IMPACT Spring 2016

There were ten IMPACT Awards given for research projects that run from July 15, 2016 to July 14, 2017.

The Development of a Laboratory Assessment of Behaviors in Occupational Roles (LABOR): An analogue setting to investigate job functioning and treatments for individuals with ADHD

  • Fabiano, Gregory, Department of Counseling, Scool, and Educational Psychology
  • Kevin Hulme, New York Center for Engineereing Design and Industrial Innovation
  • Sandra M. Sodano, Department of Counseling, School of Educational Psychology


Occupational impairment is a key aspect of diagnosing most mental health disorders, including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). As youth with ADHD grow into adolescence and adulthood, occupational functioning becomes an important functional domain. Yet, there has been very little study of how individuals with ADHD function in occupational roles, other than to note they are impaired relative to same-age peers. This IMPACT proposal aims to develop and field-test an analogue workplace setting called the Laboratory Assessment of Behaviors in Occupational Roles (LABOR). LABOR will include a job application and job interview meeting, systematic assessment of behavior and functioning within the front-end of a pizzeria (e.g., managing multiple orders, putting orders together for delivery), and delivering orders within a simulated driving environment. During all tasks, observations of behavior will be conducted and unobtrusive measures of job performance will be collected (e.g., errors made on application, late or mistaken order deliveries). In a proof-of-concept and validation study, 52 young adults 18-25 (half with ADHD and half without) will participate in the LABOR tasks. Results will be utilized to validate and refine the LABOR assessment. This pilot work will beleveraged into large grant applications to federal agencies interested in studies focused on the transition to adult occupational roles.

Minimizing the Infection Contamination Areas for Healthcare Workers in Wearing Gowns via a Behavioral Experiment and Computational Models

  • Wu, Changxu, Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering
  • Sellick, John, Department of Medicine


Research Problem: About 1 in every 20 hospital patients has a healthcare-associated infections (HAI) and one of main reasons of HAI is contamination of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) including gowns when a healthcare worker is donning, using and removing an isolation gown. Existing Research: Double glove method has been proposed and verified to be an effective way to minimize the contamination areas on gloves; but no human behavioral experiment has been carried out to compare different designs of gowns and select the best one to minimize the contamination areas on the neck area, and no computational human behavior model has been built systematically to predict the contamination areas caused by human movement errors. Research Objectives: 1) Conduct a behavioral experiment with healthcare workers to select the relatively best design of gowns on market to minimize the contamination areas on the neck; 2) Build the first set of computational models to quantify and predict the contamination areas given different designs of gowns, levels of PPE training of healthcare workers, and donning and removal protocols; and 3) Apply the model in practice to minimize the contamination areas on the neck of healthcare workers. Target External Funding: Based on the data collected and models built in this IMPACT project, we will submit two proposals: Proposal 1 to AHRQ’s “Health Services Research Demonstration and Dissemination Projects for Prevention and Management of Healthcare Associated Infections (R18)” (PA-12-240); Proposal 2 to PAC (perception, action & cognition) program at NSF.

OneBioStore: Distributed Smart Storage and Scalable Algorithms for Collaborative Biomedical Discovery

  • Zola, Jaroslaw, Department of Biomedical Informatics
  • Kosar, Tevfik, Department of Computer Science and Engineering
  • Buck, Michael, Department of Biochemistry


The current state-of-the-art in handling large-scale data in biomedical research is to collocate data storage together with computing infrastructure in a centralized resource available to all collaborating researchers. This centralized model is inherently unscalable, unsustainable and is not suitable for many biomedical research teams. We propose a completely new model in which diverse and scattered biomedical assets will be seamlessly and transparently integrated and combined with scalable data processing capabilities. We will advance the research and technology of discovering and accessing heterogeneous, distributed, and largescale biomedical data, thus drastically simplifying and accelerating collaborative discovery research process.

Our specific research questions will focus on: 1) discovery and access to geographically distributed biomedical data resources: we will introduce resource graphs and their relevant algorithms to support general querying of distributed assets; 2) online querying of heterogeneous data for useful information: we will propose query rewriting and data ranking methods to effectively search distributed and uncertain data stores; and 3) managing the end-to-end data pipeline: we will introduce a data workflow system to help users easily express and automate data management and searching process.

This project will leverage a multidisciplinary expertise of the proposing team spanning genomics and metagenomics, biomedical informatics, computational biology, parallel and distributed processing, distributed storage, and data-intensive computing. The project is perfectly aligned with the UB2020 “Environment and Health” theme and taps into the UB’s strategic strengths in “Information and Computing Technology” and “Molecular Recognition in Biological Systems and Bioinformatics.”

Characterizing abnormal lipid metabolism in glia with failed axonal support function

  • Beirowski, Bogdan, Department of Biochemistry
  • G. Ekin Atilla-Gokcumen, Department of Chemistry
  • Babetto, Elisabetta, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology


Axons, the longest processes of neurons relaying electrical and biochemical information, are indispensable for normal function of the nervous system. Axonal degeneration is the main cause of irreversible neurological disability in many neurodegenerative diseases. Schwann cells (SC) and oligodendrocytes (OLG), the enwrapping glia (EG) of the peripheral and central nervous system, maintain integrity of long axons by poorly understood trophic mechanisms [1]. Current models suggest that glial intermediary metabolism is critical for this support function, and especially deficits in glial lipid metabolism lead to axonal degeneration. We recently showed that dysregulation of metabolic homeostasis by elimination of the metabolic master regulator LKB1 (Liver kinase B1) in SC results in progressive axonal degeneration [2]. Our preliminary data suggest that glial LKB1 deletion leads to a variety of lipid perturbations preceding axon demise. While LKB1 activity in EG is central to axon stability, we found that the LKB1 prime metabolic targets AMPactivated kinase (AMPK) and mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) are dispensable for this function, thus implicating alternative downstream targets in EG-mediated trophic axon support. In this IMPACT application we propose to employ a global lipidomics approach similar to that recently applied for studying cell division [3] to screen for alterations in glial lipid intermediate species downstream of LKB1 signaling associated with axon degeneration. The data set obtained from our combined expertise in neurodegeneration research and chemical biology will be used for a future federal grant proposal aiming to elucidate axon-glia neurometabolic coupling important for maintenance of nervous system connectivity.

Regulation of the Urotensin II Receptor Function by Arginine Methylation

  • Clark, Stewart, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology
  • Yu, Michael, Department of Biological Sciences


The proposal herein is designed to promote a synergistic interaction between Dr. Stewart Clark, a pharmacologist with expertise in neurobiology and neuropharmacology, and Dr. Michael Yu, a molecular biologist with expertise in studying protein arginine methylation, a type of post-translational modification of cellular proteins. Dr. Clark’s research focuses on the role of brainstem systems in behaviors, with emphasis on the function of the neuropeptide urotensin II (UII). Published results from a proteomic profiling study directly lead to our hypothesis that the UII receptor, a G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR), undergoes protein arginine methylation and that this modification plays a critical role in its function. Recently, Dr. Michael Yu, in collaboration with Dr. Clark and Dr. Denise Ferkey in the Department of Biological Sciences, established a role for protein arginine methylation in promoting the signaling and functioning of another GPCR - the dopamine receptor subtype 2 (DRD2). The DRD2 study was the first to show that GPCR function is regulated by methylation. Other GPCRs are likely regulated in a similar manner which may provide novel ways of modulating a class of receptor that are the therapeutic target of at least 30% of current pharmaceuticals. Herein we describe experiments to be carried out during the development phase of this project, to be funded by the IMPACT support, which will allow us to determine whether the regulation of GPCR function by methylation is a more common phenomenon and make steps in translating these discoveries into applicable animal models.

Increasing exercise enjoyment and outcome expectations among women with obesity

  • Leone, Lucia, Department of Community Health and Health Behavior
  • Anderson, Laura, School of Nursing
  • Epstein, Leonard, Department of Pediatrics


Despite decades of physical activity (PA) research on inactive, obese individuals, we have not successfully moved the needle on exercise participation in this population. A recent review aptly referred to PA recommendations among obese individuals as “the public health guideline that is (almost) entirely ignored” [1]. While we have previously had little understanding of why PA rates are so low in this population, Dr. Leone’s research uncovered two possible explanations: (1) women with obesity are less likely to report enjoying exercise and (2) more likely than nonobese women to report exercising only when they are trying to lose weight.

In order to affect change among obese women, we need interventions that not only address disparities in enjoyment and outcome expectations. Programs must also be practical and scalable; however, these types of evidence-based programs do not exist within the context that people generally exercise (e.g., community centers, gyms). We propose a novel approach to increasing exercise participation in this population by focusing on exercise enjoyment, increasing appreciation of the proximal benefits of PA rather than focusing on weight, and addressing changes to the exercise environment that make it conducive to this population. By delivering our intervention in partnership with the YMCA, we not only have the ability to make changes to a typical exercise context, but we also ensure that our findings can be used to help exercise focused community organizations implement a scalable, research-tested program.

Assessing the utility of face cooling to maintain blood pressure during hemorrhagic injury

  • Schlader, Zachary, Department of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences
  • Johnson, Blair, Department of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences
  • Clemency, Brian, Department of Emergency Medicine
  • Wilding, Gregory, Department of Biostatistics
  • Hostler, David, Department of Exercise and Nutrition Science


Hemorrhage is the leading cause of death from civilian and battlefield trauma. Although pre-hospital interventions have been shown to delay cardiovascular decompensation (i.e., precipitous drop in blood pressure) during a hemorrhagic injury, they are not practical for use in the field. Triggering the mammalian diving reflex by face cooling is a simple intervention that elevates blood pressure and it could be used to delay cardiovascular decompensation during hemorrhage. However, it is not known how long the hypertensive effects of face cooling last. Additionally, it is not known if face cooling is effective in raising or maintaining blood pressure during hemorrhage. In order to strengthen our future grant applications, we will determine: 1) if face cooling increases blood pressure for a clinically meaningful duration, and 2) if face cooling can maintain or elevate blood pressure during a simulated hemorrhagic injury. This project, and subsequent National Institutes of Health and Department of Defense grant applications, are pertinent to the Health and Innovation themes of UB 2020. Discovering new interventions that delay cardiovascular decompensation during hemorrhage will give pre-hospital providers extra time to extricate and transport injured patients to the hospital. This could ultimately save countless lives.

3D Printing to Create Integrated 3D Protein Microarrays (i3DPM)

  • Bright, Frank V., Department of Chemistry
  • Zhou, Chi, Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering


Protein detection and quantification are important in myriad areas including disease diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment. However, unlike DNA, there is no protein amplification strategy. Thus, one must detect proteins as is in a sample because there is no way to amplify their concentration(s). This problem is exacerbated when one targets low abundance proteins and when one is interested in the simultaneous detection of quantification of multiple low abundance protein targets. The multiprotein detection piece is often addressed by using microarrays; however, all existing protein microarrays operate, as we discuss fully in the application body, in either “forward” or “reverse” detection modes.

We propose a revolutionary 3D protein microarray platform to simultaneously exploit all the attractive features of protein microarray and forward and reverse operations. The proposed platform uses layers of antibody doped, nanoporous xerogels in concert with precision 3D printing to create what we call an integrated 3D protein microarray (i3DPM). The proposed i3DPM platform will: (i) be simple to fabricate and manufacture on a mass scale, (ii) not require any disassembly for readout, (iii) be reusable, and (iv) be scalable. The proposed i3DPM exploits the unique chemistry of nanoporous sol-gel derived xerogels (Bright) with the power of liquid 3D printing to create complex 3D microarchitectures in an on demand manner (Zhou). The completion of this project will allow us to unlock the full protein microarray potential and promote its broader applications. The output from this study will form the foundation of larger proposals to be submitted in 2017.

Improved Dental Restorative Materials using Novel Antibacterial Polymer Surfactants

  • Sabatini, Camila, Department of Restorative Dentistry
  • Swihart, Mark, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering
  • Cheng, Chong, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering


Replacement of tooth-colored fillings, necessitated by the limited lifetime of current restorative materials, is a major source of dental expenditures, with recurrent caries and loss of adhesion representing the number one reason for restoration replacement. We propose a series of antibacterial poly (acrylic acid) (PAA)-based copolymers with surfactant characteristics and tailored functionality that will provide both improved long-term bonding at the tooth-restoration interface and prolonged antibacterial action to prevent recurrence of caries (i.e. “cavities” in the restored tooth). The proposed copolymers will be suitable for use with existing or newly developed tooth-colored restorative fillings and will provide a foundation for a new class of dental adhesives. In subsequent externally-funded phases of the envisioned long-term project, these copolymers will be modified to address additional biological and mechanical shortcomings of current dental restorative materials. Preparation by “living polymerization” techniques will allow us to control average molecular weight, polydispersity, and composition (content of each monomer type) of the polymers. Along with chemical characterization of the polymers and mechanical/adhesion testing, state-of-the-art surface analysis techniques will be used to map the tooth-resin interface. This will provide mechanistic understanding of adhesion performance and allow for rational improvement of the polymer designs. Preliminary data obtained through IMPACT fund support are needed to develop competitive grant proposals to NIH and other agencies that can support the full development of this approach toward clinical applications. Commercialization of this technology would substantially reduce the need for replacement of tooth-colored fillings, producing economic and societal benefits.

Engineering Photocatalysts for Clean H2 Generation

  • Wu, Gang, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering
  • Zhang, Peihong, Department of Physics
  • Zeng, Hao, Department of Physics


Hydrogen gas (H2) is one of the most important chemical substances for various applications Also, hydrogen, a clean energy carrier with high energy density, is a very promising candidate for future renewable energy source. Current H2 production is still greatly dependent on fossil fuels, which is not sustainable and clean. Photoelectrochemical (PEC) hydrogen generation (PEC-HG) via water splitting is one of the most promising approaches to producing the green chemical fuel by utilizing clean and renewable solar energy. Since both water and sunlight are abundant natural resources, there is no environmental issue, resource shortage, or global crisis over them. However, the key challenge to achieving high efficiency in water splitting is the lack of efficient, stable and earth abundant semiconductor photocatalysts. In the proposed research, we aim to engineer band gap of the several most promising photocatalysts including oxygen-deficient perovskite, oxysulfide perovskite, and co-doped TiO2. These novel catalysts will systematically evaluate in a photoelectrocatalysis system for H2 generation in terms of their efficiency and stability. The proposed project will be a new collaboration among three faculty members from two colleges and across three disciplines: chemical engineering and physics. We will employ an integrated research approach by fully taking advantage of the expertise of the research team in theoretical simulation and modeling and materials design and synthesis. Upon successful completion of the project, the preliminary data obtained will provide a solid foundation and allow the newly established team at UB for pursuit of both fundamental and applied follow-up projects.