Texas Tech University

Research Spotlight Conference Leads to Collaboration & New Funding Opportunities for Texas Tech & USDA-ARS Researchers

July 18, 2023 | By: Karen Michael 

The two-day USDA-ARS & TTU Research Spotlight included a poster showcase, networking discussions, and presentations by USDA-ARS and Texas Tech researchers.
The two-day USDA-ARS & TTU Research Spotlight included a poster showcase, networking discussions, and presentations by USDA-ARS and Texas Tech researchers.

A first-ever conference of researchers from the university and the USDA-ARS last fall, the USDA-ARS & TTU Research Spotlight, led to the collaborative seed grant funding that could lead to federal grant opportunities in the future.

“The conference in October was a great experience, seeing so many researchers from different areas of USDA-ARS and Texas Tech, some already with long-standing partnerships and others interested in forging those collaborations,” said Leeann Slaughter, a program manager in the Texas Tech Office of Research & Innovation. “Their conversations about working together to address research needs of Texas and beyond were very enthusiastic.”

Poster showcase

Six projects were given seed grant funding after an initial call for pre-proposals and secondary round of proposals, which will enable the researchers to build larger proposals for federal funding. Each of the projects has Texas Tech faculty and USDA-ARS involved.

“It's a true collaboration between USDA and Texas Tech,” said Eric Hequet, associate vice president for research in the Office of Research and Innovation at Texas Tech.

About 100 people attended the conference in search of ideas for future research collaborations, Hequet said, adding that many were from USDA.

“It was clear during the conference that there is a strong interest from USDA and TTU to collaborate,” Hequet said, “so the next step was to create a seed grant program to support those collaborations.'”

The collaborative seed grants will take effect Aug. 1 for two-year projects.

Researchers talking

“The goal is for faculty to submit very competitive federal proposals with USDA, the Food & Drug Administration, National Science Foundation and other external funding agencies,” Hequet said. “Successful external funding would be a resounding success and momentum to continue these seed grants.”

Projects include:

  • Research by primary investigator Juske Horita, of Texas Tech, into the transport of water and energy within arid and semi-arid rangelands to better understand using limited rains and soil moisture more efficiently;
  • Research by primary investigator Kristin Hales, of Texas Tech, using targeted antibiotics in high-risk cattle to decrease the overall usage of antimicrobials in food-producing animals, as well as increasing the understanding of Salmonella-shedding in cattle;
  • Research by primary investigator Mauricio Ulloa, of USDA-ARS, of ways to improve water use efficiency of cotton cultivars, reduce losses due to environmental stress and diseases, and develop new and improved climate-resilient germplasm for future production sustainability;
  • Research by primary investigator Hong Zhang, of Texas Tech, for a way to drastically improve alfalfa production for feeding livestock;
  • Research by primary investigator Rand Broadway, of USDA-ARS, studying Salmonella's role in the development of liver abscesses in cattle; and
  • Research by primary investigator Yinping Jiao, of Texas Tech, developing enhanced mutant sorghum populations for increased pollination and pest resistance.