Program acquires funds for research

The Florida A&M University College of Engineering Sciences, Technology and Agriculture has a reason to celebrate after receiving a highly coveted grant from The U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The $260,000 grant was given to the University on Oct. 26 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Research Initiative Grant Program.

The sizable grant will be dedicated to the university’s Center Water and Air Quality Center .

FAMU Professor and CSRS researcher Y. Ping Hsieh has been commissioned to head the research project that the grant will fund. Hsieh said the allotment is a victory for the schools research program.

“This was a very important award for our research program,” Hsieh said. “The grant will give the university a huge boost. It will help us continue our research and train more students.”

The grant comes just in time for a research project CESTA is looking to start, which will focus on the regulation of air emissions coming from biomass fire.

“We have developed a method to quantify smoke from biomass burning like forest fires in order to measure air quality,” Hsieh said of the project.

Hsieh explained that smoke coming from forest fires only becomes visible when there is a substantial concentration of harmful products in the air. Hseigh said that the experiment would attempt to not only evaluate, but also reduce harmful emissions.

“Forest fires can cause air quality concerns, which can lead to health concerns,” Hsieh said.

Hsieh also said the grant has generated excitement among CESTA.

“When the program director called me and told me about the grant, obviously I was elated,” Hsieh said. “The hard work starts now.”

The excitement brews from the grants exclusivity. Associate Dean for the Division of Research, Sunil Pancholy, said that large grants like this one are scarce even among larger universities.

“Only about 1 in 15 of the proposals that are submitted is actually accepted,” Pancholy said. “People submit from all over the U.S. so this award is very prestigious in nature.”

Hsieh concurred that FAMU’s selection from the high volume of research proposals that the NRI receives is a testament to the programs prowess.

“It is a victory for our research team,” Hsieh said. “We compete with top notch research facilities for these grants and over the past 15 years it has been very competitive.”

Hsieh will head the research project along with his program assistant Glynnis Bugna, and fire ecologist Kevin Robertson of the Tall Timbers Research Station in north Florida. Robertson said the team will assemble at the Tall Timber research facility and light controlled fires to test the accuracy of Hsiegh’s emissions test. He added that he has confidence that the research method will be a success.

“They really have developed one of, if not the best emissions test,” Robertson said. “All that needs to happen now is for it to be calibrated.”

The research team will take on two undergrad students and one graduate student.

Hsieh said the undergrad students only need basic physics and math courses, while the graduate student will need prior experience in nature research.

Now that it has the funding, CESTA plans to begin the project in the coming months.

“We have special objectives to accomplish.” Hsieh said. “This is real world research. We have the resources, so now we have to give solutions.”