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Research Forward funding fills gap left by sunsetting UW2020

June 22, 2021 By Natasha Kassulke

After six rounds of funding, the UW2020: WARF Discovery Initiative has been retired. The name necessitated the moveas much as anything.  

It will be replaced by Research Forward, whose inaugural round funds 11 grant projects chosen out of 89 submitted from across campus. 

FY20 was the last year of the UW2020 awards. Launched in fall 2015, the initiative drew innovative and multidisciplinary research from across the campus and spurred many extramural projects as well.  More than $110M in new extramural support was related to UW2020 projects over the past few years.  

The final round of UW2020 brought the total number of UW2020 projects to 95. Funded project teams have included 405 faculty, more than 100 graduate students, and academic staff investigators from many schools, colleges, and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education research centers.  

“UW2020 lived up to and exceeded our expectations for success,” says Steve Ackerman, vice chancellor for research and graduate education, “With Research Forward, we wanted to build on that success and sponsor a new initiative that would continue to position our faculty to be even more successful as they apply for extramural funding in an increasingly competitive environment.” 

The Research Forward initiative is supported by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) and will provide funding for 1–2 years, depending on the needs and scope of the project. 

“Research Forward, like UW2020, seeks to stimulate and support highly innovative and groundbreaking research at the UW–Madison,” explains Cynthia Czajkowski, associate vice chancellor for research in the biological sciences. “In choosing this year’s projects, we were looking for multidisciplinary, multi-investigator research projects that have the potential to fundamentally transform a field of study, as well as projects that require significant development prior to the submission of applications for external funding.”

The funded projects range from producing a safety training game for dairy farm personnel, to exploring new protein functions and elucidating pathways required for bacteria to colonize animals and cause disease, to studying the key missing piece in our understanding of galaxy evolution and star formation — the physics of atomic gas (HI).

A list of projects, including their team members and project descriptions is available at

Research Projects and Principal Investigators

Internet Photonic Sensing: Using Opportunistic Internet Measurements for Vibration and Earth Motion Sensing

Paul Barford, professor of computer sciences

Integration of a Novel Solid Tumor Immunotherapy Platform: CAR T Cells, Targeted Radiotherapy and Cytokine Therapy

Christian Capitini, associate professor of pediatrics

An Integrative Computational and Experimental System for Interpreting Genomic Variation

Audrey Gasch, professor of genetics and director of the Center for Genomic Science Innovation

Therapeutic Targeting of Post-transcriptional RNA Processing in Human Diseases

Aaron Hoskins, associate professor of biochemistry

Discovery of Novel Proteins that Regulate Microbe-Host Interactions

Mark Mandel, associate professor of medical microbiology and immunology

Integrated Stellarator Concept Study for a New U.S. Stellarator Experiment at the UW–Madison

Oliver Schmitz, professor of material science and engineering

Resilience, Recognition, and Ritual: Human Engagement with Disease, Death and Dying

Amy Stambach, professor of anthropology

Transformational Survey of Local Group galaxies with the Karl Jansky Very Large Array and HTCondor

Snezana Stanimirovic, professor of astronomy

Climate Change, Conflict and Governance in the Sahel

Matt Turner, professor of geography

Mooving Cows: An Innovative Learning Approach Using a Serious Game to Improve Cow-Handling Skills in Dairy Farm Personnel

Jennifer Van Os, assistant professor of animal and dairy sciences 

Compact and Efficient Terahertz Optical Modulators

Deniz Yavuz, professor of physics