SJSU Secured Over $15.5 Million From State Budget and Grants This Summer

by | Aug 31, 2022 | Awards and Achievements

Aerial view of San José State University in the heart of Silicon Valley and downtown San José. Photo: Javier Duarte. 

During a time typically reserved for vacations and sunshine, San José State University has been hard at work securing critical funding for research in a variety of areas. Between the State of California budget and prestigious grants, SJSU and several of its faculty members have secured more than $15.5 million since late May.

“We’re making big strides as a leading California State University campus in regard to our funded research, scholarship and creative activity, and what we’ve seen these past few months is a great illustration of that success,” said SJSU Interim President Steve Perez. “While the funding itself is essential, the work it supports represents incredible progress that not only changes the world, but also allows our students to be meaningful contributors and participate in life-changing research opportunities.”

The state budget included $8 million earmarked to two of SJSU’s flagship research facilities — the Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center (WIRC) and Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML). The WIRC received $5 million to help retrofit infrastructure of the largest academic wildfire interdisciplinary research center in the country and kickstart construction of a new fire testing lab, among other physical improvements. 

MLML’s $3 million allotment will fund the refurbishment of Del Mar wharf, the dock where its research vessels are tied-up or moored. The vessels provide teaching experiences for MLML research students and staff and serve as a platform where global collaborations and research operations occur.

Read more about how state funding will help WIRC and MLML.

Mineta Transportation Institute and Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering earn funding for greener operations

With the help of a $4.6 million grant from the Federal Railroad Administration, the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) will establish the Climate Change and Extreme Events Training and Research (CCEETR) program. This multi-university consortium will study risk mitigation strategies and preventative measures to make train travel safer for passengers, cargo and the environment.

MTI will lead two of the five studies supported by the grant: Planning, Training and Exercising for Crisis Events on the Railroad and Climate Adaptation and Resilience Strategies in State and Regional Rail and Freight Plans. 

The U.S. Department of Energy is expanding its Industrial Assessment Center (IAC) program, with SJSU as the beneficiary of $1.4 million to help businesses create sustainable and cost-efficient processes and operations through energy savings and reduced waste. Farzan Kazemifar, an assistant professor in SJSU’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, will serve as principal investigator (PI), with co-PIs Crystal Han, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and Anil Kumar, associate professor of industrial systems and engineering, providing engineering training for more than 40 students. 

Students will perform energy assessments for small- and medium-sized manufacturing businesses and water/wastewater treatment plants — at no cost to the companies. This is just one example of the hands-on experiences students will do.

Faculty members secure prestigious grants

Five SJSU faculty members were awarded grants, including three from the National Science Federation (NSF), in climate change, wildfire research and artificial intelligence.

Jessica Castillo Vardaro, assistant professor of biology, received a $500,000 grant from NSF to better understand how the American pika has responded to past environmental changes with the goal of better predicting their response to current and future environmental change. 

Read more about Castillo Vardaro’s research involving the American pika

Ali Tohidi, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and wildfire dynamics, received $343,000 from NSF to develop a model that enables wildfire simulators to factor in the heat transfer to the fuel surfaces. This will help gauge the impact on the wildland-urban interface — the area where nature and settled areas meet, which leads to greater risks for wildfires. 

Yu Chen, assistant professor at the School of Information Systems and Technology in the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business, received $263,000 from NSF for a three-year research project that will create innovative learning modules to improve undergraduates’ understanding of artificial intelligence (AI), with an emphasis on narrowing the equity gap for underrepresented students. The goal is to help students in diverse areas of study engage with AI, so they have the skills for future employment opportunities.

Sonia Singhai earned a $183,000 grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to use microbial reproduction to research the effect of environmental change on genetic mutations and evolution. 

Cassandra Paul, associate professor of physics and astronomy and science education, is serving as the PI of an inaugural $222,000 CSU CREATE (Creating Responsive, Equitable, Active Teaching and Engagement) Award. Along with three other SJSU faculty members — Resa Kelly, professor of chemistry and science education; Gina Quan, assistant professor of physics and astronomy; and Jennifer Avena, assistant professor of biological sciences — Paul will lead a project centered on the model of learning assistants (LAs), student-educators who facilitate active learning through small group discussions in courses they have previously taken. 

Read more about SJSU’s winning proposal for the CREATE Award.