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SLU Research Institute Announces Five New Big Ideas

The SLU Research Institute has announced the winners of the latest round of the Big Ideas competition.

The multi-year competition offers increasing levels of investment for projects that demonstrate broad faculty engagement, strong leadership and compelling research plans that will establish the University as a leading research institution. The third round of this competition is now complete, and the SLU Research Institute has awarded five new Big Ideas grants, totaling nearly $150,000.

The funded projects represent the breadth of SLU’s interdisciplinary research, bringing together faculty members from a variety of fields around issues such as health policy and public opinion polling. Details on all of the newly funded projects can be found below.

Planning Grant Winners

Health Policy Research in Action Network

The Health Policy Research in Action initiative is a cross-campus, transdisciplinary network to promote health policy research that fosters transformative research, education, service, and advocacy to improve access to quality, affordable, equitable health and public health services guided by our Jesuit identity. In addition to nurturing and supporting cross-campus collaborative research teams, the Health Policy Action Network will partner with community groups and agencies to advance their goals by leveraging the lived experiences of community agencies and the tools of a research university. The initiative will emphasize translating research into action through informing and engaging public policy makers, health leaders, media and community members. 

Leadership Team:

  • Ellen Barnidge, Ph.D., M.P.H., Associate Professor, Public Health, College for Public Health and Social Justice
  • Heather Bednarek, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Economics, Richard A. Chaifetz School of Business
  • Elizabeth Pendo, J.D., Joseph J. Simeone Professor, Center for Health Law Studies, School of Law
  • Fred Rottnek, M.D., Professor, Family and Community Medicine, School of Medicine; Clinical Health Sciences, Doisy College of Health Sciences
  • Sidney D. Watson, J.D., Jan​e and Bruce Robert Professor, Center for Health Law Studies, School of Law
PATH: People And Technology Horizon

PATH is a multidisciplinary initiative at the human-technology frontier. In an age where humans are often required to accommodate technology, PATH seeks instead to augment human needs and capabilities through human-driven design. PATH works closely with those on the margins of society for whom technologies are not designed, and from whom, we can learn a great deal about what humans are capable of. Through cross-disciplinary collaborations and partnerships, PATH looks to research on human language, interaction, and communication to drive the design and translation of next-generation technologies that capture, facilitate, and augment human potential - not hinder it. PATH will capitalize on the core leadership team’s multidisciplinary research, SLU’s strengths, St. Louis’ burgeoning start-up scene, and national initiatives for human-centered computing and technology to develop innovations we can embrace.

Leadership Team:

  •  Jenna Gorlewicz, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Engineering, Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology
  •  Flavio Esposito, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Computer Science, Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology
  • Terra Edwards Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Anthropology and Sociology, College of Arts and Sciences


Implementation Grant Winner

Saint Louis University Poll 

The Saint Louis University Poll (SLU Poll) is a statewide survey of Missourians that provides faculty a unique opportunity to research public opinion. The poll aims to advance the SLU mission by identifying and serving the needs of our community. It also fills a void in the study of public opinion of Missouri as currently no other university regularly conducts a statewide poll. The SLU Poll will occur every year following the end of the state legislative session with an additional poll occurring in October in election years.

Leadership Team:

  •  Steven Rogers, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Political Science, College of Arts and Sciences
  •  Dyan McGuire, Ph.D., J.D., Associate Professor, Criminal Justice, College for Public Health and Social Justice
  • Kenneth Warren, Ph.D., Professor, Political Science, College of Arts and Sciences


Preliminary Planning Grant Winners

The Resilience Laboratory

This project combines the expertise of its leadership team in subjects such as human prehistory and adaptive practices for climate change to create a laboratory focused on the broader topic of social resilience. The team behind the project will build on their prior research and lived experiences to enhance both the local and global community’s understanding and capacity for social resilience through education and targeted projects.

Leadership Team:

  • Mary Prendergast, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Anthropology, Division of Humanities at SLU Madrid
  • Katherine C. MacKinnon, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Sociology and Anthropology, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Monica Eppinger, Ph.D., J.D., Associate Professor, Law, School of Law
Applied Research in Interdisciplinary STEM Education (ARISE) @ SLU

The objective of ARISE at SLU is to further develop Discipline-Based Education Research (DBER). The leadership team plans to create an interdisciplinary network of STEM educators and education researchers at SLU that will foster adoption of evidence-based teaching practices, sharing of ideas and expertise, and collaborative research projects. By supporting faculty engagement with STEM education research, the University will foster synergies and collaborations that will advance our educational mission while broadening the scope of STEM research projects.

Leadership Team:

  • Elena Bray Speth, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Biology, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Paul Bracher, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Chemistry, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Brenda A. Kirchoff, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Psychology and Neuroscience, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Chris Carroll, Ph.D., P.E., Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator, Civil Engineering, Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology
  • Mike May, Associate Professor, Mathematics, College of Arts and Sciences


These proposals join the 13 Big Ideas that were selected for investment and endorsement in the first and second rounds of the competition in 2018 and 2019 respectively.

This latest round of the Big Ideas competition comes shortly after the launch of the Water Access, Technology, Environment and Resources (WATER) Institute at SLU, a first of its kind research institute for the American Midwest. The WATER Institute is the latest project to emerge from the Big Ideas competition as a new Institute, following the Geospatial Institute (GeoSLU) in 2019.

Information on all of the Big Ideas projects, as well as the competition overall, can be found here.

Ryan Lawless/Office of the Vice President for Research