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Office of the Vice President for Research

Office of Research programs support scholarly projects at every level

The Office of the Vice President for Research has made major investments in faculty and student research and scholarly projects over the past several years, helping to grow USC's research portfolio and enriching student experiences in the process. Through our signature funding programs, researchers in every discipline, at every career level, have been able to make their dream projects into reality. Below are just a few of their success stories, along with information on how you can get in on these exciting opportunities.

Magellan Programs for Undergraduates

Initiated in 2005, the Magellan Scholar program is celebrating a huge milestone this fall: 10 years, more than 1,000 undergraduate research projects and $3 million in funding for curious students. Added to this, over the years, are eight more programs to celebrate and support our students under the Magellan umbrella.

USC undergraduate Lily Gullion had a passion for helping children with disabilities when she came to the University of South Carolina, and thanks to funding from the Office of the Vice President for Research, it took the exercise science junior all the way to the Netherlands this summer for an intensive research project.

Gullion is working with psychology professors at Radboud University in Nijmegen to refine a set of computer games intended to measure children's teamwork skills. The computer games, created by Carolina exercise science professor Roger Newman-Norland, could potentially be used in therapy for children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

"We've been thinking up many alterations to the games and brainstorming new scenarios," says Gullion, who received Magellan Scholar funding and set up a successful crowdfunding campaign to cover expenses for the research trip and additional work during the fall semester. "They are helping me go through each game and justify them individually as therapeutic methods. We are asking questions like 'What cognitive process is this game measuring? What aspect of autism is this game trying to help?'" [Read more]

The Office of Undergraduate Research administers the Magellan Program and offers "Getting Started" workshops for undergraduate students who are interested in getting involved in research throughout the year. Learn more here.

The SPARC Grant for Graduate Students

Graduate students at USC have a unique opportunity in the competitive Support to Promote Advancement of Research and Creativity, or SPARC, Graduate Research Grant program. The SPARC grant offers a chance for graduate students to have their scholarly projects funded, but it offers something more too. SPARC applicants complete and submit a competitive grant proposal package similar to those they would need to prepare to seek national fellowship awards from federal and private funding sources. The experience students acquire through this process is invaluable as it doubles as training in grant proposal development, helping SPARC applicants build the skills and background necessary to make them more competitive in their careers.

Brittany Walter, a doctoral student and Presidential Doctoral Fellow in the Department of Anthropology used her SPARC grant to investigate the influence of urbanization on the health, mortality, and diet of medieval Londoners by chemically analyzing skeletal remains from two medieval English cemeteries. She credits SPARC with giving her a leg up in her academic career on two levels. "Without the SPARC grant, I would not have been able to conduct these expensive analyses and my dissertation would be missing an integral component for explaining changes in health and mortality.

"The SPARC grant was the first grant proposal that I had ever written, providing me with a strong foundation to work off of and evolve into a more detailed grant proposal for national grants and my dissertation proposal. Most importantly, the SPARC grant provided me with the funds to conduct pilot research to show review panel for larger grants that I had already secured funding from another source, which are both extremely important components for a competitive national grant proposal."

Since conducting her SPARC-funded research, Brittany has received funding from the National Science Foundation to continue her anthropological research. Learn more about SPARC here.

ASPIRE Grants for Faculty and Postdoctoral Scholars

The Advanced Support for Innovative Research Excellence, or ASPIRE program, is a multi-track competitive grant program for USC faculty. Track I focuses on helping faculty develop new research, track II supports interdisciplinary, collaborative research projects and track III helps faculty invest in research equipment and facilities to enhance USC's research infrastructure.

ASPIRE recipient, Dr. Georgi Petkov in the SC College of Pharmacy completed preliminary, interdisciplinary research on a potential new treatment for overactive bladder, a health condition that affects tens of millions of Americans, but currently has limited treatment options. His preliminary ASPIRE research helped him to secure R01 grant funding from the National Institutes of Health to continue his research.

Dr. Petkov says that "The help of the ASPIRE funds has been critically important in securing this new R01 award. The highly innovative nature of this translational research is strengthened by the collaboration between the USC group of basic scientists and MUSC clinical urologists." The knowledge gained from Dr. Petkov's new R01 grant will advance the understanding of the mechanisms he is investigating and validate the related receptor channels as a novel therapeutic modality for overactive bladder. He further notes that "the outcome of these studies may have important clinical significance with a strong potential to help patients suffering from bladder dysfunction."

The 2016 ASPIRE funding cycle is now open. You can view complete information and materials here in the coming weeks.

RISE Grants for System Campus Faculty

The Research Initiative for Summer Engagement, or RISE, program was initiated in 2012 to help faculty members working in USC's senior and regional campuses fund their summer research projects. This program employs a competitive application process to provide money for summer salary, research supplies, travel related to research and undergraduate student support to bolster scholarship throughout the USC System.

Dr. Robert Kilgore, Chair of the Department of English and Theater at USC Beaufort, used his RISE grant to travel to London and present a scholarly paper at an academic conference. He used feedback received at the conference to expand his scholarship, helping to secure further travel grants from the Folger Institute, and providing input for his book, Renaissance Genres and the Power of David.

Kilgore notes, "I am grateful to the RISE program for opening so many doors to me this summer, and hope that my students and colleagues will benefit from the gains I made for years to come. The gains are practical—research done, writing improved, publications in sight, ideas for teaching—and more abstract—my brain was fed, challenged, expanded, opened. Both kinds of gains are important. Research money for scholarship in the humanities is often hard to come by, so this makes the RISE program—and specifically the RISE's openness to projects in the humanities—so very crucial and so very appreciated."

The Office of Research will accept RISE Grant proposals through December 3, 2015. View and download complete details and materials here.


2 November 2015

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.