Texas Tech Announces Research Collaboration Grants

Two research projects that showcase the collaborative efforts of research at Texas Tech University and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center have been awarded funding from the two universities.

Two research projects that showcase the collaborative efforts of research at Texas Tech University and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center have been awarded funding from the two universities.

One project, funded for $253,342, looks at how binge drinking affects adolescents’ and college-age adults’ brain development and function. The second project, funded for $218,856, seeks to develop innovative biomedical or environmental sensors based on engineered bacterial viruses, or phages.

This is the second year for the Research Collaboration Grant program. It was designed to provide incentive for scientists at the two universities to work together on research projects. The project grew out of discussions between the Texas Tech Board of Regents and university administrators on how to increase research.

"We are unique in that we have a research university and a health sciences center located on the same campus," said Kent Hance, chancellor of the Texas Tech University System. "These grants will further encourage large, multidisciplinary projects that have the potential to introduce new areas of academic collaboration between the two universities."

Proposals for the grants were judged by a panel of external experts and funds awarded based on the projects’ likelihood of generating major extramural funding from sources such as the National Institutes of Health.

Jordan Berg, professor of mechanical engineering at TTU, and Joe Fralick, professor of microbiology and immunology at HSC, are developing sensors using bacteriophages, which are viruses that infect bacteria. Bacteriophages are commonly used in genetics and are also applied therapeutically to combat infection. In this project genetically-modified phages will be used to create fast, inexpensive diagnostic sensors capable of performing an assortment of tasks, including testing blood samples for specific proteins or other biomarkers and monitoring drinking water for harmful substances or organisms.

Sergey Nikishin, associate professor of electrical engineering at TTU, is co-principal investigator on this project.

Alice Young, professor of psychology at Texas Tech and Gregory Schrimsher, assistant professor of neuropsychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Health Sciences Center, lead a group of researchers exploring whether binge drinking poses a special risk for adolescents and college-age adults based on how long, how often and how much they binge drink. The funding will allow the researchers to measure the effects of binge drinking on cognitive function and brain chemistry in rodent models. Funding will also enable use of functional MRI imaging and cognitive tests to explore changes in brain activity and memory, attention, and other cognitive abilities in college-aged individuals who engage in binge drinking. The researchers hope to use this grant to create potential for generating major extramural funding in the form of a National Institutes of Health Alcohol Research Center.

Co-principal investigators on the project are Peter Syapin, professor of pharmacology and neuroscience at the HSC; Michael O’Boyle, professor of human development and family studies at TTU; Susan Bergeson, associate professor of pharmacology and neuroscience at the HSC; Lee Cohen, associate professor of psychology and Charles Bradley, professor of pathology and obstetrics and gynecology at the HSC.