Back-of-the-Envelope Proposals Win Seed Funding

Innovative thinking is alive and well in one corner of public health. The UAB School of Public Health's dean, Dr. Max Michael, recently announced the winners of the inaugural Back of the Envelope Awards, which is a project to promote creative health research. The awards are funded from the Birmingham, Ala. school's budget. "It seemed like an interesting way to allow people to be creative, identify them, and give some of them an opportunity to play with an idea," he said, according to a release posted by the school's media department.

The school's faculty members were invited to submit proposals written on the back of a standard letter envelope. Nineteen responded by the deadline. The four 2008 winners are David Becker, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Health Care Organization and Policy; Rui Feng, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Biostatistics; Claudiu Lungu, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences; and Sadeep Shrestha, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology.

They receive seed money that is based on how long the researcher will work on the project and how much laboratory time, biosamples, and other equipment is needed, said Michael. The release said the winners' projects will study whether differences in health insurance coverage cause differences in long-term health status, how combinations of repeating gene variations can predict propensity to become sick or have a disease; using carbon nanotubes as air quality monitoring devices; and a gene's role in giving some protection from the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

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