Texas Tech University

Texas Tech Faculty Receive National Science Foundation Grants

Glenys Young

October 9, 2015

Research projects focus on understanding supernova explosions, accelerating diagnoses and formulating models to combat viruses.

David Sand
David Sand

The National Science Foundation awarded three grants to four Texas Tech University faculty members.

David Sand, an assistant professor in the Department of Physics, received $538,039 for his project “Unveiling the Physics and Progenitors of Cosmic Explosions with a One Day Cadence Supernova Search.”

“The goal is to find supernovae, which are stars that explode at the end of their life, very young – within a day of when they exploded – so we can trace back and understand what type of star exploded,” Sand said. “There's a whole zoo of different types of supernovae and we don't have a clear mapping of what stars become what supernovae.”

Sand and his students will focus on 400 galaxies per night, hoping to find 10 supernovae each year. By intensively studying the supernovae as soon as possible after the explosion, the team hopes to measure the temperature and chemical abundance of the explosion with time and ultimately measure the radius of the star that exploded. The award started Sept. 15 and is expected to run through August 2018.

CONTACT: David Sand, assistant professor, Department of Physics, College of Arts & Sciences, Texas Tech University, (806) 834-2264 or david.sand@ttu.edu.

Jungkyu (Jay) Kim
Jungkyu (Jay) Kim

Jungkyu (Jay) Kim, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, received $301,966 for his project “Collaborative Research: A self-contained microfluidic optical cavity biosensing platform for multiplex label-free molecular diagnostics.”

“Millions of people suffer from major chronic diseases such as cancers, diabetes, cardiovascular and infectious disease,” Kim said. “To improve survival rates of patients and give the right treatment at the right time, early diagnosis of these diseases from a simple blood test is critical. Current blood screening methods have significant limitations: large sample volume, lengthy testing time, expensive fluorescence tagging and an inability to test for many target molecules simultaneously.

“In this research project, we will demonstrate a novel optical cavity biosensor that is integrated with a simple microfluidic device to detect the concentration of target molecules. This integrated device enables automated, low-cost and ultra-sensitive biomolecule detection. Such rapid, simple and cost-effective ultra-sensitive biosensors have huge potential to make a significant impact on various clinical and healthcare applications.”

The project is a collaboration with Seunghyun Kim, an associate professor of electrical engineering at LeTourneau University in Longview. The award started Sept. 1 and is expected to run through August 2018.

CONTACT: Jungkyu Kim, assistant professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Whitacre College of Engineering, Texas Tech University, (806) 834-6106 or jungkyu.kim@ttu.edu.

Linda J. S. Allen
Linda J. S. Allen

Linda J. S. Allen, a Paul Whitfield Horn Professor of mathematics, and Alex Trindade, a professor of statistics in the Department of Mathematics & Statistics, received $349,803 for their project “Collaborative Research: Modeling Immune Dynamics of RNA Viruses in Reservoir and Nonreservoir Species.”

“Over 50 percent of all human infectious diseases are zoonotic or originate through the cross-species transmission of viruses from wildlife to humans,” Allen said. “Included among these are hantaviruses, which pose a significant threat to public health worldwide and are classified as emerging infectious diseases. Hantaviruses are transmitted to humans through contact with infected rodent excrement. Although hantaviruses cause little morbidity or mortality in their rodent reservoir, they establish a persistent infection that spills over into sympatric or human hosts. Spillover infection in nonreservoir rodents results in an asymptomatic acute infection without any apparent proinflammatory response or disease, whereas spillover in humans results in severe pathology (hantavirus cardiopulmonary syndrome) with mortality reaching 40-50 percent.

Alexandre Trindade
Alex Trindade

“Very little is known regarding the differences in the innate/adaptive immune response to hantavirus infection that characterize these three distinct responses: persistence, viral clearance or severe pathology. The primary goals of this research are to formulate and test new mathematical models based on carefully designed in vitro experiments for hantavirus infection and to identify key immune components at crucial time points that differentiate between natural versus nonnatural reservoirs (rodents and humans). This knowledge is essential for designing interventions and therapeutics for treatment of hantaviruses and other similar zoonotic viruses for which treatment is not currently available.”

The project is in collaboration with Colleen Jonsson, a professor of microbiology at the University of Tennessee, and Michele Kosiewicz, an associate professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Louisville. The award started Sept. 15 and is expected to run through August 2018.