Award Provides Research Seed Money for Junior Faculty at ORAU Member Institutions


2017 Powe Award winners
From left, Julie Carrier, head of UTIA’s biosystems engineering and soil science; Taylor Eighmy, vice chancellor for research and engagement; Sindhu Jagadamma; UT Chancellor Beverly Davenport; Rachel Patton McCord; Dan Roberts, head of the Department of Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology; and Theresa Lee, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.


UT’s Sindhu Jagadamma and Rachel Patton McCord are recipients of the 2017 Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award from Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU).​

Chancellor Beverly Davenport recently presented plaques to Jagadamma, assistant professor of biosystems engineering and soil science in the UT Institute of Agriculture, and McCord, assistant professor of biochemistry and cellular and molecular biology, in recognition of the honor.

“Often funding agencies require extensive preliminary data, effectively asking that a project be halfway done before funding it,” said McCord. “This can make things difficult for junior faculty who are just getting projects off the ground, but early support like this Powe Award can give projects momentum to be more competitive for extensive funding later.”

McCord will use the award to measure the 3-D structure of chromosomes inside metastatic cancer cells as they squeeze through narrow spaces or are exposed to drug treatments that help prevent metastasis. She will collaborate with scientists at the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences and the Joint Institute for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and will apply for additional funding from the American Cancer Society and the National Institutes of Health.

“The expert peer review process of the Powe Award is extremely valuable,” said McCord. “The feedback I received on my project proposal will serve me well as we move forward with this project and future grants.”

Jagadamma will use the award to support a graduate student who is assisting her on a collaborative project with Melanie Mayes at ORNL, aimed at understanding how soil moisture conditions constrain the microbial decomposition of organic carbon present in soil. The award will cover the cost of a weeklong training on techniques and tools to analyze microbial community data.

“This award will help expand one of my current research focus areas and facilitate data collection that will help me to develop competitive grant proposals to the Department of Energy and National Science Foundation,” said Jagadamma. “The Powe Award will also enhance visibility of my research program, which is critical to initiate new research partnerships within and outside the University of Tennessee.”

The Powe Awards provide seed money for research by junior faculty at ORAU member institutions. They are intended to enrich the research and professional growth of young faculty and lead the way to additional funding opportunities. UT’s Office of Research and Engagement matches the $5,000 award from ORAU.

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This announcement originally ran in Tennessee Today, August 9, 2017​.