OU ‘Big Idea Challenge’ Funds Five Projects to Explore Solutions to Global Grand Challenges

Five research teams at the University of Oklahoma will receive internal funding to support innovative research projects. The awards are for the OU Big Idea Challenge, an initiative launched by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Partnerships to support the development of transdisciplinary research projects with significant potential for future extramural funding and that address global grand challenges.

Gibbs College of Architecture faculty are represented on two of the five research teams. Dr. Bryce Lowery and Dr. John Harris are on the “Well-Being Across the Lifespan” team, while Dr. Lee Fithian, Dr. Wenwen Cheng, and Dr. Meghan Wieters are on the “X-GEM: Enhancing Future Community Sustainability via Greenhouse Gas Emission Monitoring” team.

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“The five awarded projects include team members from across disciplines and represent exciting ideas for advancing OU research in high-impact areas such as advanced energy technology, social justice and technology, environmental sustainability, and the well-being of children,” said Ann West, associate vice president for research and partnerships. “The BIC awards provide resources to transdisciplinary teams, conducted by investigators from different departments and colleges working jointly to create new conceptual, theoretical, methodological and translational innovations that integrate and move beyond discipline-specific approaches to address a common problem, pursuing bold proposals that go well beyond traditional inter- and multidisciplinary efforts.”

The projects and research teams awarded are:

  • “Well-Being Across the Lifespan: Early Childhood Experience and Opportunities in Oklahoma,” led by Sherri Castle, assistant director of research for the Early Childhood Education Institute at OU-Tulsa, with Constance Chapple and Erin Maher, both associate professors of sociology in the College of Arts and Sciences, as well as research team members including representatives from academic and professional fields including physical and mental health, pediatrics and emergency medicine, regional and city planning, geography and the role of environment, data science and political science. This project is a merger of two originally separate proposals focused on child adversity, health inequities and child well-being.
  • “Achieving Sustainability and Negative Carbon Emissions in an Agro-Energy Producing Region,” led by Kyle Murray, a hydrogeologist for the Oklahoma Geological Survey and adjunct faculty in the Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy, with team members in the departments of Geography and Environmental Sustainability, Microbiology and Plant Biology, and Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering.
  • “Carbon-free H2 Energy Production and Storage (CHEPS),” led by Dimitrios Papavassilious, the C.M. Sliepcevic Professor of Chemical Engineering in the Gallogly College of Engineering, with team members representing journalism and mass communication, philosophy, psychology, economics, and the Oklahoma Geological Survey.
  • “X-GEM: Enhancing Future Community Sustainability via Greenhouse Gas Emission Monitoring,” led by Binbin Weng, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering in the Gallogly College of Engineering, with team members representing aerospace and mechanical engineering, social science, political science, city planning, meteorology, geology, city and regional planning, and the Oklahoma Biological Survey.
  • “Social Media and the Visual Politics of Policing Communities of Color,” led by Sherri Irvin, a Presidential Research Professor in philosophy and women’s and gender studies, and Karlos Hill, associate professor and department chair of African and African-American Studies – all in the College of Arts and Sciences – with team members in the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication; the School of Computer Science; the Data Institute for Societal Challenges; and digital scholarship and technologists in the University Libraries; as well as collaborators from Carleton University and from the international Debiasing and Lay Informatics Lab.

OU Vice President for Research and Partnerships Tomás Díaz de la Rubia said, “As a flagship public institution that is keenly focused on societal impact through research and creative activity, the University of Oklahoma is uniquely positioned to bring disparate academic disciplines together to foster innovative, comprehensive solutions to global challenges.

“These projects will position the university as a leader in generating new insights and game-changing contributions to solving regional, national and global challenges in energy, sustainability, health and communities,” he added.

About the University of Oklahoma

Founded in 1890, the University of Oklahoma is a public research university located in Norman, Oklahoma. OU serves the educational, cultural, economic and health care needs of the state, region and nation. For more information visit www.ou.edu.