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Investing in Academic Excellence

Updated June 8, 2022

The UCF Strategic Investment Program invests in core academic activities to support President Alexander N. Cartwright’s vision that UCF will become a “University for the Future” as a top public institution and the world’s leading public metropolitan research university. The investments align with areas of strategic emphasis identified by UCF’s strategic plan as approved by its Board of Trustees.

This initiative will award up to $50 million in 2021-22 to advance UCF’s academic excellence, student success and impact. The funds are a combination of $30 million in central funds and up to $20 million in matches from colleges and units. The effort results from a new strategic budgeting approach by Cartwright after he became president in 2020, reallocating some funds to give UCF a new avenue for enhancing academics and student success.

The program sought faculty and staff proposals across three fund categories: Academic Excellence, Jump Start and Student Success. Awarded projects in each category are listed below.

Jump Start Fund

The Jump Start Fund provides one-time non-recurring funding to advance initiatives and projects that will contribute to UCF becoming the world’s leading public metropolitan research university. Below is the listing of awarded proposals under the Jump Start Fund.

Awarded Jump Start Fund

Submitter

David Reed, Assistant Professor of Acting and Directing, School of Performing Arts, College of Arts and Humanities

Amount Awarded (non-recurring)

$56,442

Project Summary

The money will be used to help students stay competitive as they enter the world of performing arts by helping them prepare audition material using current technology. UCF has been unable to answer an industrywide shift toward digital audition materials, demo reels and scene work, largely due to the lack of high-quality equipment. The funds will be used to create and store three mobile professional studios that would allow students to film, edit and musically underscore audition material. The technology will allow all students to utilize professional grade equipment, elevating the quality of filmed material, providing relevant career preparation and creating an equitable opportunity for each student. Additional materials will also enhance the filming process for the actors. These include the procurement of a film-appropriate aluminum armory to supplement current UCF training, and foundational scenic training material, including film-appropriate and heavy-duty aluminum seating. This equipment is intended to provide students with industry-specific training materials and to elevate the aesthetic of the filmed material. Learning to use these tools will not only prepare students for the industry, but it will also make them more competitive in the job market.

Collaborators

  • School of Performing Arts

Matching Funds

Submitter

Paul Gazzillo, Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science, College of Engineering and Computer Science

Amount Awarded (non-recurring)

$100,000

Project Summary

Attacks on water treatment plants, the national pipeline and government and private businesses are increasingly common today, posing a threat to individuals and to national security. UCF has the expertise to tackle these threats with faculty in various colleges and within the Cyber Security and Privacy Cluster. UCF is also home to award-winning student teams focused on keeping our networks safe. But to truly innovate solutions to the constantly emerging threats, UCF needs a new kind of physical space. The award money will be used to renovate an existing computer lab into a first-of-its-kind space at UCF that will support the interdisciplinary approach needed for advanced solutions. It will have:

  • a sensory suite for comprehensive and real-time human state estimation, which will include eye-tracking,

  • physiological monitoring, and other biometric devices needed for cognitive and behavioral research,

  • cyber-analytics hardware and software platforms, used by cyber-security practitioners and for training cyber-defense professionals, and

  • computational resources for data analytics and real-time data collection from the sensory measurement equipment and cyber-defense platforms.

    The outcome is expected to translate into more research funding for UCF, a better prepared workforce and holistic solutions for problems that could potentially cripple our national economy and security.

Collaborators

  • Mary Jean Amon
  • Gary T. Leavens
  • Yao Li
  • David Mohaisen
  • Yan Solihin
  • Liqiang Wang
  • Changchun Zou
  • College of Engineering and Computer Science
  • Department of Computer Science

Matching Funds

$50,000

Submitter

David Mohaisen, Associate Professor, Department of Computer Science, College of Engineering and Computer Science

Amount Awarded (non-recurring)

$140,000

Project Summary

Already a leader in cyber security and privacy research and education, this project will launch a new online Master of Science in Cybersecurity and Privacy (MSCP) at UCF to meet the exceedingly growing demands. The main goal of this proposal is to aid in the development of high-quality online course content that would not be possible with the currently available resources. With the rise in need for cybersecurity experts, this program is expected to deliver workforce-ready graduates that will not only work in this field, but also lead it.

Collaborators

  • Mary Jean Amon
  • Paul Gazillo
  • Kien Hua
  • Yao Li
  • Gary Leavens
  • Yan Solihin
  • Fan Yao
  • Murat Yuskel
  • Cliff Zou

Matching Funds

$35,000

Submitter

Reza Abdolvand, Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, College of Engineering and Computer Science

Amount Awarded (non-recurring)

$430,000

Project Summary

The money will be used to purchase a state-of-the-art Direct-Write Photolithography System for UCF. The system is expected to modernize on-campus micro-nanofabrication facilities, which enable a variety of research activities with a focus on understanding and developing micro and nano-devices and circuits necessary for various industry applications. The system eliminates the entire time-consuming and expensive photomask making process and enables instant modification of designs. Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Stanford University, and the University of California at Berkeley have recently purchased similar systems. At least 20 faculty members across the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the College of Optics and Photonics and College of Sciences are expected to use the new system to advance their research on technologies such as next-generation electronics, micro-sensors and optical microsystems. The investment is expected to help propel innovation and improve the university’s national standing in wide areas of research that depend on micro-fabrication capabilities.

Collaborators

  • Parag Banerjee
  • Hyoung Jin Cho
  • Kevin Coffey
  • Kaitlyn Crawford
  • Kris Davis
  • Xun Gong
  • Tengfei Jiang
  • Swaminathan Rajaraman
  • Tania Roy
  • Kalapathy Sundaram
  • Sasan Fathpour
  • Peter Delfyett
  • Patrick LiKamWa
  • Kyle Renshaw
  • Robert Peal
  • Enrique del Barco
  • Debashis Chanda
  • Arkadiy Lyakh
  • Masahiro Ishigami

Matching Funds

$105,000

Submitter

Parag Banerjee, Associate Professor, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, College of Engineering and Computer Science

Amount Awarded (non-recurring)

$50,000

Project Summary

The money will be used to build a state-of-the-art, fully custom atomic layer deposition system for coating powders that will eventually allow researchers to work with larger batches of powder while maintaining atomic-scale precision. Precision is a key priority identified by faculty members involved in internationally recognized work. Five ALD (atomic layer deposition?) systems are already in use at UCF, each an irreplaceable part of the material synthesis process (particularly at a nanoscale). The newly funded system will be especially significant to the research conducted by the interdepartmental REACT cluster (which optimizes materials for use in renewable energy production) and the Optical Materials Laboratory. In recognition of its interdisciplinary potential, three colleges and one department (the College of Engineering and Computer Science, College of Sciences, College of Optics and Photonics, and Department of Materials Science and Engineering) have joined to provide $20,000 in matching funds.

Collaborators

  • Kathleen Richardson
  • Titel Jurca

Matching Funds

$20,000

Submitter

Kristopher Davis, Assistant Professor, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, College of Engineering and Computer Science

Amount Awarded (non-recurring)

$205,570

Project Summary

The requested funds will buy a particle analyzer system and a thermography system for use in observing and optimizing nanoparticles. Faculty members plan to apply the equipment to a wide range of research areas — most notably solar energy cell development and virology. In solar energy, there is a need for nanomaterial fabrication to improve the efficiency of cells’ electrical contacts, thus eliminating the price constraints currently limiting the technology’s spread. In medical research, engineered nanoparticles have shown a unique capability to tackle the complex mechanical properties of viruses like SARS-CoV-2. The professors who crafted this proposal each bring strong interdisciplinary track records to the table; between them, they have several multi-year projects with the Department of Energy and National Institute of Health, collaborations with many industrial partners and multiple National Science Foundation awards. Upon receipt, this funding will immediately increase UCF’s ability to compete for even more significant grants and will facilitate investigation in areas like electronics, dermatology and household product formulation—allowing UCF to broaden its research horizons as it furthers its recognized strengths in virology and solar energy.

Collaborators

  • Kristopher Davis
  • Ranganathan Kumar
  • Aravinda Kar
  • Manish Gupta
  • Jayan Thomas
  • Samik Bhattacharya

Matching Funds

$58,000

Submitter

Kareem Ahmed, Associate Professor, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, College of Engineering and Computer Science

Amount Awarded (non-recurring)

$500,000

Project Summary

UCF is home to the world-class Propulsion and Energy Research Lab, which has been producing new discoveries and advancements that, for example, promise to make travel from New York to London in 5 minutes. The engine test facility is used by many researchers at UCF from College of Engineering, College of Sciences and others. The high-level research has broad impact in hypersonics, space propulsion and energy power generation, and extends to supernova science. However, the experimentation is outdoors, limiting the use of the lab’s ultra-fast lasers. The investment will cover the outdoor space and upgrade some of the equipment. This investment should result in propelling research forward. The proposal team estimates the remodel should make UCF more competitive for at least $3.5 million worth of research grants from federal agencies alone.

Collaborators

  • Center for Advanced Turbines and Energy Research (CATER)
  • Robert Peele
  • Laurene Tetard
  • Mengyu Xu
  • Stephen Kuebler
  • Martin Richardson
  • Jay Kapat
  • Seetha Raghavan
  • Subith Vasu
  • Xun Gong
  • Richard Blair
  • Georgia Tech University
  • Purdue University
  • Texas A&M University
  • University of Michigan
  • Embry Riddle Aeronautical University
  • German Aerospace Center (DLR), Germany
  • Air Force Research Laboratory
  • Naval Research Laboratory

Matching Funds

$1,300,000

Submitter

Glenn Martin, Research Associate Professor and Lab Director of Interactive Realities Laboratory, School of Modeling Simulation and Training, College of Graduate Studies

Amount Awarded (non-recurring)

$495,085

Project Summary

The money will be used to upgrade access to computational science research on campus. UCF has been using the Stokes high-performance computing cluster for the 15 years, which gives faculty and students capabilities to design, implement and use mathematical models to analyze and solve a variety of scientific problems. The system needs updating to keep up with age and demand. The money will purchase modern equipment that will add 60 nodes to replace aging nodes used now. Stokes supports computational research across UCF with users coming from almost every college. In addition, computational research in various domains is increasing and provides a great opportunity for expanding research while requiring little additional space. Each month, multiple users from multiple lab groups across campus use Stokes for their research.

Collaborators

Matching Funds

$200,000

Submitter

Griffith Parks, Associate Dean for Research and Director, Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, College of Medicine

Amount Awarded (non-recurring)

$300,000

Project Summary

The money will be used to purchase a High Imaging Platform for UCF researchers in the biomedical sciences. The platform will provide researchers with an ultra-high resolution imaging system, which is intended to help researchers advance the understanding of cancer, neuroscience and infectious diseases. The need for the platform is essential because biomedical sciences research is heavily dependent on the use of animals as models for human disease. However, a major challenge is the ability to visualize, image, record and study the structure, content and organization of complex tissues. (Maybe use another word for this?) For example, cancer research often involves the need to visualize the growth and characteristics of tumor tissue within the context of surrounding normal tissue, or to visualize the infiltration of immune cells to the tumor site. To be effective, these studies require ultra-high-resolution images and the use of a large number of “markers” on one sample coupled to powerful analysis software. These markers for different cell types are important to distinguish normal tissue from the wide range of types of tumors (e.g., aggressive tumors) and to identify the immune cells in the tumor microenvironment. The platform will allow researchers to conduct this visualization in large quantities and at a faster rate than they can do so with current equipment available at UCF.

Collaborators

  • College of Medicine
  • College of Engineering and Computer Science
  • Nemours Childrens Hospital
  • Biionix Cluster

Matching Funds

$300,000

Submitter

Stephen Eikenberry, Professor, College of Optics and Photonics

Amount Awarded (non-recurring)

$180,000

Project Summary

Two groups of experts at UCF are collaborating under this grant to create a world-class virtual facility focused on atmospheric-sensing technologies. UCF is already known for its expertise in photonics through the College of Optics and Photonics. UCF also has extensive expertise in LIDAR technology thanks to its work at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, which the university manages for the U.S. National Science Foundation. But these experts have their joined forces to study and advance the field of atmosphere sensing, which focuses on the atmosphere around Earth. The atmosphere provides the air needed to breathe while also providing protection against the sun’s radiation and the extremes of space weather. Changes to Earth’s atmosphere, such as temporary disruptions caused by solar flares, for example, can impact the global community and economy. Monitoring the atmosphere, figuring out how to manage it and preparing for changes has local, regional, national and global implications with a direct connection to the human race’s survival. The team will leverage its expertise and work together to make UCF a leader in this critical area of research

Collaborators

  • Rodrigo Amezcua-Correa
  • Jens Lautenbach
  • Adrienne Dove
  • Joe Harrington
  • Scott Branting
  • Josh Colwell
  • Kerri Donaldson-Hannah
  • Yan Fernandez
  • Joseph Kider
  • Sean Pang
  • Noemi Pinilla
  • Mubarak Shah

Matching Funds

$90,000

Submitter

Peter Delfyett, University Distinguished Professor, University Trustee Chair and Pegasus Professor, College of Optics and Photonics

Amount Awarded (non-recurring)

$325,000

Project Summary

The money will be used to build a test bed for sparse aperture array imaging that will serve as a cornerstone of next generation, space-based imaging modalities. The approach aims to exploit the revolution in optical laser technology, positioning UCF to create a system of mini-satellites with optical technology that would allow a viewer to read 10-point font text on a page from 600 miles away, such as reading text on a cell phone from low Earth orbit. If successful, the team expects UCF would be positioned to compete for a variety of big grant proposals and contracts from multiple agencies.

Collaborators

  • Stephen Eikenberry
  • MJ Soileau
  • Rodrigo Amezcua Correa
  • Noemi Pinilla-Alonso
  • Yan Fernandez

Matching Funds

$50,000

Submitter

Andres Campiglia, Professor, Department of Chemistry, College of Sciences

Amount Awarded (non-recurring)

$350,000

Project Summary

The funds will be used to purchase a state-of-the-art liquid chromatography mass spectrometer for departmental use. In addition to improving the research capabilities of the chemistry faculty, the new instrument will enhance interdisciplinary interactions across the college and throughout campus with research faculty in need of chemical analysis. Immediate impact is expected on a variety of research areas within the Chemistry Department. These include environmental contamination, atmospheric chemistry, green approaches to biodiesel production, development of new catalysts for precise selectivity control, synthesis of plasmonic-catalytic hybrid nanomaterials for biomedical sensing, discovery of bacterial compounds with antibiotic activity, diagnostics of disease biomarkers and new and better approaches for AIDs treatment. Having the new equipment will enhance UCF competitiveness in securing federal funding and provide an excellent opportunity to train students with state-of-the-art instrumentation. By hiring a technician with expertise in mass spectrometry, the Chemistry Department will provide an $85,150 match.

Collaborators

  • Department of Chemistry
  • Melanie Beazley
  • Denisia Popolan-Vaida
  • Titel Jurca
  • Vasileios Anagnostopoulos
  • Kangsang Lee
  • Gang Chen
  • Jonathan Caranto
  • Karin Chumbimuni-Torres
  • Xiaohu Xia
  • Michael Hampton
  • Dmitry Kolpashchikov
  • Cherie Yestrebsky.

Matching Funds

$85,150

Submitter

Li Fang, Assistant Professor, Department of Physics, College of Sciences

Amount Awarded (non-recurring)

$500,000

Project Summary

Fang is leading a team that will create a new facility at UCF by renovating a clean room laboratory and purchasing the necessary components for secondary light sources and vacuum beam lines. Her proposal was contingent on landing an almost $2 million U.S. National Science Foundation grant for the instrumentation, which she was awarded earlier this month. When complete, UCF will have a one-of-a-kind user facility for attosecond soft X-rays and terahertz. UCF is building a world-class reputation in attosecond science.

Collaborators

  • Michael Chini
  • Zenghu Chang
  • Mihai Vaida
  • Xiaoming Yu
  • Chris Bennett
  • Kerri Donaldson Hanna
  • Adrienne Dove
  • Konstantin Vodopyanov
  • Madhab Neupane
  • M. J. Soileau

Matching Funds

$237,000

Submitter

Robert Bernath, Director, Townes Institute Science Testing Experimentation Facility, Office of Research

Amount Awarded (non-recurring)

$450,000

Project Summary

The strategic investment money allows for expanded capabilities to the user base at the Townes Institute for Science, Technology, and Experimentation (TISTEF) Facility. UCF manages the federal facility, located on the Space Coast at Kennedy Space Center. The added capabilities are expected to benefit UCF researchers, private and public agencies already using the facility and attract new users and open new areas of investigations at UCF in the engineering, optics and other sciences areas. A significant amount of matching funds comes from the generous support of the Naval Research Laboratory, LP Photonics LLC and Booz Allen Hamilton. Upon completion over the next two years, UCF expects to see more grants and contracts for work conducted at TISTEF.

Collaborators

  • Charlene Rusnak, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory
  • Jennifer Riley, Booz Allen Hamilton
  • Henry Everitt, Army CCDC Aviation & Missile Center

Matching Funds

$806,000

Submitter

Shafaq Chaudhry, Assistant Director, Graduate and Research Information Technology, Office of Research

Amount Awarded (non-recurring)

$500,000

Project Summary

The funds will be invested in UCF’s cyberinfrastructure, building up three identified gaps in network support by a) increasing the overall campus network backbone to 100 Gbps; b) increasing our capacity for connection to the collaborative Internet2 research network to 100 Gbps; and c) allowing more labs to access the Advanced Research Computing Center (ARCC). These improvements are expected to enhance UCF’s capabilities across all forms of big-data research, providing the knowledge and connectivity necessary for us to forge our path as a leading public metropolitan research university. The Office of Research will provide a two-year $50,000 match in support of cloud connectivity, and a $20,000 annual match in support of data transfer functionality.

Collaborators

  • Fahad Khan
  • Shafaq Chaudhry
  • Michael Scruggs

Matching Funds

$70,000

Submitter

Research Commons: Cultivating Innovation by Advancing Access to Collaboration Tamara Gabrus, Program Director II, Office of Research

Amount Awarded (non-recurring)

$300,000

Project Summary

Funding will be used to establish the Research Commons Collaboration Hub, a suite with all the resources needed to help faculty with sponsored research proposals. The hub will be in Technology Commons I, providing investigators and their dedicated unit pre-award staff a convenient one-stop connection. The Pre-Award Shared Services (PASS) team will provide oversight to augment the existing pre-award administration that is familiar with the nuances of each college, institute and center on campus. The inviting space, equipped with technology to support the research enterprise, will be dedicated to meeting the needs of our research-intensive, collaborative faculty while simultaneously reducing administrative burden on the faculty’s home unit by decreasing the hours they dedicate to managing their large, interdisciplinary proposal submissions. The hub staffing will also include the existing Research Development team that will be accessible to provide on-demand training in UCF research support systems such as the Pivot funding opportunity database. Once researchers have identified the appropriate funding opportunity and potential on-campus partners, they will find themselves ready to use the Research Commons Collaboration Hub. Office of Research staff from pre-award, contracts, awards management and grants accounting will also host office hours in the space to further aid their faculty and Departmental Research Administration, with the full life cycle of their awards.

Collaborators

  • Elizabeth Klonoff
  • Matthew Hall
  • Jana Jasinski
  • Michael Gerogiopoulos
  • Ann Miller
  • Tamara Gabrus
  • Chad Macuszonok
  • Don Merritt

Matching Funds

$31,000

Submitter

Sudipta Seal, Professor and Chair, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, College of Engineering and Computer Science

Amount Awarded (non-recurring)

$105,000

Project Summary

The money will be used to purchase and augment a Spray Drying instrument and enhance current facilities to serve nanoscale manufacturing research and training needs in Central Florida that are not currently met. Interdisciplinary research is key to solving big challenges, and this facility will reinforce that message by providing tools that can be used across disciplines. The purchase will support research in the areas of engineering, planetary & space science, biomedical engineering and nano/micro-manufacturing. The tools will also augment the education and training of graduate and undergraduate students who already participate in several National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates programs housed at UCF.

Collaborators

  • Julie Brissett
  • Lorenz
  • Patricia McGuiggan, Johns Hopkins University
  • Xinting Yu, University of California, Santa Cruz
  • Daniel Britt
  • Mehdi Razavi
  • Eric Peterson, Texas A&M University

Matching Funds

$48,000

Academic Excellence Fund

The Academic Excellence Fund strategically invests in big ideas and institutional strengths to advance UCF’s impact in becoming the world’s leading public metropolitan research university. Please check back later for more details about research focus areas under the fund.

Awarded Academic Excellence Fund

Submitter

Robertico Croes, Professor, Department of Tourism, Events and Attractions, and Editor of the Rosen Research Review, Rosen College of Hospitality Management

Griffith Parks, Associate Dean for Research, Director, Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, and Professor, College of Medicine

Amount Awarded

Funding: $1.5 million recurring; $3 million non-recurring

Matching Funds

Matching: $525,000 recurring; $4.2 million non-recurring

Colleges Represented

College of Medicine, Rosen College of Hospitality Management, College of Engineering and Computer Science

Project Summary

Pandemics can have devastating consequences for regions where tourism is the economic lifeblood. Take Central Florida, for example, which welcomes more than 72 million tourists each year and has a tourism industry that employs about 460,000 residents. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the vulnerabilities of the tourism industry to sudden health and safety threats, as travel restrictions and consumer hesitancy caused historically low travel rates. It’s estimated the local economy took a $40 billion hit from lower rates of travel.

To help recover from those vulnerabilities and prepare for the potential of another pandemic, a team led by the Rosen College of Hospitality Management, College of Medicine and College of Engineering and Computer Science will develop programs with industry and government partners to help the community’s ongoing response to COVID-19 and prepare for, prevent and respond to the viruses that may initiate the next pandemic. Small to medium-sized businesses that lack the resources of the larger companies are expected to benefit most.

This project will strengthen research in studying, preventing and responding to health and safety threats to travel and tourism. Specifically, the researchers will:

  • establish an Infectious Disease and Travel Health Initiative that unites faculty and staff with common research and community interests, with plans to grow the initiative into a research center that partners with government agencies;
  • hire additional faculty who will apply for and secure research dollars from federal agencies, state economic interest groups and the travel industry to research applicable areas;
  • establish new courses and a Travel & Health track within the Master of Public Health degree program;
  • and partner with industry to build related internship programs and a pipeline of talent to meet workforce needs.

Collaborators

Griffith Parks, Kenneth Alexander, Eric Schrimshaw, Edward Ross, Jane Gibson, Taj Azarian, Alan Fyall, Sudipta Seal, Youcheng Wang, Deborah German, Michael Georgiopoulos

Submitter

Grace Bochenek, Director, School of Modeling, Simulation and Training, College of Graduate Studies

Amount Awarded

Funding: $1 million recurring; $2.5 million non-recurring

Matching Funds

Matching: $1 million recurring; $3.1 million non-recurring

Colleges Represented

College of Engineering and Computer Science, College of Sciences, College of Graduate Studies (School of Modeling Simulation and Training)

Project Summary

As the U.S. aspires to become more innovative and competitive economically, modeling and simulation provide an outstanding way to explore and improve concepts before spending money and time to physically build them. Digitally replicating real-world objects or systems – such as the human heart – to help train doctors or aircraft to help train pilots – offers profound benefits for improving our health, safety and quality of life.

Digital twins could be scaled to entail entire cities or large transportation or health care systems with constantly updated data and conditions, allowing designers, builders and architects to test and prove their ideas and concepts before production. Based in the Central Florida Research Park, the heart of Florida’s modeling and simulation hub, a team led by Grace Bochenek, director of the School of Modeling, Simulation and Training, is uniquely positioned to develop a digital twin framework and enabling tools that governments, industry and academia can customize for their needs. Areas of focus will include digital twin applications and tools in behavioral healthcare, smart cities, transportation and defense.

The team includes experts from Engineering and Computer Science, Psychology, Arts and Humanities and strategic community partners. Overall goals include:

  • helping UCF lead the U.S. in developing strategically critical digital twin technology;
  • developing ground rules, protocols, technologies and tools for these new, meta-digital twins;
  • creating a platform with opportunities for large-scale transformative ventures in partnership with industry and government, as well as the ability to attract larger grants and contracts;
  • pursuing the development of multi-disciplinary academic digital twin programs and certificates at the graduate and undergraduate levels to educate the workforce that will be needed in the new digital-twin economy;
  • and optimizing the role of higher education in this emerging innovation landscape to help keep America competitive in key strategic areas of interest.

Collaborators

Carolina Cruz-Neira, Deborah Beidel, Mohamed Abdel-Aty, Roger Azevedo, Michael Georgiopoulos, Maggy Tomova, Liz Klonoff

Submitter

Julie Brisset, Interim Director, Florida Space Institute

Amount Awarded

Funding: $1.5 million recurring; $3 million non-recurring

Matching Funds

Matching: $803,232 recurring; $1.7 million non-recurring

Colleges Represented

College of Engineering and Computer Science, College of Optics and Photonics, College of Sciences, College of Business Administration

Project Summary

UCF is already a leader in space research and seeks to lead NASA missions. Taxpayers and investors prefer to fund projects that have been thoroughly tested before flight, and UCF has lacked the kind of facilities that can do so. But that’s all about to change.

Julie Brisset, a physics researcher and interim director of the Florida Space Institute, is leading a team that will use this Academic Excellence Award to develop space hardware testing and integration capabilities at UCF and the personnel to run it all. Having the right resources will not only attract more funding but will also make it easier for UCF researchers to develop space instruments and lead small satellite missions that can be steppingstones to larger, interplanetary missions.
 
The team includes experts from the College of Optics and Photonics, College of Engineering and Computer Science, College of Business and College of Sciences. Two specialized labs will be created: the Space Photonics Lab hosted by the College of Optics and Photonics and the SPICE Fabrication and Testing Lab at UCF’s Exolith Lab, already known for producing extraterrestrial soil for hundreds of commercial companies and NASA to test their space-bound prototypes. The missions will not only explore the solar system but will also provide new technology and innovations that ultimately improve life on Earth. Among the goals:

  • creating a life-size planetary surface reproduction at the Exolith lab where a variety of spaceflight hardware, ranging from rovers to penetrometer to drones, can be tested in realistic conditions;
  • providing integration and testing support to transform planetary and remote sensing instruments into spaceflight-ready instruments;
  • developing new space education certificates – including Space Electronics and Cyber-Physical Systems, Space Resources and Space Economy – to help meet a booming demand for these technical skills triggered by commercial companies such as Blue Origin and Space X in our area;
  • and providing interdisciplinary opportunities to expand the use of small satellites for remote sensing on Earth, such as cultural heritage monitoring and environmental and human impact assessments.

Collaborators

Stephen Eikenberry, Seetha Raghavan, Reza Abdolvand, Daniel Britt, David Hagan, Michael Georgiopoulos, Maggy Tomova, Paul Jarley

Submitter

Jayanta Kapat, Professor, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and Director, Center for Advanced Turbomachinery and Energy Research, College of Engineering and Computer Science

Zhihua Qu, Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, College of Engineering and Computer Science

Amount Awarded

Funding: $1 million recurring; $5 million non-recurring

Matching Funds

Matching: $686,450 recurring; $6.2 million non-recurring

Colleges Represented

College of Engineering and Computer Science, College of Sciences, Graduate Studies (School of Modeling Simulation and Training), Office of Research (Faculty Cluster Initiative)

Project Summary

Preserving the planet for future generations means investing in strategic sustainability measures and developing new technologies to reduce and eliminate emissions. A team led by Professors Zhihua Qu and Jay Kapat of the College of Engineering and Computer Science aims to make UCF a national leader in zero-emission energy systems and carbon-free economy by building its first zero-emission microgrid at the Research 1 building. The microgrid will supply uninterrupted power to Research 1, even during hurricanes or other extreme conditions. This project combines efforts to develop zero-emissions and resilient distribution grids together with research into hydrogen for aircraft fuel and other industrial uses.

Other goals include:

  • elevating the energy systems research already flourishing at UCF and exploring the rapidly developing fields of energy storage, emission-free power generation and aviation, and decarbonization;
  • pioneering hydrogen-based power generation and distribution and reducing greenhouse gas emissions on UCF’s main campus;
  • implementing a separate research test loop at the microgrid for evaluating and demonstrating new and future devices, such as decarbonization, vehicular and grid technologies;
  • deploying digital twin technology for both the Research I building and its microgrid;
  • making the microgrid a living lab for undergraduate and graduate education and for multidisciplinary curricula;
  • and optimizing zero-emission technologies in power generation and transportation (including aviation, marine and heavy road transportation).

UCF’s team includes experts from UCF’s Center of Resilient, Intelligent and Sustainable Energy Systems (RISES) and Center for Advanced Turbomachinery & Energy Research (CATER) with support from UCF colleges along with private partners who are industry leaders.

Collaborators

Michael Georgiopoulos, Grace Bochenek, Maggy Tomova, Winston Schoenfeld, College of Optics and Photonics, College of Community Innovation and Education, Rosen College of Hospitality Management, Florida Space Institute, Florida Solar Energy Center

Submitter

Mubarak Shah, Professor, Department of Computer Science, and Director, Center for Research in Computer Vision, College of Engineering and Computer Science

Amount Awarded

Funding: $1 million recurring; $3 million non-recurring

Matching Funds

Matching: $2 million recurring; $2.7 million non-recurring

Colleges Represented

College of Engineering and Computer Science, College of Sciences, College of Medicine, College of Optics and Photonics, College of Business Administration, Office of Research (Center for Research & Computer Vision & Faculty Cluster Initiative)

Project Summary

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is transforming the world and everyday lives — from facial recognition on phones to smart home devices to security measures implemented for online banking. By some estimates, the global artificial intelligence market will grow sixteenfold from 2020 to 2028, reaching nearly $1 trillion.

UCF seeks to be a leading AI research and workforce provider in offering a top-quality education in this field for undergraduate and graduate students. An interdisciplinary team led by Mubarak Shah, professor of Computer Science, will pursue groundbreaking technologies to benefit society and strengthen AI research, security and commercialization in Orlando

The team includes experts from Engineering, Medicine, Business and Sciences. It will leverage strengths in AI and computer vision to expand into other core areas, such as robotics, natural language processing, speech recognition and machine learning, and applications. Among the goals are to conduct research to advance future AI industries and to bring together a diverse range of practitioners who will help prepare Florida for the momentous societal challenges and opportunities associated with AI.

Collaborators

Yan Solihin, Nazanin Rahnavard, Gita Sukthankar, Fei Liu, Guifang Li, Mohamed Abdel-Aty, Xin Li, Mitchell Hill, Dexter Hadley, Sevil Sonmez, Michael Georgiopoulos, Deborah German, David Hagan, Maggy Tomova, Paul Jarley, John Weishampel, Winston Schoenfeld, Elizabeth Klonoff

Submitter

Sasan Fathpour, Professor, College of Optics and Photonics

Amount Awarded

Funding: $1 million recurring; $3.3 million non-recurring

Matching Funds

Matching: $250,000 recurring; $1.9 million non-recurring

Colleges Represented

College of Optics and Photonics, College of Engineering and Computer Science, College of Sciences

Project Summary

UCF researchers are investing in next-generation computing hardware that will train our students to be leaders at developing scientific technologies that will make society healthier, protect our environment and power our electronics. The investment comes as the federal government has prioritized sustaining our nation’s position as a global leader in semiconductor innovation.

The team, led by Professor Sasan Fathpour of the College of Optics and Photonics, will invest in an advanced electron-beam lithography system – one of the most advanced tools available for nanotechnology research in the world – among other state-of-the-art equipment. Only a few educational institutions possess this advanced technology. This educational investment will provide hands-on experiences for students, helping to produce a high-tech workforce that is equipped to contribute to advanced semiconductor endeavors in a wide range of fields.

New faculty members associated with these efforts will do groundbreaking research on design, nanofabrication and characterization of next-generation electronic, photonic and quantum devices, circuits and materials.

In addition to the College of Optics and Photonics, the team includes faculty experts from the College of Engineering and Computer Science and College of Sciences. Overall goals include:

  • making UCF one of the nation’s anchor institutions for advanced semiconductor technologies and nanofabrication;
  • providing students – graduate and undergraduate – hands-on experience that will make them highly desirable in a growing national industry;
  • building long-lasting relationships with other public and private research institutions as well as private-sector industrial partners;
  • and attaining major research grants and other funding resources as part of the federal government’s priority to be a global leader in this area.

Collaborators

Patrick LiKamWa, Kyle Renshaw, Reza Abdolvand, Parag Banerjee, Hyoung Jin Cho, Kevin Coffey, Kris Davis, Xun Gong, Tengfei Jiang, Swaminathan Rajaraman, Tania Roy, Kalpathy Sundaram, Robert Peale, Enrique del Barco, Debashis Chanda, Arkadiy Lyakh, Masahiro Ishigami, David Hagan, Michael Georgiopoulos, Maggy Tomova

Student Success Fund

The Student Success Fund invests in proposals to increase the retention, progression, 2- and 4-year graduation rates and career success of UCF students. Please check back later for more details on awarded projects.

Awarded Student Success Fund

Submitter

Ryan Newton, Director, First Year Experience, Division of Student Development and Enrollment Services

Amount Awarded

Funding: $400,000 recurring

Colleges Represented

Division of Student Development and Enrollment Services, Division of Student Learning and Academic Success, UCF Downtown, College of Arts and Humanities, College of Business Administration, College of Community Innovation and Education, College of Engineering and Computer Science, College of Health Professions and Sciences, College of Medicine, College of Nursing, College of Optics and Photonics, Rosen College of Hospitality Management, College of Sciences, College of Undergraduate Studies

Project Summary

The funds will bolster a reimagined First-Year Experience unit, to be renamed New Student and Family Programming. Focused on alignment with student success efforts, the unit will develop an innovative hybrid onboarding experience for new students that will include several tiers of engagement during their first year. These efforts will connect students with key stakeholders across campus so they are equipped with information and resources to help them thrive at UCF.  

Collaborators

Delia Garcia, DeLaine Priest, Kimberly Schneider, Mark Gumble, Pamela Cavanaugh, Chanda Torres, Christopher Dahlstrand, Adrienne Frame, Theodorea Berry, Jan Soto, Kelly Jennings, Kimberly Aslin, Anna Mack, Meena Datta, Peter Wallace, Patricia Farless, Meg Hall, Heather Cohen-Stanley, Tim Donovan, Mariangelly Rente, Rebecca Morales Magsino, Stephen O’Connell

Submitter

DeLaine Priest, Associate Vice Provost for Student Success and Advising, Division of Student Learning and Academic Success  

Amount Awarded

Funding: $800,000 recurring

Colleges Represented

Division of Student Learning and Academic Success, College of Arts and Humanities, College of Business Administration, College of Community Innovation and Education, College of Engineering and Computer Science, College of Health Professions and Sciences, College of Medicine, College of Nursing and College of Sciences

Project Summary

The investment will broaden advising resources for various colleges and improve student-to-advisor ratios by strategically hiring more advisors. The funds will also support aligning advising efforts to resources like Knightbot; build on innovative practices such as weekend and evening advising; and develop training resources and materials.

Collaborators

Teresa Dorman, Delia Garcia

Submitter

Ricardo Zaurin, Associate Lecturer, Department of Civil, Environmental, and Construction Engineering, College of Engineering and Computer Science

Amount Awarded

Funding: $40,000 recurring

Colleges Represented

College of Engineering and Computer Science

Project Summary

The funds will be used to develop Webcourses modules to boost the knowledge needed by the students to complete key engineering courses essential to progressing toward a degree. This initiative will also support assigning at-risk students with student mentors to assist students with classes and navigating other opportunities for enhancing their studies and academic performance.

Collaborators

Sudeshna Pal

Submitter

Melissa Dagley, Executive Director, iSTEM, and Director, EXCEL, Division of Student Learning and Academic Success  

Amount Awarded

Funding: $200,000 recurring

Colleges Represented

Division of Student Learning and Academic Success, College of Engineering and Computer Science, College of Sciences, College of Optics and Photonics, College of Medicine

Project Summary

The funds will support a new program, Transfer-STEM, geared to help transfer students be major ready, enabling them to thrive in STEM courses and stay on track to graduate within two years. The program will offer personalized pre-transfer advising, academic support and access to high-impact practices. T-STEM builds upon the success of EXCEL, which is aimed at increasing student success in STEM during the first two years of college.

Collaborators

Sarah Evans, Kimberly Schneider, Student Academic Resource Center, Experiential Learning, UCF Abroad, College of Engineering and Computer Science, College of Sciences, College of Optics and Photonics, College of Medicine

Amount Awarded

Funding: $1.5 million recurring

Colleges Represented

College of Arts and Humanities, College of Engineering and Computer Science, College of Sciences, College of Health Professions and Sciences

Project Summary

The investment provides recurring funding to hire more faculty and teaching assistants to support additional course offerings that are pivotal to removing barriers to student progression. College requests and course enrollment data helped determine courses with the highest need and biggest return on investment.