In the spirit of collaboration and creating global change, the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA) at the University of Michigan has awarded $4.7 million to five new faculty research projects as part of the Meet the Moment Research Initiative. 

Launched in 2022, this is the second round of winning proposals for the Meet the Moment Research Initiative. The first four research projects were awarded nearly $4.5 million in funding. 

“We are excited to announce the 2024 awardees of the Meet the Moment Research Initiative,” said Anne Curzan, dean of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at the University of Michigan. “Our world continues to face generational challenges that impact us socially, politically, and economically. And the expertise in LSA is essential. The five projects selected showcase how the liberal arts are addressing some of these challenges in a way that will create long-term and meaningful change in our world.”

All of the project teams are led or co-led by LSA faculty, and include undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, staff, and other faculty colleagues, as well as community members and organizations. 

“The LSA Meet the Moment Research Initiative continues to be a trailblazer for groundbreaking research across the humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences,” said Anne Thomson, director of research and compliance at LSA. “This was a highly competitive process, and these five selected projects represent how much we value and invest in our research efforts, and our commitment to creating positive change in the world.” 

Faculty spent several months last year developing their proposals for grant funding. Similar to the inaugural round, winning proposals for the Meet the Moment Research Initiative fell into two grant categories: “Change the World,” where each project receives up to $2 million in grant funding to be used over a five-year period; and “Vital Impact,” where each project receives up to $250,000 in grant funding for a two-year research project. All five projects will begin July 1, 2024.

The five Meet the Moment research projects are:

Change the World Projects (awards up to $2 million each):

Shaping Real World Policies to Tackle Persistent Health Inequities using Randomized Early Access to COVID-19 Vaccinations through Michigan Medicine 

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated already severe inequities in health and economic hardship by race, ethnicity, social vulnerability, and health. Although new life-saving technologies can reduce inequities, certain factors determine their real-world effectiveness, making policy guidance difficult. This project will examine early access to COVID-19 vaccination data from Michigan Medicine to evaluate those inequities, how they came to be, and their impact on individuals’ health and financial hardships with the aim to inform future policy guidance.  

Project Team: Amanda Kowalski, Sarah Burgard, Yanna Krupnikov, Abram Wagner

Total Award: $1,999,782


Pollinator Health: Assess, Construct, Test, and Survey (PHACTS)

  • A world without pollinators means a world devoid of apples, chocolate, and even coffee. More importantly, without pollinators, a significant portion of the world would not have access to the nutrients required for a healthy diet. A top factor underlying pollinator decline is pesticide use in agriculture. This project will examine the effects of herbicide on plants and how that, in turn, impacts our food, farmers, and consumers. 

Project Team: Regina Baucom, Jennifer Blesh, David Sherman, Elizabeth Tibbetts, Noah Webster, Luis Zaman 

Total Award: $1,998,931

Vital Impact Projects (awards up to $250,000 each):

The Jungle

  • This project will develop a short documentary film, The Jungle, looking at the high number of children who are injured, maimed, disfigured, and killed working in agriculture in the United States and legislative efforts to address the growing problem. The film will use personal stories to explore the devastating impact child labor has had on individual lives, and it will provide a larger historical context for this phenomenon. 

Project Team: John Valadez and Leila Kawar 

Total Award: $250,000


Detroit River Story Lab

  • This project is a continuation of the Detroit River Story Lab (DRSL), a collaborative, public-facing research initiative that highlights the sociocultural, economic, and ecological centrality of the Detroit River corridor to reimagine it as a case study in inclusive civic renewal. The team plans to create community-centric installations for the river’s pedestrian pathway and a mobile app for visitors, co-create an educational curriculum with U-M partners, LSA, and nonprofit local journalism organizations for U-M students and local adult learners.

Project Team: David Porter, Angela Dillard, Melissa Duhaime, Kristin Hass

Total Award: $249,760


A One Health Approach to Combat Fungal Infections in Endangered Species

  • In collaboration with U-M partners, the Smithsonian Zoo, Bat Conservation International, and the Bat Biology Foundation, this project will use the latest pharmaceutical options to try to prevent the extinction of specific frog and bat species due to fungal infections. In frogs, the chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis has led to global extinctions of many frog species. In bats, the emergence of white nose syndrome, caused by the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans, has rapidly depleted bat populations, leading to the relisting of the recently common little brown bat as an endangered species. The loss of bats and frogs will have an inestimable impact on agriculture, biodiversity, society, culture, public health, and the economy. 

Project Team: Timothy James, Timothy Cernak, Brian Gratwicke, Kelly Speer

Total Award: $249,387


To learn more about research initiatives at LSA, visit the website