Last fall, the University of Michigan launched MCubed, a research funding program that lets faculty themselves decide which projects to pursue. A formal, external review isn’t part of the process. To qualify for “cube” funding, three researchers from at least two disciplines simply have to agree to work together on a new project.
In early December, 50 projects “cubed” and were slated to receive $60,000 seed grants in phase one of the program, with 50 faculty from the Medical School collaborating. The two-year pilot, comprised of $15 million from the U-M Provost and participating schools, colleges, and units, will ultimately distribute 200 more early-stage grants, in an effort to jumpstart innovative and interdisciplinary collaboration. The Medical School is contributing $1 million to the program.
The second cubing phase closed in late December and once again stimulated a wide array of projects that attest to the creativity and talent of U-M Medical School faculty and their colleagues across campus. This phase resulted in funding for 117 cubes, with over 100 Medical School investigators involved.
Many projects address the latest hot-button issues in health research. For instance one cube involving John Piette of Internal Medicine will study mobile apps and the use of automated and data-driven reinforcement learning to make health communications adaptive to the patient’s experience and conditions. Another project involving Jun Hun Lee of Molecular and Integrative Physiology and Robert Wessells of Internal Medicine will explore whether Sestrins can mimic exercise and thus extend lifespan. Key themes across the 117 newly funded cubes include cancer therapy, big data, and the human-machine interface.
For more details about these cubes and others, go to the MCubed website.