Jayhawks Rising: Four Projects Receive KU Research Rising Awards

Doulgas, A. Girod, Chancellor; Barbara A. Bichelmeyer, Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor; Simon Atkinson, Vice Chancellor for Research
Thursday, June 30, 2022, 9:10 a.m.
KU Lawrence Faculty, Staff and Affiliates

Dear Colleague,

When we called for Research Rising white papers last fall, we knew we would hear some inspiring ideas. But we couldn’t have imagined the level of creativity, ingenuity, strategic thinking, and care for our local and global communities that the proposals demonstrated.

We are grateful to KU Endowment for making this competition possible, in support of our Jayhawks Rising strategic plan.

We’re also grateful to everyone who dreamed big, formed a research team, and shared their vision for work that would address critical challenges facing humanity while simultaneously strengthening KU’s research enterprise. Thank you, as well, to the dozens of KU faculty members and outside experts who devoted time and energy to reviewing proposals throughout this two-phase competition, and to the KU staff members who supported the complex process.

Today we are excited to announce four major, interdisciplinary research initiatives that will elevate our commitment to conducting broad and impactful research to new heights: the projects selected to receive Research Rising awards.

Their aspirations are lofty. To create more secure and resilient communities. To harness the power of big data to discover disease-fighting drugs. To unlock the secrets of genomes for the benefit of life on our planet. To transform understanding of and support for intellectual and developmental disabilities. Each research team will receive $3 million over five years to support progress toward these noble goals.

Securing Our Worlds: Physical, Digital, Social

This project will form an interdisciplinary, multi-center organization focused on finding solutions to otherwise unsolved problems related to safe and secure physical, digital and social environments — ultimately creating more secure and resilient communities. The principal investigator is Perry Alexander, AT&T Distinguished Professor in electrical engineering & computer science and director of the Institute for Information Sciences. He is joined by faculty colleagues in engineering, philosophy, history and journalism. Watch the team’s video to learn more.

Big Data for Drug Discovery

This project will integrate cutting-edge biotechnologies that collect large amounts of data in order to create a more holistic understanding of human diseases and empower the discovery of new drugs to treat them. The principal investigator is Michael Wolfe, Mathias P. Mertes Professor in medicinal chemistry. He is joined by faculty colleagues in molecular biosciences, pharmacy, chemistry, electrical engineering and computer science, and several departments at the KU Medical Center. Watch the team’s video to learn more.

Growing KU’s Interdisciplinary Strengths in Genomics

This project aims to unlock the secrets held in genomes to understand where we come from, how we fight disease, how organisms respond to a changing environment/climate, and new bioengineering approaches for sustainable development and health advances. The principal investigators are Rob Unckless, associate professor of molecular biosciences and director of KU’s Center for Genomics, and Lena Hileman, professor of ecology & evolutionary biology. They are joined by faculty colleagues in molecular biosciences, anthropology, ecology & evolutionary biology, and engineering. Watch the team’s video to learn more.

Advancing Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research at KU

This project would maintain and enhance KU’s international prominence in intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) research by investing in genomics and data science approaches to IDD — two areas that are a high priority for the National Institutes of Health, critical for advancing understanding of basic mechanisms of IDDs, important for developing more targeted and effective therapeutics, and essential for reaching a larger and more diverse range of affected individuals. The principal investigator is John Colombo, professor of psychology and director of the Life Span Institute. He is joined by faculty colleagues in psychology, special education, medicine and psychiatry. Watch the team’s video to learn more.

KU is committed to conducting broad and impactful research that addresses key challenges facing the state, nation and world. Research Rising is one of the university’s most significant investments in its research enterprise to date. We’ll be recruiting new faculty across a range of disciplines, and supporting KU’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging through hiring, mentoring, training and outreach. We expect a strong return on investment as these teams build KU’s preeminence in key areas and attract external research dollars over time.

We can’t wait to see where these projects lead. Even as they rest in their potential, they signal that KU research is, indeed, rising.


Doug, Barb & Simon

Douglas A. Girod


Barbara A. Bichelmeyer

Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor

Simon Atkinson

Vice Chancellor for Research