Middle Georgia State Receives $480,000 Federal Grant for Metabolomics Research

Author: News Bureau
Posted: Tuesday, February 19, 2019 10:00 AM
Categories: Faculty/Staff | Pressroom | Honors/Awards | School of Information Technology

Macon, GA


Faculty and undergraduate research into metabolomics - an emerging technology with significant implications for medical science - has earned Middle Georgia State University a National Science Foundation grant of nearly $480,000, the largest award of its kind in the institution’s history.

Two information technology professors, Dr. Yingfeng Wang and Dr. Myungjae Kwak, are directing the research funded through the award, which begins this month and lasts until January 2022. The research is crucial because metabolomics, a technology for detecting, identifying, and quantifying metabolites in biological samples, is strongly correlated to microbiology, pharmacy, and medical science. For example, accurately identifying metabolites can help with many medical diagnoses including detection of some specific types of cancers.

The award is the largest Middle Georgia State (MGA) has ever received for research purposes.

“This is a great honor for MGA and a tremendous achievement for Dr. Wang, Dr. Kwak, and everyone who had a hand in doing the hard work it takes to apply for such a grant,” said Dr. Alex Koohang, dean of the School of Information Technology.

Barbara Ratzlaff, MGA’s contracts and grants director who assisted the professors in the award application process, said the amount of funding is substantive “not just because of the dollar amount but for what is says about Middle Georgia State. We are a relatively new university and this is a start of reflecting a university posture.”

What is now Middle Georgia State was created by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia in January 2013 with the consolidation of Middle Georgia College and Macon State College.

The NSF award will build on the ongoing work of Wang and Kwak. They are working with students to enhance metabolite identification accuracy by developing reliable computational identification tools. Their focus is on improving the current tool for more effective and efficient metabolite identification by incorporating new rules into the algorithm.

Their team will use computational and statistical methods to identify new rules and update the algorithm. With $93,000 of the grant funding earmarked for students each year, the research team will include several undergraduates studying information technology and biology. Conducting this project will not only advance the cutting-edge research in metabolite identification but also promote interdisciplinary education at MGA.

The grant will also provide funding for two high-performance computers to handle the increased capacity of the research requirements. Dr. Christopher Blake, MGA’s president, said the NSF award recognizes the University’s achievement in metabolite identification and will enhance the school’s advantage in related areas.

“Carrying out this funded project will help build Middle Georgia State’s reputation in research, especially undergraduate research, and expand opportunities for exponential learning for our students,” Blake said. “I am excited for what this award means for Middle Georgia State University going forward.”

The grant totals $479,584. The research project is titled “III: Small: RUI: Investigating Fragmentation Rules and Improving Metabolite Identification Using Graph Grammar and Statistical Methods." More details of the NSF award are available at https://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=1813252&HistoricalAwards=false.