Office of Research, UC Riverside
UCR Federal Grants  
7/17/2018


Principal Investigator:
Ge, Xin
Assistant Professor
Chemical/Environ. Engineering

Award#
006654-003

Project Period
4/15/2014 - 3/31/2017

Funding Agency
NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

Summary
Abstract: The creation of value-added products such as fine chemicals and pharmaceuticals by chemical transformations has resulted in significant improvements in the quality of life we have been enjoying. Many of these chemical transformation processes use catalysts. These catalysts may be inorganic or biological in nature. Enzyme catalysts would be widely utilized to perform these chemical transformation processes, as they frequently offer advantages of high yield, high selectivity, high product purity, along with operation at ambient temperature and pressure in aqueous environment at moderate pH. However, many biocatalytic reactions involve expensive co-enzymes or co-factors and their recycling is essential for the processes to be cost-effective. This turns out to be a difficult or expensive process step, thereby limiting the ability to gain the advantages of using enzyme catalysts.

Principal investigators Xin Ge and Ashok Mulchandani from the University of California Riverside looked to cellular reactions in nature to develop an approach to circumvent this issue. Inspired by the substrate channeling phenomena seen in multi-enzyme cascades in nature for circumventing unfavorable thermodynamics and kinetics, the PIs will explore the development of a modular designer biocatalyst platform on the surface of spores, where enzyme cascade is spatially organized with tunable stoichiometry to achieve highly efficient cofactor regeneration. The enzyme system is easy to produce and reuse, and has high stability. The modular nature of the system will allow easy insertion of the genes of the desired enzymes and control of the stoichiometric ratios on the surface.

This collaborative research project is significant as it will lead to development of a novel robust modular platform for designer biocatalysts to address the needs of chemicals and pharmaceuticals manufacturing. A number of applications are readily envisioned. The improved catalysts and processes will increase US technological competitiveness. Collectively, the benefits from this research will support efficient, economical and green engineering production of many fine chemicals and pharmaceuticals. In addition, the PIs plan activities which will develop a globally competitive and divergent STEM workforce through the increased participation of women and underrepresented minorities. UC Riverside is the minority serving institution with the largest Hispanic student population among all UC campuses. The investigators plan to hire minority graduate and undergraduate students as research assistants for this project. The investigators also plan new curriculum efforts and are collaborating with a local middle school to establish an interactive science program titled Bio- catalysis for clean fuels.

Most oxidoreductase enzymes involved in specialty chemical synthesis utilize expensive pyridine nucleotides as cofactors for catalysis. These enzyme catalytic processes have shortcomings in terms of cofactor recycling that limit total turnover number and productivity yields. The goal of the proposed research is to develop a modular designer biocatalyst platform for highly efficient cofactor regeneration. Inspired by the substrate channeling phenomena observed in nature and other studies of engineered multienzyme cascades and mini-cellulosomes, the scaffoldin- cohesin - dockerin system will be used to build a spatially organized multienzyme complex designed for highly efficient cofactor regeneration. This enzyme complex will consist of proximally located producing and regenerating dehydrogenases in desired stoichiometry on a selected surface to allow channeling of oxidized cofactor from the producing dehydrogenase to the regenerating dehydrogenases and vice versa, solving the regeneration problems. Because of their formidable resistance to extremes of temperatures, pH, solvents, humidity and radiations, bacterial spores will serve as the surface display for the enzyme cascade. Various control and reference experiments will be carried out for the typical synthesis reaction of ketone reduction to alcohol, and the enzyme coupled regeneration of the cofactor will be demonstrated in both aqueous and nonaqueous media. Extensive characterization and catalytic performance assessments are planned by the PIs. This information will be published and available for investigators of other biocatalytic applications.
(Abstract from NSF)

6/1/2018


Principal Investigator:
Gupta, Rajiv
Distinguished Professor
Computer Science & Engineering

Award#
007582-002

Project Period
7/1/2015 - 6/30/2018

Funding Agency
NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

Summary
The importance of graph processing has grown with the popularity of graph analytics. An important feature of real-world graphs is that they are constantly evolving (e.g., social networks, networks modeling spreading of a disease etc.). Graph analytics over an evolving graph entails repeating analysis over snapshots of a graph taken at different points in time to observe how features of interest change over time. For large real-world graphs with tens of billions of edges, evolving graph analysis is both highly compute- and memory-intensive. By developing transformations that reorganize the computation and data, techniques for rapid evolving graph analytics on modern computing platforms are being considered. Many students are being trained and educated in this important field.

Graph analysis can greatly benefit from cores and storage available on modern parallel machines. However, effectively exploiting the resources remains an enormous challenge due to irregular nature of parallelism and lack of data locality in graph computations. This work is leveraging two key characteristics, overlapping working sets and computed value stability, to develop techniques for speeding up graph analytics. The techniques being considered include: optimization of reading and writing of large graphs on disk, optimizing inter-node communication on a cluster, and optimizing computation over multiple versions of an evolving graph. These optimizations are being used to greatly enhance the performance of multiple popular graph processing systems. Public dissemination of these software enhancements are also planned.
(Abstract from NSF)

5/21/2018


Principal Investigator:
Tan, Sheldon
Professor
Electrical & Computer Eng

Award#
009769-002

Project Period
8/1/2018 - 7/31/2021

Funding Agency
NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

Summary
Electro-Migration (EM) has emerged as a major design constraint and reliability issue for nano-meter-scale integrated circuits (ICs) and emerging three-dimensional (3D) stacked ICs. Due to its importance, many advances have been made recently in EM modeling and fast numerical assessment techniques. However, those advanced EM models have not been fully exploited by existing EM-aware physical design and optimization methods to reduce and mitigate the overly conservative VLSI design practices. The new EM models can naturally consider wire topology and structure impacts on the EM failures of interconnect wires and recovery effects of EM aging process for the first time, thus opening new opportunities for EM optimization at physical design stages. Novel EM optimization techniques to be explored in this award will improve IC reliability amid continued aggressive transistor scaling and increasing power density. The research in this project will contribute significantly to the core knowledge and technologies of EM-aware physical design and optimization for nano-meter VLSI designs. This investigator will seek to recruit underrepresented minority students to further contribute to the diversity in U.S. science and technology workforce.

This project will develop advanced EM-aware physical optimization techniques and run-time EM mitigation techniques for traditional two-dimensional (2D) and emerging 3D stacked ICs in the nano-meter regime. First, the research will develop new EM-aware optimization techniques for power delivery networks of mainstream 2D and emerging 3D ICs based on the newly proposed EM immortality-check rules for general interconnect trees. The new optimization algorithms will also consider the EM-induced aging effects for targeted lifetime optimization using more accurate EM lifetime estimation methods. Second, the research will explore the run-time recovery effects of the EM aging process to extend the EM lifetime of the signal and power/ground (P/G) networks in 3D stacked ICs. The new optimization methods will, thus, help extend the lifetime of the 3D stacked ICs.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
(Abstract from NSF)

5/18/2018


Principal Investigator:
Martin, David
Assistant Professor of Chemistry
Chemistry

Award#
009767-002

Project Period
5/1/2018 - 4/30/2023

Funding Agency
NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

Summary
In recent years, significant progress has been made in the design of new chemical reactions that use light energy to power them. Often, these reactions need catalysts based on precious metals. Significant improvements need to be made to reduce costs and waste. Catalytic reactions and processes with inexpensive and widely-available metals metals, simple substrates and reagents, and generation of benign by-products will serve this need. In this project, Dr. Dave Martin is developing new light-driven reactions with a novel cobalt-based catalyst that converts simple chemicals into a host of useful products. This approach is leveraging cheap, abundant feedstocks such as biomass. New insights into the mechanism of these reactions are also being learned. Sharing these new developments with undergraduate students at UC Riverside promotes green chemistry values as a part of a larger effort to increase research participation and scientific engagement. Through chemistry demonstrations and interactions between K-12 students from local schools and members of his research group, Dr. Martin fosters excitement and curiosity for the sciences and encourages young students from all backgrounds to pursue higher education and careers in science.


With funding from the Chemical Catalysis Program of the Chemistry Division, Dr. Dave Martin of the University of California, Riverside is developing a cobalt-based catalyst system that harnesses light energy to perform the direct functionalization of alcohols via acyl and alkyl radical intermediates. Current methods typically require a pre-functionalization step and produce undesirable, often toxic by-products that must be separated. The use of abundant cobalt-based catalysts inspired by the biochemistry of vitamin B12 provides an alternative mechanism for in situ activation and generates versatile radical intermediates that can participate in a wide variety of chemical transformations including catalytic deoxygenation, radical cyclizations and intermolecular cross-coupling. Direct alcohol coupling processes leverage readily available feedstock chemicals from conventional sources and also provide a powerful means for the valorization of renewable sources such as sugars and lignin biomass. The mechanisms of stoichiometric and catalytic pathways are being studied to provide a deeper understanding of the interaction of Co(II) complexes with radical intermediates under photochemical conditions. Dr. Martin is also engaged in outreach to increase research participation and scientific engagement at UC Riverside, especially among minority students, including research panel discussions and local demonstrations.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
(Abstract from NSF)

5/17/2018


Principal Investigator:
Conley, Matthew
Assistant Professor of Chemistry
Chemistry

Award#
009737-003

Project Period
5/1/2018 - 4/30/2021

Funding Agency
NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

Summary
A vast majority of chemicals are prepared using solid catalysts in at least one step of the manufacturing process. However, these reactions are often less efficient than theoretically possible. One strategy to achieve more efficient catalytic reactions would be to generate materials with higher amounts of reaction sites on the solid surface. In this project, Dr. Matthew P. Conley of the University of California, Riverside is researching methods to realize this long-standing challenge. A key to solving this problem is a better understanding of the chemical interactions between the solid surface and these catalytically-reactive sites. Dr. Conley is involved in outreach activities related to this research to promote the engagement of underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. Dr. Conley is hosting students from local high schools and community colleges in his laboratory for summer internships to introduce them to the university research environment, which encourages them to enter STEM career paths.


With funding from the Chemical Catalysis Program of the Chemistry Division, Dr. Matthew P. Conley of the University of California, Riverside is researching new material platforms to generate well-defined heterogeneous catalysts. This work focuses on the reaction of phosphines (R3P) with Brønsted acidic oxides, such as sulfated zirconium oxide, to generate well-defined phosphonium sites on the oxide surface. The substituents in R3P impact how strongly the phosphine binds to the sulfated zirconium oxide surface, which relates to the Brønsted acidity of surface sites on this material. The phosphonium sites react with organometallic complexes to form well-defined catalytic sites that polymerize or oligomerize ethylene, depending on the nature of the organometallic complex in the grafting reaction and the substituents on the phosphonium site. The above reactions are monitored using spectroscopic techniques, such as Fourier Transformed Infrared (FT-IR) and solid-state Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR). Dr. Conley is involved in promoting STEM fields though outreach activities by bringing underrepresented minority students into the lab, in support of the broader impacts of this project. Funding from this Chemical Catalysis program enables Dr. Conley to provide summer internships to local high school students and local community college students from institutions serving predominately Hispanic populations.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
(Abstract from NSF)

5/7/2018


Principal Investigator:
Bardeen, Christopher J
Professor or Chemistry
Chemistry

Award#
009740-002

Project Period
7/1/2018 - 6/30/2021

Funding Agency
NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

Summary
Molecular crystals made from conjugated molecules are oftentimes called organic semiconductors. These materials can absorb light and efficiently transport the energy or excitation (called excitons), making them attractive for solar energy conversion applications. In addition, they support unique phenomena, such as the splitting of a single exciton into two lower-energy excitons, called singlet fission. In this project funded by the Chemical Structure Dynamics and Mechanism (CSDM-A) program of the Chemistry Division, Professor Chris Bardeen of the University of California, Riverside is combining novel sample preparation with time-resolved optical microscopy to study excitons in organic crystals. The characterization of excitons in organic solids is challenging, since the fragile nature of the crystals makes it difficult to perform measurements. Professor Bardeen and his students overcome this challenge by encapsulating these crystals beneath two-dimensional sheets of graphene or hexagonal boron nitride. These atomically thin layers form an optically transparent and chemically-resistant coating for the crystal. The encapsulated crystals are then studied using high-resolution microscopy techniques that can follow the excitons as they move through the crystal and undergo singlet fission . Insights from the work could advance our understanding of light-emitting diodes and organic photovoltaic cells. The project is also exploring implications for fields such as quantum computing. The project is providing the graduate and undergraduate students involved in this research with advanced training in spectroscopy, materials characterization, microscopy, and data analysis, as well as supporting outreach efforts to Taft Elementary School. Ongoing projects include science demonstrations for various grades, science fair tutorials, a day-long visit to UCR by the fourth-grade, and classroom visits by undergraduate volunteers. A hands-on experiment for third graders has been developed in which each student builds a customized solar-powered car.

The project focuses on prototypical molecular crystal semiconductors like perylene, tetracene ,and diphenylhexatriene. Plate-like molecular crystals with variable thicknesses are grown and then covered with graphene and hexagonal boron nitride. With this enabling technology in place, two categories of experiments are pursued. The first involves measuring the properties of the encapsulated crystal and its interaction with the environment using microscopy and photoluminescence methods. Questions that can be addressed include whether the exciton behavior in molecular crystals heterogeneous on length-scales down to 20 nm and whether it is possible to transfer energy and charge across the atomically thin membranes. The second category of experiments focuses on new space and time-resolved experiments to determine whether spin-entangled states of triplet pairs produced by singlet fission can extend over mesoscopic distances.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
(Abstract from NSF)

5/7/2018


Principal Investigator:
Xu, Feng
Professor of Mathematics
Mathematics

Award#
009739-002

Project Period
7/1/2018 - 6/30/2021

Funding Agency
NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

Summary
Quantum Mechanics was one of crowning achievements of modern physics and has important applications in daily life such as X-ray, TV, etc. More recently it is the driving principle behind building a quantum computer. The theory of operator algebras was introduced by John von Neumann in order to provide a proper mathematical framework for Quantum Mechanics. The non-commutativity which is a key feature of Quantum Mechanics, is an important aspect of operator algebras. Vaughan Jones's subfactor theory is built on this non-commutative framework. Conformal field theory (CFT) is a theory describing critical phenomena in condensed matter physics, and it also plays an important role in string theory. In recent years there have been remarkable interactions between subfactors and conformal field theory that have led to many interesting mathematical issues. The aim of this project is to find solutions to some of the important mathematical issues that surface in this context which have a wide range of applications in both mathematics and quantum physics.

Subfactor theory provides an entry point into a world of mathematics and physics containing large parts of conformal field theory, quantum algebras and low dimensional topology. The research objective of this project is to develop further the connection between these subjects, and to find applications in the other area of mathematics. The project will rely on operator algebraic and subfactor techniques developed in studying CFT, including insights about old and new problems provided by the general framework of subfactors. The project's focus will be on the questions around the reconstruction program which are strongly motivated by recent construction of subfactors. In some cases there are strong indications that the subfactors come from CFT in certain ways that have been well established based on principal investigator's work. Solutions of the problems that are proposed would have important applications in diverse areas of mathematics. Results will be disseminated as research publications and presentations at professional meetings.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
(Abstract from NSF)

5/7/2018


Principal Investigator:
Wheeldon, Ian
Associate Professor
Chemical/Environ. Engineering

Award#
009734-002

Project Period
7/1/2018 - 6/30/2021

Funding Agency
NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

Summary
This project seeks to develop the thermotolerant yeast Kluyveromyces marxianus as a platform microorganism for industrial bioprocessing. A critical area of the US industrial biotechnology sector is the conversion of biomass and other renewable feedstocks to high value and commodity chemicals. K. marxianus can grow at high temperature and low pH, and on a wide range of different sugars, important traits for economic bioprocesses. The project will develop new genetic engineering tools for this yeast and apply these tools to engineer the bio-production of two important classes of chemicals that are traditionally produced from petroleum feedstocks. The project will also contribute to the training of graduate and undergraduate students, as well as the development of new educational outreach programs for high school and community college students from diverse backgrounds.

The overall goal is to establish K. marxianus as a platform host for the production of a broad range of biobased chemicals. Critical to advancing K. marxianus is the development of new synthetic biology tools that can rapidly create strains with multiple genome edits and that can accurately control transcription of native and heterologous genes. This project addresses these challenges by (1) developing new enabling tools and methods for rapid strain development and genome engineering in this yeast species, and (2) applying the tools for metabolic engineering of pathways leading to commercially significant native (acetate esters) and non-native (polyketide) products. Phenylethyl and isoamyl acetate are valuable fragrance/flavor compounds and are used as industrial solvents. Polyketides have significant value as pharmaceuticals, including as antibiotic, anticancer, and cholesterol-lowering drugs. The rationale behind this project is that K. marxianus is a highly promising microbial host for non-aseptic (and aseptic) bioprocesses that can convert a range of different sugars into high-value and industrially-relevant chemicals and proteins. This research is transformational because it develops new synthetic biology tools and metabolic engineering approaches to harness and enhance the native traits of K. marxianus, enabling new bioprocesses for the conversion of renewable feedstocks to valuable products.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
(Abstract from NSF)

5/1/2018


Principal Investigator:
Alber, Mark
Distinguished Professor of Mathematics
Mathematics

Award#
009722-002

Project Period
7/1/2018 - 6/30/2022

Funding Agency
NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

Summary
This project aims to understand how mechanical connections among cells and chemical signals between them collaborate to control the growth, sell-organization and differentiation of stem cells during plant growth. Mathematical and computer models will allow researchers to perform virtual experiments that are currently impossible in the lab. Coupled with live imaging experiments and new image analysis methods, these experiments will yield insights into biological mechanisms governing organ formation in plants and animals and development of cancer in epithelial cell layers of the colon. UC Riverside is a Hispanic-serving institution with very diverse student population and with many students being first in their families to attend college. The team will be actively working with undergraduate and graduate students from underrepresented groups as well as with high school students on the interdisciplinary projects related to proposed research program. Outreach activities will be coordinated with the newly established UC Riverside Interdisciplinary Center for Quantitative Modeling in Biology (ICQMB). Through ICQMB, regular meetings and workshops will be organized on topics at the interphase of biology and mathematical modeling, enriching other groups at UCR as well as other universities and colleges in Southern California.

The shoot apical meristems (SAMs) in plants harbor a set of stem cells that differentiate into cells for the development of all above-ground organs such as leaves, stem and branches that constitute the entire biomass required for sustaining life on earth. Like in animal systems, plant stem cell maintenance in SAMs involves conserved molecular mechanism of repression of differentiation in the context of a multilayered tissue.The main goal of this interdisciplinary research program is to combine development and calibration of a multiscale mathematical and computational modeling platform with specifically designed transient gene manipulations and live imaging methods for the spatio-temporal study of cell growth and division patterns that regulate stem cell maintenance and differentiation of stem cell progeny in SAMs. To date, the most advanced modeling efforts of cell division behavior in SAMs are restricted to the surface cell layers which also do not account for cell signaling in coordinating growth behaviors in this multi-layered structure. Modeling environment to be developed by the team will combine descriptions of molecular and mechanical signaling at several scales in all layers of the SAM to determine biological mechanisms resulting in correct shape and form of the SAM. In particular. multiscale model simulations will be used for testing hypothesis that WUSCHEL and cytokinin may function together and/or independently to influence cell wall growth, cell division rates and position of plane of cell division to organize the SAM growth.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
(Abstract from NSF)

5/1/2018


Principal Investigator:
Bardeen, Christopher J
Professor or Chemistry
Chemistry

Award#
009719-002

Project Period
8/1/2018 - 7/31/2021

Funding Agency
NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

Summary
Non-Technical Abstract:
In this project funded by the Solid-State and Materials Chemistry Program of the Division of Materials Research, Professor Christopher Bardeen of the University of California, Riverside is using a combination of novel chemical methods and characterization techniques to take organic crystals closer to practical applications. Organic crystals composed of light-sensitive molecules can undergo a variety of light-induced shape changes such as bending, twisting, and coiling. These materials could have application across a broad range of fields spanning from engineering to medicine to cell biology, by making it possible to create microdevices powered by light. One example of such a device would be a light-powered swimmer for microsurgery or drug delivery. The application of these photomechanical materials is hampered by a limited understanding of how they work and how their performance can be optimized. The PI will address these challenges by controlling important parameters like molecular structure and crystal shape, while designing new optical experiments to examine how the light-induced changes occur inside the crystals.

Technical Abstract:
The creation of stable photoreactive molecules is a prerequisite for better performing materials. One phase of the research concentrates on making new molecules to make crystalline structures that can survive exposure to air and solvents. For example, the use of fluorine substitution will raise the molecular oxidation potential and may also enhance crystal plasticity. Molecular crystals can also exhibit nonlinear spatio-temporal reaction kinetics that can lead to autocatalysis, enhanced mechanical response, and oscillatory motion under steady-state illumination. Oscillatory motion can potentially be harnessed to provide locomotion for micro-swimmers. Along with new theoretical approaches, a novel standing-wave fluorescence experiment will be developed to directly probe the nonlinear reaction kinetics in single crystals. Finally, both bottom-up solution growth and top-down laser cutting will be used to create crystals with well-defined orientations and shapes. By controlling both crystal shape and the orientation of the strain tensor with respect to that shape, a detailed investigation into how both variables determine the crystal's response to light will become possible. The broader impacts of this work include potential societal impacts resulting from new materials that transform photons into mechanical motion and enable new devices. Participating graduate and undergraduate students will receive training in spectroscopy, materials characterization, and data analysis that will enable them to contribute in economically important areas like photonics. The PI will also continue ongoing outreach efforts at Taft Elementary School that impact hundreds of underrepresented minority students each year.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
(Abstract from NSF)

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