The Expanding Horizons Initiative (EHI) has five main goals:

  1. To elevate the College’s national and international reputation and stature.
  2. To strengthen the College’s research enterprise by increasing external funding, scholarly productivity, and creative activity.
  3. To support the development of teaching innovations, with an emphasis on interdisciplinary approaches, that can lead to enhanced learning outcomes.
  4. To encourage our faculty to initiate research, scholarship and creative endeavors that align with the pathways of the university’s Think Big strategic plan: igniting interdisciplinarity; integrating humanity and technology; achieving social impact; and shaping the Agora.
  5. To create opportunities for students at all levels in the College to be involved in or benefit from the research, scholarship, and creative endeavors of our faculty.

Each year, the EHI will pursue these goals by announcing funding opportunities in a variety of categories: (1) Interdisciplinary Grants, (2) Disciplinary Grants, (3) Social and Racial Justice Grants, (4) Experimental Humanities, (5) W.P. Jones, (6) Morrell Heald Grant for Curricular Innovation, (7) Teaching Innovation Grants, and (8) Grant, Manuscript or Performance Pre-Review Fund, (9) Finish Line Fund.

Original Expanding Horizons Initiative Announcement

Faculty and Student Research

  • Interdisciplinary Grants
  • Disciplinary Grants
  • Social and Racial Justice Grants
  • Experimental Humanities Grants

Curricular Innovation

  • The Morrell Heald Endowed Fund for Curricular Innovation
  • Teaching Innovation Grants

Faculty Development

  • Grant, Manuscript or Performance Pre-Review Fund
  • Finish Line Fund

The 2023 EHI awardees

Grants to Support Faculty and Student Research and Scholarship

Interdisciplinary Grants

Next-Generation Gold Nanoparticle Cancer Therapeutics

This is a large interdisciplinary project that involves a nanoparticle chemistry team (PI Burda, graduate student Zoey Lockwood), an expert in molecular drug design (Co-PI Jirousek, undergraduate student Wendy Zhou), and collaborative support in Cancer Imaging and Radiology (Co-PI Basilion). This proposal will bring the strength of three internationally known experts together to explore a novel nanotechnology platform for targeted cancer therapy of specifically metastatic cancers. Nanoparticle-based phototherapy is a promising alternative when compared to current therapies to treat metastatic cancer tissue. To enhance this alternative treatment, a conjugate of AuNPs, carboxylated ICG, and a cathepsin inhibitor will be synthesized to selectively induce ROS and heat production at cancerous tissues. The synthesis of ICG with different linkers will enable a plethora of reactions that the prepared ICG-derivatives can undergo, including PDT and PTT. Once a targeted ROS-triggered prodrug is synthesized and characterized, its release by initial ROS will permit subsequent targeted phototherapy.

Atomically Thin 2D Semiconductor Transistors with Electrochemistry Enabled Contacts and Interconnects

In the proposed EHI INT-L project, Prof. Xuan Gao and Prof. Rohan Akolkar will form an interdisciplinary team leveraging their expertise in nanoscale semiconductor device fabrication/characterization (Gao) and electrochemistry, materials chemistry (Akolkar), to explore and develop an innovative electrochemical approach to address the challenge of contact and interconnect formation in atomically thin 2D semiconductor electronics. Recently, Prof. Gao’s lab has pioneered new 2D semiconductor InSe
for high performance transistors and Prof. Akolkar’s lab has been developing a novel electrochemical atomic layer deposition (e-ALD) process for the deposition of metal (e.g. Cu) thin films. In this pilot project, instead of conventional vacuum evaporation of metal contacts, Gao will work with Akolkar to develop e-ALD of metallic contacts and interconnects for 2D semiconductors with near atomic precision, an attribute not achievable in virtually any state-of-the-art semiconductor device processing technologies.

Fluorescent Ophthalmic Viscosurgical Devices for Cataract Surgery

Cataracts are the most common cause of blindness and visual impairment due to genetic and environmental factors. The lens proteins degrade over time and aggregate within the lens, causing cataracts. These aggregates render the lens cloudy, block the entry of light, and affect vision. NIH National Eye Institute (NEI) suggests that, regardless of the type of cataracts one may have, the current treatment is always surgery. The surgical procedure involves opening small incision on the cornea, removing the cloudy lens (i.e., cataracts) form the capsular bag, and inserting an intraocular lens (IOL) implant inside the empty capsular bag in the presence of viscoelastic materials, also known as ophthalmic viscosurgical devices (OVDs). These viscoelastics under conditions of turbulence, scatter and tend to remain in the eye within the corneal concavity. Higher outflow resistance such as large particles clogging the eye drainage system causes sharp increases in intraocular pressure (IOP). These IOP spikes can damage the optic nerve connecting the eye to the brain due to high eye pressure and result in vision loss and blindness. Hence, these viscoelastics should be fully aspirated from the eye to prevent post-surgical complications (e.g., IOP spikes, myopic shifts). Commercial viscoelastic materials used in ocular surgeries are clear and colorless, thus are extremely difficult to remove from the eye at the end of the surgery. Our goal is to design and synthesize optically clear but fluorescent viscoelastics and study their rheological and diffusion properties for use in ocular applications, specifically for cataract surgery.

Miocene: of, relating to, or being an epoch of the Tertiary between the Pliocene and the Oligocene or the corresponding series of rocks

Material Culture, Authenticity, and Extended Reality: Integrating HoloLens into the Teaching and Study of Embodied Religion

The research project and resulting course and co-authored book builds on a growing interest of the PI and co-PI in the interdisciplinary study of embodied religion and the impact and potential of extended reality technologies. The work will facilitate both the PI and co-PI’s promotion to full professor at CWRU. At the same time, our project’s goals align closely with many aspects of the Think Big strategic plan. We seek to ignite interdisciplinarity (Pathway 1) through collaboration of faculty from two CAS departments, as well as faculty and staff from the Interactive Commons, students from the College and CSE, and international colleagues at the American Excavations Samothrace (Greece). In showing how extended reality technologies shape how humans produce knowledge and construct worlds, our project contributes to the central objectives of Pathway 2. Finally, the project’s analysis of how replicative material technologies have created and sustained structures of power that privilege certain groups and viewpoints over others–while engaging students to democratize these processes–addresses the aims of Pathway 3. We envision this project informing the decision-making processes behind CWRU’s drive to bring XR into all its classrooms as a means to enhance student learning, equity, and diversity.

Development Of A New Device For Nanoparticle-Cured Sustainable Cementitious Materials

To address the unsolved issues on the relationship between the mechanical and physical properties and curing temperature and protocol, we propose to study an AAM with the possibility of increasing internally the temperature of the material during the initial curing phase or at any desired time. To this end, the PIs will investigate the addition of magnetic nanoparticle (MNP) inclusions to the mix to increase the temperature. The MNP-AAM is expected to reach high curing temperatures at low nanoparticle loading concentrations using an external electromagnetic field (EMF) excitation source in the radio frequency (RF) range.

Plant transformation using nucleic acid nanoparticles

Plant biology research and agricultural advancements depend heavily on the ability to control plant properties, through manipulation of the expression of genes (either endogenous or exogenous) which are present in their cells. A technique known as plant transformation allows the introduction of foreign genes into plant cells for predicted production of a desired protein within the overall plants. The overarching purpose of this interdisciplinary EHI proposal is to develop a new plant transformation platform based on gene-encoded DNA NPs and test their transformation efficacy without the need for other transformation agents.

Development of Photosensitizers for the Treatment of Cancer Cells Absorbing Two Photons in the Near Infrared

This EHI proposal builds upon the successes of the Crespo Group in developing organic PSs based on the thionation of DNA and RNA derivatives, and ventures into a new interdisciplinary area for the development of DNA/RNA derivatives absorbing two photons in the NIR for PDT and phototheranostics applications. The simultaneous absorption of two photons to excite PSs with NIR radiation is a very attractive strategy in PDT because it offers at least two benefits over direct, one-photon absorption: (1) deeper tissue penetration and (2) enhanced spatial selectivity. The use of femtosecond lasers pulses of low energy in the NIR is also highly desirable because it minimizes thermal side effects. An added advantage of using TPA arises from the quadratic dependence of the efficiency of such a process on the intensity of the incident light, which restricts the photodynamic effect to a small volume around the focal point. Such spatial selectivity is important for the treatment of tumors in PDT because it minimizes damage to adjacent healthy cells.

Disciplinary Grants

Parenting Musically Podcast, Seasons 2-3

The goal of the podcast is to provide families and caregivers with ideas, inspiration and information on including music in daily life of families. To provide parents, caregivers, teachers, professionals, and community members with knowledge, activities, and connections to help make music a more meaningful part of children’s lives. The podcast is available for free and thus provides an accessible means for translating and transmitting research to the general public.

The Politics of Electricity Systems: Stranded Assets, Market-Making and Private Equity

This new project investigates the politics of a critical part of the energy sector: the electricity system. The core questions revolve around existing coal and nuclear power plants, so-called “stranded assets.”1 Many coal plants have closed. Yet others, along with some nuclear plants, are still in operation thanks to a mix of public subsidies, bankruptcy proceedings and buyouts. What is striking, important and puzzling is that many of the new buyers are private equity firms: asset managers who oversee giant pools of capital invested by pension funds, wealthy individuals and universities.

Developing robust pi-conjugated polymers for flexible electronics

Conjugated polymers (CPs) are organic semiconductors that have been studied for a variety of electronic applications, including organic field effect transistors (FETs), sensors, organic photovoltaics (OPVs), and light emitting diodes (LEDs). Over the past decade, there has been progress understanding how CP chemical structure affects mechanical properties. In particular, the field has made great progress in developing stretchable and low tensile strength CPs for skin-inspired electronics and medicinal applications. However, there is a strong need to develop CPs stretchable and high tensile strength, or tough, for applications such as organic solar cells. Tougher CPs would increase device longevity by limiting crack formation upon bending and enable new applications such as wearable electronics. This project aims to develop tough CPs, ideally with tensile strength greater than 10 MPa and elastic range greater than 50%.

Combating Health Misinformation affecting Black Americans

This study seeks to contribute to combating impacts of misinformation on healthcare and developing then implementing an innovative technology arising from transfer of this study’s findings that will support spread and uptake of accurate health information for Black Americans. It aims to identify, understand, and develop resources to combat misinformation that is likely to exacerbate existing health disparities affecting Black Americans. It seeks to estimate impacts of mis- and disinformation on trust and mistrust in health care and public health among Black Americans. The proposed study will administer a national survey of Black Americans that will assess impacts of misinformation, identify sources of misinformation, including upstream factors, and identify potential factors useful to developing and implementing an intervention, tentatively a smartphone application, that can overcome misinformation. This smartphone application will be designed to counter misinformation about healthcare for Black Americans. We will employ random control trials to assess causal impact of the application on reducing impacts of misinformation around healthcare.

Finish Line Fund

Comparative Analysis of 84 Chloroplast Genomes of Tylosema Esculentum

Worlds of Byzantium INDEX

Index and Photographs for “A Family Guidebook to Parenting Musically”

DESTINOS ERRANTES Final Manuscript Preparation for Publication

Family Setting Manuscript for Publication

The American House Poem, 1945-2021


Article processing charges for PLoS Biology journal


Grant, Manuscript, & Performance Pre-Review Fund (PRE)

Becoming Circumpolar: American Foreign Relations in the Arctic

External reviewer for “A Family Guidebook for Parenting Musically”

Grants to Support Curricular Innovation

The Morrell Heald Endowed Fund for Curricular Innovation

The Copernican Revolution

The goals of the course are: a) To explore the scientific origins and
implications of the Copernican Revolution; b) To demonstrate that past
science can only be understood by considering scientific ideas in their
historical and cultural context; c) To highlight the history of science as a
discipline, and the ways that the meaning and goals of science have
changed over time; and d) To reach students across multiple disciplines in
both the humanities and the sciences.

Teaching Innovation Grants

Genome sequence analysis of Azotobacter phages in BIOL224L

The course explores the story (at once cosmological/astronomical and philosophical/social) of the displacement of the earth from the center of the cosmos in favor of its motion around the sun. It integrates the sciences and the humanities both in its subject matter and its pedagogical methods and approaches. It partners with CWRU’s think[box] and with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History to achieve these goals, and aligns with both Pathway 1 (Igniting interdisciplinarity) and Pathway 2 (Integrating humanity and technology) of the Think Big strategic plan.This project aligns well with the CWRU’s Think Big Initiative 4: Shaping the Agora. Specifically, this project supports research activities in a CURE lab class. CURE classes are associated with positive student outcomes including increased retention. The biology department plans to convert all introductory biology labs into CURE courses and so this project will also help us develop content and work through problems as we scale these classes up. Additionally, this project will provide pedagogical training to graduate and undergraduate teaching assistants, and will train undergraduate students who will serve as UTAs for these courses in subsequent years.

The EHI Grant, Manuscript or Performance Pre-Review Fund is accepting submissions on a rolling basis. The fund will pay an honorarium to an expert reviewer to provide timely, constructive, and comprehensive feedback on a soon-to-be submitted grant/fellowship application, peer-reviewed manuscript/book, creative work or performance.