Carnegie Mellon University
March 28, 2019

MCS Announces Recipients of DSF Block Grants

By Ben Panko

The Mellon College of Science has announced four projects that will be funded through an innovative block grant program for interdisciplinary basic life science research. The grant program is funded by a generous $4 million gift from the DSF Charitable Foundation.

This second round of funding supports two existing research projects by teams of scientists from multiple Carnegie Mellon University schools, one new collaborative research project led by an early-career MCS faculty member and one workshop striving to foster interdisciplinary collaborations. The projects include the following:

Next-generation High-density Digital Neural Interfaces Based on Scalable CMOS Technology for High-resolution Recording

Eric Yttri, assistant professor of biological sciences, Maysam Chamanzar, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Lawrence Pileggi, professor of electrical and computer engineering, will design and test high-density, flexible neural probes that can record and digitize neural signals from the central nervous system. Using complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor technology and microelectromechanical systems fabrication, these probes will enable multi-scale, high-throughput and distributed neural recordings that can help researchers understand how the brain works in health, and how the brain doesn’t work right in people with neurological disorders.

Translating biological and mechanical properties from a natural in-vivo regenerating system for engineering human stem cells

Veronica Hinman, professor of biological sciences, and Kris Dahl, professor of chemical engineering, biomedical engineering and materials science & engineering, will use sea stars, which can easily regrow their limbs and bodies, to study how human stem cell differentiation can be controlled to aid regenerative medicine. The researchers will look at the chemical and mechanical stimuli that sea stars use to reprogram their cells as they regenerate their nervous systems.

3D printing stem cell instructive graphene scaffolds for bone regeneration

Stefanie Sydlik, assistant professor of chemistry, and Adam Feinberg, associate professor of biomedical engineering and materials science & engineering, will study how to 3D print functional graphenic material scaffolds that can induce the regeneration of bone in people with traumatic bone injuries. Using materials developed by Sydlik's group that can stimulate the healing of bone and advanced 3D collagen bioprinting methods developed by Feinberg's lab, the researchers aim to improve bone surgeries that currently require metallic plates and pins.

Cognitive Processing in Human and Machine Learning

Barbara Shinn-Cunningham, director of the Carnegie Mellon University Neuroscience Institute and professor of psychology, electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering, and Lori Holt, professor of psychology, will organize a workshop to create an inclusive community focused on human cognitive auditory neuroscience. The Pittsburgh Cognitive Auditory Neuroscience Workshop will use brainstorming and problem-solving exercises along with planning sessions and the advisement of senior experts to chart future areas of research for the field and help create the collaborative networks necessary to grapple with those areas. Participants will also help produce an outreach module for middle- and high-school students about the "Science of Sound."

MCS will reopen applications for a “moonshot” grant of $1 million to support a high-risk, high-reward transdisciplinary project in April, and plans to fund the other block grants in the fall.