STIR grants energize new science/engineering research projects at Notre Dame

Mosaic of the 10 stir grant recipients

The first Seed Transformative Interdisciplinary Research (STIR) grants, announced in early 2023 by the Notre Dame College of Science and College of Engineering, have been awarded to four new research projects led by multidisciplinary teams of scientists and engineers.

The one-year seed grants are designed to jumpstart new “high-risk, high-reward” science and engineering research projects that may lead to new discoveries or applications — especially in human health, the environment, and information technologies. The grants may be renewed for a second year.

The four projects selected for the first STIR grants are:

  • Reprogramming the electrical tumor microenvironment to improve immunotherapy outcomes in triple-negative breast cancer. This study will be led by Meenal Datta (aerospace and mechanical engineering) with co-investigators Xin Lu (biology), Tom O’Sullivan (electrical engineering), and Katharine White (chemistry and biochemistry).
  • Atomic scale analog computing and physical neural networks. This study will be led by Xiaolong Liu (physics and astronomy) with co-investigator Xiangliang Zhang (computer science and engineering).
  • Reprogramming the tumor immune microenvironment (TIME) against cancer with smart combinatorial therapeutic exosomes. This study will be led by Yichun Wang (chemical and biomolecular engineering) with co-investigators Hsueh-Chia Chang (chemical and biomolecular engineering), Xin Lu (biology) and Juan Del Valle (chemistry and biochemistry).
  • Wireless implantable light-based device (WILD): a versatile biomedical technology platform. This study will be led by Tom O’Sullivan (electrical engineering) with co-investigator Bradley Smith (chemistry and biochemistry).

“Collaborations among scientists and engineers are so essential for sparking transformative new ideas and solutions and moving them from the laboratory into the world and improving lives,” said Patricia J. Culligan, Matthew H. McCloskey Dean of the College of Engineering. 

“At the same time, obtaining funding for new ideas that cross disciplines can be challenging. The STIR grants are designed to ‘stir up’ early-stage discovery and innovation, enabling exceptionally creative researchers to generate high-quality preliminary data that may lead to opportunities for long-term funding support.”

“Scientists and engineers must work together to solve our world’s most significant problems. In this spirit, we are ‘stirring the research pot’ so-to-speak, to create environments where new scientific understandings, particularly in the life sciences and information technology arenas, can flourish,” said Santiago Schnell, William K. Warren Foundation Dean of the College of Science.

“These interdisciplinary research projects have high potential to move the needle forward, and we are removing the barriers to funding that often accompany bold proposals.”

— Joan Fallon