New U-M Grant Funding Will Advance Clinical Research, Train Teachers

Two new grant programs administered by the University of Michigan aim to improve health and education for residents of the Great Lakes State.

One, in partnership with automotive supplier Bosch, helps teachers with hands-on learning projects in the areas of energy, science, engineering, technology, and the environment; the other helps U-M researchers and faculty get healthcare innovations to market faster. Let’s look at each in a little more depth below.

—The Bosch Community Fund, along with U-M’s School of Education and Center for Education, Design, Evaluation, and Research, are collaborating on a competitive grant program that will be available to teachers in the communities surrounding all of Bosch’s 39 U.S. locations, including its North American headquarters in Farmington Hills and facilities in Plymouth, Warren, Ann Arbor, St. Joseph, Kalamazoo, and Kentwood.

According to community fund director Kathleen Owsley, U-M has received $250,000 to establish the grant program, which will help educators pay for hands-on learning projects and  evaluate best practices to improve teacher effectiveness.

Owsley says the grants are also designed to help teachers connect with one another and find ways to remove the barriers that prevent them from offering students an exceptional learning experience. The hope is that instead of wasting time and resources writing lesson plans from scratch, educators will call on one another for advice developing STEM curricula based on what has been successful in the past.

Owsley says the fund was launched in 2011 in honor of Bosch’s 125th anniversary. The company reached out to U-M because it wanted to scale and refine its philanthropic efforts in STEM education, which it considers key to creating a highly skilled future workforce.

“The idea has been a homerun,” Owsley adds. “The teachers are so grateful. Innovation is a huge theme for Bosch, and we want to encourage those teachers that typically spend about $800 every year out of pocket.”

Each teacher awarded a grant will get about $500, she says, and Bosch is committed to renewing funding on an annual basis. Owsley expects that the first grants will be awarded starting next year.

“We wanted to get behind teachers in a meaningful way, and we wanted to be responsive to what they tell us they need,” she says.

—The National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences has awarded the University of Michigan’s Institute for Clinical and Health Research (MICHR) a $58 million grant to help get university research and innovations out of the lab and into the marketplace.

MICHR director George Mashour says U-M has received this type of grant before, but never for this much money. The institute will use the funding to help the university’s health and life science researchers transform their best ideas and inventions into new tests, treatments, or even cures. The money will also go toward a Web-based platform that facilitates communication between the public and researchers.

“There are always studies in need of patients, and we’re really trying to advance the connection between the community and doctors,” he adds. “The goal isn’t necessarily to cure disease, but rather to be the tide that helps all boats rise. We want to create infrastructure and lower barriers for researchers and inventors.”

On the infrastructure side, the grant will assist with “regulatory support,” such as intervening in communications with the FDA, Mashour says.

The MICHR will also use grant funding to establish career development awards and examine how emerging technologies such as augmented reality might be incorporated into patient treatment plans.

Although the NIH grant will flow through the medical school, Mashour says the funding is partly meant to support cross-disciplinary projects.

“Clinical research is a team sport, so to speak,” he notes. “We need to engage people across campus and the community. Healthcare is complex and time-pressured, so we’re trying to be creative.”

The MICHR website that lists the U-M clinical research studies currently underway has hundreds of projects in need of volunteers; click here to sign up for the registry.

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