University of Southern California


Provost New Directions in Research and Scholarship Awards Announcement

I am pleased to announce the first two awards under the Provost New Directions in Research and Scholarship (PNDRS) program, which were chosen for their novelty, potential for establishing USC as a leader in a new area of scholarship, approach and societal impact:

Isolating ‘Microbial Dark Matter’ to Breathe Greenhouse Gases

Jan Amend, PhD, Cameron Thrash, PhD, Adam Smith, PhD will investigate the domain Archaea as to their potential for ‘breathing’ greenhouse gases. The project (and a planned, large-scale future research center at USC), propose to bring into culture greenhouse gas-consuming Archaea and to characterize their core physiologies (cellular functions) and phylogenies (evolutionary histories). These novel Archaea will then be used in bench-scale engineered bioreactors to investigate their effective mitigation of point sources of greenhouse gases.

The proposal was praised for being of “paramount importance…in the era of global warming.” “A very novel approach for generating basic science discoveries and information needed to solve a real world problem,” as well as “a well-focused study with ambitious broader impacts, and significant potential to make USC a national and international leader in an area of study that has not yet been established in academia.”

An Endovascular Device for Transvenous Electroencephalography

Ellis Meng, PhD, William Mack, MD, Pradeep Selvan MD, Doug Song, PhD will leverage advances in microfabrication techniques and endovascular neurosurgery to create the first minimally invasive endovascular device capable of brain recording from cerebral veins down to 0.5 mm diameter. This device will advance characterization of brain activity in patients with epilepsy, allowing both adjustable superficial and deep brain recording.

Reviewers called this “innovative and exciting,” a “clear, well-written, convincing proposal,” and “an ambitious project that is relatively high-risk, but also high-reward,” with a “very good scientific premise, a clear set of aims that are cohesive yet independent,” submitted by a “highly experience research team”.

The faculty contributing to these outstanding proposals are commended for their commitment to interdisciplinary team-based research. Through this work, USC will demonstrate its leadership in two exciting fields, working toward new therapies and also toward slowing climate change.

Review Process

In our initial competition, 52 proposals were reviewed in two phases, first through topic-specific panels, from which finalists were selected, and second through an interdisciplinary panel of senior faculty, whose experience spanned engineering, humanities, medicine, science and social science.

Next Solicitation

Faculty are encourage to apply to our next competition, with a due date of Friday, February 28, 2020, to be posted here by October 4. In this highly competitive program, applicants are encouraged to carefully consider:

These are high standards to achieve. Our reviewers are seeking the best of the best, reaching for the type of revolutionary research that will put USC on the map for its outstanding and impactful work.

Randolph Hall
Vice President of Research