FY2023 CoRE Projects

In FY2023, twelve teams representing 59 faculty and staff from across UNH, as well as 18 external partners, were awarded CoRE funding.

Interdisciplinary Working Groups support groups of faculty to convene around research topic areas to build awareness and relationships across disciplines, allow for cross-fertilization of ideas with internal and external partners, and identify and pursue collaborative research and funding opportunities.

Literacy Education Advocacy and Resource Network in NH (LEARN-NH)

Leads: Bethany Silva (Dept. of Education) and Ruth Wharton-McDonald (Dept. of Education)


Abstract: Literacy Education Advocacy and Resource Network in NH (LEARN-NH) will explore the reading instruction resources and demands in the state and develop a strategic plan for collaborative grant pursuits, engaging university faculty and staff, K-12 teachers and reading specialists, and government stakeholders in the process. Ultimately, the group’s goal is to develop long-term, sustainable resources for educators (pre-service and in-service) in order to support the literacy needs of NH’s students. The IWG team will analyze existing trends and resources and develop an integrated model of preparation and support which will be submitted as a larger external grant proposal in the spring of 2023.

Early Childhood Institute Working Group

Lead: Kimberly Nesbitt (Dept. of Human Development and Family Studies)


Abstract: The Early Childhood Institute Working Group aims to create the actionable steps necessary to advance the creation of an Early Childhood Institute for Excellence at UNH. This institute’s mission will be to conduct early childhood research to guide policy and intervention programs, improve professional learning and education for the early childhood care and education workforce, and serve as a partner to the State regarding best practices to support the development of New Hampshire’s children. The Institute will work with UNH, state, and community partners to enact the actionable steps necessary to advance the Institute from a concept to a tangible entity contributing to UNH’s research, education, and service missions.


Pilot Research Partnerships supports collaborative research projects with strong potential to garner future funding from external sources (including industrial support) and/or with outstanding commercial potential.

IC2IC (Integrated Carbon Dioxide Capture and in-situ Conversion)

Lead: Nan Yi (Dept. of Chemical Engineering)


Abstract: The ongoing accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has accelerated the progression of global warming and delayed the implementation of alternative energy sources. In addition to limiting the extent of carbon dioxide emission, we as a global community must find ways to use carbon dioxide removed from the air to produce chemicals and fuels. Unfortunately, two major challenges currently stand in the way of efficient carbon neutralization by current processes. First, the removal and conversion of carbon dioxide are currently performed as two distinct processes. The costs associated with these processes suggest the need to explore the integration of carbon dioxide removal and conversion with the aid of highly efficient catalysts. Second, because carbon dioxide is comparatively inert, effective transformation currently requires high temperatures and high pressure. This proposal aims to build a collaborative team with members from both the University of New Hampshire (UNH) and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). The goal of this collaboration is to identify a photocatalytic method to connect carbon dioxide removal and conversion processes via the design of robust catalysts. Our findings will make it possible to understand the reaction pathway through both experimental and simulation approaches.

PTM Multiplexing

Lead: Don Wojchowski (Dept. of Molecular, Cellular, and Biomedical Sciences)


Abstract: National needs for a multiplexed approach to specifically measure target protein panels at high sensitivity:  Across disciplines (e.g., analyses of drug action mechanisms, disease progression, pathogen screening), needs are increasing for the critical monitoring of key target proteins. This typically is best accomplished by liquid chromatography plus mass spectrometry (“LC/MS”), but with a restrictive two-step workflow: (1) initial partial separation of complex bio-samples via LC and subsequently (2) MS (ionization of peptides, acceleration, differential deflection, detection and identification). While LC/MS can separate and measure thousands of proteins within a single bio-specimen, it is sharply limited due to its one-sample at-a-time workflow. For projects that focus on monitoring defined sets of target proteins, a growing need exists for an approach that circumvents LC, and provides for the simultaneous MS-based analysis of multiple samples.

Studies to be advanced:  This CoRE Project seeks to advance a novel approach for the simultaneous MS assay of customizable panels of target proteins (including important modified forms). First, magnetic immunoaffinity beads are used to selectively retrieve target proteins (or derived peptides) from complex biospecimens. Washed beads are then arrayed in a microwell plate, and target proteins are eluted and dried in a matrix for MS. Target proteins/peptides are then assayed (in multiplex) using a rapid, relatively simple and inexpensive MS platform, “MALDI”. Sensitivity, specificity and reproducibility each/all are notably high. A first aim is for a practical workflow advance, and will implement a MALDI multiwell plate (for arraying affinity beads and MS scanning) that is compatible with commonly available MALDI MS instruments. Second, the utility of this overall platform will be established (and validated) for an intentionally challenging set of biologically and clinically important target proteins, epigenetically modified histones.

PopZ Team

Leads: Harish Vashisth (Dept. of Molecular, Cellular, and Biomedical Sciences) and Krisztina Varga (Dept. of Molecular, Cellular, and Biomedical Sciences)


Abstract: Most proteins are known to fold into well-defined three-dimensional structures. The classical structure-function paradigm associates these structures with the functions of different proteins in cells. However, it is increasingly being appreciated that the intrinsic structural disorder in proteins also plays a significant role in their functions. By employing computational and experimental investigations on model systems, we will study the role of intrinsic disorder in proteins in facilitating their hub-like activity with other proteins in cells.

Monitoring Non-Electroactive Neurochemicals with High Spatial and Temporal Resolution

Lead: Edward Song (Dept. of Electrical and Computer Engineering)


Abstract: The goal of this project is to develop a high-density microelectrode array (MEA) neurochemical probe for monitoring a neurotransmitter gamma amino butyric acid (GABA) from neurons with high spatial and temporal resolution. The project leverages Prof. Edward Song’s expertise in polymer-based electrochemical sensing and Prof. Brian Kim’s expertise in high-density microelectronic circuits and electrophysiology to produce a neurochemical sensing device that can resolve the fast dynamics of GABA release and uptake in neurons in real-time. If successful, the proposed technology can be used to study the electrophysiology of neurons both in vitro and in vivo which would have a broad usage in the neuroscience community. The proposed technology could potentially be used to study the mechanisms of various neurological disorders and mental diseases.

History Matters(TM)

Lead: Jennifer O'Brien (Dept. of Social Work)


Abstract: Intimate partner violence (IPV) victimization includes physical violence, sexual violence, stalking, and/or psychological aggression by either a current or former intimate or dating partner. Though IPV varies in severity, it often escalates over time and many survivors are re-victimized. Unfortunately, current interventions for IPV do not adequately address re-victimization. This project will explore the acceptability and feasibility of History MattersTM- an intervention that has been developed specifically for female-identified survivors of repeat victimization by an intimate partner. In addition, we will evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention at combating the trauma-based mental health needs these women face while addressing the women’s interpersonal historical context that places them at elevated risk for victimization when compared to a treatment-as-usual control.

Heparin-Mimetic Vascularization Team

Leads: Linqing Li (Dept. of Chemical Engineering) and Nathan Oldenhuis (Dept. of Chemistry)



Abstract: Native heparin has been widely used to promote vascularization for tissue engineering, however, it often induces undesired side-effects such as hemorrhage due to significant variations in chemical composition, charge density and structural features in batches isolated from animal sources. This project aims to develop a library of heparin-mimetic polysaccharides with chemically defined negative charge density to support vascular growth without side effects. The proposed studies will not only identify design principles to generate new materials that promote vascularization, but also build a platform that can be integrated with various tissues for regenerative medicine applications.

Croaker Counters

Lead: Laura Kloepper (Dept. of Biological Sciences)


Abstract: Invasive species are critical threats to ecosystems worldwide and cause economic harm by outcompeting species and affecting ecosystem services. Management of invasive species relies on accurate information, yet current approaches to estimate populations are costly, labor-intensive and restrictive in temporal and spatial resolution. This project will pilot test a method using passive acoustics to estimate the population size of vocal invasive species. Using the American bullfrog, a species native to New England but highly invasive on the West Coast and worldwide, as a model species, we will test the hypothesis that acoustic energy indices are reliable estimates of population sizes for animals in patchy habitats. Results from this project can be extended to monitor the populations of other vocal invasive animals or determine the populations of threatened and endangered species. This approach intersects bioacoustics, ecology, signal processing, and neuroethology, and as such this project combines the expertise of team members from these four disciplines.

Stability of Memory-Associated Burst Synchronization

Leads: Xuanmao Chen (Dept. of Molecular, Cellular, and Biomedical Sciences) and Mark Lyon (Dept. of Mathematics and Statistics)


Abstract: This CoRE-PRP project is led by Drs. Xuanmao Chen and Mark Lyon, who are a neuroscientist in COLSA and a mathematician in CEPS, respectively. Chen and Lyon have complementary expertise in neuroscience and numerical computation and modeling, allowing for interdisciplinary collaboration to address fundamental questions related to memory formation and mental disorders. In this project, Chen and his team will use transgenic mouse models to perform memory-related behavioral tests combined with in vivo calcium imaging or with EEG brainwave recording. The Chen lab will generate a sheer volume of in vivo imaging and EEG data. Lyon and his graduate student will help develop custom algorithms to aid in imaging and EEG data analyses. In addition, based on collected data, Lyon will also develop computational models, helping reveal the cellular mechanisms underlying hippocampal memory formation. The collaboration will increase the computational capacity of the Chen Lab and allow Lyon to implement his computational expertise to cutting-edge research in natural intelligence, increasing the competitiveness to secure external funding.

Active Prosthesis Team

Lead: Diliang Chen (Dept. of Electrical and Computer Engineering)


Abstract: This Active ankle-foot prostheses are effective in mitigating health issues caused by asymmetric gait in lower-extremity amputees, but they remain rare in the commercial market due to challenges that include shortcomings in their design and control. The proposed research activities of this CoRE PRP project aims to address these challenges by investigating novel design concepts and control architectures that provide a lightweight and highly capable bionic ankle-foot prosthesis with a control system that adapts to the motion intention of individual users. The proposed design concept for the bionic prosthesis incorporates a lightweight actuator to achieve the required torque and range of motion at the ankle without sacrificing comfort to the users. Furthermore, a multitier architecture is proposed for the control system of the active prosthesis that learns the motion intention of individual users and adapts the control system to improve the efficiency of amputee’s gait. The proposed control system incorporates an Artificial Neural Network model trained to capture the motion intention of individual users, a data-driven mathematical model to synthesize a digital copy of the prostheses dynamic response, and an Explicit Model Predictive Control method for the robust real-time regulation of the prosthesis angles and torques.


Supporting Large, Complex Proposal Development provides dedicated funding and guidance for major, interdisciplinary external grants that are a multi-year opportunity (or a combination of opportunities within a single thematic area) with an annual budget greater than or equal to $3.5M require a large, multi-investigator team.

Trees on Farms (for Resilient Food Production)

Trees on Farms (for Resilient Food Production)

Lead: Heidi Asbjornsen (Dept. of Natural Resources and the Environment)


Abstract: Developing sustainable local food production strategies that are both resilient to climate change and slow its progression are key priorities of UNH’s land grant mission and represent an increasing focus of land managers and decision makers at the state, regional, and national levels. Agroforestry—the intentional integration of trees with crops and/or livestock—is widely recognized as one of the most effective food production systems for successfully meeting these goals.  However, a dearth of research on the application of agroforestry in temperate regions has created a gap in knowledge about the productive, climate-adaptive, and carbon storage potential of different agroforestry systems, especially in the northeastern U.S.  The long-term goal of this project to help fill this knowledge gap by accomplishing the following four specific objectives over the next 9-12 months: (1) Develop a design for demonstrating a range of temperate agroforestry systems on UNH’s research farms that integrate both ‘modern’ and ‘traditional/indigenous’ knowledge systems around food production; (2) Formulate a plan for conducting transdisciplinary research that engages both researchers and diverse stakeholders in the State to evaluate the agronomic, ecological, social, and economic benefits and costs of each agroforestry system over time; (3) Establish the groundwork for creating an agroforestry outreach and extension program focused on providing information and training to landowners, farmers, and other interested stakeholders in the region, and facilitating adoption of locally-adapted agroforestry practices; (4) Submit 1-2 large grant proposals to USDA as a first step towards achieving the long-term goal. Given the rapidly increasing interest by land managers, consumers, and policy makers in understanding the potential of diverse temperate agroforestry systems to contribute to sustainable food production, resilient agroecosystems, and vibrant local economies in the northeast, we anticipate a high likelihood of success in securing external grant funding.