Sustaining Illinois Seed Funding

Sustaining Illinois is the Illinois Innovation Network program that seeks to advance collaborative research activity across its 15 members by offering seed grant funding.

About Sustaining Illinois

The Sustaining Illinois name has multiple meanings, including the broad economic, health-related, and social well-being of the state and its communities, and environmental sustainability of its food and water ecosystem, which includes addressing issues affecting groups who are underserved, under-represented, or under-resourced.

Since its launch in 2020, Sustaining Illinois has funded 40 early-stage concepts supporting 133 investigators utilizing resources from the University of Illinois System and Northern Illinois University. Many of these projects have continued past the seed stage, earning more than $530,000 in follow-on funding.

The proposal cycle is being updated to an annual model.


Funded Sustaining Illinois Projects

2023 | News release

Sustainable Farming in Illinois: Developing Deep Learning Algorithms for Classifying the Growth Stages of Weed in Soybean Field
Khaled Ahmed, SIUC; Koushik Sinha, SIUC; John Kostelnick, ISU; Jonathan Thayn, ISU.

Developing and Testing the Virtual Reality Embedded Naloxone Training (VENT)
Wasantha Jayawardene, SIUC; Roy Magnuson, ISU; Joanna Willett, ISU; Scott Barrows, OSF HealthCare Jump Design Lab, Distillery Labs.

Engineering Sustainable Composite Membranes for Water Filtration and Remediation
Robert Sinko, NIU; Sabrina Nilufar, SIUC.

A Pilot Study on the Prevalence and Rise of Antibiotic-Resistant Genes in Urban and Rural Illinois
Pallavi Singh, NIU; Jan-Ulrik Dahl, ISU.

Fall 2022 | News release

Artificial Intelligence Foundations in Autonomous Vehicles for Career Explorers
Rebekka Darner, Illinois State University (ISU); Elahe Javadi, ISU; Elham Khorasani Buxton, University of Illinois Springfield (UIS).

Cost-effective Road Maintenance through Machine Learning and Optimization Methods
Abdelmounaam Rezgui, ISU; Moussa Ayyash, Chicago State University (CSU).

Developing a Human Resources Tool for Intellectual and Developmental Disability Service Organizations
Jinsook Kim, NIU; Jennifer Gray, NIU; Caitlin Crabb, University of Illinois Chicago (UIC); Kelly Hsieh, UIC; Tamar Heller, UIC.

Educating Students, Farmers, and Professionals to Support the Livestock Industry of Illinois
Eduardo Gastal, Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC); Igor Canisso, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Spring 2022 | News release

AI- and vision-enabled plant health monitoring system in vertical farms
Principal Investigator: Kevin Martin, NIU
Co-Principal Investigators: Pratool Bharti, NIU; Keith Cadwallader, UIUC.

Career/switch: gamified energy career exploration
Principal Investigator: Rebekka Darner, ISU
Co-Principal Investigators: Matthew Hagaman, ISU; Colin Wilson, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE).

Data-driven process modeling of advanced manufacturing systems
Principal Investigator: Jida Huang, UIC
Co-Principal Investigator: Niechen Chen, NIU

Designing equitable and sustainable STEM education with renewable technologies (DESSERT)
Principal Investigator: James Mathias, SIUC
Co-Principal Investigator: Matthew Aldeman, ISU

iGAIT-ASD: data-driven application to predict autism spectrum disorder (ASD) index for children living in underserved, underrepresented and low-income communities
Principal Investigator: Sinan Onal, SIUE
Co-Principal Investigators: Ziteng Wang, NIU; Allison Gladfelter, NIU; Milijana Buac, NIU

Introducing student-centered flipped teaching to faculty in the rural nursing program
Principal Investigator: Melodie Rowbotham, SIUE
Co-Principal Investigators: Chaya Gopalan, SIUE; Kelli Whittington, SIUC

Sustainable software for sustainable manufacturing: developing and training of open-source, high-performance computing simulation tools for additive manufacturing
Principal Investigator: Jifu Tan, NIU
Co-Principal Investigator: Sandra Gesing, Discovery Partners Institute (DPI)

Transforming wastes and industrial byproducts into sustainable construction materials
Principal Investigator: Prabir Kolay, SIUC
Co-Principal Investigator: Krishna Reddy, UIC

Fall 2021 | News release

Geopolymer concrete for sustainable construction and beyond
Principal Investigator: Guang Jin, ISU
Co-Principal Investigators: Pranshoo Solanki, ISU, and Nishant Garg, UIUC

Integrating hydrology and social science for community resiliency against flooding hazards: a case study for East St. Louis, Ill.
Principal Investigator: Ajay Kalra, SIUC
Co-Principal Investigators: Robert Dixon, SIUE; Courtney Breckenridge, SIUE; and Connie Frey Spurlock, SIUE

Planning the southeast Illinois P-16 computational thinking network
Principal Investigator: Brian Reid, Eastern Illinois University
Co-Principal Investigator: George Reese, UIUC

Sustainable inclusive supply chain for the electric vehicle industry in Illinois
Principal Investigator: John Simon, Governors State University
Co-Principal Investigator: P.S. Sriraj, UIC

Spring 2021 | News release

Multi-level Economic and Resilience Planning in Three Connected Communities: Critical Environmental Interfacing, Ecosystem Service Resourcing, and Sustainable Community Development
Principal Investigator: Connie Frey-Spurlock, SIUE
Co-Principal Investigators: Craig Anz, SIUC, and Sean Park, Western Illinois University

C2C:  Supporting Special Educators in their Transition from College to the Classroom
Principal Investigator: Melissa Jones-Bromenshenkel, EIU
Co-Principal Investigators: Michelle Parker-Katz, UIC, Wendy Weber, SIUE

Mapping and Spatial Analysis of Rural Broadband Access and Quality to Develop a Roadmap for Smart Farming in Illinois
Principal Investigator: John Kostelnick, ISU
Co-Principal Investigators: Jonathan Thayn, ISU, Rex Schaeffer, ISU, and Koushik Sinha, SIUC

Estimating the Burden of HIV in Semi-Urban and Rural Illinois
Principal Investigator: John Matta, SIUE
Co-Principal Investigators: Koushik Sinha, SIUC

Laboratory-scale biomass containers to achieve transportation density and lignin pre-treatment processes
Principal Investigator: Nicholas Pohlman, NIU
Co-Principal Investigator: Thomas Canam, EIU

2021 CURES Community Project Lab: Interdisciplinary Sustainable Solutions for Small to Medium Sized Illinois Communities Facing a Changing Climate
Principal Investigator: Carolee Rigsby, UIS
Co-Principal Investigators: 19 from UIUC, UIS, UIC, WIU, NIU, EIU

Sustaining Illinois through Collaborative Governance:  A Pilot Study of Water Systems Governance in Northeast and North Central Illinois
Principal Investigator: Thomas Skuzinski, NIU
Co-Principal Investigators: Kate Albrecht, UIC, Chris Goodman, NIU, Michael Siciliano, UIC, and Jered Carr, UIC

Development of an Affordable and Home-Based Point-of-Care Device for Universal Cancer Screening
Principal Investigator: Jing Su, Northeastern Illinois University
Co-Principal Investigators: Mathew Thoppil Mathew, University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford

Fall 2020 | News release

The Design, Development and Deployment of a Mobile-based Child Vaccination Program for Underserved Communities in Illinois Using Novel Digital Analysis & AI Tools
Principal Investigator: Scott Barrows, OSF Healthcare
Co-Principal Investigators: Shaeon Wu, ISU, Mary Staple & Elise Albers, OSF Healthcare

Mitigating Future Threats to Biodiversity:  The Role of Headwater Streams and Land Management Practices in the Kaskaskia River Watershed
Principal Investigator: Joan Brehm, ISU
Co-Principal Investigators: Bill Stewart, Cory Suski, and Maria Librada Chu, UIUC

Development and Application of a Novel Cancer Mortality Index in Illinois:  Discovering Opportunities for a Public Health Intervention
Principal Investigator: M. Courtney Hughes, NIU
Co-Principal Investigators: Margaret Wright, University of Illinois Cancer Center and Mahdi Vaezi, NIU

Building a Sustainable Geo-STEM Learning Ecosystem for Illinois Teachers
Principal Investigator: Nicole LaDue, NIU
Co-Principal Investigators: Praveen Kumar, UIUC; Sarah Fisher, Lewis and Clark Community College

Forever Chemicals: PFAS Detection, Fate and Transport in Illinois
Principal Investigator: Melissa Lenczewski, NIU
Co-Principal Investigators: Kevin Tucker, SIUE; Megan Brown, NIU

Development of Robotic Technologies Tailored to Support the Specialty Crop Production in the State of Illinois
Principal Investigator: Nima Lotfi, SIUE
Co-Principal Investigators: Carrie Buss-Wilmsmeyer, SIUE; Hasan Ferdowsi, NIU

Establishing a Caregiving Stakeholder Registry for Collaboratory for Health, Equity, Engaging Technology for Aging in the Home
Principal Investigator: Naoki Muramatsu, UIC
Co-Principal Investigators:  Jennifer Gray, NIU; Milos Zefran, Emily Stiehl, Kathleen Diviak, Michael Scott and Alex Leow, UIC

NIU-UIUC: Sustainable Water Supply in Illinois using Innovative Electrochemical Treatment Technology
Principal Investigator: Tomoyuki Shibata, NIU
Co-Principal Investigators: Xiao Su, UIUC; Kyo Taek Cho, NIU

Spring 2020 | News release

Modification of Basil Flavor via Adjustment of Light Environment
Principal Investigator: Kevin Martin, NIU
Co-Principal Investigator: Keith Cadwallader, UIUC

Squash Hunger in Eastern Illinois through Partners in Produce:  An initiative to improve food access and decrease food insecurity among low-income residents
Principal Investigator: Nicole Lynch, EIU
Co-Principal Investigators: Melissa Maulding, EIU; Jennifer McCaffrey, University of Illinois Extension

Sustainable Urban-Regional Modeling Network (SURe Modeling)
Principal Investigator: John Murphy, NIU
Co-Principal Investigators: Moira Zellner & Sybil Derrible, UIC

Integrated Logistical, Techno-economic and Socio-environmental Assessment Framework for Sustained MSW Conversion Facilities: New Paradigm Shift for the State of Illinois
Principal Investigator: Maedi Vaezi, NIU
Co-Principal Investigator: Krishna Reddy, UIC