2021 Research Review

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2021 Research Review
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table of contents

By building its own test lab, UNH kept a lid on COVID-19 on campus.
UNH responded to the pandemic with research that helped us understand and heal.
In New Hampshire and around the country, UNH research helps others cope with COVID.
UNH scholars look to history and literature for context on contemporary racial reckoning.
New postdoc program invests in innovation and diversity.
on the cover
While he hasn’t visited in person, Dr. Fauci would surely approve of UNH’s COVID-19 test lab.
Photo by Jeremy Gasowski
Monitoring the town of Durham’s wastewater for viral biomarkers of COVID-19 is one way UNH has extended its research and expertise beyond campus to help communities in New Hampshire and beyond respond to the pandemic.
Photo by Jeremy Gasowski


2021 Research Review

Beth Potier

Kristin Duisberg
Rebecca Irelan
Krysten Godfrey Maddocks ’96
Beth Potier
Jody Record ’95

Contributing Photographers
Tim Briggs
Jeremy Gasowski
Valerie Lester
Heather MacNeill
Brooks Payette ’12
Scott Ripley
Perry Smith
David Vogt
UNH Editor-in-Chief
Kristin Duisberg
University of New Hampshire Administration
James W. Dean Jr.

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Wayne Jones

Senior Vice Provost for Research, Economic Engagement and Outreach
Marian McCord

College of Engineering and Physical Sciences
Cyndee Gruden ’91, ’93G, Dean

College of Health and Human Services
Michael Ferrara, Dean

College of Liberal Arts
Michele Dillon, Dean

College of Life Sciences and Agriculture
Anthony Davis, Dean

Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics
Deborah Merrill-Sands, Dean

University of New Hampshire at Manchester
Michael Decelle, Dean

University of New Hampshire School of Law
Megan Carpenter, Dean

Graduate School
Cari Moorhead, Dean

Cooperative Extension
Kenneth La Valley, Vice Provost of Outreach and Engagement and Director

Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space
Harlan Spence, Director

Carsey School of Public Policy
Michael Ettlinger, Director

School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering
Diane Foster, Director

UNH Library
Tara Fulton, Dean

Research, economic engagement and outreach at the University of New Hampshire, a Carnegie doctoral research university with very high research activity, seek to understand and improve the world around us, with high-impact results that transform lives, solve global challenges and drive economic growth. Our research excellence reaches from the depths of our oceans to the edge of our solar system and the Earth and environment in which we all thrive. With research expenditures of more than $140 million, UNH’s research portfolio includes partnerships with NOAA, NASA, NSF and NIH. UNH is one of the top institutions in the country for licensing its intellectual property, and its outreach programs reach thousands of communities, companies, families and students each year.

Photo by Jeremy Gasowski
Marian McCord
Photo by Jeremy Gasowski


Welcome to Spark, UNH’s annual review of research and scholarship. In this issue, the first produced under my leadership, we highlight the myriad ways UNH researchers addressed and responded to the twin challenges of the past year: the COVID-19 pandemic and the events that brought our long national legacy of racism into sharp focus.

Spark shares how we tapped our research infrastructure to establish one of the most innovative COVID testing programs in the country, and how our researchers are helping New Hampshire and the world tackle the problems wrought by the pandemic. We’ll also introduce you to scholars across the university who have been probing dynamics of race and equity since long before our current racial reckoning.

While the stories Spark tells are celebratory, shining a positive light on the innovation, creativity and hard work of our research community, we also acknowledge all we have lost: loved ones, mental and physical health, productivity, justice and equity. The crises of the past year dealt an uneven blow, and our success is tempered by sadness.

These societal struggles propel UNH’s mission as a land-grant, public-impact university. Our commitment to creating new knowledge that improves the lives of people in New Hampshire and beyond has never wavered and has never been stronger or more important. I’m proud to share our work with you here.

Marian McCord Signature
Marian McCord
Senior Vice Provost for Research, Economic Engagement and Outreach
Data Points

in the spotlight

Stanley Ellis, a research engineer with UNH’s Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space, tests a detector inside Morse Hall’s anechoic chamber, a room lined with pyramid-shaped material that absorbs all sound, radio waves, and electromagnetic radiation. Space scientists rely on this eerily quiet space to block outside interference so they can focus solely on the radio frequency emission of the equipment they are testing, including wireless transmitters, antennas, and other electronic devices.
Photo by Jeremy Gasowski

New to UNH

Cyndee Gruden ’91, ’93G

Dean of the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences

Anthony Davis

Dean of the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture

Anton Bekkerman

director of the NH Agricultural Experiment Station

Kelly Nye-Lengerman

director of the Institute on Disability

John Roth

director of the Olson Center


UNH’s Jackson Estuarine Laboratory on Great Bay
UNH’s Jackson Estuarine Laboratory on Great Bay marked its 50th anniversary in 2020, celebrating five decades of research on estuarine, marine and coastal ecosystems and the microbes, oysters, seaweeds, eelgrass, lobsters and horseshoe crabs that inhabit them.
UNH joined dozens of the nation’s leading research institutions in the Cybersecurity Manufacturing Innovation Institute (CyManII), a $111 million public-private partnership launched in November. CyManII, a five-year cooperative agreement of the Department of Energy, aims to protect the nation’s manufacturing infrastructure from cyberthreats.
 Cybersecurity Manufacturing Innovation Institute with people working
Workers near a boat and floating on barge
With a $5 million gift from the Emily Landecker Foundation, UNH will transform and expand its existing open ocean aquaculture site into the UNH Sustainable Seafood Field Laboratory. This first-of-its-kind field lab will provide the critical data needed to monitor local environment conditions and the aquaculture system’s impact on natural fisheries.
The Young Inventors’ Program, a 35-year-old project-based STEM education program, joined UNH’s Joan and James Leitzel Center for Mathematics, Science, and Engineering Education, strengthening opportunities for K-12 students in STEM subjects.
Young child with figures in front of him
Person picking at leaves and grass with orange headband
UNH continues to collect accolades for its sustainability efforts. The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s 2020 Sustainable Campus Index places UNH among the top 10 in three impact areas, and no. 6 overall among doctoral institutions. The Sierra Club ranked UNH at no. 9 on its list of the 20 Coolest Schools of 2020, and the Princeton Review announced UNH was among the top 30 schools on its 2021 Green Honor Roll.
Art on street of New Hampshire
A report by the George W. Bush Institute and the Opus Faveo Innovation Development consulting firm ranked UNH the sixth most productive midsized university in the United States at converting research funding into economic impact. UNH ranked just behind Princeton and Carnegie Mellon universities in the mid-sized category.
UNH’s Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Center received nearly $3 million in foundation funding to conduct a first-of-its-kind randomized study looking at the effectiveness of outdoor behavioral health, or wilderness therapy, a prescriptive treatment for teens struggling with depression, anxiety and substance use disorders.
Man rappelling down mountain with orange helmet
Center for Coastal Ocean Mapping
UNH’s Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping (CCOM) received a $38.5 million grant over five years from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to continue the work of the Joint Hydrographic Center, a NOAA partnership to support innovative research and training in ocean mapping.

Faculty Honors

Meghan Howey
Andrew Carnegie Fellow

Meghan Howey, professor of anthropology

Serita Frey
American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow;
Ecological Society of America Fellow

Serita Frey, professor of natural resources and the environment

William McDowell
American Geophysical Union Fellow

William McDowell, professor of natural resources and the environment

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein
American Physical Society Edward A. Bouchet Award

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, assistant professor of physics and core faculty in women’s and gender studies

Orly Buchbinder
National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) award

Orly Buchbinder, assistant professor of mathematics education

Andy Armstrong
Department of Commerce Gold Medal

Andy Armstrong, NOAA co-director of the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping/Joint Hydrographic Studies

Graduate Student HONORS

Graduate Student
Nick Anderson
NOAA Sea Grant John A. Knauss Policy Fellowship

Nick Anderson ’20G, M.S. in natural resources and the environment

Charlotte Newcombe Dissertation Fellowship, Institute for Citizens & Scholars

Lila Teeters, Ph.D. student, history

Presidential Management Fellowship

Natasha Diessner, Ph.D. student, natural resources and Earth system sciences

Switzer Fellowship

Natalie Lounsbury, Ph.D. student, natural resources and Earth system sciences

Aliya Caldwell
National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program

Aliya Caldwell ’22G, M.S. in biological sciences

Margaret A. Davidson Graduate Fellowship, NOAA

Anna Lowein ’21G, M.S in natural resources and the environment

David Heidt
National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program

David Heit ’22G, M.S. in natural resources and the environment

Simone Chapman
Science Policy Fellowship, Gulf Research Program of the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine

Simone Chapman ’20G, M.S. in environmental conservation

National Science Foundation Graduate International Research Experiences Fellowship

Elizabeth Mamros, Ph.D. student, mechanical engineering

Video produced by Scott Ripley

Manufacturing Better Health

NH BioMade, an EPSCoR project funded by the National Science Foundation, aims to improve human health by advancing the state’s rapidly growing biomaterials industry through a five-year, $20 million UNH-led partnership of higher education and industry. The project is developing innovative approaches to designing and manufacturing biomaterials such as those used in implants and tissue engineering.
Kiwiberries on a tree

Fingerprinting Kiwiberries

To try a kiwiberry — the sweet, smooth-skinned, grape-sized cousin to the familiar fuzzy kiwifruit — is to love a kiwiberry. A new partnership between UNH and commercial plant producer Hartmann’s Plant Company of Lacota, Michigan, aims to ensure that every bite of a kiwiberry is as delicious as the next one by genetically fingerprinting the company’s kiwiberry inventory.

It’s an important “under the hood” step toward moving kiwiberries from backyard gardens into commercial production, says Iago Hale, associate professor of specialty crop improvement and director of UNH’s kiwiberry program. Verification gives commercial growers, who may invest thousands of dollars and multiple acres into kiwiberry production, confidence to trust the identity of the kiwiberry varieties they’re planting.

“When you’re rolling out a new crop, there’s that moment when a potential consumer will taste the fruit for the first time,” Hale says. “If the variety is wrong, if it’s not at peak ripeness, that person will simply conclude they don’t like kiwiberries, end of story.”

Beth Potier

A Research Record

UNH broke its record for competitive research funding in fiscal year 2020 with $129,815,354 in new grants and contracts. It’s the most external research funding the university has received in a single year, supporting UNH projects that range from improving preschool education in New Hampshire to bringing sustainable seafood to the table.

“I am proud of our scholars who, despite the significant challenges posed by the pandemic, submitted highly competitive research proposals,” says Marian McCord, senior vice provost for research, economic engagement and outreach. Attracting competitive funding for research is essential to maintaining the Carnegie Classification R1 status, which puts UNH in the top tier of research universities nationwide.
Funding came to projects from across the university. The federal government was the largest source of funding, sending $90.6 million to UNH. Research funding from business and industry — a promising source of research support as federal grants become more competitive, and one that has climbed steadily since FY17 — totaled $14.9 million. And FY21 looks to raise the bar yet again; award authorizations are trending 21% ahead of where they were this time last year.

Beth Potier
Professor of anthropology Meghan Howey received funding for an archaeological survey of colonial-era settlements on New Hampshire’s Great Bay.

Photo by Jeremy Gasowski

Serita Frey outdoors with students
Serita Frey
Photo by Jeremy Gasowski

The Hottest of Topics

A new graduate Hot Topics seminar is challenging the notion that science is objective, unbiased and “culturally neutral” when it comes to racism.

“Racism in science is like racism in all other aspects of our society, says Serita Frey, professor of natural resources and the environment. “Science, like every other human endeavor, is subject to the biases of its practitioners.” Frey and Emily Whalen, a student in the natural resources and Earth systems science Ph.D. program, are co-facilitating “Anti-Racism in Science: Promoting an Inclusive and Equitable STEM Community” to discuss the history of racism in science and how to build an anti-racist community. 

“Biases show up in the science classroom in many forms: in which historical figures we talk about, which histories we tell about them, which we leave out, who we credit with certain knowledge…and what knowledge we decide is worth knowing,” Whalen says.

Elsewhere on campus, more than 60 UNH faculty members, staff and students are participating in Unlearning Racism in the Geosciences (URGE), a national initiative that aims to deepen understanding of the effects of racism on people of color in the geosciences in order to develop anti-racist policies that increase participation and retention.

Jody Record ’95
Solar Probe

Solar Close-Up

As the data from NASA’s Parker Solar Probe pours in, UNH researchers are gaining a flurry of insights about the activity coming from our closest star.

The newest data shows how plasma released after a solar flare — a sudden flash of increased brightness — can accelerate energetic particles and cause them to pile up, which generates large numbers of particles that become highly energized. These high-energy particles, moving almost at the speed of light, create dangerous radiation conditions that can disrupt electronics and satellites in space and cause harm to spacecrafts and astronauts. 

“We’re getting some of the earliest observations from this mission to the sun on how the coronal mass ejections — the sun’s release of plasma and energy — build up particles released after solar flare events,” says Nathan Schwadron, professor of physics in UNH’s Space Science Center. “Because energetic particles are accelerated near the sun, by flying closer and getting a better look we are able to observe the beginning of the energization process and see them actually start to pile up like snow that piles up in front of a snowplow.”

Rebecca Irelan
New England National Lab Day Logo

National Lab Days

The New England National Lab Day webinar series — six virtual workshops in fall 2020 and spring 2021 hosted by UNH — convened representatives from multiple U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratories, along with researchers, officials and industry leaders from around the region to share insights for accessing the resources of the DOE’s 17 world-class scientific facilities. Webinars dove into areas where UNH research strengths and national lab capacity overlap: transformative manufacturing, nuclear physics, the “blue economy” and offshore wind among them. A session on career-launching opportunities at the national labs was one of the best-attended webinars, and UNH students have been successful in connecting with the labs. In 2020 and 2021 six UNH undergraduates received Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internships, or SULIs, to work with DOE mentors in Brookhaven, Lawrence Berkeley, Princeton Plasma Physics and National Renewable Energy labs.

“These workshops have succeeded in bringing together regional researchers and experts from our National Labs to partner in research that addresses society’s most pressing energy, environmental and national security challenges,” says webinar organizer Mark Milutinovich, director of research and large center development at UNH.

Beth Potier
The Disordered Cosmos

The Disordered Cosmos

by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein
It would be easy to characterize the new book by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein as part physics lesson, part memoir, part revelation of and rally against racism, sexism and colonialism in science.

Yet while “The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, & Dreams Deferred” (Bold Type Books, 2021) contains all of those elements, it serves them up not as discrete “parts” but as a rich, joyful stew of overlapping flavors.

Prescod-Weinstein, assistant professor of physics and astronomy and core faculty in women’s and gender studies, grounds “The Disordered Cosmos” in particle physics and cosmology — her primary areas of research — then expands into an exploration of who does (or doesn’t do) science, how science is done, and how racism and sexism in science both reflect and perpetuate a universe of injustice.


Test for Success

By building its own test lab, UNH kept a lid on COVID-19 on campus
By Beth Potier
In the summer of 2020, as university leaders nationwide faced the competing demands of a COVID-19 pandemic that showed no signs of abating and student populations eager to return to the campuses they hastily fled in March, UNH made a bold decision: It would invite students to return for fall semester and keep the lid on COVID by testing them twice each week in its own state-of-the-art test lab.
“By testing regularly, we’re able to detect the disease in asymptomatic individuals and quickly trace and isolate them from the broader population so they don’t spread COVID,” says senior vice provost for research, economic engagement and outreach Marian McCord, who co-chairs UNH’s Testing and Tracing Committee. “That’s been critical to allowing us to continue our operations.” In addition to testing, UNH is mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on campus with wastewater surveillance and a public health messaging campaign.
Photo by Jeremy Gasowski

Research Rising to the Challenge

UNH responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with research that helped us understand and heal
By Beth Potier
For public research universities like UNH, the devastation wrought by the coronavirus pandemic presented an opportunity to embrace their role as producers of knowledge for the good of society. Across the university, UNH researchers overcame the disruption of shuttered labs, scattered personnel and scarce resources to rise to this challenge. Some leapt in to respond to the disease itself, understanding how it replicates in the body or spreads among vulnerable communities. Others probed how we adapted to the pandemic by tallying its economic toll, listening to a hushed world and watching as we escaped outdoors.
Photo by Jeremy Gasowski


In New Hampshire and around the country, UNH research helps others cope with COVID
By Beth Potier
To give some New Hampshire towns a heads up on local COVID-19 infection trends, UNH researchers Paula Mouser and Fabrizio Colosimo employ a powerful, if unsavory, tool: Sewage.
Flushing out COVID-19 outbreaks is just one way UNH has extended its research and expertise beyond campus to help communities in New Hampshire and the region respond to the pandemic. In the past year, UNH researchers have fired up idling 3D printers, assisted oyster farmers, applied UV light research to sterilizing scarce protective equipment, and yes, watched for COVID in our waste.
Paula Mouser at treatment facility
Paula Mouser

Photo by Jeremy Gasowski

The Humanities’ Lens on Racism

Humanities’ Lens

UNH scholars look to history, literature for context on contemporary racial reckoning
By Krysten Godfrey Maddocks ‘96
In 2020, against the backdrop of a global pandemic, racial tension escalated in the United States, sparked by the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, hateful attacks on Asian Americans, the rise of white supremacist groups and COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on Black and brown people. At the same time, the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum, confederate statues were toppled and the United States elected its first female vice president, Kamala Harris, who is African-American and South Asian American.
More than 50 years after the civil rights movement in the United States, these events underscore a struggle that persists, and the continued need to understand the complex dynamics of that struggle.

By digging into the humanities and social sciences, UNH faculty members tackle the history of racism throughout the world and how we can learn from it to respond to our present moment of racial reckoning. Through their scholarship, faculty are able to provide broader context related to what’s happening today, says Michele Dillon, dean of the College of Liberal Arts (COLA).

Kabria Baumgartner, associate professor of English and American studies and faculty fellow for equity and inclusion

Photo by Jeremy Gasowski

Pipeline to the Faculty

New postdoc program invests in innovation and diversity
By Jody Record ’95
In a state like New Hampshire, where 93% of the population is white, a diverse faculty doesn’t just happen. In 2018, the late Julie Williams, senior vice provost for engagement and faculty development, proposed a plan: The university should create a pipeline to the faculty for underrepresented scholars.

That plan, the UNH Postdoctoral Diversity and Innovation Scholars program, recruits up to five postdocs — doctoral-degree-holding scholars who conduct independent research and engage in teaching activities for two years to gain experience that will prepare them for careers as faculty members — in academic areas identified for anticipated tenure-track faculty hires. Scholars receive a professional development experience that includes faculty development programs, an ongoing mentored research experience, a scholarly coach for individualized professional development and a mentoring network. 


Hacking the Pandemic

By Beth Potier
For many UNH researchers, “lockdown” didn’t mean “shut down.” Here are some of the more colorful ways our researchers adapted their work to persist through the pandemic.
Photo by Jeremy Gasowski
It could be called the ultimate quarantine. Aliya Caldwell, a graduate student in biological sciences and technician for the Tern Conservation Program of Shoals Marine Laboratory, remained on tiny White Island off the coast of Rye, New Hampshire, for four straight months in the summer of 2020. Sharing the small lighthouse-keepers cottage with two others (a fellow technician and program manager Elizabeth Craig), Caldwell and the team agreed that creating an impenetrable bubble would best facilitate their research. Although the disconnect from the world, particularly the Black Lives Matter protests that roiled the nation, was difficult, “I felt incredibly lucky, humbled, and privileged to be safe, employed, and able to continue my research and conservation work while so many others were unable to do so,” she says. “The terns in our colony need management and monitoring regardless of the state of our public health, so we were very grateful that we could be there to provide that.”
Celia Thaxter's Garden
The COVID-19 pandemic brought a literal bright spot to the center of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in summer 2020.
For more than a century, the garden planted by poet Celia Thaxter on Appledore Island — recreated in recent decades by volunteers — has inspired and delighted visitors who make the 8-mile boat trip to the Isles of Shoals each summer. This year, however, Shoals Marine Laboratory, a marine science field station on Appledore jointly operated by UNH and Cornell University, had to cancel the garden tours. Thanks to a donation from a local resident, Thaxter’s famous garden found fertile soil in Portsmouth’s Prescott Park, where volunteers planted the heirloom hollyhock, dahlia, poppies, mignonette and more.

“Celia Thaxter and her garden are so beloved and visitors from all over the world are passionate about seeing it each summer so we knew we had to find the right spot on the mainland to replant this special garden for the summer,” says Shoals Marine Laboratory executive director Jennifer Seavey.

Kristin Duisberg
Photo by Corin Hallowell/City of Portsmouth
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2021 Research Review