FY2020 CoRE Projects

In FY2020, ten CoRE teams with members representing 46 UNH faculty and staff from across the university, as well as 13 external partners, were awarded funding.

Creating New Centers provides funding over two years (matched 1:1 by non-OSVPR funds) to establish new, interdisciplinary centers with research programs that have strong potential for significant future external funding support.

Center for Acoustic Research and Education (CARE)

Leads: Jennifer Miksis-Olds, Anthony Lyons, and Daniel Howard

Abstract: Sound is a sensory mode that shapes our everyday lives.  It provides a sense of geographical, perceptual and emotional sense of place.  Acoustics is the branch of physics concerned with the properties of sound.  The science of acoustics spreads across many facets of human society—music, medicine, architecture, industrial production, warfare and environment.  Applied uses of acoustics are playing an important role in addressing many of the societal challenges our nation faces.  Acoustics has proven to be a valuable tool for monitoring and assessing impacts related to national security concerns, food security, energy, environment, and health.  Acoustics is the only practical underwater sensing modality, and on land and in air, has become directly linked to a variety of applications in environmental acoustics.  


Pilot Research Projects seed-funds collaborative research projects for one year with strong potential to attract future funding from external sources and/or with outstanding commercial potential.

A Novel Robotic System for Home-based Care for Individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease

Leads: Momotaz Begum and Sajay Arthanat

Abstract: An interdisciplinary team of researchers headed by Dr. Momotaz Begum (Computer Science) and Sajay Arthanat (Occupational Therapy) at UNH is developing a prototype of an advanced social assistive robot for care of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease in their home. The robot will be linked with commercially available home automation devices to monitor and assist the care recipient with health management, daily activities and home safety. The caregiver can receive real-time information on the status of the care recipient and remotely activate the robot. The CoRE Pilot Research Partnership will support the team to pilot test the robot with family caregivers to advance its development. Our goal is to design the robot in a way that allows a caregiver to scale and program its capabilities in accordance to the disease stage and needs of the care recipient.

Universal Protein Sensor Platform

Leads: Jeffrey Halpern and Sherine Elsawa

Abstract: Protein sensors are common in the biomedical and biosensing community. One common example are pregnancy lateral flow assays; however, lateral flow assays are predesigned for specific protein sensing in complex media providing a clear colorimetric output. Further, lateral flow assays cannot be universally applied to all biosensor applications as many protein markers are in low concentrations, and lateral flow assays are single use, unidirectional sensors. Our overarching research goal of this grant is to develop a point-of-care protein sensor that can electrochemically quantify protein analytes bidirectionally (increase and decrease of concentrations). We intend on creating preliminary data towards an NIH grant by sensing IL-6 and GFP. Our central hypothesis of this grant is that when the protein binds with the designed ELP fusion proteins, the binding event will elicit an elongation or collapse response, resulting in a measurable electrochemical signal. The final product will be more widely applied to additional proteins, be able to sense proteins bidirectionally in real time, and be designed for clinical use in a doctor’s office. 

Exploring the Impact of Mind-wandering during Driving

Leads: Caitlin Mills and Andrew Kun

Abstract: Mind-wandering is a ubiquitous experience while driving; yet it has been consistently linked to poor driving performance and crashes. Despite these impacts to safety, very little progress has been made with respect to understanding and responding to mind-wandering behind the wheel. We argue that advances may be thwarted by the common assumption that all off-tasks thoughts (e.g., daydreaming, ruminating, planning) should be grouped together as the same type of mind-wandering. Our interdisciplinary research aims to address this issue by first assessing how often different types of off-task thoughts arise during driving as well as their physiological and behavioral correlates. Once we have a better understanding of how particular types of mind-wandering influence driving performance, we will leverage this information to build machine learning detectors of the different types of off-task thoughts. Ultimately, our goal is to implement these predictive models into an intelligent driving system that can automatically interrupt harmful patterns of thought to improve road safety.

HEALSS (Health of Syringe Service Participants)

Lead: Kerry Nolte

Abstract: The HEALSS Study (Health of Syringe Service Participants) seeks to assess the health needs of participants in New Hampshire’s (NH) Syringe Service Programs (SSPs). NH is burdened by the third highest rate of death from opioid overdose in the country. The serious risks associated with injecting drugs, including overdoses and infections (e.g. endocarditis and abscesses), have put an enormous burden on NH hospitals. SSPs seek to engage people who inject drugs (PWID) by ‘meeting them where they are at’ and support individuals in achieving their personal goals to improve their health and safety. These goals include preventing overdose, preventing infection, engaging in substance use treatment or health care, and connecting to other community services (e.g. housing, social service). Although the successes of SSPs are clear, it is unclear what unmet health and healthcare needs PWID in NH are experiencing. The HEALSS study allows NHHRC to implement a data tracking system and utilize the platform to administer a survey to 200 SSP participants to assess health needs and healthcare experiences at four sites across New Hampshire. Visit data for SSP participants are coded under a unique identifier allowing surveys to be correlated with the SSP services received by the participant. This unique feature allows for review of program offerings and alignment with client need for confidentiality. The survey will seek to 1. characterize the health service needs of SSP participants in NH and 2. examine factors that enable or constrain healthcare engagement of SSP participants. This new collaboration strengthens the experience of NH SSPs with research and engages a team approach to solving the critical issue of substance use in the state. 

Re-wilded Microbiomes

Leads: Anissa Poleatewich, Cheryl Andam, and Jessica Ernakovich

Abstract: Microbes play a critical role in plant health and there is enormous potential to improve the sustainability of our agricultural production systems by actively managing for microbiome health and function. We propose to use re-wilded orchards—abandoned orchards that have transformed into a wild state—as a model to study the effects of agroecosystem management on microbiomes and their function as modulators of plant stress. New England is host to many abandoned orchards ranging from one to twenty years unmanaged, making New Hampshire an ideal place to conduct this research. The specific goal for this CoRE project is to establish a new collaborative partnership between three unique, yet complementary, early-career researchers in the area of agricultural microbiomes. Our short-term goal is to collect preliminary data to strengthen a proposal to the USDA-AFRI. Our longer-term goal is to use the re-wilded study system to ask questions about microbial evolution and microbiome assembly as it relates to ecosystem health and plant tolerance to biotic and abiotic stress. In this project, samples collected from abandoned and managed orchards in 2018 will be used to collect data on the effect of orchard management on (1) soil properties and microbial community composition, (2) genetic structure of orchard microbial communities, and (3) genetic structure of a single microbial species. Knowledge gained in this project will further our understanding how plants benefit from their resident microbial communities, and provide insights into managing microbial communities alongside plants, pests and pathogens. This would move producers toward more sustainable, productive, and economically viable plant production systems.

Biologically-Derived 3D Hydrogel Charge Storage Device

Leads: Young Jo Kim and Kyung Jae Jeong

Abstract: Batteries are the critical component for powering biomedical electronics devices such as pacemakers, cochlear implants, or biosensors. Conventional batteries with solid and rigid form factor have been used as a power source. There are many technical challenges with conventional batteries that need to be addressed, including the unmatched mechanical properties with soft tissues and the potential risks of the battery components. This research aims to synthesize biodegradable power sources that are soft and squishy. Prototype devices will be made of the composite of eumelanin pigments, metallic nanowire, and gelatin hydrogels. Eumelanins are a broad class of biopigments that can be found in a variety of living organisms. It has been known that eumelanins can be used as an active material to store charges in a hydrated condition. Naturally occurring gelatin hydrogel will work as a soft platform that shows a similar range of mechanical properties as tissues. A 3D-interconnected network of eumelanin assembly will be achieved by encapsulating melanin particles within a porous gelatin hydrogel. In addition, electronic conductivity of the assembly will be enhanced by the inclusion of metallic nanowires within the hydrogel-eumelanin construct with the intention to increase the battery capacities.


Interdisciplinary Working Groups support groups of faculty for one year to convene around research topic areas to build awareness and relationships across disciplines, allow for cross-fertilization of ideas, identify potential collaborative research opportunities, and provide a venue for finding partners.

The C-WRET Initiative for Writing Research, Engagement, and Teaching

Leads: Christina Ortmeier-Hooper and Lisa MacFarlane

Abstract: For over four decades, the University of New Hampshire (UNH) has profoundly shaped the fields of secondary-level writing studies, writing teacher education, and college composition. UNH scholars and graduate students continue to lead in these fields, but we recognize that in recent years that expertise has become increasingly internally disconnected and siloed. This IWG is working to develop a strategic plan for a Center for Writing Research, Engagement, and Teaching (C- WRET), which would aim to purposefully and equitably bring university and school faculty together to build local knowledge about student writers and college transitions; develop interdisciplinary and cross-institutional relationships that would enhance research; promote teacher engagement programs around student writing and the teaching of writing, and further opportunities to benefit the literacy/writing achievement of NH students and schools. Through such action, the proposed C-WRET initiative would expand UNH's contributions to national conversations on writing studies, literacy, equity, and college-readiness. 

Interdisciplinary Working Group on Marine Genomics in the Gulf of Maine

Leads: David Plachetzki and Bonnie Brown

Abstract: UNH has extensive expertise in both genomics and marine ecology, yet few research efforts effectively incorporate tools from both disciplines that are directed at Gulf of Maine ecosystems. Such efforts are important because the Gulf of Maine is experiencing some of the most rapid changes in ocean temperature on the planet and few research efforts are in place to monitor the changes in ecosystem structure and function that are accompanying this change. Such an understanding is essential for predicting changes in the health of our local marine ecosystems and the potential impact of such changes on economically vital fisheries and aquaculture industries. The purpose of this Interdisciplinary Working Group is to foster novel interdisciplinary collaborations in the area of environmental genomics as applied to marine ecosystems in the Gulf of Maine. New connections among UNH researchers representing several different colleges and research disciplines will help foster different perspectives and new insights that will synergistically lead to large scale, multi-PI, funding efforts aimed at expanding and deepening our understanding of our local marine environments using a suite of genomic techniques. 

UNH Net-Zero Emissions: Connecting Research to Practice

Leads: Cameron Wake and Jennifer Andrews

Abstract: The University of New Hampshire has now committed to reducing carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050. Net-zero emissions (NZE) requires that UNH significantly reduce fossil fuel use for energy and enhance carbon sequestration in our soils and forests. Our goal is to develop a collaborative and engaged research effort focused on helping UNH achieve this ambitious net zero carbon emissions goal. We plan to accomplish this by (1) embracing a convergent research approach that more effectively and more completely integrates faculty, students, and staff into a truly collaborative and co-produced research effort; (2) fully integrating this research efforts into the needs of institutional structures such at the Energy Task Force, Ecosystem Task Force, Transportation Policy Committee, and undergraduate and graduate courses; and (3) seeking external funding to support different components of the research effort. The expected outcome by the summer of 2020 is for the NZE Interdisciplinary Working Group (faculty, staff and students) to have accomplished four objectives: (1) developed a broad research agenda related to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from UNH that is connected to broader social, political, and technical efforts across the region; (2) connected the power of UNH research with the needs of the Energy Task Force, Ecosystem Task Force, Transportation Policy Committee; (3) created the expectation and opportunity for students in classes to be engaged in this broad research effort; and (4) identified external funding opportunities for which to submit proposals in the 2020-21 AY to support the NXE research agenda.