finding ways to mine lithium, needed for electric car batteries, from brine below the Salton Sea.
These Seed Grants enable UCR faculty to initiate, continue or expand research, scholarly and creative activities in areas under the OASIS umbrella and increase their competitiveness for external funding. RED will launch the second round of competitive internal funding over the next few months. During the first call for proposals, numerous proposals were received from the faculty. Here is a brief summary of the winning projects:
COVID-19 Severity in the Hispanic/Latino Communitys
Meera Nair (Biomedical Sciences), Erica Heinrich (Biomedical Sciences), Richard Carpiano (public order), Susan Hackwood (Electrical and Computer Engineering) will study acute COVID-19 infections and long COVID in Riverside County’s Hispanic/Latino communities. The project will recruit participants with active COVID infections to determine if COVID disease is more severe in their communities. The study will also measure whether participants who have recovered from COVID experience long-term effects on their lung and immune health and determine whether they are at greater risk and severity for such long-term effects. The study will also gather feedback from participants, community leaders and policy makers through ongoing dialogues, conferences and workshops.
Use of storage areas for charging stations
Matthew Barth (research and teaching as well as electrical engineering and information technology), Kanok Boriboonsomsin (CE CERTIFICATION), Marissa Brookes (political science), Juliann Emmons Allison (Gender & Sexuality Studies) and Catherine Gudis (history) will investigate the conversion of unused storage areas into public charging stations in order to accelerate the replacement of polluting diesel trucks with electric trucks. Truck operators could save time by charging their trucks while picking up or delivering loads, while warehouse owners would benefit from a new revenue stream. The project comes as the Inland Empire has quickly become one of the country’s largest logistics hubs, with over a billion square feet of warehouse space that attracts many diesel trucks that emit toxic soot.
Photochemical treatment of recycled water for agriculture
Haizhou Liu (chemical and environmental sciences) and Amir Hagverdi (Agricultural and Urban Water Management) will test a novel photochemical treatment of recycled water needed for irrigation of urban farms. This project aims to improve the sustainability of agriculture and the health of agro-urban ecosystems by treating wastewater with deep UV light so it can be used to safely water crops. The project will conduct field trials to assess downstream risks. This technology could have a significant impact on natural resource management, sustainability, innovation, social inclusion, education and human resource development.
Identification of lithium mining and manufacturing steps in the Salton Sea
Arun Raju (CE CERTIFICATION), Juechen Guo (chemical & environmental technology), Alfredo Martinez Morales (CE CERTIFICATION), Wilfried Eldest (earth and planetary sciences), Vincent Lavallo (Chemistry), Timothy Lyons (earth and planetary sciences), Michael McKibben (earth and planetary sciences) and Kurt Schwabe (public policy) will identify the steps required to develop an environmentally friendly manufacturing center utilizing renewable electricity and lithium resources at the Salton Sea Geothermal Field. The field contains the world’s largest known undeveloped brine reserve of lithium required for electric car batteries. The hub would have research and production facilities for lithium mining and refining, battery technologies, geothermal power, municipal heating and cooling services, and hydrogen production. It would have broader economic development and workforce training and education components. Lithium is an essential part of batteries in electric cars. The World Bank estimates that global lithium production will need to increase by 500% by 2050 to meet the demands of the clean energy and transportation sectors.
Assessing precision farming techniques to strengthen long-term sustainability
Elijah Scudero (environmental sciences) and Konstantinos Karidis (Electrical and Computer Engineering) to examine Southern California-based research and workforce development in precision agriculture that can strengthen the long-term sustainability and resilience of agriculture in the region despite increasing scarcity of water, land, and other natural resources. Throughout the project, newly developed software will analyze real-time orchard data, test wearable sensors to map soil moisture, and collect high-resolution imagery to track environmental factors affecting crop yields. The sensor data enables real-time on-site diagnosis of potential problems to enable preventive remedial action. The project also provides undergraduate mentoring and training on agricultural technologies and entrepreneurship.
Encouraging Minority Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the Inland Empire
Qingfang Wang (public order) and Elaine Wong (Management) will examine the role of higher education institutions in fostering entrepreneurship and innovation in the Inland Empire and the role of universities in addressing differences and inequalities between ethnic and gender groups. The project aims to show how inclusive entrepreneurship ecosystems could unleash the power of minority entrepreneurship and challenge current urban system regimes. Through surveys, interviews and focus groups, data will be collected from UCR entrepreneurship education programs and community stakeholders. A case study is conducted by examining the UCR project “Entrepreneurial Talent Pipeline Development”.
AGRICULTURAL TECHNOLOGY AND FOOD SECURITY:
• A portable nucleic acid extraction and collection device for diagnosing citrus diseases: Hideaki Tsutsui (mechanical engineering) and Suhrab Bodaghi (microbiology and plant pathology)
• Proof-of-concept development of a soft continuum robot for canopy harvesting: Jun Sheng (Mechanical engineering)
• Identification of genotype-environment associations in wild Inland Empire sunflowers: Kate Ostevik (Evolution, Ecology and Organism Biology)
COMMUNITY HEALTH AND HEALTH INEQUALITY:
• Spanish for Health Professions: A Community Oriented Learning Program: Lamar Prieto (Hispanic Studies) Alvaro Gonzalez Alva (Hispanic Studies) and Martina Visconti (Hispanic Studies)
• Longitudinal causal decomposition analysis: Identifying robust factors contributing to health differences: Soojin Park (Educational Psychology) and Chioun Lee (Sociology)
• Relationship between opioid overdose deaths and the density of licensed cannabis dispensaries in California’s Coachella Valley: Christopher Fichtner (Psychiatry and Neuroscience), Jennifer Syvertsen (Anthropology), Markus Wolfson (Social Medicine, Population and Public Health), Kendrick Davis (Psychiatry and Neuroscience) and Howard Moss (Psychiatry and Neuroscience)
• Beyond parental rejection: How does support from non-parental relatives impact LGBTQ youth housing stability and security?: Brandon Robinson (gender and sexology)
• Sound OASIS: An Inclusive Future for Music Technology: Liz Przybylski (Music)
• Science to Policy OASIS Inland Empire Scholarships: Susan Hackwood (electrical engineering and information technology) and Shaun Bowler (Graduate Department)
MANAGEMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES
• Hot Experiences: Building Climate Resilience in Southern California’s Interior: Chikako Takeshita (gender and sexology)
• Development of Advanced PFAS Degradation Technology: Closing the Final Gap between Practical Application and Technology Commercialization: Jinyong Liu (Chemical and Environmental Engineering)
• Improving agricultural water use efficiency through evapotranspiration partitioning using in situ and modeling approaches: Hoori Ajami (environmental sciences) and Ray Anderson (environmental sciences)
• Ultra-sensitive radiocarbon detection for atmospheric monitoring of fossil emissions and biomedical applications: Jingsong Zhang (Chemistry)
• Identification of defluorinating biocatalysts for the cost-effective treatment of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances: Yujie men (chemical and environmental technology)
RENEWABLE ENERGIES AND FUELS
• Single crystal growth of solid electrolytes for all-solid-state lithium-ion batteries: Xi Chen (Electrical and Computer Engineering)
• Fight forest fires through intelligent and automated monitoring of incipient outages in power supply systems: Hamed Mohsenian wheel (Electrical and Computer Engineering)
• How can biological inspiration from red wine make inverted dye-sensitized solar cells work well?: Valentin Vullev (biotechnology) and Gregory Beran (Chemistry)
SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORT AND INFRASTRUCTURE
• New statistical models to deal with anomalous and heterogeneous data in smart cities and renewable energy applications: Weixin Yao (Statistics)
• Sustainable AI for the wireless Internet of Things: Basak Guler (Electrical and Computer Engineering)
• Strategic planning for electrification of heavy-duty drayage trucks: Ran Wei (public order)