Richard Barber Interdisciplinary Research Program

Since 2010, Richard Barber has generously funded our summer research program that has brought together researchers from across Wayne State University for transformative research and educational experiences.

Our program fosters collaboration between faculty and students from the College of Engineering, the School of Medicine, the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. This year includes a focus on student mentorship and expands the undergraduate schedule to a full-time workload. We aim to have this research experience be a meaningful experience for helping the students develop scientific approaches to problem-solving and fostering their high-tech careers.

For more information, please contact Professor Christopher Kelly or visit the CV Kelly Lab.


We have selected seven projects to fund that include collaborations between the Departments of Biological Sciences, Biomedical Engineering, Chemical Engineering and Materials Sciences, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Computer Science, Geology, Industrial and Systems Engineering, Neurosurgery, Ophthalmology, Visual and Anatomical Sciences, Pathology, Pediatrics, and Pharmacology.

Funded projects include:

Project Faculty
Identification of neurological and physiological Conditions in neonates using electroencephalogram data Suzan Arslanturk, Computer Science: Ratna Babu Chinnam, Industrial and Systems Engineering: Sidhartha Tan, Pediatrics
Insect galls as bioindicators to detect carcinogens and their movement in the environment Glen Hood, Biological Sciences: Shirley Papuga, Geology
Development and validation of a novel MRI method to quantify oxidative stress after traumatic brain injury Alana Conti, Neurosurgery: Bruce Berkowitz, Ophthalmology, Visual & Anatomical Sciences
Impact of changes in drinking water quality on gut microbiome Shawn McElmurry, Civil and Environmental Engineering: Tracie Baker, Pharmacology: Nancy Love, Civil & Environmental Engineering; University of Michigan
How crystals form on top of a sphere Ashis Mukhopadhyay, Physics & Astronomy: Yingxi Elaine Zhu, Chemical Engineering & Materials Sciences
New nano-mechanical approaches in cancer biology Peter M. Hoffmann, Physics and Astronomy: Rafael Fridman, Pathology: Harini Sundararaghavan, Biomedical Engineering
Understanding polycrystalline materials growth as enabled by novel computational algorithms Loren Schwiebert, Computer Science: Zhi-Feng Huang, Physics & Astronomy

Program history

Over the past eight years, the Richard Barber Interdisciplinary Research Program has provided opportunities for students to participate in cutting-edge, interdisciplinary research while building collaborations between diverse academic departments. Over 111 WSU students and 14 different academic departments have participated. Many of the collaborations initiated via this program have continued to prosper, and many of the students have launched successful scientific careers. We are very proud of our past successes and are excited about our future improvements to the program.

Each year, we aim to increase the diversity in research projects, including theoretical and experimental research in the basic and applied sciences. The program includes full-time undergraduate support, encouragement of scientific outreach, and increased continuity in research support.

Program structure

The primary activity of the Richard Barber Interdisciplinary Research Program is our summer research projects. This year, we will support seven research projects that each include faculty mentors from different complementary departments, undergraduate student researchers, and experienced graduate students or postdoctoral researchers. By bringing together researchers with diverse academic backgrounds and experience levels, we aim to provide an educational and productive research experience for all program participants.

Faculty members from across WSU will develop their research mentorship team and propose research projects that exemplify the program goals. The winning projects will be selected by peer-review and by Mr. Barber. The winning project mentors will then select the undergraduate applicants that are likely to both contribute to the research and benefit from the opportunity for full-time research experience over the summer.

With approximately six researchers per project, our summer program will bring together over 40 faculty members and students from across WSU. We will host program-wide meetings at the beginning and end of the summer to meet each other and share our research results. Additionally, there will be undergraduate-only meetings biweekly to foster community and provide peer support.

The most important meetings, however, may be the weekly project-specific meetings in which the undergraduate students will be able to see the interactions between their mentors, practice presenting their research results, and help develop the evolving research plan during the summer. Undergraduate researchers will submit an end-of-the-summer research report and present their results at a program-wide research fair to celebrate their accomplishments.

Budgetary considerations: Incentives, supplements, and extensions

Stipends for the students and faculty will be partially tied to their completion of the program. Students will receive their final stipend payment upon submission of their final report and presentation of their research at a research fair. Faculty members will receive their stipends upon submission of their final report.

Successful summer projects may be eligible for funding extension during the academic year. The demonstration of success from the summer research and a plan for future success is expected. We hope to additionally provide funding to support travel to scientific conferences, external seminar speakers of interest to multiple research groups, publication fees, or other research expenses. The budget available for such supplements is still under discussion with WSU and Mr. Barber.