Upcoming Grant Project Events

The Holsinger Portrait Project pop-up exhibition is at the Northside Library through March 31. The New Negro in Charlottesville and Albemarle: Portraits from a Century Ago: Pop-Up Portrait Exhibition features portraits of local African Americans, commissioned from R.W. Holsinger’s photo studio, during the first decades of the twentieth century.

March 31: Infectious Disease in 3D is hosting their Spring Virtual Reality Symposium! The ID in 3D team will share sneak peaks of their virtual animation, which highlights virtual reality’s applications for medical education.

April 1-2: The Darden African Business Organization is hosting ‘Emerging Trends in Africa’s Creative Economy’ Conference. The conference aims to provide attendees with a better understanding of the interplay between Africa’s economic development and its creative sector, and to better understand the differences in various African countries.

Girls Maker Camp promo

April 3: Girls Maker Day for local middle school girls! Hosted by the Women’s Maker Program, from the Robertson Media Center, the camp focuses on hands-on creative activities, allowing participants to learn about cutting-edge makerspace technologies.

April 22: “Price it Like a Pro with Paddy Johnson!” StARTup Studio’s panel discussion focuses on the steps of pricing your artwork appropriately, so creative artists can confidently sell for any context.

May 31: “2020: Extraordinary Moments” is looking for the positive; creating a documentary, magazine, and showcase exhibition to highlight meaningful moments from the UVA community, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Submit your work by May 31, 2022. The work will be exhibited at the 2020: Extraordinary Moments showcase in fall 2022.

Puglia Neurodevelopment Lab is enrolling 0-12-month-old premature babies to participate in a research study. The goal of the study: to develop new universal screening protocols for social processing disorders. If you’re interested in participating and have questions, contact: pugliadevneurolab@virginia.edu.

An Apple a Day…

There are many adages about health, such as “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” or “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  One health truism that we all know to be absolute is “it’s important.”

That is certainly the case at UVA, where the UVA Medical Center accounts for just under half of the University’s $3.99 billion budget. Beyond the numbers, health is interwoven into life and academics across Grounds. Medical school students can dual-enroll at Darden to complete an MD/MBA. Batten and the Cooper Center conduct research in policy and populations that have huge impacts in healthcare. Undergraduates in Biomedical Engineering can have hands-on research experience in developing new technologies. And that’s not even beginning to mention the host of student health services the University offers.

With health being so important, it’s only natural that some of the best ideas we see are to improve health. The Jefferson Trust has recently funded many interesting projects in the field including autism biomarker research, design thinking for medical students, pediatric mental health, and personal protection against air pollution.

It often takes a trained eye to read proposals for projects like these and understand the process and impact.

Fortunately, the Trust has four physicians and two nurses on the board:

  • Victoria Davis Chen, MD (Col ’92)
  • Stephen Chen, MD
  • Ramesh Singh, MD (Res ’07)
  • Susan Singh (Nurs ’05)
  • John Sperling, MD (Col ’90, Med ’94)
  • Pat Woodard (Nurs ’69)

Here are some thoughts they have on healthcare and the Trust’s role in advancing ideas.

John Sperling, MD (Col ’90, Med ’94)

Healthcare is going through enormous changes that have only been accelerated by the recent pandemic.  The Jefferson Trust is ideally situated to help support creative and innovative ideas to impact healthcare not only in Charlottesville but also on a larger scale. We would encourage members of the University community to send their proposals for funding to the Jefferson Trust. Not only is the Jefferson Trust an excellent source for funding, but also has the support of Trustees with significant healthcare experience who can help mentor members of the community that would like to make an impact in healthcare.

Victoria Davis Chen, MD (Col ’92)

Improvements in healthcare are seldom made with one large discovery, but instead a series of smaller discoveries. The medical community relies on published, peer reviewed data upon which to build. In the Trust, we have an opportunity to watch an idea that excites us influence other bright minds. Granting this to a member of our UVA community is much further reaching than the original project being presented.

Pat Woodard (Nurs ’69)

I am always so pleased when The Trust receives health-related grant proposals. As we are living through a pandemic, we are especially reminded of the need for good research in nursing, medicine, public health and related fields. Also, projects that aim to improve nursing and medical education have great impact.

Grants in the News

Tim Victorio roughs up the first coat of epoxy so a second coat will adhere better. (Photo: Dan Addison)

Our grantees are busy! From constructing tables of recycled lumber to a successfully launching the Business Bootcamp for Artists, read about grant projects featured in local media outlets:

  • UVA Sawmilling received a flash grant in April 2021 to create tables from a 125-year-old tulip poplar tree. Read about the construction process and their partners in creating in this UVA Today article.
  • UVA Edge, an initiative of the School of Continuing and Professional Studies, received an annual grant in 2021. UVA Today featured the impactful stories of five students in the first cohort class; read about them here.
  • StARTup Studio, a 2020 annual recipient, was featured in UVA Arts Magazine for their Business Bootcamp for Visual Artists hosted in October 2021.
  • Learn more about the Roadmap Scholars Initiative, one of our new 2022 annual grants from the Law School, from their features on NBC29 and Reuters.
  • The Holsinger Portrait Project is uncovering photos, researching, and telling the stories of Black Charlottesville residents. Read about this 2022 grant project in this Cavalier Daily article.
  • See recent updates from one of our 2020 grants in this UVA Today article; the Trust supported student researchers working on the larger project of air-filtering technologies.

To stay up to date on the work of our grantees, follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Funding Ideas in a Flash

We received 18 proposals requesting $130,945 in funding in the January Flash Funding cycle. Thank you, UVA for your innovative ideas and commitment to further enhance the University!

If you missed January, our February Flash funding proposal form is open. Flash grants are capped at $10,000 and focus on short-term projects or immediate use opportunities, often for student organizations. Proposals must be submitted no later than February 28, with decisions determined by March 15.

For additional information, please visit our Grant Seekers page or contact our Director of Grants, Amy, at abonner@virginia.edu to discuss your idea and potential funding.

Jefferson Trust’s 2022 Awards Set New Dollar Amount Record

The Jefferson Trust Board of Trustees has hit new records in its grant-making: awarding nearly $1.35 million to 14 new projects and programs. This is the largest amount ever awarded, and this set of grants also includes the largest number of $100,000+ grants ever awarded.

“This grant cohort is absolutely phenomenal. I can’t wait to see how they transform UVA,” says Amy Bonner, Director of Grants for the Trust. “They are also the result of the most difficult decision-making process the Jefferson Trust has faced — the volume of innovative proposals received clearly demonstrates that the University community is rebounding from the pandemic.”

Together these grants will provide new opportunities for student research and unique classroom experiences, as well as providing pipeline opportunities for future Wahoos. Roadmap Scholars aims to increase the number of underrepresented students attending elite law schools; Star Hill Pathways focuses on improving student outcomes and closing opportunity gaps with local middle and high school students; and Environmental Thought and Practice in Real Life brings environmental leaders to Grounds to engage with undergraduate students and provide immersive learning opportunities with environmental practitioners. Read on for a full list of funded programs.

The 2021-22 Grants:

Roadmap Scholars Initiative: $200,000

This Law School initiative is designed to increase the number of underrepresented students attending elite law schools. From initial exploration of the legal profession to ultimate matriculation, the program will provide aspiring lawyers with the support, opportunities and connections necessary to succeed on their journeys to law school.

Side Hustles Micro Courses: Masterclasses in Contemporary Business Topics: $150,000

Side Hustles and Micro Businesses (SHMB) is a new series of micro courses to prepare UVA students with entrepreneur ambitions to develop profitable businesses.

Starr Hill Pathways: $150,000

Starr Hill Pathways will improve student outcomes and close opportunity gaps, ensuring that local youth (1) are prepared for post-secondary education, (2) have access to enrichment opportunities and support networks, and (3) thrive socially and emotionally. Focused on historically marginalized communities and youth in grades 6 to 12, the goal is to build a support system for students that leads them to admission to UVA or the college of their choice.

Optimizing pediatric donor heart utilization using big data analytics: $133,078

A team of pediatric cardiologists, data scientists, students and engineers are using big data analytics to optimize pediatric heart transplants — the right donor heart with the right patient at the right time. Analyzing data sets from the United Network of Organ Sharing (the most comprehensive representation of pediatric heart transplantation system in the world) will help to improve clinical practice and create predictive modeling to assess specific donors for specific candidates.

Walking the walk: Environmental Thought and Practice in Real Life: $120,000

Environmental Thought and Practice in Real Life (ETP IRL) will bring environmental leaders — thinkers, creators, entrepreneurs, innovators and activists — to Grounds to engage with undergraduates in a non-traditional classroom setting, providing immersive learning experiences. Practitioners-in-real-life (PIRLs) will help lead classes centered on environmental practice, focusing on sets of projects that reach into the broader University community and beyond.

Deaf Orpheus: $100,000

A staged production, “Deaf Orpheus,” will unite the worlds of the Deaf and hearing in an unprecedented full-scale expression of Deaf Opera at UVA in March 2023. Opera singers, Deaf actors, directors and instrumentalists of international prominence will partner with UVA’s USingers and Music Performance Faculty for this production. The production will also be made into a film.

Decarbonization Innovation Summit and Lab: $100,000

Through a summit event and subsequent student-led projects, Decarbonization Innovation aims to encourage interdisciplinary coordination and dialogue to advance solutions to the world’s decarbonization challenge.

Phytoremediation to reclaim farm and tribal lands from PFAS contamination: $93,000

This project allows a team of undergraduate students to demonstrate the full utility of industrial hemp as a tool for phytoremediation of PFAS-polluted agricultural soils and develop methods for implementation and training that can be shared with other communities affected by PFAS pollution.

The Cavalair Project: Smarter buildings for a healthier UVA community: $82,000

Students will conduct research to allow smarter approaches to HVAC system usage (occupancy levels and air quality metrics) that deliver a better, healthier environment for occupants at lower cost in several UVA buildings.

Centering African American Life in Central VA: Community Engagement & The Holsinger Portrait Project: $73,000

In a joint effort with local community members, a team from the University Library and Department of History will create an exhibition, community engagement program and digital humanities research program around a collection of photographs of African American community members taken over 100 years ago.

Integration of Virtual Reality (VR) in Training Medical Students: $54,973

A team of physicians, educators and technologists seek to implement a new model of medical case observance training using virtual reality, cutting-edge 360-video editing techniques, and specially programmed VR headsets. This innovative approach will help to increase trainee comprehension and patient safety.

Search for Hidden Chambers in the Temple of Kukulcán at Chichén Itzá: $35,834

Undergraduate students will work to research, design and fabricate detectors to help search for hidden chambers in the Temple of Kukulcán at Chichén Itzá. Through their work, students will gain a better understanding of particle and nuclear physics and be introduced to the new field of muon tomography.

Saving Athenian Democracy: $28,400

This new, interactive undergraduate course is a hands-on learning experience to expose UVA students to the ancient roots of our modern democracy. The course will challenge students to study and roleplay the lives of the ancient Athenians who worked to restore their democracy between 403 and 398 BC.

Charlottesville Zoning Design Workshop (CZDW): $28,184

This initiative aims to engage students across the School of Architecture in the design and policy questions raised by Charlottesville’s Comprehensive Plan. By exploring zoning through an architectural lens, CZDW will work with students to develop design-research with potential to impact local policy debates, while organizing public symposia on related issues of zoning policy and housing design.

A Big Ask: Grant Requests Set New Record

Thank you, UVA students, faculty and staff: the Jefferson Trust received 109 Letters of Intent (LOIs) requesting over $9.5 million in our annual grants cycle. This is a wonderful sign of the positive and creative atmosphere around Grounds! Forty-six of these requests, valued at over $5.2 million, moved forward to the full proposal stage.

Submissions span a wide range of topics, including mental health awareness, outreach to the local community, diversity and inclusion efforts, and design thinking.

Our Trustees are now reading and reviewing the ideas that will enhance and expand the University. The Trust will make awards totaling $1.25 million this year — tough decisions are ahead for our Trustees!

If you missed the annual cycle deadline, Flash Funding applications will open December 15 for the January 2022 flash cycle. Flash Funding awards grants of $10,000 or less for more immediate use or shorter-term projects and funding is available monthly until funds are depleted. Visit our Grant Seekers page and social media for more information.

As always, we are available to answer any funding questions or meet to discuss your potential project. Contact our Director of Grants, Amy Bonner, at abonner@virginia.edu.

Cavalier Autonomous Racing Team leaves their mark

The Cavalier Autonomous Racing Team with their car
Photo Credit: UVA Engineering/Chris Tyree

In late October, the Cavalier Autonomous Racing team competed in the Indy Autonomous Challenge at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The team finished as the fastest all-American self-driving car, reaching speeds of 120 mph.

Faculty advisor Madhur Behl received a $50,000 Trust grant in 2020 to help establish the Cavalier Autonomous Racing Club. The team worked for more than a year to develop, test, and modify their car and software to be race-ready. Despite COVID delays, the team continued to innovate, remained positive, and worked diligently to create a winning car. We’re thrilled to see their progress and the impact they’ve made, and we’re excited for the future!

Grants in the News

Ziyuan Wang
Third-year physics and psychology major, Ziyuan Wang, works on an apparatus to observe the behaviors of superfluid helium droplets. (Photo by Dan Addison, University Communications)

Many grant projects have been busy this fall by continuing their work, conducting research, and hosting events. Their efforts have drawn attention from news outlets in Charlottesville, in Virginia, and beyond.

A 2021 annual grant recipient, the Fralin Museum’s “Skyscraper Gothic” exhibit was featured in the Wall Street Journal and is open through December 31, 2021.

In September, the UVA Student Veteran Center opened in Newcomb Hall, receiving coverage from UVA Today, Cavalier Daily, NBC29 News and CBS19 News. The Trust awarded an annual grant in 2019 to the Student Veteran’s Support Initiative, which helped fund their new center.

A student partnership with the Lake Traverse Reservation in South Dakota received an annual grant in 2018. With continued support, the team has experienced consistent growth and expanded impact of their work, as featured in UVA Today.

The Architecture of The Green Book: A Digital Database received a flash grant in February 2021. This UVA Today article highlights the team’s motivation behind the work, their progress and next steps.

nanoSTAR Summer Program for Entrepreneurial Nanoscale Engineering received an annual grant in 2020. The project was delayed due to COVID, but this UVA Today article provides a great overview of some of the work and research that started this summer.

“Words on Paper, Write Climate” received an annual grant in 2018. While funding from the Trust finished a year ago, they’re still partnering around the community, as shown on NBC29 News.

We are thrilled to see the hard work of our grantees and impact of their projects highlighted!

Jenn & John Nisi: Committed to Innovation

Jenn and John Nisi met as engineering students at UVA in the mid-90’s. A lot has changed in nearly three decades since they met; they both accepted roles at Microsoft, they got married and moved to NYC and later moved to the Hudson Valley, they’re raising three amazing kids, and they own two very scruffy, but lovable, bird dogs. But a few key things have remained steady for the Nisi’s: they’re both still working for Microsoft; they’re committed to excellence in technical innovation; they’re firm believers that technology, when used appropriately, can help solve the world’s problems; and they’re unflagging in their efforts to keep the human experience at the center of technology.

Jenn and John Nisi at the RotundaBoth Jenn and John studied systems engineering at UVA, graduating in 1998. Each has spent over 20 years at Microsoft – and they’re still going. Jenn leads the Industry Solutions team for Business Applications for the Microsoft North, South and Central American region, and John leads the Data & AI Intelligent Cloud group for Microsoft United States. In the digital revolution we’re experiencing — where every company is now becoming a “tech” company — the words “applications” and “cloud” are leading the way, and Jenn and John are at the forefront.

When they’re not working from their home offices, they’re spending time with their kids, exploring the beauty of the Hudson Valley, and investing in people and ideas that will create the next big thing. Both Jenn and John invest in early-stage seed startups as well as established technology funds, and new businesses in the Hudson Valley area. This technical, business and entrepreneurship expertise lends itself well to the Trust, and the Trust staff was eager to hear their perspective about the industry’s future, their vision, and how it impacts UVA.

What led you to join Microsoft?

John: After I graduated from UVA, I knew two things for certain. The first is that I loved systems engineering and solving complex problems, and the other is that I didn’t want to be a software engineer. When I was approached by Microsoft, I thought it was just a software development company, but I went to the interview and I quickly learned that Microsoft had a professional services function that was entirely committed to working with customers to understand and provide solutions for their complex technical challenges and needs. I was hooked from that moment and energized by the idea of working with teams to solve complex problems and to move technical innovation forward. For context, Jenn and I had been dating throughout college and all her job offers were in the DC area, so I let Microsoft know I was looking for roles in the DC area rather than the New York City area. When they found out that Jenn had a systems engineering degree, they asked me to make a connection.

Jenn: I also didn’t see myself as an engineer. John came home raving about his experience, and it was a noticeable change from how he felt when he first left for the interview. I wasn’t super interested initially but I took an interview anyway and what struck me was their willingness to take bets on people with potential. They didn’t have a university hiring program at the time, but when I interviewed, I could tell that they were willing to take a chance on me and they weren’t bound by process. It was a company of excellence and rigor, but there was a human aspect that set them apart.

What’s the biggest or most exciting period of change you’ve experienced in Microsoft?

Jenn: For me, it was when the cloud launched. We talk about the cloud so much now that it seems ingrained in all that we do, but when the cloud launched at Microsoft you could feel the energy in the company — we truly were all-in on the cloud and we know that what we were doing was going to change the world. We had to shift our value proposition with our customers, which is no small task, and it was incredible watching as a huge and established company made a giant pivot from being the “Windows” company to being a cloud company.

John: For me, it’s the advancement of artificial intelligence both generally in the world of technology but also at Microsoft as we’ve worked to be on the leading edge of AI and AI ethics. The advancement of intelligence driven from software has been incredible to watch over the last 20+ years because we now have the ability to capture and store huge amounts of data that we never dreamed we would encounter. Even as recently as 20 years ago we didn’t know we would see this rate of data increase. Not only that, but the fact that we can create statistical models to analyze the data and predict outcomes, and the compute power to do something about it — it’s been incredible to watch and I’m grateful that I’ve had a front row seat.

What are you most excited about for the future of tech?

Jenn: The thing that gets me most excited about technology is that its role in our world is changing. It used to be that technology was something we interacted with at certain times, but that’s changed as we see technology being integrated into all that we do. For example, schools used to have a dedicated computer lab, and this was the only time students would interact with the computer. Now, computers and technology are integrated into the way those students learn. There is no hard barrier between life and technology anymore as they become more integrated.

We’re seeing this in smart appliances, smart prosthetics and even in our hobbies. I’m an avid gardener and my garden brings me tremendous joy. I’ve installed a smart system that considers the temperature, rain conditions, previous water cycles, etc., and it waters the garden when it’s needed based on those factors, rather than me having to remember to water the plants or hire someone to do that when I’m out of town. It’s made something that I love even better.

John: For me, I’m excited to see more advancement in education, sustainability and equity. Those are three topics that really energize me. Narrowing it down to the topic of sustainability, there are infinite ways that technology can advance the cause of sustainability. Every discipline of engineering needs to come together to help solve problems that we haven’t tackled or solved for the planet. The combination of human intuition and quantum computers can make a difference as we tackle challenges related to climate change and urban sprawl.

Today it seems like we’re solving problems that solve a bottom line, which is certainly important in every industry. But the world’s problems don’t exist only in businesses where there’s a revenue target, and we need a targeted approach to solve the problems that the world is encountering, and that approach should involve a diverse set of human perspectives and voices, and technology that can help identify trends, make predictions, and solve some of these problems. Quantum computing can expedite this once it becomes a commodity. That’s what gets me energized for the future of tech.

How can UVA and the Trust advance this future in technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship?

Jenn: I think UVA is doing a great job of advancing the future of both technology and the community by investing in innovative ideas. There are so many amazing ideas out there that drive innovation through community development programs, new technologies, startup ideas and more. The Jefferson Trust has made it clear that their vision is to allow great ideas to come to fruition, and to help ensure that those ideas are getting the visibility needed for advancement and maximum impact. Investment in great ideas is critical and it empowers people from all backgrounds to further change that benefits the world at large.

John: One thing that has made me proud as the School of Data Science is created at UVA is that it’s being talked about as “the school without walls.” Data science is so important in each and every industry, and therefore in each and every major at the University. With the school of data science, UVA is showing their commitment to building and strengthening connections between data science and technology and the business, engineering, policy, and law schools, among others. The continued focus on that goal will help leaders of all kinds at UVA get a jump start out in the world because they’ll know the power that data science can bring to help their company meet its goals, solve problems or scale for impact.

Annual Grant Cycle Updated & Open!

We fund great ideas. To apply, start with a Letter of Inquiry.

The Jefferson Trust Annual Cycle application is open for the 2021-22 academic year, and we’ve streamlined our process! We have implemented a two-step application to help grant seekers refine their project and opportunity for funding. Applicants must now complete a short Letter of Inquiry (LOI), which will be reviewed to determine if their proposal moves forward to the full application. Letters of Inquiry will be reviewed on a rolling basis, with notifications made within two weeks of LOI submission. In addition, the full application has been revised and simplified.

Timeline of New Process:

  1. Now – LOI forms are currently available in the grant portal and may be submitted any time prior to October 1!
  2. October 1, 2021 – Last day to submit a LOI. LOIs submitted after 10/1 will NOT be eligible to apply.
  3. October 25, 2021 – Full applications due for approved LOIs
  4. January 28, 2022 – Some applicants will be asked to meet with the board to provide more information.
  5. Early February 2022 – Funding status notifications sent to applicants.

The spring Flash Funding cycles will not be impacted by the LOI change and will be conducted with the simplified one-step application document. We encourage you to plan ahead, register to participate in our upcoming Grants Information Session, or contact Amy, Director of Grants & Oversight, with questions.