June 2020
Research and Sponsored Programs Update
From starting up her own lab to teaching through a pandemic, chemistry professor Morgan Hawker’s first year at Fresno State has certainly been eventful. Among the highlights: Hawker received a CSUPERB New Investigator Grant to develop a plasma-based approach to fabricate two classes of silk films with opposing surface properties. She spoke with us about the grant and other topics, including her plans for this fall.

How would you describe these last 12 months?

My first year at Fresno State has been a complete whirlwind! It's been a non-stop learning experience, from the tenure track faculty networking orientation with other new faculty from across campus at the start of the year, to virtual instruction, to navigating the grant application process.

Congratulations on your CSUPERB award. Can you explain how the award will enhance your lab?

Thank you! I am excited about this award because it will enable me to pay two undergraduate researchers for their work for one semester and the following summer. Participating in this project will provide students with an immersive research opportunity as they will be directly involved in all aspects of the research, from experimental design, to materials fabrication, to data collection, to reporting their results at a future Central California Research Symposium.

What steps did you take to write a successful proposal?

I am one of those people who has to get writing tasks done ahead of time so that I have enough time to gather feedback from others. For the CSUPERB grant, it was really important to be able to reach an audience with diverse scientific backgrounds. For me, this meant sending the grant to as many people outside of my expertise as possible. Additionally, faculty in my department who previously received CSUPERB awards, as well as our grants administrator Gayle Sherwood , were quite helpful throughout the application writing and submission process. Their input and assistance made the process less daunting.

One of the highlights of this year was the installation of a contact angle goniometer in the Hawker Lab . How has that impacted your research?

As the first large piece of equipment in our lab, we have really enjoyed using the contact angle goniometer. As with any new equipment, there has been a learning curve. I am really proud of my research students for taking responsibility to learn how to use the instrument and teaching each other what they have learned. I am sure they would tell you that this process can be frustrating at times, but I think this type of troubleshooting is essential to scientific research.

Undergraduate research has been a key part of the CSU’s strategic plan. Can you talk about how students can benefit by joining a lab?

Undergraduate research is so important because it gives students the opportunity to join a community where they can be creative in a scientific context. I would encourage students to join a research group, even if they have no experience doing research and are not sure what to expect. When it comes to advising research students for me personally, one of the most enjoyable aspects is to see them adapt to new ways of thinking and become excellent problem solvers. These skills will benefit you as a student no matter what your post-graduation plans are.

We noticed on your Twitter feed that you attended the CSU Biotechnology Symposium , held in January in Santa Clara.

The Biotechnology Symposium was an excellent experience. As a new faculty member, it was especially useful as it exposed me to the diverse, high-impact biotechnology research occurring at the various CSU campuses. It was also a great networking opportunity as I met many great researchers from across the CSU system.

Have you thought about how you’ll need to modify your teaching and research efforts for this fall?

This topic has certainly been on my mind lately. My department is working hard to ensure that we have all necessary personal protective equipment (masks, gloves) as well as hand sanitizer so that we can be as safe as possible when we can return to the lab. I am especially excited about creating learning communities within my courses so that students can have a dedicated group of peers to bounce ideas off of and help each other to navigate the course. My goal is for students to experience a similar sense of community that they would experience in a face-to-face course despite that the course is online.
David Lent (Biology) received Year 5 funding in the amount of $131,307 for his NSF CAREER grant, “Navigation in Naturalistic and Changing Environments: Perception, Learning and Memory.”

Barlow Der Mugrdechian (Armenian Studies) received a $4,720 grant from the California State Library for his project, “California Revealed: Amplifying Community Virtual Archive.”

Steve Chung (Mathematics) received an $11,000 grant from NSF (via San Jose State) through the CSU Alliance for PUMP (Preparing Undergraduates through Mentoring toward PhDs) program.

Peter Kinman (Electrical and Computer Engineering) received continued funding ($64,000) for his Advanced DSN Engineering project, funded by NASA (via JPL).

David Foster, Barbara Foster and Martha Vungkhanching (Social Work Education) received continued funding (Year 3 of 5) from the Kern County Department of Human Services for the Safety Organized Practice Training program.
Lisa Bryant (Political Science) and co-author Julia Marin Hellwege received the American Politics Research prize for the best article published in 2019

Steve Blumenshine (Biology) spoke about social distancing in the laboratory during a CSU webcast titled, “Contingency Planning for Research During COVID-19.”

Venita Blackburn (English) signed a two-book deal with MCD Books, an imprint of Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux.

Fresno State faculty, staff and students often dedicate time and effort to research and scholarly activities that may result in discoveries or inventions of a patentable and marketable nature. The University has a detailed policy which addresses the rights to, interest in, and protection and transfer of intellectual property (including patents) created by University faculty, staff and students.

The University also has an active committee dedicated to the review and determination of rights to patentable inventions. The Patent Board facilitates the patent application process and provides orderly determination of licensing and royalty collection procedures.

>> Fresno State’s Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects (CPHS) has issued guidance regarding ethical practices for the continuation of research involving human subjects during campus and community efforts to limit exposure to the coronavirus.

Please don't hesitate to contact the grants administrator for your college/unit as you explore potential funding opportunities. Also, be sure to share with us important news or updates on your research, scholarly, or creative activities. Include  NEWSLETTER  in the subject line and send details to  [email protected]

This newsletter is compiled and published by the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs. Part of the Division of Research and Graduate Studies , RSP helps faculty and staff apply for and secure external grant funds.
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