U-M researchers receive share of $250 million Dow will award to top universities

October 27, 2011
Contact: Nicole Casal Moore ncmoore@umich.edu

ANN ARBOR—Four University of Michigan projects have received a share of the $250 million that Dow Chemical Company has announced it will award to top universities over the next decade in an effort to help develop a 21st-century workforce and address 21st-century challenges.

The awards to professors in the College of Engineering and the College of Pharmacy add up to $3.7 million over five years. The work the researchers will do could one day lead to medicines that are easier to digest, cleaner paints, and spreadsheet tools that better suit scientists’ needs.

“Dow is not only one of U-M’s neighbors here in Michigan, but has also long been one of

U-M’s key corporate partners, and we are pleased to be a part of this new initiative,” said Stephen Forrest, vice president for research at U-M. “These grants will spur progress in research that has a number of potential benefits to society.”

Ronald Larson, the George Granger Brown Professor of Chemical Engineering, received two grants. He was awarded a five-year grant to develop computer models or simulations that could improve researchers’ understanding of how small molecules interact with polymers. This work could advance the development of medicines, cosmetics, coatings and a number of other markets.

Larson, along with John Kieffer, a professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, also received a five-year grant to build computational tools to model the behavior of complex atomic-scale interactions that occur in waterborne coatings. This work could lead to the eventual development of high-quality, stable industrial paints that don’t contain certain environmentally harmful solvents.

Michael Cafarella, an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, received a one-year grant to find ways to better manage large collections of spreadsheets. Originally designed for financial bookkeeping, the spreadsheet has evolved to be a Swiss Army knife of data management, Cafarella says. But they’re difficult for scientists to manage over long periods of time. For example, it’s hard to combine data from multiple spreadsheets, and even to simply find data when you don’t know exactly which spreadsheet it’s in.

Steven Schwendeman, the Ara G. Paul Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences, along with Kashappa-Goud Desai, an assistant research scientist in the College of Pharmacy, received a three-year grant to work on formulation performance and synthesis of new materials.

“Dow is a global industry leader, delivering solutions to customers in 160+ countries. We started in Midland, Michigan, and our world headquarters remains in Michigan 116 years later. We are proud of our heritage and are firmly committed to Michigan. Over the year’s we have utilized the power of science and engineering to transform our company. University of Michigan has played a leading role throughout,” said Dr. Theresa Kotanchek, vice president of Sustainable Technologies and Innovation Sourcing at Dow. “It is rewarding to have University of Michigan as a key partner as we value their excellence in science and engineering education and research, and their willingness to collaborate with industry.”

Dow’s 10-year commitment to expand its partnership with the nation’s top scientific and engineering talent and research institutes is a signature commitment to invest and re-energize U.S. manufacturing to cultivate a more competitive marketplace. More information about Dow’s industry-leading partnership with key academic institutions in the United States can be found at: http://www.dow.com/innovation/partnership.