Interdisciplinary Research Teams Funded

Four teams of USM faculty and students from the sciences, technology, arts and humanities have come together with industry and community partners to conduct research ranging from how Maine businesses should address cyber security breaches to better management of chronic illnesses through the use of information technology.

“These four research cluster projects offer compelling examples of how USM faculty and students, in collaboration with the external community, can work across traditional boundaries,” said USM’s Associate Vice President for Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity and Dean of Graduate Studies Samantha Langley-Turnbaugh.  “These projects address issues of scientific, social, economic and cultural importance to Maine people.”

The projects were selected from eight submissions. Researchers submitted proposals that will build USM faculty expertise to address industry and community needs, deepen the impact of research through an interdisciplinary approach to solving problems, and leverage external funding to sustain collaborative efforts.

A team representing nursing, social and behavioral sciences, computer science, and exercise health and sport sciences will develop and pilot a technology-based lifestyle management system. Initially, it will track and help manage weight as an indicator of chronic illnesses. The team, with input from students and others in the health care community, plans to be competitive in applying for funding to further test the system’s application to other areas of chronic illness.

Faculty, students and staff throughout USM’s College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and the Muskie School of Public Service will work with computer scientists to harness digital technologies in such a way that a variety of research is more accessible to a much wider audience.  The team plans to enliven diverse topics, ranging from the impact of a rise in sea levels to the labor history of Maine’s paper mills, through the development of new software applications and the use of geospatial technologies.

Web-based Systems to Support Disadvantaged Populations is the name of a third project that will provide opportunities for youth campers to stay connected all year with a critical, web-based support network. The pilot project focuses on Camp Susan Curtis, but long term the project will pioneer technological approaches to creating safe and enticing educational experiences for other disadvantaged populations.  The project brings together USM’s School of Social Work, Departments of Computer Science, Technology, and Communication and Media Studies with off-campus partners Maine College of Art, Maine Medical Center’s Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital, Maine’s Office of Information Technology, and Poland Spring.

The fourth project focuses on the increasing threat of cyber security breaches to Maine’s small businesses. A team from the School of Business, School of Law, the Departments of Philosophy, Communication and Media Studies, Linguistics, and Technology will analyze cyber security threats and develop a set of best practices to guide how businesses should respond to them.

“These are subject areas brimming with complexities and difficult challenges,” said Dr. Langley-Turnbaugh. “We encouraged submission of proposals that would develop solutions based on effective, new ideas from many different disciplines.”

The four research clusters have begun their work. They are supported through awards of $150,000 each over two years from USM’s share of the Maine Economic Improvement Fund (MEIF).