COE Faculty Awarded Seed Funding in Collaboration with University of Maine

BioE Assistant Professors Jiahe Li and Mingyang Lu, ECE Professor & Chair Srinivas Tadigadapa, ECE Assistant Professors Sarah Ostadabbas and Xue “Shelley” Lin, and ECE Associate Research Scientist Ataur Katebi were among the faculty chosen for five competitive collaborative research projects with the University of Maine in the areas of artificial intelligence, earth and climate sciences, health and life sciences, manufacturing, and marine sciences.

Northeastern University and our Roux Institute in Portland, Maine, along with the University of Maine, have jointly awarded seed funding to five collaborative research teams.

These one-year projects were selected from a pool of twenty-one applications through a rigorous review process, and are the first funded in a new collaborative research initiative established between the two universities. Each team has been awarded $50,000, and will work together to pursue larger external funding programs through federal and private sponsors.

David Luzzi, Senior Vice Provost for Research and Vice President of Northeastern’s Innovation Campus at Burlington, Massachusetts, emphasized the influential nature of this initiative: “In today’s world of complex, interdisciplinary challenges, partnerships bring together researchers with complimentary expertise that accelerate research progress. This program taps the diverse, deep expertise at our institutions. In addition to funding five impactful projects in the areas of human health and sustainability, the program has resulted in many more new collaborations that will drive progress against important societal challenges for Maine and globally.”

Kody Varahramyan, UMaine Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School, applauded the researchers. “As manifested by the five selected joint research initiatives, faculty from both institutions should be commended for developing such high-impact projects of significant social and economic benefit to Maine and beyond,” he said. 

Northeastern and UMaine began to explore formal partnerships in areas of shared expertise and significance — artificial intelligence (AI), Earth and climate sciences, health and life sciences, manufacturing and marine science — after the formation of The Roux Institute at Northeastern University was announced in January 2020. Officials signed a research agreement between the two universities in May, and a request for seed grant proposals followed in June.

The Roux Institute seeks to build expertise at the intersection of humans and machines. The focus dovetails into the Artificial Intelligence Initiative and other strengths of the University of Maine, the state’s research university.

“It is part of the Roux Institute’s mission to help build the Maine tech and life science economy with the power of Northeastern’s research and learning enterprise,” said Michael Pollastri, Senior Vice Provost for Portland and Academic Lead for the Roux Institute. “The projects we are funding through this program highlight the exciting complementarity between the research ecosystems at the University of Maine and at Northeastern University – and this type of complementarity will quickly drive us forward in our mission.”

Following are the projects and the collaborating researchers:

  • A Novel Adjuvant for Aquaculture Vaccines Using Engineered Bacteria Targeting the STING Pathway
    Collaborators are Jiahe Li, assistant professor of bioengineering at Northeastern; Sarah Turner, master’s candidate and scientific research specialist at University of Maine Cooperative Extension and the Aquaculture Research Institute (ARI); Xin Sun, a doctoral candidate at Northeastern; Deborah Bouchard, director of the ARI and division lead for University of Maine Cooperative Extension Diagnostic Research Laboratory’s Aquatic Animal Health Lab; and Ian Bricknell, professor of aquaculture biology at UMaine.
  • Whispering Gallery Mode Resonator Analysis of Dermal Interstitial Fluid
    Researchers are Rosemary Smith, professor of electrical and computer engineering at UMaine; Srinivas Tadigadapa, professor and chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Northeastern; Caleb Berry, master’s student in chemical engineering at UMaine; and Vedant Sumaria, PhD student in electrical engineering at Northeastern.
  • Using artificial intelligence to examine the interplay between pacifier use and sudden infant death syndrome
    Collaborators are Emily Zimmerman, assistant professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Northeastern; Rebecca Schwartz-Mette, assistant professor of psychology and director of the Peer Relations Lab at UMaine; Marie Hayes, cofounder and CEO/CSO, Activas Diagnostics, LLC and retired professor of psychology at UMaine; Sarah Ostadabbas, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Northeastern; Xizofei Huang, PhD student in electrical and computer engineering at Northeastern; and Matthew Rothman, PhD student in clinical psychology at UMaine.
  • Developing an Artificial Intelligence-based gene network modeling approach to characterize the regulation of the innate immune response to Influenza A virus infection
    Researchers are Benjamin King, assistant professor of bioinformatics at UMaine; Mingyang Lu, assistant professor of bioengineering at Northeastern; Ataur Katebi, associate research scientist in the Department of Bioengineering at Northeastern; and Brandy-Lee Soos, PhD student in molecular and biomedical sciences at UMaine.
  • Combining Real-Time Deep Learning and Human-Vehicle Collaboration Techniques in Autonomous Vehicles to Assist Older and Visually Impaired Passengers
    Collaborators are Nicholas Giudice, professor of spatial informatics, and founder and chief research scientist at the Virtual Environments and Multimodal Interaction (VEMI) Laboratory; Xue “Shelley” Lin, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Northeastern; Richard Corey, director of the UMaine VEMI Lab, and associate graduate faculty in the School of Computing and Information Science; Mengshu Sun, PhD student in electrical and computer engineering at Northeastern; and Grant Beals, multimodal engineer at the UMaine VEMI Lab.

“Including students at all levels in these seed projects was of paramount importance to both institutions, and the reviewers really took this to heart during their rigorous process,” said Kim Holloway, Vice Provost for Research Development at Northeastern. “Students are the next cadre of research superstars, and we should make every effort to nurture their development in these strategically important areas.”

Jason Charland, Senior Advisor to the President and Director of Research Development at UMaine, said the next steps are to get the five project teams up and running by November 1st, and convening a spring research summit at which teams can update the public on their work.

“The Offices of Research Development on both campuses will also work with and support the other 16 project teams that submitted applications to the joint seed grant program,” says Charland. “The level of response and quality of applications received in this first round demonstrate a strong interest in collaboration among our faculty and we plan to run a second round of seed grants next summer.”

Related Faculty: Srinivas Tadigadapa, Sarah Ostadabbas, Mingyang Lu, Xue "Shelley" Lin, David Luzzi

Related Departments:Bioengineering, Electrical & Computer Engineering