Several faculty members of the College of Arts and Letters (CAL) and College of Natural Sciences (CNS), along with a CAL graduate student, are among the initial awardees of funding from CSUSB’s new Catalytic Investment on Research and Innovation Seed (CiRIS) program, introduced by the university’s Academic Affairs division.

This program grants up to $32,500 in seed funding per recipient, allowing individuals to dedicate themselves to their research, creative projects and scholarly pursuits. Beyond providing immediate financial support, CiRIS helps to prepare participants to seek external funding for their future endeavors, demonstrating a commitment to nurturing a thriving research and innovation environment within the academic community.

“I am grateful and honored to have been selected,” said award recipient Susana Henriquez, an assistant professor of geological sciences at CNS.

Henriquez plans to spearhead a project focused on unraveling the mysteries of the North American mountain belt in Southern California. Her research would help to bridge gaps in the geologic record and explore the early stages of the region's formation. Henriquez's work will be submitted to the National Science Foundation (NSF) Research at Undergraduate Institutions program. If awarded, the NSF grant would provide additional funding, which would go toward establishing a cutting-edge tectonics research lab at CSUSB.

Lua Lopez Perez, an assistant professor of biology at CNS, is another recipient of the CiRIS award. She will utilize her funds to delve into the impact of global change on plant biodiversity.

“The CiRIS award provides faculty with the most critical resource – time,” said Perez.

Perez will use that time to prepare a proposal for the highly sought-after NSF CAREER award. Not only would this prestigious grant provide significant funding for Perez's work, which holds promise for biodiversity preservation, it would also support outreach efforts in the Inland Empire by engaging schools and students in hands-on research experiences.

The third CNS faculty recipient, Angie Otiniano Verissimo, associate professor of health science and human ecology, will use the grant award for a pioneering study linking discrimination to substance use in Latinx communities. Her project aims to design an innovative community health worker-led anti-discrimination intervention to reduce Latinx substance abuse.

“My research aims to emphasize that discrimination is not only a social injustice, it is also harmful to health,” said Verissimo of her project. “Social injustices and disparities can be addressed by engaging community members in the process.”

A group of faculty members and a graduate student from the Department of Communication Studies at CAL have been awarded the CiRIS grant for their collaborative research initiative aimed at revitalizing and transforming local news in California’s Inland Empire region. Their research highlights the crisis in local journalism, referring to the many local newspapers and news outlets facing severe cutbacks or closures in recent years.

In response to this pressing issue, the CAL research team proposes the establishment of the Inland Coalition for Civic and Community Media (ICCCM). The goal of the coalition is to initiate the revival and transformation of local news in the Inland Empire. Matthew Poole, interim chair of the Department of Communication Studies, emphasized the significance of the project, especially considering the Inland Empire's classification as a “news desert.”

“The Inland Empire is what's known as a ‘news desert,’” said Poole. “With a population of approximately 4.9 million people to be living in a news desert, where local news is all but extinct, is a very serious state of affairs, and the research that this group of colleagues will do is going to be influential and highly supportive of our region.” 

The communication department faculty involved in this groundbreaking project include Thomas Corrigan, Mihaela Popescu, Ece Algan, Mariam Betlemidze, Gregory Gondwe, Lacey Kendall and master of arts candidate, Stepfanie Alfonso.

These projects represent a few of the many cutting-edge projects that showcase CSUSB's commitment to pioneering research and innovation. They highlight the university’s dedication to addressing pressing societal challenges while fostering a culture of excellence and diversity among its researchers.

Through the CiRIS program, CSUSB has provided an opportunity for faculty to spearhead projects and research that have the potential to profoundly impact both the scientific community and the Inland Empire region.