UMD and Tecnológico de Monterrey Award Seed Grants for International Research Collaborations

UMD and Tecnológico de Monterrey Award Seed Grants for International Research Collaborations

The University of Maryland (UMD) and Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico (TEC) have awarded five seed grants to support international research collaborations involving faculty from both institutions. The projects reflect the breadth and diversity of research expertise at the two universities, focused on topics ranging from biosensors, nanophotonics, antimicrobial resistance in fresh produce, radicalization via social media, and aquaponic farming systems.

Established in 2017, the UMD-TEC seed grant program is designed to help scholars at both institutions to identify complementary research strengths and generate pilot data for proposal submissions that pursue innovative, collaborative work. The call for proposals invited applications from all fields of knowledge and encouraged interdisciplinary projects. A total of 13 proposals were submitted, each involving a pair of principal investigators, one from each institution. TEC and UMD each contributed $20,000 USD per grant (a total of $40,000/project, for a total of $200,000 the five grants), supporting each research collaboration for a duration of 12 months. The UMD seed grant funding was provided by the Division of Research. The awards were determined by a joint committee of reviewers from both institutions.

The seed grants were awarded to the following collaborative research projects:

Advanced Biosensing with Glassy Carbon Electrodes
Gregory Payne, Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research (UMD) and Sergio Omar Martínez Chapa, Sensors and Devices Division (TEC)
The goal of this project is to couple the individual strengths of UMD and TEC to create capabilities to integrate advanced biosensing capabilities into low cost portable devices. Carbon-based electrodes present advantages in cost, sustainability and performance compared to conventional metal-based electrodes. Portable biosensor systems offer the promise to transform our abilities to detect and treat disease, protect our environment, monitor food quality, and ensure public safety.

Social Media Influencers: Re-domaining Fashion Industry Forecasting to Anticipate Online Extremist Radicalization
Barnett Koven, START Center (UMD) and Ramon Brena, Intelligent Systems Research Group (TEC)
The exploitation of social networking and other online communications platforms for the dissemination of extremist content and the radicalization of other users has risen meteorically in the last decade. However, limited scholarly attention has been devoted to research aimed at understanding these phenomena. Through a novel approach of adapting highly developed trend forecasting models utilized in the fashion and lifestyle industry, this project will begin to fill this knowledge gap and thereby enable effective interventions against extremist exploitation of the internet.

Comparison of Using Sensors for Real-Time Monitoring of Aquaponic Systems in Developing and Developed Countries
Jose-Luis Izursa, Environmental Science and Technology (UMD) and Rigoberto Engel Ugalde, Sciences (TEC)
Aquaponics is a sustainable farming practice using a soil-free system that circulates water from fish tanks, enriched in nutrients from fish effluent, to use for plant growth, mimicking natural processes that can be found in lakes, ponds and rivers. Aquaponics uses 90% less water than traditional farming and yields more produce per acre than traditional farming. This project will bring together two teams of researchers from UMD and TEC to share technical expertise in aquaponics and to establish real-time monitoring, using sensors, in two aquaponic systems, one at UMD and one at TEC. The team plans to demonstrate that the use of biosensors will be beneficial to farmers, providing real-time monitoring of their aquaponic systems and presenting data on water quality in order to improve production.

Evaluating Antimicrobial Resistance in Enterobacteriaceae and Enterococci Associated with Fresh Produce Grown in the Mid-Atlantic U.S. and North-Central Mexico
Shirley Micallef, Plant Sciences and Landscape Architecture (UMD) and Marcos De Donato, Bioengineering (TEC)
This collaborative project aims to assess risks of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) on fruit and vegetables produced in agricultural areas in Maryland, U.S.A. and Querétaro, Mexico. Specifically, the researchers will (1) assess the prevalence of antibiotic resistant Enterobacteriaceae and enterococci, (2) characterize AMR profiles of recovered isolates, and (3) assess whether carriage of AMR confers a competitive fitness advantage to enteric bacteria in the phyllosphere of crops.

Slow Light for Nanophotonic Phased Arrays and Ultrafast Optical Switching
Mario Dagenais, Electrical and Computer Engineering (UMD) and Israel De Leon Arizpe, School of Engineering and Sciences (TEC)
Nanophotonics, the study of light and its interaction with matter at nanometer scales, has become a major research field in the past decade due to the advent of novel nanofabrication techniques and the discovery of new physical phenomena that take advantage of the interaction of light with nanometer-scale structures. This study will help contribute to the design of optimized phase array antenna for virtual reality applications, as well as the realization of ultra-fast optical switching and handling of ultra-high capacity signals.

UMD and TEC are both member institutions of Universitas 21, a global network of 25 leading research universities around the world that develops, facilitates, and encourages global connections and programming for researcher engagement, educational innovation, student experience, and collaborations. Both institutions are involved with the Universitas 21 Research Collaboration Group, which promotes research collaboration across the U21 network.

Prior to establishing the seed grant partnership, UMD representatives visited TEC through the Borderless Research Administration Knowledge Exchange (BRAKE) program developed by UMD's Division of Research. BRAKE is an administrative training program that focuses on engaging international institutions as strategic cohorts, helping them to build expertise in the management and oversight of U.S. federal funding. The UMD BRAKE team's visit to Monterrey helped generate discussions about research collaborations, and the UMD-TEC seed grant program evolved out of these interactions.

About Tecnológico de Monterrey:
Tecnológico de Monterrey is a private, multi-campus university based in Monterrey, Mexico. Founded in 1943 by leading regional industrialists, TEC has since grown to include 26 campuses and 18 offices around the world. There are over 10,000 professors and 89,641 students (including high school, undergraduate, and graduate), with 56% of students having international experience upon graduating. In addition, 1,776 companies are in the Tecnológico de Monterrey's incubation model. Learn more about TEC's Strategic Research Areas.

About the University of Maryland:
The University of Maryland, College Park is the state's flagship university and one of the nation's preeminent public research universities. A global leader in research, entrepreneurship and innovation, the university is home to more than 38,000 students, 9,000 faculty and staff, and 250 academic programs. Its faculty includes two Nobel laureates, three Pulitzer Prize winners, 60 members of the national academies and scores of Fulbright scholars. The institution has a $1.9 billion operating budget and secures $560 million annually in external research funding. For more information about the University of Maryland, visit

February 20, 2018

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