University of Southern California

Research

2013-2015 Collaboration Fund Projects

Committee on Microbiome & Host Interaction in Disease
We are home to an enormous microbial ecosystem containing more than 100 trillion bacteria, a number 10 times greater than our own human cells. The Committee on Microbiome and Host Interaction (CMHID) will change the face of microbiome research at USC by bringing together researchers and clinicians. A major goal of the CMHID is to accelerate discovery by providing affiliated researchers access to state-of-the-art instrumentation and technology. CMHID”s strategic plan leverages existing technologies available across USC core facilities and technologies from individual PI’s to focus on developing collaborative and interdisciplinary projects within the USC community.

Leaders:
William DePaolo, Keck School of Medicine, Molecular Microbiology & Immunology
Tracy Grikscheit, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA), Pediatric Surgery

Environmental Sustainability and the Global Economy

Environmental sustainability is one of the major challenges facing the global economy in the coming years. Our ability to meet this challenge will depend on the interactions among four main sectors: (a) industry, (b) government, (c) civil society, and (d) science/technology. USC has a growing number of faculty engaged in research and teaching on environmental sustainability in each of those areas. They are located in various units across campus, inter alia Marshall, Price, Political Science, Engineering, Annenberg, Sociology, Earth Sciences, and Chemistry. The faculty listed above as “other sponsors” represent a small proportion of a considerably larger set of faculty that our network aims to connect.

Leaders:
Paul Adler,  Marshall School of Business, Management and Organization
Jim Haw,  Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Environmental Studies
Rodger Ghanem, Viterbi School of Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering

USC Health Systems Improvement Collaborative

The complex challenges facing health care are very visible at the University and throughout Southern California. USC’s 2011 Strategic Vision notes that “Health issues affect people across the globe and the sweep of global health challenges are vast, reaching across law, business, communications, bioengineering, international relations, stem-cell research, pharmacy and other areas.”3 These issues are particularly acute in Los Angeles where immigration and inequality strain the public health care resources, malnutrition produces diseases and conditions rarely seen in developed countries, and social tensions make delivering compassionate and culturally sensitive care a difficult task. As the StrategicVision observes, “One of the markers of our age is the rising importance of cities as centers where the global and local are interwoven. Nowhere is this truer than in Los Angeles. . . . In Los Angeles, one can see tomorrow’s challenges and promises today: healthcare, immigration, grassroots action and cooperatives, malnutrition, social tensions, the effects of inequality, community outreach, engineering challenges, new forms of commerce, and conflicts of rights and responsibilities.”

Leaders:
Najmedin Meshkati, Viterbi School of Engineering, Astani Department of Civil Engineering & Epstein Department Industrial and Systems Engineering
Alexander M. Capron, Keck School of Medicine and Gould School of Law

USC Institute for Free Radical Biology & Medicine

Free Radical Biology & Medicine (FRBM) is, by nature, an interdisciplinary field. The first free radical researchers were chemists who quickly recognized the importance of one-electron (free radical) oxidation/reduction reactions. Physicists and engineers soon joined in and invented a new technology to directly study free radical species: electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy (EPR) or electron spin resonance spectroscopy (ESR). When food chemists recognized that free radical reactions cause a great deal of food spoilage, and that including antioxidants and transition metal chelators, while excluding oxygen, from packaged foods could greatly extend their commercially useful shelf-life, the field really exploded. Since the 1960’s biologists have shown that energy production by the mitochondria in all our cells involves a series of free radical reactions, as does the immune system’s response to invading microorganisms. Toxicologists and environmental scientists have shown that many herbicides and pesticides employ free radical reaction mechanisms, and pharmacists and pharmacologists have found that the toxic effects of many useful drugs (from acetaminophen to anti-cancer compounds) are caused by free radical ‘redox cycling.’

Leaders:
Kelvin Davies, Davis School of Gerontology, Gerontology
Enrique Cadenas, School of Pharmacy, Molecular Pharmacology

Center for Biodiversity & Ecology

Biodiversity describes both the richness and the variation in all forms of life, from genes to organisms to ecosystems, in both the present and the geologic past. Diverse systems are generally viewed as robust, ecologically healthy, resource rich and economically productive, and relatively resistant to perturbations associated with human impacts or global change. The disciplinary reach of biodiversity is broad, cutting across human health and economics (e.g. ecosystem services), geology, geochemistry and earth system history (the rock record reflects biodiversity responses to regional and global perturbations); molecular, ecological and system studies in marine and terrestrial realms, and more broadly, societal well-being. This transdisciplinary nature is reflected in existing and new research funding opportunities in the basic and medical sciences that build on biodiversity research.

Leaders:
Sergey Nuzhdin, Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Molecular and Computational Biology
Roberta Marinelli, Rossier School of Education/Viterbi School of Engineering, Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies
Paul Marjoram, Keck School of Medicine of USC, Preventive Medicine

Southern California Empirical Legal Studies (SCELS)

Many scholars and students at the intersection of law and social science share an interest in legal institutions and empirical methodologies. Our goal in founding Southern California Empirical Legal Studies (SCELS) is to organize this fragmented group of scholars—housed across disciplines and schools—into a cohesive cluster of active intellectuals conducting empirical research about law and legal institutions. SCELS’ focus will mirror the intellectual agenda that has emerged in important national organizations and funders, such as the National Science Foundation and the American Academy of Political and Social Science, both of which prioritize evidence-based studies when supporting research on legal institutions.1 Moreover, SCELS will position its members to participate and take advantage of interdisciplinary conferences and journals that also focus explicitly on empirical research in the law, including the Conference on Empirical Legal Studies (a conference hosted each year by a different university, including by USC in 2009) and the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies (published by Cornell University). Finally, as we note below, our group will fit well with—and advance—the interests of academic units and centers currently active in and around USC.

Leaders:
John Barnes, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Political Science
Daniel Klerman, USC Gould School of Law, Law and History