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Alabama Water Institute

AWI Awards $144,450 in Research Support to UA Faculty

Equipment, proposals and publications are critical tools for ensuring successful research at The University of Alabama. The Alabama Water Institute recently awarded $144,451.50 in multiple grants to AWI-affiliated faculty members to support their water-related research efforts.

The AWI has provided the following funds to five researchers through the institute’s Equipment Support Program:

Dr. Gregory Starr, professor in UA’s Department of Biological Sciences, was awarded $65,925 for a greenhouse gas analyzer. The analyzer will measure atmospheric concentrations of CO2, H2O and CH4 at a site damaged earlier in the year due to a lightning strike. The analyzer will serve as replacement equipment.

Dr. Rachel Cajigas, assistant professor in UA’s Department of Anthropology, has received $40,941.50 for a ground penetrating radar system, including survey accessories and slice processing software. The system will be used to detect and document acequias, or communal irrigation canals, in central New Mexico, aiding in outlining the evolution and configuration of acequias in this region throughout history. It will provide student training in the field of archaeology and federal funding opportunities.

Dr. Aijun Song, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, was awarded $20,000 for side-scan sonar equipment that will provide acoustic imaging in aquatic environments.  The high-definition side-scan sonar will first be used to image a prehistoric underwater cypress forest in the Gulf of Mexico. Subsequent uses will allow UA faculty members to inspect the health conditions of underwater structures.

Dr. Pamela Hart, assistant professor in UA’s Department of Biological Sciences, has received $12,000 for a fluorescence stereo microscope and camera. It will primarily be used to image non-visual sensory systems in blind, cave-obligate Alabama-native cavefishes. It will use fluorescent dye to image cavefishes’ smell, taste and water movement systems in conjunction with water condition experiments to understand the sensitivity of these unique and at-risk fishes to groundwater contamination. This equipment has the potential to open large avenues to uniquely study groundwater quality and subterranean water connectivity.

Dr. Mark Cheng, professor of electrical and computer engineering, has been awarded $5,585 for a 1100 degrees Celsius tube furnace with solid precursor sublimator for chemical vapor deposition growth. This equipment will allow for the capability to synthesize novel 2D materials to support research of filtration, PFAS and nanoplastics, which will be a new capability at UA.

For more information about how to apply for AWI support programs and for deadlines, contact Stefanie O’Neill at

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