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SDSU biologists Sanford Bernstein (Previous MERIT Award Recipient) and Girish Melkani
SDSU biologists Sanford Bernstein (Previous MERIT Award Recipient) and Girish Melkani

The Academy Awards of Research

September 26th, 2018 (Kellie Woodhouse)

When psychologist Phillip Holcomb received a surprise call from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) congratulating him on receiving a MERIT award, he immediately did a Google search. The grant is so rare, Holcomb had never heard of it.

He quickly learned that NIH MERIT (Method to Extend Research in Time) Awards are not only rare, but also highly prestigious grants given to researchers with well-established records of success in the lab. They allow for a broader range of investigation and a less intensive renewal process than standard NIH grants.

In the conventional world of research, MERIT Awards are unconventional. A researcher cannot apply for one. NIH chooses recipients based on their “distinctly superior” experience and productivity. Just one percent of all NIH grants are MERIT Awards, and San Diego State University has four of them—a number that’s competitive with some of the most active research universities in the nation.

Oklahoma’s induced earthquakes increased drastically around 2009 and peaked in 2015. (Credit: BeyondImages/iStock)
Oklahoma’s induced earthquakes increased drastically around 2009 and peaked in 2015. (Credit: BeyondImages/iStock)

Researchers Identify Future Probability of Man-made Earthquakes

September 26th, 2018 (staff)

Earthquakes in Oklahoma and Kansas had been on the rise due to injection of wastewater—a byproduct of oil and gas operations—before regulations started limiting injections.

Now a new model developed by Stanford University researchers involving Matthew Weingarten, an assistant professor at San Diego State University, incorporates earthquake physics and the Earth’s hydrogeological response to wastewater injection to forecast a decrease in man-made earthquakes in Oklahoma and Kansas through 2020.

The model is based on publicly available data on wastewater injection into the Arbuckle formation, a nearly 7,000-foot-deep sedimentary formation underlying north-central Oklahoma and southern Kansas.

“We've developed a methodology to compute man-made seismicity rates in space and time from injection of wastewater associated with oil and gas production. The value of the methodology is that it uses what we've learned scientifically about man-made earthquakes in past decade of research to provide physics-based forecasts of future seismicity,” said Weingarten, a SDSU expert in hydrogeology who conducted research for the study as a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford.

Assuming wastewater injection from oil and gas operations continues at its current rate, researchers mapped the likelihood that the region will experience future earthquakes. The team’s findings were published in an article in the Sept. 26 issue of Nature Communications. Funding for the study was provided by the Stanford Center for Induced and Triggered Seismicity.


SDSU Researcher Works to Combat Drug Resistance

September 17th, 2018 (Kellie Woodhouse)

The work is being conducted under a five-year, $3.1 million grant to Valafar from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the DNA and gene expression of tuberculosis, while developing ways to identify resistant bacteria and predict the success of treatment. It follows $3 million of initial funding from NIH in 2013. The lab’s work is urgently important for millions of people suffering from the disease. In 2016, 1.7 million people died from tuberculosis, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), and incidents of drug resistance are on the rise, especially in impoverished countries.


SDSU Awarded Competitive Grant for Climate Change Research

September 17th, 2018 (Jeff Ristine)

A San Diego State University team received one of the first grants from California’s Climate Change Research Program, created by the state legislature in 2017 to support research on reducing carbon emissions. The nearly $1.8 million award was the second largest of 10 awarded by the California Strategic Growth Council from among nearly 70 proposals submitted. The funding comes from the state cap-and-trade program, which limits and “auctions” rights to greenhouse gas emissions in California. SDSU biologist Rebecca Lewison and senior research scientist Megan Jennings lead the grant-funded project, which will focus on integrating ecosystem and local community planning to build resilience to climate change.


2018 Distinguished Faculty Award: Thomas Rockwell

September 10th, 2018 (SDSU News Team)

Thomas Rockwell is a professor in the Department of Geological Sciences in the College of Sciences, where he has been teaching since 1983. Rockwell is a widely quoted expert on earthquakes and tectonic activity in Southern California and has developed an internationally recognized research program. He is a member of the board of directors of the Southern California Earthquake Center and serves as an expert for local and global consulting companies on earthquake issues related to specific construction or modernization sites. He has drawn more than $4 million in research funding to SDSU.

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