Eight research teams chosen for new Boost program


The Bold Challenges Initiative has selected eight interdisciplinary teams from across the University of Michigan to participate in the first cycle of its newly launched Boost program.

The Boost program supports new and early-stage multidisciplinary teams whose ambitious, transdisciplinary projects have substantial potential for significant large-scale funding.


This year’s teams are working on a range of topics including new approaches to supply the critical minerals needed in electric vehicle manufacturing and mitigating the aviation industry’s environmental impact.

“These teams have great potential to secure large-scale funding and find solutions to problems that affect our society on a massive scale,” said Arthur Lupia, executive director of Bold Challenges, associate vice president for research – large-scale strategies, and the Gerald R. Ford Distinguished University Professor of Political Science. Lupia also is a professor of political science in LSA and a research professor in the Institute for Social Research’s Center for Political Studies.

Bold Challenges was designed by the Office of the Vice President for Research to increase U-M’s capacity to conduct large-scale and highly impactful interdisciplinary research. It is a key component of President Santa J. Ono’s universitywide Strategy to Amplify Research and Scholarship.

Unlike classic pilot funding programs, interdisciplinary teams that are part of the Boost program receive dedicated, expert support on topics like team building, effective communication for large-team science and a wide range of facilitation and ideation support for highly competitive grant proposals.

Each team also receives $75,000 for activities that strengthen its capacity to conduct groundbreaking research and better position its work for future proposals from organizations like the National Institutes for Health and National Science Foundation. Funding can be used to purchase materials, conduct tests and hire undergraduate and graduate researchers.

Applications for the 2024-25 Boost program will be available early in 2024.

The Boost teams and their topic areas for the 2023-24 academic year are:

Air Quality and Human Wellbeing: Assessing Emotional Impact of Lower Air Quality Using Autonomous Artificial Intelligence (AI)-Based Distributed Sensing Systems

  • Natalia Czap, professor of economics, UM-Dearborn, College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters
  • Hans Czap, associate professor of economics, UM-Dearborn, CASL
  • Alireza Mohammadi, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, UM-Dearborn, College of Engineering and Computer Science
  • Areen Alsaid, assistant professor of industrial and manufacturing systems engineering, UM-Dearborn, CECS
  • Azeem Hafeez, lecturer of electrical and computer engineering, UM-Dearborn, CECS

Critical Minerals for Electric Vehicles and Decarbonization: Sustainable and Environmentally-Just Supply Chains

  • Joshua Newell, professor of environment and sustainability, School for Environment and Sustainability
  • Rebecca Hardin, associate professor of natural resources, SEAS
  • Anna Stefanopoulou, professor of mechanical engineering, William Clay Ford Professor of Technology, College of Engineering
  • Adam Simon, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor; professor of earth and environmental sciences, LSA; professor of Program in the Environment, LSA and SEAS
  • Kyle Whyte, University, Diversity and Social Transformation Professor; George Willis Pack Professor and professor of environment and sustainability, SEAS; and professor of philosophy, LSA

Advancing Battery-less Sensing for Sustainable Living and Civil Infrastructures

  • Albert Liu, assistant professor of chemical engineering, of materials science and engineering, and of macromolecular science and engineering, CoE
  • Aline Eid, assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science, CoE
  • Abdallah Chehade, assistant professor of industrial and manufacturing systems engineering, UM-Dearborn, CECS
  • Brendan O’Neil, assistant research scientist, SEAS

Mobilizing Knowledge for Climate Action: Design Research for Passive Cooling Strategies in Self-Built Homes with Low-Income Communities to Improve Health Outcomes from Extreme Heat

  • Ana Paula Pimentel Walker, associate professor of urban and regional planning, A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning
  • Lars Junghans, associate professor of architecture, Taubman College
  • Aline Cotel, associate professor of environmental engineering, CoE
  • Gabriel Harp, director of research and creative practice development, Taubman College

Community Tech Workers: Advancing a Sustainable Vision for Small Business Tech Support in Detroit

  • Julie Hui, assistant professor of information, School of Information
  • Kristin Seefeldt, associate professor of social work, School of Social Work; associate professor of public policy, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy
  • Tawanna Dillahunt, associate professor of Information, UMSI
  • Christie Baer, assistant executive director, Center on Finance, Law & Policy, Ford School
  • Lutalo Sanifu, U-M Detroit Neighborhood Entrepreneurs Project, director of neighborhood resilience, safety and business district services, Jefferson East Inc.

Biotechnology-Enabled Circular Economy Strategies for Equitable and Community-Focused Sustainable Infrastructure

  • Steven Skerlos, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor; professor of mechanical engineering and of civil and environmental engineering, CoE
  • Arun Agrawal, Samuel Trask Dana Professor, professor of environment and sustainability, SEAS; professor of political science, LSA; and professor of public policy, Ford School
  • Shanna Daly, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor; associate professor of mechanical engineering, CoE
  • Lutgarde Raskin, Vernon L. Snoeyink Distinguished University Professor; Altarum/Erim Russell O’Neal Professor of Engineering and professor of civil and environmental engineering, CoE
  • Sita Syal, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, CoE

Building Trustworthy Environments: Advancing Knowledge about Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Universities, Healthcare, and Communities

  • Michelle Munro-Kramer, Suzanne Bellinger Feetham Professor of Nursing and assistant professor of nursing, School of Nursing
  • Lisa Fedina, assistant professor of social work, SSW
  • Yasamin Kusunoki, assistant professor of nursing, SoN
  • Richard Tolman, Sheldon D. Rose Collegiate Professor of Social Work and professor of social work, SSW
  • Elizabeth A. Armstrong, Sherry B. Ortner Collegiate Professor of Sociology, professor of sociology, and of women’s and gender studies, LSA
  • Lilia Cortina, University Diversity and Social Transformation Professor; professor of psychology, and of women’s and gender Studies, LSA; and professor of management and organizations, Stephen M. Ross School of Business

MISA’s Bold Challenges: Shaping the Future of Sustainable Aviation through Collaboration and Innovation

  • Gökçin Çınar, assistant professor of aerospace engineering, CoE
  • Jennifer Haverkamp, Graham Family Director of the Graham Sustainability Institute, clinical professor of public policy, Ford School; professor from practice, Law School
  • Max Li, assistant professor of aerospace engineering, CoE

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