Share Tweet Share Email

 Illinois Innovation Network announces seed funding for research

February 1, 2021

The Illinois Innovation Network (IIN) has awarded $229,000 in seed grants to eight research teams across the state in its second round of funding, selecting projects that include vaccine distribution, strengthening the state’s teacher pipeline and protecting Illinois’ biodiversity.

Northern Illinois University researchers are involved with six of the eight funded projects and are the lead on four of them.

The funding is part of IIN’s Sustaining Illinois program, which is designed to increase collaborative research among the state’s public universities, focusing on the economy, health and social well-being, while addressing issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. Sustaining Illinois now includes 12 funded projects, including four that were announced in July 2020.

The projects include efforts to use artificial intelligence to design, develop and deploy a mobile child vaccination program; create a cancer-mortality index that can lead to improved health policy and programs; develop robotic technologies to support the state’s specialty crop industry; and investigate the viability of a new electrochemical wastewater-treatment system.

IIN is a group of 15 university-based hubs across the state working to boost Illinois’ economy through entrepreneurship, research and workforce development. The seed funding was provided by the University of Illinois System and NIU.

“These eight new projects in the Sustaining Illinois program build upon the strengths of our state’s public universities,” U of I System interim Vice President for Economic Development and Innovation Jay Walsh said. “All of the proposals we received were excellent, and we are excited to see these funded projects move forward and benefit Illinois’ people.”

The proposals were required to include researchers from at least two IIN hubs and be completed within one year of receiving funding. Proposals were evaluated on their alignment with IIN principles, how well they address their stated areas of sustainability, the scope of their work and the level of collaboration, as well as their potential for further work.

The eight newly funded projects and researchers are as follows:

Development and application of a novel cancer-mortality index in Illinois: Discovering opportunities for public health intervention.

Courtney Hughes, associate professor of public health, NIU; Mahdi Vaezi, assistant professor of engineering technology, NIU; and Margaret Wright, senior research scientist, University of Illinois Cancer Center.

Building a sustainable geo-STEM learning ecosystem for Illinois teachers.

Nicole LaDue, associate professor of geology and environmental geosciences, NIU; Praveen Kumar, professor of civil and environmental engineering, UIUC; and Sarah Fisher, director of environmental education, Lewis and Clark Community College.

Forever chemicals: PFAS detection, fate and transport in Illinois.

Melissa Lenczewski, professor of geology and environmental geosciences, NIU; Kevin Tucker, assistant professor of chemistry, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE); and Megan Brown, assistant professor of geology and environmental geosciences, NIU

Sustainable water supply system in Illinois using innovative electrochemical treatment technology.

Tomoyuki Shibata, associate professor of public health, NIU; Kyu Taek Cho, associate professor of mechanical engineering, NIU; and Xiao Su, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, UIUC.

Development of robotic technologies tailored to support the specialty crop production in the state of Illinois.

Nima Lotfi, assistant professor of mechanical and mechatronics engineering, SIUE; Hasan Ferdowsi, assistant professor of electrical engineering, NIU; and Carrie Butts-Wilmsmeyer, associate professor of biological sciences, SIUE.

Establishing a caregiver stakeholder registry for collaboration for health equity, engaging technology for aging in the home (CARE for CHEETAH).

Naoko Muramatsu, professor of community health sciences, University of Illinois Chicago (UIC); Milos Zefran, professor of electrical engineering, UIC; Emily Stiehl, clinical assistant professor of health policy and administration, UIC; Kathleen Diviak, senior research scientist in the Institute for Health Research and Policy, UIC; Michael Scott, associate professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, UIC; Alex Leow, associate professor in psychiatry and bioengineering, UIC; and Jennifer Gray, associate professor of public health, NIU.

The design, development, and deployment of a mobile child vaccination program for underserved communities in Illinois using novel digital analysis and artificial intelligence (AI) tools.

Scott Barrows, director of OSF HealthCare’s Jump Design Lab and clinical assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria; and Shaoen Wu, professor of information technology, Illinois State University (ISU).

Mitigating future threats to biodiversity: The role of headwater streams and land-management practices in the Kaskaskia River watershed.

Joan M. Brehm, professor of sociology, ISU; Bill Stewart, professor of recreation, sport and tourism, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC); Cory Suski, professor of natural resources and environmental sciences, UIUC; and Maria Librada Chu, associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering, UIUC.