faculty grants

Biology professor Isaac Skromne, pictured with undergraduate researcher Abigail Ali, has received previous grant support from both the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health for his research with Casper zebrafish exploring the central nervous system and cures for bone disease.

New grants advance study of science, technology, and the arts

January 22, 2024


From treatments for bone disease to AI-assisted music analysis to mitigating invasive species, faculty and students at the University of Richmond are actively working on a wide range of research projects.

“UR faculty are doing remarkable research with implications across society,” said Joan Saab, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “And the best part is our faculty invite our students to work alongside them in the classroom and beyond.”

Many UR research projects are supported by some of the world’s top research funders, including the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and National Endowment for the Humanities.

During the fall semester, faculty received more than $1 million in grants to support research projects including study of the intersection of music, culture, and technology in Indonesia, standup comedy in China, and mapping the sky’s brightness in radio waves. Previously awarded grant-funded projects are well underway.

In one example, chemistry professor Christopher Shugrue is advancing organic chemistry research though grant support from the American Chemical Society.

Shugrue is studying peptides, small proteins derived from the 20 natural amino acids, which are used as therapeutics in the treatment of cancer, diabetes, and infections. Making chemical modifications on peptides to improve their efficacies as medicines is challenging because they're structurally complex and require water to dissolve and function properly. Many synthetic methods won’t work in these conditions. That’s where Shugrue’s project comes in. He’s focused on designing rapid chemical transformations in water to modify peptide-based medicines.

“Peptides are a promising alternative to traditional small molecule medicines, but chemical modifications to their natural sequences are usually required to enhance their therapeutic activity,” Shugrue said.

Statistics professor Taylor Arnold and digital humanities professor Lauren Tilton are enhancing an open-source software that uses computer algorithms to analyze digitized collections of still and moving images through a nearly $500,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation.

Through the Distant Viewing Toolkit technology, Arnold and Taylor have analyzed photos from the Great Depression, social protest photography, and pop culture and TV shows.

“Our audience for the toolkit includes libraries, archives, museums, researchers, and students,” said Tilton.

Several active, grant-funded research projects happening on campus focus on enhancing the educational experiences for undergraduate students.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute awarded the University a $625,000 grant that is supporting efforts to create an inclusive experience for students and enhance student belonging. 

About a dozen faculty from across the sciences are working on the six-year program led by biology professor Angie Hilliker. 

“By listening to and learning from our own students, we aim to drive change from within our classrooms, research groups, and student-faculty organizations, while contributing to the national conversation about inclusive teaching,” Hilliker said.