EPSCoR Seed Grant Program 2011-2012


On September 1, 2008, an NSF EPSCoR Research Infrastructure and Improvement (RII 2) grant entitled, "Building Research and Education Infrastructure to Enhance Environmental Science and its Application to Delaware" was awarded to the University of Delaware (UD) and its partners, Delaware State University (DSU), Wesley College, and Delaware Technical and Community College (DTCC). The goals of the RII-2 are to:

  1. Continue to develop the research and education infrastructure begun under the first RII-1 grant with a more focused effort on environmental science and including a cyberinfrastructure component;
  2. Develop future scientists and technologists in increasing numbers and diversity and strengthen scientific literacy throughout the State;
  3. Capture the educational, social, and economic benefits of the Discovery- based research program including the scientific literacy of all citizens, a need identified under the RII-1, by developing an "EPSCoR Integrative Process"; and
  4. Manage the grant in an efficient and effective manner to achieve sustainability for all new initiatives.


The UD Discovery-based research program seeks to build a globally competitive capability in environmental research that will address major questions concerned with biogeochemical processes that occur at interfaces in the Earth’s near-surface environment (i.e., the Critical Zone). The answers to these questions will help address many of the State’s and nation’s environmental issues thereby bringing social and economic benefits to both. The three research themes are: microbe-metal-carbon interactions, particle transport and release, and environmental observation and sensing. The 2011-2012 seed grant program is designed to catalyze research initiatives in the three themes.

The objectives of the Delaware EPSCoR Seed Grant Program are to catalyze multidisciplinary and cross-institutional collaboration and enhance competitiveness for extramural funding. Participation from humanities and social science faculty is encouraged in areas of ethics, public policy, and social dynamics. The seed grant program is intended to support proposal development, pilot research, and catalyze other activities that advance an interdisciplinary research project to the point at which it can attract major competitive extramural funding. The seed grant program is not intended to fund stand-alone single PI research projects.

Awards will be in the range of $50K over a one-year period and must include support of a graduate student. They can also include: research supplies, travel, cost center usage fee support, and a summer undergraduate intern. The length of the project period is one year, with a start date of January 3, 2012 and an end date of December 31, 2012. For those individuals who have a seed grant awarded, there will be an opportunity to seek an additional year of funding at a reduced rate or a no-cost extension of funds after the first year. Eligibility of these additional funds and no-cost extensions depends upon the PI’s ability to provide documentation of progress-to-date made on the project and an adequate justification for the funds or extension that will be reviewed by the EPSCoR Faculty Leadership Team.

Focal Areas

The Seed Grant Research Committee is interested in receiving proposals for the 2011 call that address three thematic areas of Delaware EPSCoR RII-2. These include:

Theme 1: Microbe-Metal-Carbon Interactions at CZ Interfaces

Scientific Question: How do microbe-metal-carbon interactions at Critical Zone interfaces affect the uptake, cycling, and transformation of contaminants? Answers to the above scientific question will assist in improving water quality, mitigating algal blooms/fish kills and marshland decline, reducing carbon emissions, and developing effective remediation strategies.

Biogeochemical processes, such as sorption, oxidation-reduction, and sequestration are impacted by the complex interaction of microbes, metals, and carbon with mineral surfaces. These processes directly impact contaminant and carbon cycling/transport and global climate change. New genetic and molecular biological tools and molecular environmental science techniques (i.e., spectroscopy and microscopy) can be used to provide information on elemental composition, binding, spatial distribution, and microbial metabolism, allowing quantitative analysis of the microbe-metal-carbon interface.

Theme 2: Particle Transport and Release

Scientific Question: What mechanisms control the formation, release, stability and transport of particles in the Critical Zone, and how do particle interactions with contaminants and microbes impact biogeochemical processes? An understanding of this will enable Delaware to enhance air and water quality, protect human health, and improve ecosystem health.

Particulate matter is ubiquitous in the Critical Zone (CZ), ranging in size from a few nanometers to several tens of micrometers. Particles facilitate transport of a wide range of substances, including nutrients, metals, organic chemicals, and pathogens above or below the surface and therefore may have a significant impact on ecosystem and human health. Airborne particles have important health and climate consequences. Airborne particle release and transport are especially relevant to the coastal-marine and agricultural-rural ecosystems in Delaware. It is critical to evaluate aerosol composition, transport, and reactivity. To address particle-facilitated transport of inorganic and organic contaminants and pathogens in the subsurface environment, and impacts on surface and groundwater quality, it is necessary to understand the processes of particle mobilization, retention, and transport.

Theme 3: Environmental Observation and Sensing

Scientific Question: What cyber-enabled technology is needed to better sense environmental events and processes? Utilization and development of novel sensors will provide important monitoring and predictive capabilities for minimizing the consequences of catastrophic environmental events such as fish kills/algal blooms and protecting water quality. Biosensors will play an ever increasing role in monitoring the delicate balance between preserving the earth’s environmental quality (by preserving the CZ) and the need to support an ever-growing population. Although there are sensor technologies capable of measuring physical parameters (e.g., light level, temperature, humidity, wind, etc.) and some chemical properties, there are few that emphasize chemical and biological response indicators. The development of next generation biogeochemical sensors, primarily in the area of nanoscale control of materials is especially needed.


Seed grant proposals should include the following elements. Note page specifications for the narrative and other sections; text in these sections should be single-spaced, minimum 11-pt Times New Roman font.

Cover page
Include the title of the project as well as the department, phone number, mail and email address, for each investigator. One investigator must be designated as lead investigator. Include name, phone number, email address, and signature of your department’s grant administrator.
Include a one-paragraph abstract, suitable for use in public reports and on the EPSCoR website, that crisply describes the research to be done.
Articulate the research question, theoretical grounding, existing literature, plan for empirical research (if relevant), with whom you will be working, and the significance of the larger project that the seed grant will help you develop. Maximum length: 2 pages excluding references, with a minimum 11-point font size.
Plan for Seeking External Funding
Describe your plans for seeking external funding, including: what government agencies or foundations you might approach, and why; what contacts if any (e.g. prior application, conversations with program officer) you have had with those agencies; when you expect to apply for funds; the expected scale of the larger project; and how the seed grant activities will allow you to seek external funding for the larger project. Maximum length: half page.
Linkage of Proposed Research to State Agency/Environmental Nonprofit Groups
Describe how the activities of the proposed research can be linked to addressing needs and challenges of state agencies/environmental nonprofit groups. Maximum length: half page (each proposal should identify an external contact/organization that might be the ultimate user of these research results; a letter of endorsement is not required but will strongly enhance the proposal. If you need help in developing the appropriate contact please contact Donald Sparks) Preference will be given to proposals that link to Delaware EPSCoR partners (DSU, DTCC and Wesley College).
Relevance of Proposed Activities to RII-2 Research Initiatives and State Environmental Challenges
The investigators should especially address how the proposed research fits into the EPSCoR theme, and what types of collaboration will take place. The intention of these seed grants is to stimulate new collaborative research initiatives within the EPSCoR theme. However, if the seed grant proposal is related to on-going, funded research in any way, include a short narrative describing how it is related, and how the seed grant activities will extend the existing project "beyond" what is currently supported. Additionally, briefly describe the relevance and importance of the research in addressing environmental challenges in the state. Maximum length: one page.
Budget and Budget Justification
This should include any one or combinations of the categories mentioned above. Include indirect costs in the total budget, using your department’s/college’s current rate.
Short 2-page curriculum vitae for all investigators
NSF style – maximum of two pages


Preference will be given to tenure-track UD and partner institution faculty; however, research- track personnel are encouraged to apply.

Level of Funding

Seed grants are generally funded at $50,000 PLEASE NOTE: Already funded Seed Grants are eligible to apply for an additional year of funding at a reduced rate or no-cost extension.

Eligible Expenses

The review committee is unsympathetic to proposals that request funding for senior faculty summer salary or computer purchases. All other expenses directly related to seed grant activities may be included in the budget.

Reporting Requirements

Seed grant recipients will be asked to complete a brief semi-annual survey in May 2012 and to submit a brief final report describing activities funded by the seed grant as well as their progress towards obtaining external support. They also must present a seminar to the Delaware EPSCoR community and attend the Annual Delaware EPSCoR State Meeting. The final report is due two months following the end date of the grant in March 2013.


December 4, 2011 Seed Grant RFP is released
December 22, 2011 Seed Grant proposals due to the State EPSCoR Office by 3:00 pm
January 3, 2012 Review of proposals completed and investigators notified
June 1, 2012 Start date for 2012 DE EPSCoR Seed Grants Progress Report for 2012 DE EPSCoR Seed Grants
December 31, 2012 End date for new 2012 proposals DE EPSCoR Seed Grants
March 31, 2013 Annual report due to State EPSCoR Office

Review Process

Seed grant applications will be reviewed by a committee composed of EPSCoR faculty/staff and external colleagues.

Criteria for Evaluation

The most important evaluation criteria for seed grant proposals are intellectual merit, broader impacts, student training, potential for generating interdisciplinary innovation, development of new collaborations, consistence with research priorities of the Delaware EPSCoR, and potential for future fundability. Proposals that request funding for a stand- alone project only, do not describe plans for seeking external funding, or poorly justify their budget, will be considered non-responsive to this Call for Proposals.

Submission Procedures

Submit one electronic copy to Kelly Doremus (kdoremus@udel.edu), Delaware Biotechnology Institute, 15 Innovation Way, Suite 103, Newark, DE. For questions regarding the seed grant program contact Amy Broadurst (als@udel.edu) or Donald L. Sparks (dlsparks@udel.edu).

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