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Faculty Member Secures Grant for Microbiological Research

A biology student works with lab equipment.
A biology student works with lab equipment.

Matthew R. Hemm, assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, has successfully secured a substantial grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which will provide funding for his proposal titled “Role of Small Transmembrane Proteins in Cytochrome bd Oxidase Activity.” This proposal focuses on the role and function of specific proteins crucial to cellular respiration and to the processes of infection and colonization by several bacterial species. Understanding the activities of these proteins may have significant implications for the public health industry in terms of infection control.

This award has many benefits in store for Towson University. With the funds provided, both undergraduate and graduate students will have greater opportunities to participate in laboratory research, thereby fostering their talents for hands-on experimentation and information analysis.  With the additional resources, there will be more room for trial and error in these experiments; this is especially important, as students will be able to correct procedural mistakes and therefore learn via repetition and review. The increase in the amount of time allotted for lengthier periods of problem solving is a luxury that can never be valued too highly in a scientific setting. Also, having additional funds available can accommodate further experiments suggested by discoveries in a current line of research. As Hemm will attest, every answer leads to another question for which one may need another experiment. It must be kept in mind that scientific discovery does little good if it is not shared with the research community at large. External funding is a prerequisite to the publication of experimental results. In terms of the material benefits for TU, the grant money will allow for the purchase of crucial supplies not previously available due to monetary restraints.

Advice to grantseekers

In light of his success, Hemm has several points of advice to offer regarding the process of preparing and submitting a grant proposal.  In preparation, there is nothing wrong with studying previously successful proposals on which to model your own.  A document’s structural soundness can make just as strong an impression as the research it proposes, so familiarizing yourself with successful proposals is a step in the right direction to writing your own.  Another behavior he encourages is to seek reviews and critiques from outside authorities who are experts in your field.  Outside peer evaluation will only strengthen your proposal in the mind of a reviewer and will have the additional benefit of maximizing the critical feedback that you receive. In practice, the greater the number of critiques you receive and utilize to improve your work the better, so do not hesitate to take advantage of every opportunity to share and discuss your ideas with others. To facilitate the solicitation and consideration of feedback, it is important to begin working on your proposal as early as is feasible. Time is one of your most valuable resources; it musts be used in the most effective manner possible.

Another practice that can be to great advantage is to utilize the resources made available to you through TU’s Office of Sponsored Programs & Research. The staff can assist in identifying funding opportunities, developing project ideas into competitive proposals, and submitting complete proposals that will most effectively represent your research goals.   

Above all else, stresses Hemm, do not let discouragement be a stumbling block. Though a proposal may seem daunting, you’ve little to gain from hesitancy.  It is always worthwhile to submit your work and to receive detailed feedback that you will be able to apply to any subsequent project in which you may find yourself engaged later on. “Look at each proposal you work on as more than a request for funding. Approach each as an important learning experience.” Experience will allow you to identify and correct any weaknesses within your proposal and to expedite the process of translating your research into terms comprehensible to your intended reader. Hemm condenses this proactive approach into two words: “Just try.”

The current grant awarded to Hemm covers three years of research. Considering the sheer number of proteins “out there” that have yet be studied, there remains the possibility of future ventures along this line of inquiry. In terms of further proposal submissions, he intends soon to apply for a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER grant.  With continued funding and the indispensable efforts of his department colleagues, there is no doubt that he will be able to make great strides in advancing our understanding of the laws and dynamics of the microscopic world and educating our students.    

Office of Sponsored Programs & Research
212E Administration Building

Phone: 410-704-2236
Fax: 410-704-4494
E-mail: ospr@towson.edu

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