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OU ‘Big Idea Challenge’ Funds Five Projects to Explore Solutions to Global Grand Challenges

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February 10, 2021

OU ‘Big Idea Challenge’ Funds Five Projects to Explore Solutions to Global Grand Challenges

NORMAN, OKLA. – Five research teams at the University of Oklahoma will receive internal funding to support innovative research projects. The awards are for the OU Big Idea Challenge, an initiative launched by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Partnerships to support the development of transdisciplinary research projects with significant potential for future extramural funding and that address global grand challenges.

“The five awarded projects include team members from across disciplines and represent exciting ideas for advancing OU research in high-impact areas such as advanced energy technology, social justice and technology, environmental sustainability, and the well-being of children,” said Ann West, associate vice president for research and partnerships. “The BIC awards provide resources to transdisciplinary teams, conducted by investigators from different departments and colleges working jointly to create new conceptual, theoretical, methodological and translational innovations that integrate and move beyond discipline-specific approaches to address a common problem, pursuing bold proposals that go well beyond traditional inter- and multidisciplinary efforts.”

The projects and research teams awarded are:

“Well-Being Across the Lifespan: Early Childhood Experience and Opportunities in Oklahoma”

Led by three principal investigators: Sherri Castle, assistant director of research for the Early Childhood Education Institute at OU-Tulsa, associate professors of sociology in the College of Arts and Sciences, Constance Chapple and Erin Maher. Maher is also an associate research director for the Data Institute for Societal Challenges. Project team members include representatives from academic and professional fields including physical and mental health, pediatrics and emergency medicine, regional and city planning, geography and the role of environment, data science and political science. This project is a merger of two originally separate proposals focused on childhood adversity, health inequities and child well-being.

Lead PI(s)Co-PI's
  • Sherri Castle
  • Constance Chapple
  • Erin Maher
  • Lois Coleman, Health & Exercise Science
  • Susan Sisson, Nutritional Sciences, OUHSC
  • Bryce Lowery, Regional & City Planning
  • Mike Wimberly, Geography and Environmental Sustainabiliity
  • Jooyeon Hwang, Occupational and Environmental Health, OUHSC
  • Melissa Van Cain, Medical Informatics and Pediatrics, OU-Tulsa
  • Paul Darden, Pediatrics, OUHSC
  • David Ebert, Electrical Computer Engineering, Computer Sciences, Data Institute for Societal Challenges
  • Diane Horm, Early Childhood Education Institute, OU-Tulsa
  • Lauren Ethridge, Psychology
  • Julie Miller-Cribbs, Social Work
  • Helen Milojevich, Pediatrics, OUHSC
  • Sara Beth Bell, Psychology
  • Amy Goodwin, Political Science
  • John Harris, Regional & City Planning


  • Loretta Bass, Sociology
  • Joshua Gentges, ER physician
  • Yousef Khanfar, Photographer

“Achieving Sustainability and Negative Carbon Emissions in an Agro-Energy Producing Region”

Led by Kyle Murray, a hydrogeologist for the Oklahoma Geological Survey and adjunct faculty in the Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy, with team members in the departments of Geography and Environmental Sustainability, Microbiology and Plant Biology, and Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering. 

Lead PI(s)Co-PI's
  • Kyle Murray
  • Travis Gliedt, Geography and Environmental Sustainabiliity
  • Pejman Kazempoor, Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering
  • Jennifer Koch, Geography and Environmental Sustainabiliity
  • Heather McCarthy, Microbiology and Plant Biology

“Carbon-free H2 Energy Production and Storage (CHEPS)”

Led by Dimitrios Papavassilious, the C.M. Sliepcevich Professor of Chemical, Biological and Materials Engineering in the Gallogly College of Engineering, with team members representing journalism and mass communication, economics, philosophy, psychology, civil and environmental engineering, and the Oklahoma Geological Survey.

Lead PI(s)Co-PI's
  • Dimitrios Papavassiliou
  • Firat Demir, Economics
  • Katerina Tsetsura, Journalism & Mass Communication

Sr. Personnel:

  • Ngoc Bui, Chemical, Biological and Materials Engineering
  • Steven Crossley, Chemical, Biological and Materials Engineering
  • Adam Feltz, Psychology
  • Michele Galizia, Chemical, Biological and Materials Engineering
  • Jeffrey Harwell, Chemical, Biological and Materials Engineering
  • Nicholas Hayman, Oklahoma Geological Survey
  • Jonathan McFadden, Economics
  • Sepideh Razavi, Chemical, Biological and Materials Engineering
  • Daniel Resasco, Chemical, Biological and Materials Engineering
  • Dingjing Shi, Psychology
  • Zev Trachtenberg, Philosophy
  • Bin Wang, Chemical, Biological and Materials Engineering

“X-GEM: Enhancing Future Community Sustainability via Greenhouse Gas Emission Monitoring”

Led by Binbin Weng, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering in the Gallogly College of Engineering, with team members representing aerospace and mechanical engineering, social science, political science, meteorology, geology, architecture, regional and city planning, and the Oklahoma Biological Survey.

Lead PI(s)Co-PI's
  • Binbin Weng
  • Lee Fithian, Architecture
  • Tina Dothard Peterson, Social Work
  • Wesley Honeycutt, OK Biological Survey
  • Ming Xue, Meterology
  • Farrokh Mistree, Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering

Sr. Personnel:

  • Elizabeth Pillar-Little, Meterology
  • Wilson Merchan Merchan, Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering
  • Yingtao Liu, Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering
  • Xiao-Ming Hu, Meteorology
  • Xuguang Wang, Meteorology
  • Sean Crowell, GeoCarb
  • Netra Regmi, Oklahoma Geological Survey
  • Christan Grant, Computer Science
  • Wenwen Cheng, Landscape Architecture
  • Meghan Wieters, Regional & City Planning
  • Zahed Siddique, Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering
  • Nathan Snook, Center for Analysis and Prediction of Storms
  • Sun Wei, Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering
  • Sara Mata, Oklahoma Biological Survey
  • Kim Cassie, Social Work
  • Ed Sankowski, Philosophy
  • David Ferris, Ctr for Energy Solutions
  • Janet Allen, Industrial Systems Engineering
  • Pejman Kazempoor, Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering
  • Saeed Salehi, Petroleum and Geological Engineering
  • Anthony Levenda, Geography and Environmental Sustainabiliity

“Social Media and the Visual Politics of Policing Communities of Color”

Led by Sherri Irvin, a Presidential Research Professor in philosophy and women's and gender studies, and Karlos Hill, associate professor and department chair of African and African-American Studies – all in the College of Arts and Sciences – with team members in the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication; the School of Computer Science; the Data Institute for Societal Challenges; and digital scholarship and technologists in the University Libraries; as well as collaborators from Carleton University and from the international Debiasing and Lay Informatics Lab. 

Lead PI(s)Co-PI's
  • Sherri Irvin
  • Karlos Hill
  • Jeong-Nam Kim, Debiasing and Lay Informatics Lab - DaLI, Gaylord


  • Ming Ming Chiu, UHK
  • Yu Won Oh, Myoungji University
  • Chong-Hyun Park, Sejong University
  • Hyelim Lee, OU/SNU
  • David Ebert, Data Institute for Societal Challenges
  • Audrey Reinert, Data Institute for Societal Challenges
  • Luke Snyder, Data Institute for Societal Challenges
  • Jennifer Evans, Carleton University
  • Christan Grant, Gallogly College of Engineering
  • Tara Carlisle, OU Libraries
  • Tyler Pearson, OU Libraries
  • Theo Acker, OU Libraries


OU Vice President for Research and Partnerships Tomás Díaz de la Rubia said, “As a flagship public institution that is keenly focused on societal impact through research and creative activity, the University of Oklahoma is uniquely positioned to bring disparate academic disciplines together to foster innovative, comprehensive solutions to global challenges.

“These projects will position the university as a leader in generating new insights and game-changing contributions to solving regional, national and global challenges in energy, sustainability, health and communities,” he added.