Research Communications

OURC provides second cycle of grants for faculty research 

June 08, 2009

When Edward List was working in a lab studying growth hormone, he had no idea that his work eventually would hit close to home. Results from the laboratory tests showed that high levels of growth hormone decreased lifespan in rodents. Disrupting the growth hormone receptor gene, however, could produce the world’s longest-living mice.

When List’s son was later diagnosed with a medical condition called idiopathic short stature, the scientist contemplated what he’d learned in his own lab about the possible impact of growth hormone treatment – commonly prescribed for children with such problems – on lifespan.

List’s answer was to delve into further research on the issue. With a new $8,000 grant from the Ohio University Research Committee (OURC), he plans to study how growth hormone replacement therapy restores body size and impacts lifespan. List, a research associate at the Edison Biotechnology Institute, was one of seven faculty members to receive funding from the OURC, which is funded by the Vice President for Research at Ohio University. 

“Without funding from the OURC and matching funds from the director of the Edison Biotechnology Institute, I would not have been able to start this study,” List said. “We hope to uncover the mechanisms involved in growth hormone-related aging and feel that the OURC grant provides much needed ‘seed’money to fund projects that provide preliminary data that are essential for obtaining National Institutes of Health funding.”


The OURC awarded more than $60,000 in the winter 2009 cycle, a new second funding cycle now available during the academic year.

The program is helpful to faculty because it offers experience with grant writing, proposal review and revisions, said Sarah Wyatt, an associate professor of environmental and plant biology who serves as chair of the OURC.

“OURC is an excellent program, especially for young faculty or faculty changing the focus of their research.  It gives faculty an opportunity to get funding for their research and collect preliminary data so that they are more competitive for external funding from agencies such as the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health,” Wyatt said.

Recipients of the winter cycle awards will use the funds for projects that range from improving the design of hearing aids to examining the influence of Catholicism on Polish politics and culture.

Alex Hibbitt, an assistant professor of art, will use her $7,310 grant to create a series of sculptures, both handmade and machine-made, connected by digital 3-D scanning.

“The OURC grant will enable me to pursue a project that I see as a completely new development in the way I approach visual translation between the material and the digital worlds,” Hibbitt said. “Without the kind of support offered by the OURC, or the help and support of the Aesthetic Technologies Lab, it would be hard to fund and have access to many of these kinds of technologies.”

Daewoo Lee, an associate professor of biological sciences, will use his $7,920 grant to study molecular components of zinc homeostasis in the fruit fly. Zinc is involved in a variety of important brain functions such as learning and memory, but imbalances are involved in several neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease.

“This mechanism of research support is extremely helpful, especially in this harsh climate for extramural funding,” Lee said. “I consider this award as invaluable bait for us to go out and catch a big fish.”

The OURC also awarded grants to:
Jeffrey DiGiovanni, an associate professor of hearing, speech and language sciences, received $8,000 to evaluate the effectiveness of using clear speech, which is the deliberate act of speaking clearly, for hearing-impaired individuals. His long-term goal is to integrate the results into the design of hearing aids.

Matt Severs, an assistant professor of geological sciences, received $7,837 for a new project investigating the origins of volcanic rocks called adakites, which are along the Pacific “Ring of Fire.” The work eventually may lead to a re-examination of how ancient continental crust in the earth was formed.

Biren Patel, an instructor in biomedical sciences, received $6,569 to evaluate the influence of different locomotor behaviors on density patterns in subchondral bone, a thin layer of bone found in the cartilage of the shoulder joint of primates.

T. David Curp, an associate professor of history, received $8,000 to examine the role of the laity in expanding religious influence in People’s Poland.  He will focus on Catholic higher education and how Catholicism has shaped postwar culture and politics in the country.

Don Miles, a professor in biological sciences, received $6,400 to monitor lizard population responses to fire in southeast Arizona. This represents a new research direct for Miles, and the study will be one of the first to provide data on key traits that influence population dynamics in human-altered environments.

In related news, the Ohio University Post-Doctoral Fellowship Committee awarded $50,000 in funding for two fellow positions. The funding will support research by Ohio University faculty and develop scholars in those positions.

Harvey Ballard, an associate professor of environmental and plant biology, received an award to fund a postdoctoral fellow, Latin American violet expert Juliana Paula-Souza. Paula-Souza will serve as the coordinating postdoctoral researcher and joint coordinator on an international collaborative project studying the third largest genus of the violet family, Hybanthus.

Felicia Nowak, an associate professor of molecular neurobiology/endocrinology, received an award to fund a postdoctoral fellow to study the effects of an antioxidant-rich diet on prohibiting diabetes-related kidney damage. Type II Diabetes is the main contributor of end-stage renal disease in the United States.

By Jaclyn Lipp

For more information about the OURC program, contact Carma West at (740) 593-1007,