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Interdisciplinary Small Grants Program

Graduate Division Interdisciplinary Small Grants Program

At UC Merced, interdisciplinarity is a pillar of graduate education and a signature element of multiple research projects. To further expand such opportunities, the Graduate Division’s Interdisciplinary Small Grants Program provides resources for faculty, postdoctoral researchers, and graduate students to come together in contexts designed to facilitate interdisciplinary conversations and collaborations leading to grant proposals, special issues of journals or edited volumes, and related outcomes. 

It is anticipated that some, though not necessarily all, of these small grants will align with the campus Strategic Academic Focusing Initiatives. While the format is flexible, in most cases, these initiatives will begin as faculty and student led seminars. The proposal should specify the meeting schedule, format, and initial readings selected by the facilitators. 

Award Information and Expectations

  • Awards have an upper limit of $3,000
  • Anticipated start date for funded proposals is Fall 2018; planning for funded proposals should begin in late spring or summer
  • Funded proposals should submit a one-page final report at the close of the academic year, summarizing funded activities and outcomes; next steps for the group; and the involvement of graduate students in the project, including student comments to gauge their assessment of the project’s contributions to enriching interdisciplinarity at UC Merced

Proposal Requirements

See the formal Call for Proposals for here.

Proposals should be submitted by faculty as the principal facilitator but may include graduate students as co-facilitators. Proposals should be no more than 2 pages (single-spaced) in length and submitted to Vice Provost and Graduate Dean Marjorie Zatz at  Proposals should include:

  • A brief statement of the focus of the group and its intellectual significance
  • A description of the proposed activities of the group, including meeting plan, schedule, and initial readings or other means of convening the group
  • Explicit attention to how the proposed focus is interdisciplinary, including the number of graduate groups participating
  • Statement of intended research/scholarship outcomes
  • Qualifications of the facilitator or co-facilitators to lead the forum

Please append:

  • A list of likely seminar participants with identification of (a) whether they are faculty, postdoctoral researchers or graduate students, and (b) their graduate group affiliation(s)
  • An itemized budget with appropriate justification (download the budget template here). Budget items may include books or reference material; consultants or speaker costs; lunch or other refreshments during meetings, or other miscellaneous costs associated with meetings and consistent with UC Merced policies. 

Selection Criteria

The selection committee will make awards based on the following criteria:

  • the project’s potential to advance new insights or lines of inquiry for interdisciplinary research and scholarship
  • the likelihood of meeting research objectives including a grant proposal, special issue of a journal, etc.
  • identification of a sufficient number of campus scholars interested in the topic across (at minimum) two graduate groups
  • clear engagement of graduate students in the project


Application Deadline: April 27, 2018

Final Report Deadline: May 15, 2019

Academic Year 2018-19 Awardees

Title: Interdisciplinary Initiatives in Data Science at UC Merced
PI: Ramesh Balasubramaniam - Cognitive & Information Sciences

This grant will help support a consortium of reserachers (faculty and students) that will help coordinate data science intitiatives across programs to equip faculty and graduate students wih the interdisciplinary knowledge and expertise necessary to advance research and applications in computation and data science.  


Title: Mobility of Char in the Soil System
PIs: Asmeret Asefaw Berhe - Environmental Systems
Teamrat Ghezzehei - Environmental Systems 

Francois Blanchette- Applied Mathematics 

This grant will help to support a soil column experiemnt and periodic meetings. The periodic meetings will be co-facilitated by both Dr. Santos and Dr. Yan, and will aim at communicating research findings and plan the submission of a larger research proposal. 

Title: 3D-Printed Wearable Electronics for Healthcare in Remote Locations: Stimulating a new collaboration wih the Advanced Light Source at Lawrence Berkeley Lab
PIs: Jessica Wang - Biological Engineering and Small-Scale Technologies
Linda Hirst - Physics
This grant seeks to gather an interdiscplinary team of scientists to make remote healthcare sensing a reality. The participants of this team will participate in several activities over the Fall 2018 semester to prepare for this work and develop new expertise and multidisciplinary National Lab collaboration based at UC Merced.


Academic Year 2017-18 Awardees

Title: Interdisciplinary Dialogue Circles
PIs: Neama Alamri (Graduate Student) - Interdiscipinary Humanities
Sholeh Quinn - Interdisciplinary Humanities

This grant will help to support the activiites that create a space to share and discuss current work in Interdisciplinary Humanities by graduate students and faculty. The Interdisciplinary Dialogue Circles will consist of a reading scholarship that explores topics such as professionalization, interdisciplinary methodologies, and survival in academia. This group also seeks to explore the issues and specific challenges that underrepresented scholars face in the academy.


Title: Toward an Interdisciplinary Approach on Hmong Studies
PI: Ma Vang - Interdisciplinary Humanities

This grant seeks to expand the work of Hmong Studies Working Group at UC Merced and organize a series of seminars that would bring together Hmong studies scholars to share new research and provide mentorship.  The participants of this working group and seminar facilitators will include members from four UC Merced graduate groups: Interdisciplinary humanities, public health, sociology, and political science. The seminars will be open to all undergraduate and graduate students who are interested in these topics.

Title: Mapping Place Identity and Place Dependency Amid Increasing Visitor Use and Changing Recreational Expectations in Yosemite National Park's Wilderness
PI: Jeffrey Jenkins - Environmental Systems
This grant will support smartphone-based app challenge and four meetings for postdocs, graduate students, faculty and Park professionals. The app would be designed to facilitate citizen collection of voluntary geographic data used to inform and evaluate desired conditions for Wilderness users in Yosemite with the intention of expanding to other congressionally designated Wilderness areas. 

Academic Year 2016-17 Awardees

Title: Mesoamerican Studies Group: Indigeneity, Inequality, and Resistance
PIs: Paul Almeida - Sociology
Arturo Arias - Interdisciplinary Humanities

This grant will help to support a newly-forming Mesoamerican Studies Center (MASC) at UC Merced, which will become a resource for faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, staff, and the community at large.

Today, more than 90 percent of all Latinos living in the Central Valley of California are Mesoamericans, a high percentage of them of Indigenous origin, and as of Fall 2015, 48 percent of UC Merced undergraduates identified as Latino. It is logical that UC Merced scholars would be uniquely interested in researching and working with the flow and ebb of this critical population, their issues, histories, and cultures.


Title: UCM CS-BIG (Cancer Systems Biology Interest Group) 
PI: Fabian Filipp - Quantitative and Systems Biology

This grant will help to support the activities of the interdisciplinary forum CS-BIG, which focuses on advanced research training of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in genomics, biomedicine, and drug targeting in cancer systems biology. The CS-BIG meeting is well established at UC Merced, since its inaugural meeting on 8/1/2012. In the past CS-BIG has hosted 25 seminar speakers and meetings have an average attendance of about 20 researchers including students, researchers, and faculty from all three schools at UC Merced. The goal of CS-BIG is to attract a federally funded training grant supporting research and education in computational cancer and systems biology.

Title: Bimonthly Synthetic Biology and Nanomaterials seminar series for faculty and graduate students
PIs: Anand Bala Subramaniam - Biological Engineering and Small-Scale Technologies
This grant will support a bimonthly 1.5-hour seminar series that draws on faculty and students involved with the NASA MACES Center and the NSF CREST Center, as well as faculty and students from nearby institutions. The seminar series will host speakers from neighboring research intensive institutions which already ave successful programs to enhance the career placement of our students, to help build a culture of research excellence, and to open potential collaborative opportunities.

Academic Year 2015-16 Awardees

Title: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Anthropocene
PI: Michael Dawson - Environmental Systems, Quantitative & Systems Biology


Title: Natural and Cultural Resources Preservation Interdisciplinary Research Group
PI: Nicola Lecari - Interdisciplinary Humanities

Title: Interdisciplinary Workshop on Creating and Testing Mathematical Models to Understand Stem Cell Fate Decisions
PIs: Jennifer Manilay - Quantitative and Systems Biology 
Suzanne Sindi - Applied Mathematics

* The Graduate Division reserves the right not to make an award in any given year for which a call for applications/nominations has been issued.