Office of Research and Sponsored Programs Transforming the Present, Discovering the Future
Sponsored Programs News
2023-2024 Q&A Sessions Announced
In August 2023, ORSP will begin hosting Q&A sessions on the second Thursday of each
month from 10:00am-11:00am in the Ingram Building garden level conference room, ING
G012. These sessions are open for any questions, however they will begin with a topic
August 10th, 2023 - Cayuse Introduction ; 10:00am-11:00am
September 14th, 2023- Grant Forward ; 10:00am-11:00am
October 12th, 2023- Extra Compensation / Federal Regulations ; 10:00am-11:00am
November 9th, 2023- Budget Review Forms ; 10:00am-11:00am
January 11th, 2024- TBD ; 10:00am-11:00am
February 8th, 2024- Research Ethics ; 10:00am-11:00am
“Research is important to the world,” McGinnis said. “It’s what moves things forward
and makes things better.”
In her new role since the end of January, McGinnis spent a lot of her first couple
weeks meeting with the campus community.
“I’ve been all across campus,” she said. “Right now, I’m meeting with the vice presidents
and deans. Then, I’ll meet with the chairs followed by faculty. It’s been fantastic;
everyone has been very welcoming, and I believe together we can do great things.”
David Butler, vice provost for research and dean of the College of Graduate Studies, said McGinnis is the perfect fit for the role. Just last year, MTSU hit the prestigious
milestone of earning a Carnegie R2 Research institution designation, an important
step toward the university’s overall goal to become known as an elite research institution.
“Rachel has years of experience running the research office at another university,
which allows her to hit the ground running and bring our research office to the level
needed to support the MTSU community in their externally funded scholarship,” Butler
Though she grew up all over the world as a self-described “army brat,” McGinnis settled
in Springfield, Missouri, for several years to study and work at Missouri State University.
“I started my career at the research administration office at Missouri State while
I was still a student,” McGinnis said. “There was never a dull moment. I fell in love
with facilitating the process of these faculty and students’ research endeavors. It
felt like I was helping make things better, that it was for the greater good.”
McGinnis said she is most looking forward to learning about all the faculty and student
research projects happening on campus and assisting them in growing their research
on an individual level.
“When a faculty or a student thinks about research, I want to them to think about
our office,” McGinnis said. “I want them to feel comfortable reaching out with whatever
questions they have — whether it be at the beginning, middle or end of their research
— and that we are the go-to resource to help them get from their idea to funding and
Dr.Keying Ding, an associate professor of chemistry atMTSU, has been involved in research since her time in graduate school at the University
of Rochester in Rochester, New York, in 2004.
“I have always loved doing research in chemistry,” Ding said. “I was a graduate research
assistant in graduate school in Rochester and a post-doc research associate at the
University of Minnesota.”
Dr. Keying Ding, Middle Tennessee State University associate chemistry professor,
experiments in MTSU’s Science Building on Aug. 10, 2021, to develop new metal catalysts
for her two research projects that recently won federal grants from the National Science
Foundation and the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund. (MTSU photo
by Stephanie Barrette)
Upon starting her MTSU faculty position in 2013, Ding immediately began applying for
grants to fund her research. She has previously earned twoNational Science Foundationgrants and participated in another.
This fall, Ding successfully secured two more highly competitive federal grants for
her research: one from the NSF and the other from theAmerican Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund.
For both projects, Ding’s chemical research centers around sustainability through
developing new earth-abundant metal catalysts — substances that increase the rate
of a chemical reaction without undergoing permanent change — to better facilitate
“green,” or eco-friendly, chemistry applications.
Emily Nolan, a recent Tennessee State University graduate, researches and samples
snake microbiomes as part of a project with Middle Tennessee State University assistant
biology professor Donny Walker in the summer of 2018 in West Tennessee. (MTSU photo
illustration; student photo courtesy of Donny Walker)
MTSU’sDonny Walker, assistant professor of biology, has landed a boost to his research through aNational Science Foundationgrant awarded in collaboration with researchers at Oregon State University and the
University of California Riverside.
Walker and MTSU will receive $870,000 of the $2.61 million highly competitive grant
for the NSF project titled Understanding the Rules of Life: Microbiome Interactions
and Mechanisms. The grant aims to fund research of members of the microbiome, the
host and the environment. Funding begins this January and extends through 2025.
Walker will serve as research team leader along with Jason Stajich, professor of microbiology
and plant pathology at UC Riverside, and Joey Spatafora, professor and department
head of botany and plant pathology, and Kerry McPhail, professor at the college of
pharmacy, both from Oregon State University.
Walker is currently hiring for the project’s MTSU research team, which will include
students doing laboratory and field work, including a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains
National Park in East Tennessee and other off-campus endeavors.
AMiddle Tennessee State Universitycenter andWilson Countynonprofit coalition have partnered to address opioid abuse and misuse in the rural
communities of the Midstate county thanks to a $1 million federal grant.
TheRural Communities Opioid Response Programis supported by HRSA to address barriers to access in rural communities related to
substance use disorder, including opioid use disorder.
DrugFree Wilco is a coalition of volunteers seeking to prevent and reduce drug addiction
among youth and adults in Wilson County. In addition to that organization, the Center
for Health and Human Services is working with MTSU’sDepartment Health and Human Performancepublic health faculty, itsData Science Instituteand other on- and off-campus partners.
MTSU undergrads discover 'URECA' research grants, faculty mentors
MTSU assistant professor of history Molly Taylor-Poleskey explains the university's
URECA grant and shares tips on finding a faculty research mentor.
The story of a dogged research team, a cantankerous plant, and wine that could change the world by Allison Gorman
Wine has been integral in human culture for thousands of years, from the Last Supper
to the works of Shakespeare to Hannibal Lecter’s “nice Chianti.” But, despite its
global reach, the flow of commercial wines begins in a few distinct regions within
two narrow latitudinal bands—one in the Northern Hemisphere, most famously including
Tuscany and parts of California, and one in the Southern Hemisphere, encompassing
parts of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina, and Chile.
The wines most of us recognize, whether or not we drink them, come from one species
of grape, which flourishes in the cool nights and warm days specific to those fertile
“The chardonnays, the cabernet sauvignons, the merlots, the pinot noirs, the sauvignon
blancs, those are allVitis vinifera,” MTSU Agriculture Professor Tony Johnston said. “The global industry is built on
that genus and species—from 95% to 99% of commercial vines. There are just a handful
of other species that are commercially grown for wine production around the world.”
Zion Market Research projects that the wine industry will reach $423.6 billion in
global revenues by the end of 2023. Finding a grape that could flourish outsideVitis vinifera’s 20-degree latitudinal range could give whole swaths of the world, many of them
quite poor, access to that lucrative market—or at least provide one other means of
“If another variety of grape can be shown to be viable and produce good-quality product,
we can open up the whole equatorial range of the earth to grape production,” Johnston
In other words, Johnston is not crazy for spending the last 25 years mildly obsessing
overVitis aestivalis, a North American grape commonly known as
Norton/Cynthiana.Norton/Cynthiana is not on anybody’s wine tour. It’s the official
grape of Missouri. But like Mark Twain and Harry Truman, it’s notoriously scrappy.
Unlike its delicate cousin in Napa Valley, it shrugs off little things like drought,
humidity, diseases, and pests.
Grown primarily in the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest U.S., Norton/Cynthiana is traditionally
used for table grapes, juices, jams, and jellies. It makes for delicious wine too,
Johnston said. He first worked with it in the mid-1990s as a research assistant at
the University of Arkansas, and he believes it has “enormous economic potential”—if
it can be propagated.
In the words of a certain Shakespearean prince (and almost certainly a wine drinker),
“Ay, there’s the rub."
Center for Health and Human Services, in partnership with the School of Agriculture’s Fermentation Science Degree Programs secures SARS-COV-2 Rapid Response funding opportunity
Cynthia Chaffin, Director of Center for Health and Human Services, received a 2 years,
$816,000, grant from USDA-NIFA called STEMsational Ag: The Virtual Farm.
Middle Tennessee State University’s Center for Health and Human Services, in partnership
with the School of Agriculture’s Fermentation Science Degree Programs, proposes “STEMsational
Ag: The Virtual Farm” in response to the SARS-COV-2 Rapid Response funding opportunity.
This project will provide both formal and non-formal educational content for K-14
students that is appropriate for traditional school settings (both distance and in-person
instruction) as well as children being homeschooled in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
This Regional Scale application will target students in Tennessee and all 10 other
states in the USDA designated Southeast Region, and will be culturally and geographically
appropriate for use in other states with similar agricultural and social environments.
“STEMsational Ag: The Virtual Farm” is a means to rapidly deploy Agriculture and STEM
related curriculum for K-14 students who are participating in traditional, distance,
or homeschool education settings. The curriculum will consist of modules and audio-visual
resources that are appropriate grade level-recommended, age-group tailored projects
and assignments. This approach allows for greater reach in terms of student age, with
creative and innovative applications for each grade level and flexibility to allow
the adoption of “higher” or “lower” level content, as desired.
The project also supports positive mental health. Both parents and children are being
affected by the pandemic and the mental health and well-being of both are of concern.
The national news is full of images of parents seeking resources to use to teach their
children, address their children’s stress levels, and more subtly, to alleviate their
own stress. The health of young people is directly tied to academic achievement and
their potential for school success and overall quality of life. The schools alone
cannot solve or prevent health-related problems. Through resources such as the proposed
“STEMsational Ag: The Virtual Farm,” the schools’ ability to have a positive impact
on students’ health behavior and academic gains is enhanced. These lessons will also
prime the pre-workforce population (K-14 students) for career opportunities in the
food and fiber industries.
“STEMsational Ag” will target multiple stakeholders in traditional and non-traditional
educational settings across the USDA’s Southern Region. Input from teachers and parents
will be included in the development process to assure ease of implementation, regardless
of educational background. The materials presented in “STEMsational Ag” will be culturally
and regionally appropriate and designed to serve stakeholders with and without internet
access for broad usage. To encourage student engagement with “STEMsational Ag,” a
video submission contest will be hosted each year through the digital classroom, providing
an opportunity for students to highlight projects inspired through the curriculum.
Winning submissions will be selected by grant staff and winners will receive a prize,
with one winner per state.
MTSU firsts: Jones, Terletska receive prestigious National Science Foundation grants
MTSU faculty membersSeth JonesandHanna Terletskahold a distinction no otherMiddle Tennessee State Universityprofessors have ever obtained —National Science Foundation Early Career Development (CAREER) grantrecipients.
MTSU's Terletska shares NSF-funded research at prestigious international conference
MTSU’s Hanna Terletskaexperienced a special opportunity to share her research experiences along with nearly
60 of the world’s leading physics scholars. The group gathered, albeit virtually
because of COVID-19, for the late summer international conference Localisation 2020
in honor of Philip W. “Phil” Anderson, a Nobel Prize in physics recipient. The aim of the conference, last held in 2011, was to bring together renowned researchers in related fields
from across the globe and provide a forum to discuss open problems. Thetopicscovered included Anderson localization, disordered quantum materials and more.
Terletska, who is considered a rising star in her field by peers, said the late August
conference “was an opportunity to present our research results to the international
community and be selected to speak from so many participants (300).” Terletska spoke
for 25 minutes, then fielded questions for five minutes. She has been researching
Anderson localization for nearly 10 years. “It was a great opportunity to contribute
to MTSU’s research mission,” she added. “Several students have been working at MTSU
on Anderson localization on National Science Foundation-sponsored projects and it
is my contribution to bringing quantum material research to Tennessee, too.” Read the full soryhere.
Tennessee Board of Regents Awards Funding for Inclusive Pedagogy Project
Congratulations are in order to the center's Director, Dr. Greg Rushton (PI) and his
colleagues, Dr. Grant Gardner (Biology) and Dr. Sarah K. Bleiler-Baxter (Mathematical
Sciences) who are also PI's for this project. Their research project has been awarded
funding from the Tennessee Board of Regents. The project is entitled Inclusive Pedagogy among STEM Faculty: A Professional Development Program for Becoming
Aware and Culturally Responsive and has three focal points. The first major point being to support faculty in becoming more
aware of and responsive to varied backgrounds, learning styles, and culture of learners
in STEM courses. Additionally, this project will serve to promote reflective practice
among faculty with respect to inclusive pedagogy. Finally, this project is seeking
to spark cultural change within the STEM departments with respect to a focus on inclusion.
We are excited to see how their research pans out and wish them the best of luck!
MTSU Faculty and Undergraduate Student's Research Showcased on Out of the Blue
Dr. Hanna Terletska
Dr. Hanna Terletska, Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy,
was one of the first two MTSU professors to be recognized by the National Science
Foundation as one of the nation's top young faculty members. This accomplishment is
not only rewarding to the recipients but promotes a research infrastructure at MTSU. Dr. Terletska's professional
path led her to MTSU because she was looking for a place where she could engage in
research as well as teach. MTSU aligned with her professional aspiration to be a teaching research scholar.
Join Andrew Oppmann as Dr. Terletska, talks about her research, her love of teaching,
and the importance of inspiring young women to pursue careers in science.
Dr. Mary Farone
Dr. Mary Farone, with MTSU's Department of Biology, has successfully secured federal
funding for two microbiology projects. One grant is sponsored by the National Institute
of Health and the second with the Department of Agriculture. Admirably, Dr. Farone
has gone to great lengths to include undergraduate students in the research process.
By doing so, undergraduate students gain independence, confidence, and learn many
new techniques. Listen in as Dr. Farone speaks of these skills, the impact of their
research, and MTSU’s new state-of-the-art Science Building.
Dr. Molly Taylor-Poleskey
Assistant Professor Dr. Molly Taylor-Poleskey teaches Digital History within the College
of Liberal Arts. Dr. Taylor-Poleskey's digital project, Bygone Nashville, with its
rich content, catches and holds the viewer's interest. It uses multimedia storytelling
skills to explore the history of East Nashville neighborhoods. Dr. Taylor-Poleskey’s
prompts and inspiration guided the creation of the project through the efforts and
observations of undergraduate students. The students, including URECA grant recipient Audrey
Creel, took themes such as religious history, architectural history, and travel history,
applied them in different ways to create a public walking tour as well.