WMU News

Congress earmarks $3 million for WMU research efforts

Dec. 12, 2003

KALAMAZOO--Three Western Michigan University research initiatives, including one with homeland security implications, are slated to receive a total of $3 million in federal funding as a result of the omnibus spending bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives Dec. 9.

The following WMU earmarks are included in H.R. 2673, the conference committee report for the spending bill:

$2 million from the Department of Energy to the Nanotechnology Research and Computation Center to continue research focused on developing nanosensors to detect chemical, biological and radiological agents in the environment.

$500,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Great Lakes Center for Environmental and Molecular Sciences for research aimed at putting Great Lakes environmental health data in the hands of citizens and policy makers; and

$500,000 from the Health Resources and Services Administration to the College of Health and Human Services for a project that will develop ways to deploy wireless technology in the health care arena.

The nanotechnology funding follows an earlier federal award used to launch a public-private research effort that could have important applications for homeland security and national defense. The project is a collaboration involving WMU, Nevada-based Altair Nanotechnologies Inc. and the University of Nevada-Reno.

"I have been working since last winter to obtain this funding for Western Michigan University's nanotechnology program, and I am thrilled that we were able to deliver $2 million," said U.S. Rep. Fred Upton. "Western is such a marvelous academic institution, and the federal government's financial support is especially important as it encourages matching private grants.

Western has one of the premier nanotechnology programs in the country, and is at the forefront of making great strides in research that can transform the areas of homeland security and computer science. I will continue to strongly support Western as it is such an important part of our community."

Dr. Subra Muralidharan, director of WMU's nanotechnology initiatives, says the goal of the research, which was launched in early 2003, is to build a foundation that will help the collaborators develop practical solutions to some very real security problems. He calls the findings to date "very promising" and said the new funding will allow the team to move quickly forward.

"Our University is fortunate to have a nanotechnology researcher like Dr. Muralidharan, who has both the vision and the innovative nature it takes to apply this emerging science to the nation's needs," said WMU President Dr. Judith I. Bailey. "The University also has the good fortune to be represented by Congressman Fred Upton, who recognized early on this technology's potential to provide solutions to a wide array of critical problems. Congressman Upton has been steadfast in his support of measures that ensure our researchers can use their talents for the good of the nation, and his work to secure this funding speaks volumes about his service to his district. He went to bat for us on this measure and we are grateful for his help."

Two other WMU earmarks that Upton helped secure in the spending bill are for projects that also have the potential to benefit citizens around the nation.

The Great Lakes Center for Environmental and Molecular Sciences is a collaborative venture between WMU's Environmental Institute and the Altarum Institute of Ann Arbor that was launched in 2002. The new EPA funding will be used to extend an existing GIS data base on the Kalamazoo River watershed to include the St. Joseph River and Lake Michigan; adapt the Lake St. Clair contaminant fate and transport model for use on Lake Michigan; develop genomics-based health diagnostic tools for lake trout in Lake Michigan and Lake Superior; expand genomics diagnostic work to include children and adults who live in additional sites near Lake Michigan; and expand an EPA-based educational tool called the Watershed Academy.

HRSA funding to WMU's College of Health and Human Services project will allow faculty in the college to research and deploy telehealth technologies, particularly wireless technology, through pilot projects and partnerships between higher education and health care practitioners. College researchers would pursue projects relating to wireless patient care, web-based services in clients' homes, and evaluation of wireless concerns related to HIPAA--the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. The funding also will cover other projects designed to help health care providers, educators, and clients. Telehealth is the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration.

Congress adjourned this week, shortly after the House action. The Senate will consider the bill in January.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 269 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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