UMSL chemists to receive funding for projects as part of UM System’s $20.5M research investment

Alexei Demchenko

Alexei Demchenko (right), Curators’ Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemstry, is leading a project to establish the Glycoscience Consortium, which will build collaborations to accelerate the rational design, synthesis and evaluation of carbohydrate-based drugs. It is one of 19 innovative projects due to receive funding as part of the University of Missouri System’s $20.5 million investment in research and creative works, announced on Thursday. (Photo by August Jennewein)

University of Missouri–St. Louis chemistry and biochemistry professors Cynthia Dupureur and Alexei Demchenko are leading two of the projects winning support from the University of Missouri System as part of a $20.5 million investment in research and creative works.

In an announcement Thursday morning, UM System President Mun Choi identified 19 innovative research projects across the system’s four universities that are in line for funding, with $11 million coming from the system and $9.5 million coming from the UM universities.

“Within the UM System, we have an outstanding group of faculty members who are committed to research excellence,” Choi said. “It’s our job as academic leaders to provide them with the opportunities and resources to significantly grow research efforts that are bold and transformative, especially as it pertains to our highest priority, the NextGen Precision Health Initiative and Institute. These projects will be critical to catalyzing the collaboration and infrastructure investments that are needed to grow extramural funding for our universities.”

The projects include research supporting the core instruments and infrastructure of the NextGen Precision Health Institute; research advancing the systemwide NextGen Precision Health Initiative; and research serving other key priorities of the UM System’s four universities.

Dupureur is leading a project to upgrade UMSL’s Microscope Imaging and Spectroscopy Technology Laboratory, which will support efforts to compete for top-tier funding opportunities, strengthen industry ties through collaboration and provide the best training for the next generation of scientists. Dupureur is joined by Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry faculty members Michael Nichols and Keith Stine and Department of Biology faculty members Xuemin WangLon Chubiz and Fredrik Inglis.

Demchenko, meanwhile, is leading a project to establish the Glycoscience Consortium, which will build collaborations to accelerate the rational design, synthesis and evaluation of carbohydrate-based drugs. Demchenko is joined by Nichols, Stine, Eike Bauer, Chris Spilling and Chung Wong.

“UMSL researchers continue to excel at work that will have benefits that stretch well beyond our region and our state,” UMSL Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Kristin Sobolik said. “We are grateful President Choi and the University of Missouri System are investing in these projects, and we look forward to realizing their wider impact.”

UMSL researchers are also involved in other projects the UM System is supporting.

George Zsidisin, the John W. Barriger III Endowed Professor for Transportation Studies, is taking part in one, led by Missouri S&T’s Kamal Khayat. Their team of researchers are pioneering creation of portland cement-free binders that are not only more sustainable and efficient, but also stronger, more durable and longer-lasting than traditional portland cement binders. This project also serves as a co-investment for the newly created Missouri Center for Transportation Innovation, a UM System initiative that will support transportation research and development needs of Missouri Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.

Jianli Pan, an assistant professor of computer science, is among a team of researchers, led by Missouri S&T’s Mehdi Ferdowsi, working to construct the Electrified Transportation Distribution System Laboratory, which will be used to research, demonstrate and test new devices and systems for electrified transportation, including light rail, electric ships, renewable energy systems and electric vehicle charging stations.

The UM System’s investment supports its vision to advance opportunities for success and well-being for Missouri, the nation and the world through transformative teaching, research, innovation, engagement and inclusion. Choi has identified research as a key investment area along with areas such as affordability. Growing the research enterprise helps to attract research dollars, distinguished faculty members and students, many of whom engage in research as undergraduates.

“These projects will help address grand challenges facing our world, foster collaboration systemwide and provide instruments and facilities to enhance faculty research,” said Mark McIntosh, UM System vice president for research and economic development and MU vice chancellor for research and economic development. “I am proud of the investments we are making in research to provide meaningful outcomes. I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish together.”


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