The University of Delaware held its inaugural One World, One Health animal, human and environmental health symposium, titled “Global Thinking for the Greater Good: Interdisciplinary Health Discourse and Research,” in the Townsend Hall Commons on Wednesday, Aug. 22.
The event was sponsored by the UD College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), the College of Health Sciences (CHS) and the Delaware Environmental Institute (DENIN) in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS).
The day started off with two concurrent morning sessions running from 9-11:30 a.m. The first, titled “Plugging In,” dealt with regional interdisciplinary health efforts and outlined ways in which University departments and individual researchers can “plug in” to ongoing and future projects.
Speakers included Karl Steiner, senior provost of research development for the Research Office; Kathy Matt, dean of the College of Health Sciences; and Bob MacDonald, coordinator for partnerships and grants at USDA-ARS.
Steiner spoke about the importance of having multiple principal investigators on research projects, noting that National Science Foundation (NSF) funding for multi-principal investigator projects has gone up 29 percent in recent years, while funding for single principal investigator projects has gone up only 7 percent. He noted that the NSF mirrors a national trend toward awarding multiple-principal investigator projects.
Steiner said that pilot funding is available for researchers through the University and statewide, with programs such as the Delaware Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), supported by NSF, and the Delaware IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE), supported by the National Institutes of Health.
He said that with more than 60 academic departments and schools and numerous institutes spread across the University, there is a need for collaboration between researchers.
Steiner also stressed that in the jungle of securing competitive grants, it is important for researchers to “use all the help you can get” and to “work with colleagues to do something innovative, because if you’re doing the same thing that somebody else is doing,” you won’t succeed.
Matt discussed the interdisciplinary opportunities available at UD specifically through the Delaware Health Sciences Alliance (DHSA) and the future opportunities that will be available at the Science, Technology and Advanced Research (STAR) Campus. Matt said it is important to not limit partnerships but to expand them, and spoke to researchers about the importance of pilot funding to help show initial results with their work.
“The challenge is when you have a new idea and you have to partner with other people, you don’t have a track record,” said Matt. “That’s why in every situation I’ve been in, seed funds, angel funds — these pilot funds — are greatly important so you can get together, get the data, get your publications, get an abstract, get your presentations and you can show that, ‘This isn’t fictitious, I didn’t just write this on the proposal, we’re already working together and we have some data and we know that we can do this.’”
Matt also talked about successful collaboration projects at CHS, such as the “babies driving robots” program that is a collaboration between the Department of Physical Therapy and the Department of Mechanical Engineering, as well as the possibility for future collaborations between UD departments and the community in general as afforded by the new STAR Campus.
Matt said it is hoped the campus will demonstrate “healthy living by design,” and said that will come about through a cooperative effort with the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
In the other concurrent morning session, “From Here to There: UD Graduate Student Resources and Career Planning,” speakers presented information on UD resources available to graduate students, career planning and the transition from graduate school to the workforce.
Next came lunch, which gave participants a chance to network with fellow researchers and look at research presentations on display.
Tips for researchers
From 1-3 p.m., there was a panel discussion titled “From Good to Grant,” which explored real world experiences and the logistics of developing and administering interdisciplinary research projects and grants.
The session was moderated by Leigh Botner, research development director for the Research Office, and panelists included:
- Kali Kniel, associate professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences;
- Manan Sharma, research microbiologist in the Environmental, Microbial, and Food Safety Laboratory (USDA ARS);
- Steven Stanhope, professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Applied Physiology and lead scientist in the Bridging Advanced Development for Exceptional Rehabilitation (BADER) Consortium (CHS);
- Carl Schmidt, professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences; and
- Dan Flynn, associate dean of research (CHS).
Kniel said that it is important to know one’s personal strengths when working in a collaborative setting and that “patience is very important when dealing with different personalities.”
Schmidt stressed that talking to fellow researchers and going to meetings is very important, and said research should aim to have a broad impact. He also noted that it is important to establish a laboratory and get papers published as well as find people in the research field who complement you.
“My area of expertise is sequencing and bioinformatics and I knew that we had to use some quantitative genetics in my research and so I actively pursued one of the leading quantitative geneticists at Iowa State as part of this project,” said Schmidt, referencing a $4.7 million research grant he received through the Climate Change Initiative of the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) to study heat stress in poultry.
Flynn spoke about programmatic grants, saying that the three most important aspects of securing a programmatic grant are to have:
• A grant leader who has very strong credentials;
• A compelling vision, something that addresses an important issue that scientists and the people of the society are looking at and talking about, allowing regional assets to guide the growth of the research program, and;
• Strong credentials among the faculty who participate on the program and high quality of their ideas.
“That’s what’s going to drive this and get that grant funded,” he said.
Flynn also said that it is important to remember that as the leader of a research group, you need to help to advance the careers of everybody on that team. “At the end of the day, the real lasting legacy of leadership is the careers of the people that you advanced behind you and then that’s a culture of leadership that you pass on.”
The symposium closed with a poster session and refreshments from 3-5 p.m., with tours of the CANR farm and gardens also available at that time.
Article by Adam Thomas
Photos by Danielle Quigley
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