University of Southern California


Current Collaboration Fund Projects

The Research Collaboration Fund supports research collaboration among faculty and students working on interdisciplinary research topics, such as water, neuroscience, genomics, digital humanities, or climate change. The aim is not to fund specific research projects, but rather to support teams of faculty who aim to establish or foster a community of scholars at USC organized around a broad topic of shared interest. The awards fund the activities that help to develop this collaborative group.

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.

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

Brain Health During Development and Aging in Urban Environments

The adverse impact of airborne pollutants on cardio-pulmonary health appears to extend to brain aging. Urbanization is likely one of the most important demographic shifts worldwide, which has led to increased exposure to pollutants. This program brings together faculty from Gerontology, the Viterbi School of Engineering, the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the Keck School of Medicine to understand the scientific basis for the impacts of pollution on the brain, and to explore the health consequences.

Caleb Finch, Davis School of Gerontology, Bio-Gerontology
J.C. Chen, Keck School of Medicine, Environmental Health

Center for Technology and Innovation in Pediatrics

There currently exists a great need for novel medical devices designed specifically for children, as well as the adaptation and validation of existing adult devices for children. Children differ from adults anatomically and developmentally in numerous ways. The FDA has estimated that the development of pediatric medical devices lags behind that of adult devices by 5 to 10 years. This collaboration aims to unite programs, institutes, faculty, and students at USC and CHLA, along with industry and venture capital partners, in a topic-focused, interdisciplinary, systems-oriented manner, to create the USC/CHLA Center for Technology and Innovation in Pediatrics (CTIP). CTIP will raise the impact of our individual and collective work in pediatric device development to a national level of recognition and influence, and will allow future external funding applications to become more competitive.

Yaniv Bar-Cohen, CHLA/Keck School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics
Jessica Rousset, CHLA, Center for Innovation
Gerald Loeb, Viterbi School of Engineering, Medical Device Development Facility
George Tolomiczenko, Keck School of Medicine & Viterbi School of Engineering, Depts of Neurology and Biomedical Engineering

Immigrant Health Initiative

This proposed project aims to extend the Immigrant Health Initiative (iHi), established in 2011 by the USC Collaboration Fund and led by a multidisciplinary team of distinguished immigration scholars at USC in developing new insights and health promotion and disease prevention strategies targeting immigrant and refugee communities living in the United States and elsewhere. Although immigrants are often viewed as possessing certain health advantages relative to native-born counterparts, these advantages quickly disappear with increasing acculturation and exposure to health risks of the dominant society. Furthermore, globalization and global climate change has accelerated the health impacts of acculturation and created a new class of “ecological refugees” that are poorly understood. Accelerated acculturation is especially evident along the U.S. Mexico border where residents on both sides experience adverse health impacts associated with migration and acculturation. Given the sheer number of immigrants in this country and their alarmingly increasing rates of obesity, hypertension, mental illness, heart disease, cancer, oral disease, and many other negative health outcomes, it is imperative to stop and reverse these disturbing trends in public health. With the participation of 12 faculty members from 8 USC schools, this collaborative project will utilize an existing critical mass at USC to address these challenges through networking across disciplines, mentoring students and junior faculty, exploring research topics, and ultimately develop a grant proposal for a Transdisciplinary Research Center for Immigrant Health at USC.

Lawrence Palinkas, USC School of Social Work, Social Policy and Health
Lihua Liu, Keck School of Medicine of USC, Preventive Medicine

Interdisciplinary Research Cluster on Civics and Social Media

In a world where traditional forms of citizenship, politics, and civic life are rapidly changing, how can young people become more civic–‐minded and publicly engaged? How can digital technologies, participatory media, and social networking enable them to do so, and how are definitions of “civic” and “public” co–‐evolving with these practices, online and offline? These are the central questions that guide our proposal for an interdisciplinary Civics and Social Media (CASM) research.

Scholars from a wide range of disciplines at USC are working to understand youth engagement and social media, but they arrive at the conversation through different theoretical entry points and often with different stakes. The primary goal of the CASM research cluster is to shed light on these disciplinary investments while simultaneously working to break them down, creating interdisciplinary languages through which conversations can be sustained.

Kjerstin Thorson, USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, Communication and Journalism
Henry Jenkins, USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, Communication and Journalism
Mike Ananny, USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, Communication and Journalism
Holly Willis, USC School of Cinematic Arts, Cinema

USC STEM Education Research Consortium

We live in an era with unprecedented changes due to advances in technology. These forces of technological advances are transforming the role of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in society. With outsourcing and off-shoring of engineering and science jobs, there is a growing concern about the level of interest among young students choosing STEM fields as college majors and eventual careers. The urgent need in STEM workforces calls for a comprehensive and collaborative pipeline effort in STEM education that begins in K‐12 and extends into college and university education, resulting in a fully prepared STEM workforce. The specific aims of this consortium are to engage in collaborative research to advance the STEM pipeline through strategic planning and leveraging USC’s diverse expertise in STEM education.

Gisele Ragusa, Rossier School of Education/Viterbi School of Engineering
John Slaughter, Rossier School of Education/Viterbi School of Engineering
Other Participating Faculty

USC Transdisciplinary Collaboratory for Mobile and Connected Health (USC mHealth Collaboratory)

New mobile health (mHealth) technologies have the potential to reduce the cost of health care and improve health outcomes in the United States and across the globe. Today’s wireless, wearable, and deployable technologies provide unprecedented opportunities to passively capture digital ‘footprints’ that catalogue a person’s everyday behaviors, contexts, choices and even states. Data streams from a broad variety of sources – wearable and deployable sensors, social media, games, pictures and videos, location, purchase transactions, apps, and Internet use, just to name a few. We can now ubiquitously monitor physical activity, heart rate, blood pressure, stress, diet, smoking, social interactions, blood glucose, geographical location and a host of other physiological, behavioral and contextual signals in real time. Technologies like smart pill bottles and smart inhalers can monitor compliance. Wearable and deployable sensors are prolonging independent living for the elderly and disabled. Systems of wearable, deployable sensors combined with smartphones can provide real-time, personalized interventions that can be adapted on the fly as behavior changes, new data is accrued, new research comes to light, or new needs arise.  Finally, the emergence of cloud computing makes it possible to link sensors, mobile devices and powerful servers together and share data across them in a way that is transparent to the user.  These ubiquitous mobile technologies systems – powerful, networked computers always nearby – can support continuous, real-time, health monitoring and health care at both the individual and population level. Our distinctive strengths in interactive technologies, engineering, behavioral health and medicine could uniquely position USC as a major nexus for the development and testing of cutting edge user-centered technologies for treatment, prevention and health promotion across a broad swath of health domains.

Donna Spruijt-Metz, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Economic and Social Research/ Preventive Medicine
William Swartout, Institute for Creative Technologies, Computer Science

Neuroplasticity and Repair in Degenerative Disorders

The adult brain possesses a tremendous capacity for change in response to its environment through processes termed experience-dependent neuroplasticity. Recently this has been demonstrated to occur in neurological disorders including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia and bipolar disease as well as traumatic brain injury. Understanding the molecular underpinnings of neuroplasticity in the aging and diseased brain could provide a new innovative direction and novel insights towards the identification of new therapeutic targets for treating neurological disorders. This collaboration seeks to foster collaborative research among investigators interested in neuroplasticity. The goals of this initiative are to better understand the underlying molecular mechanisms of neurodegenerative disorders, and to carryout translational studies that include both applications of basic research findings to the clinic, as well as using clinical observations to better design studies within the lab.

Michael Jakowec, Keck School of Medicine, Department of Neurology
Giselle Petzinger, Keck School of Medicine, Department of Neurology
John Walsh, Davis School of Gerontology, Bio-Gerontology/Striatal Synaptic Research
Beth Fisher, Ostrow School of Dentistry, Department of Biokinesiology

Institute for Integrative Health Collaborative Research Group

In the past 3 years, there has been a 20% increase in the number of academic institutions (from 51 to 62; USC, represented by the IIH, was #51) belonging to the Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine (the “Consortium”). The increasing science of mind-body medicine includes an explosion in the number of peer-reviewed publications showing the effectiveness and the neuroscience of mindfulness practices on multiple health conditions. The fact that therapies and practices previously considered “alternative” by conventional medicine has now undergone a paradigm shift is emphasized by the recent change in name of the NIH National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). The USC-Institute for Integrative Health is thus fully aligned with this national trend in the philosophy, science, and practice of integrative health. The impact of achieving the specific aims identified below would propel USC into a national research leadership role in the rapidly growing field of integrative health.

Marc Weigensberg, Keck School of Medicine of USC, Pediatrics/County Hospital
Geaorge Salem, Ostrow School of Dentistry
Charles Kaplan, School of Social Work

Previous Collaboration Fund Projects

Previous Years