2016 Faculty Opportunity Award Winners

Apr. 19, 2016

The Offices of the President, the Executive Vice President and Provost, and the Vice President for Research and Economic Development are pleased to announce the recipients of the 2016 Faculty Opportunity Awards, which total approximately $600,000.

The Faculty Opportunity Awards, which were created in 2012, are designed to support faculty research with potential for continued external funding and to provide financial support needed to complete significant scholarly/creative works.

This year, a total of 68 proposals were submitted to this highly competitive awards program in the following four categories: Individual Investigator Award, Collaborative Interdisciplinary Award, Innovation/Technology Award, and Center of Excellence Challenge Grant Award. Faculty-led review panels made recommendations to the vice president for research and economic development, the associate vice president for research, the Research Division faculty fellow, the chair of the Research Council, and the president, resulting in more than 20 awards of funding.

Congratulations to this year’s award recipients! 




"Restoring Ecological Functions of Damaged Desert Ecosystems" ($20,000) 

Scott Abella, School of Life Sciences


"Novel Wide Bandgap Thin Film Materials for Photovoltaic Devices" ($20,000)

Shubhra Bansal, Department of Mechanical Engineering 


"Effects of Psychopathic Traits on Social Networks and on Social Support During Stress" ($19,800)

Stephen Benning, Department of Psychology  


"Examinations of the Effects of Repeated Doses of Ketamine on Memory and Attention Network Function" ($18,550)

James Hyman, Department of Sociology  


"Effects of Postmeal Walking on 24-hour Glucose Control" ($19,956) 

Jessica Knurick, Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition Sciences 


"Where Are Our Teachers of Color? Resilience and Diversity in K-12 Education" ($19,925) 

Katrina Yan Liu, Department of Teaching and Learning 


"Biomechanical Risk Factors for Injuries Commonly Acquired During Military Physical Fitness Training" ($19,976) 

Kara Radzak, Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition Sciences 





"Development of Novel, Sustainable and Cost-Effective Concrete Corrosion Inhibitor" ($19,800) 

Nader Ghafoori, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Construction


"Multiplexing Methods for Earlier Detection of Hepatocellular Carcinoma" ($20,000) 

Yu Kuang, School of Allied Health Sciences


"Exploiting the Acid Resistance of Shigella to Improve Oral Vaccine Delivery Systems" ($20,000) 

Helen Wing, School of Life Sciences 





"Strategies for Making College Campuses Inclusive: Using Universally Designed Instruction to Assist Students with Intellectual Disability (ID) and Autism" ($13,173)

Joshua Baker, Department of Educational and Clinical Studies; Nathan Slife Educational Psychology and Higher Education  


"Microbial Fuel Cell Optimization through Digital Microfluidic Electrochemistry in Single-Bacterium Drops" ($29,991)

Jacob Baker and Yiyan Li, Department of Electrical  and  Computer Engineering; Eduardo Robleto, School of Life Sciences 


"Genetic Relationship Between Schizophrenia and Autoimmune Disorders" ($30,000) 

Jingchun Chen and Xiangning Chen, Nevada Institute of Personalized Medicine; Justin Zhan, Department of Computer Science 


"Effects of Complementary Medical Therapies on Symptom Management and Family Satisfaction With Hospice Care" ($28,024) 

Catherine Dingley, School of Nursing; Abbie Kirkendall, School of Social Work 


"Interaction Between Amorphous Materials and Mars-relevant Solutions and Implications for the Aqueous History and Habitability of Mars" ($29,864) 

Elisabeth Hausrath, Department of Geoscience; Jacimira Batista, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Construction 


"Applied Supercomputing for Astrophysics Research" ($29,708) 

Daniel Proga, Department of Physics and Astronomy; Andreas Stefik, Department of Computer Science 


"Quantitative Analysis of Cellular Interactions in Clinically Relevant Models" ($30,000) 

Laurel Raftery, Nora Caberoy, and Boo Shan Tseng, School of Life Sciences; Jefferson Kinney, Department of Psychology; Barbara St. Pierre-Schneider, School of Nursing 


"A Computational Model of White Blood Cell Phenotypic Changes During Muscle Recovery" ($29,818) 

Barbara St. Pierre-Schneider, School of Nursing; Emma Regentova and Mei Yang, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering 


"The Marketing of Electronic Cigarettes: Advertising Messages and Consumer Health Perceptions of Harm, Cessation, and Acceptability" ($8,990) 

Andrew Spivak, Department of Sociology; Olesya Venger, Hank Greenspun School of Journalism and Media Studies; Anjala Krishen, Department of Marketing and International Business 


"Factors Related to the Occurrence and Recovery of Internet Use Disorder" ($11,289) 

An-Pyng Sun, School of Social Work; Lawrence Mullen, Hank Greenspun School of Journalism and Media Studies 


"Policy Diffusion and the Puzzle of Juvenile Justice Reform" ($28,544)

David Tanenhaus, Department of History; Rebecca Gill, Department of Political Science; Eric Nystrom, History of Engineering, Faculty in Interdisciplinary Humanities and Communication, Arizona State University  


"Coating Nano-Crystalline Diamond (NCD) Composite on Biomedical Materials With Low Temperature Plasma (LTP)" ($30,000) 

Zhiyong Wang, Department of Mechanical Engineering; Robert Schill, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Liping Wang, High Pressure Science and Engineering Center 



The 2016 Faculty Opportunity Award (FOA) program funded two projects within the Center of Excellence Challenge Grant category. This category is intended to catalyze the formation of new interdisciplinary research centers at UNLV in recognition of the vital role interdisciplinary research plays in the research enterprise. Each grant is funded by $50,000 from the Division of Research and Economic Development and receives additional support from the host college.

An additional project, the Institute for Big Data, was selected for consideration for separate funding through the Governor's Office of Economic Development Knowledge Fund. 


UNLV Global Health Institute

Director: Echezona Ezeanolue, School of Community Health Sciences

Description: This institute intends to develop and support collaborative, interdisciplinary research and training efforts linking local and regional community health issues to similar issues on the global scale, particularly in resource-limited regions. The institute will target funding from the National Institutes of Health through research program project grants (P01) and global, health-themed research project grant program proposals (R01).  

Disciplines involved: community health sciences, medicine, dental medicine, liberal arts, urban affairs, law, nursing, and engineering. 


Center for Migration, Demography and Population Studies (CMDP)

Director: Tiffiany Howard, Department of Political Science

Description: This center will conduct interdisciplinary research on international, domestic, and regional migration flows; population changes; and subsequent demographic shifts and assess the impact of these factors on the environment. The center will also address broader constructs relevant to human migration, including public health, education, the economy, the legal system, and politics.

Disciplines involved: political science, psychology, community health sciences, sociology, kinesiology and nutrition sciences, health care administration and policy, law, environmental and public affairs, and world languages and cultures.


Institute for Big Data

Director: Justin Zhan, Department of Computer Science

Description: This proposed institute intends to develop and support a data-intensive computational platform for efficient data-intensive analytics and decision-making. The institute also plans to use this system to address major research frontiers in diverse fields such as business intelligence, community health, space science, personalized medicine, transportation, and social computing. The institute will target funding from several large programs, including the National Science Foundation (NSF) Science and Technology Centers, NSF Research Traineeships programs, National Institutes of Health Big Data to Knowledge Biomedical Data Science Training Coordination Center, and Department of Defense Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative.

Disciplines involved: liberal arts, community health sciences, business, physics and astronomy, hotel administration, environmental and occupational health, sociology, personalized medicine.