The BRIDGE Seed Funding is made possible through the University of Birmingham (UoB) and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign's (Illinois) BiRmingham-lllinois Partnership for Discovery, EnGagement and Education, known as BRIDGE. This partnership created a framework for continued collaboration and investment to grow a strategic partnership between the two institutions. Engagement currently spans more than 70 established faculty-to-faculty links in key academic disciplines.
Funding is available in three grant categories: implementation, initiation, and teaching and learning. Implementation Grants support and strengthen existing faculty-faculty relationships leading to clearly defined outputs. Initiation Grants encourage wider faculty involvement and expand institutional engagement. Teaching and Learning Grants allow faculty to develop educational relationships with counterparts at UoB/Illinois in order to enhance student learning.
This year's recipients are:
- Liat Alon
- Bryce Gadway
- Tania Ionin
- Hong Jin
- Brett Kaplan
- Madhu Khanna
- Robb Lindgren
- Aaron Munoz
- John Scott
- Xiao Su
- Renee Trilling
- Helvi Witek
- Shihan Xie
Faculty profiles are included below.
Congratulations to all BRIDGE Seed Fund recipients!
Teaching Assistant Professor, Jewish Culture and Society
Liat Alon is a teaching assistant Prof, EU Center Affiliate. and Israel Institute Fellow at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign (Department of History and Program in Jewish Culture and Society). Exploring family history, gender, and modern societies Alon’s work focuses on local Jewish history. Collecting and then comparing oral testimonials with archival documents, Alon’s work gleans new knowledge from these diverse sources, which in turn often challenges prevalent stereotypes and conceptions about Jewish life, family and modernity. Alon’s recent project focuses on documenting and exploring twentieth-century histories of the small/er Jewish communities of Central Illinois, gradually dwindling in numbers, now documented in the Mervis Collection – Central Illinois’ Jewish Communities Archive at UIUC.
Associate Professor, Physics
Bryce Gadway is an associate professor in the Department of Physics at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He leads an experimental research group focused on exploring exotic forms of quantum matter. The group's efforts are primarily based on using laser light to control and manipulate atoms and molecules, for the purpose of studying new kinds of emergent collective behavior in systems of many interacting quantum particles. Gadway received his B.A. in Astronomy-Physics from Colgate University in 2007 and his Ph.D. in Physics from Stony Brook University in 2012.
Tania Ionin is a professor in the Department of Linguistics. She received a Ph.D. in cognitive science from MIT in 2003, and has been a faculty member at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign since 2007. Her research focuses on second language acquisition of semantics and syntax, and on experimental semantics more generally.
Associate Professor, Biochemistry
Professor, Biophysics and Quantitative Biology Member
Hong Jin received her Ph.D. in Biophysics at Yale University in 2007 and completed her postdoctoral training under the NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award with Sir Venki Ramakrishnan at the Medical Research Council – Laboratory of Molecular Biology in the United Kingdom. She joined the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2012 and has made several key discoveries in the fundamental science of molecular biology. Her main areas of research interest are RNA structures and functions, mechanisms of protein synthesis and quality control.
Professor, Comparative and World Literature
Brett Ashley Kaplan Directs the Initiative in Holocaust, Genocide, Memory Studies at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where she is a professor of Comparative and World Literature. She publishes in Haaretz, The Conversation, Salon.com (picked up from Conversation), Asitoughttobemagazine, AJS Perspectives, Contemporary Literature, Edge Effects, and The Jewish Review of Books.She has been interviewed on NPR, the AJS Podcast, and The 21st, and is the author of Unwanted Beauty, Landscapes of Holocaust Postmemory, Jewish Anxiety and the Novels of Philip Roth, and Rare Stuff (a novel). Her edited collection, Critical Memory Studies: New Approaches is forthcoming from Bloomsbury, and she is at work on a co-edited collection (with Anthony Mordechai Tzvi Russell and Sara Feldman) entitled Blewish: Contemporary Black-Jewish Voices. She is conducting interviews for Fearless Louise, a co-written biography of Louise Fishman with Amy Powell. She is also writing a second novel, Vandervelde Downs, about the recovery of Nazi-looted objects found in a Vietnamese Refugee Center in provincial England.
Professor, Environmental Economics
Dr. Madhu Khanna is the ACES Distinguished Professor of Environmental Economics in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics and Interim Director of the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment, at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She received her Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. Her research is at the intersection of agricultural, energy and environmental economics and has led to more than 140 peer-reviewed publications that are widely cited. She has received funding from several federal agencies in the US and is the Theme Leader for the Sustainability Theme in the USDOE funded Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation, Associate Director for Technology Adoption and Public Policy in the NSF-funded AIFARMS Institute (Artificial Intelligence for Future Agricultural Resilience, Management and Sustainability), and Director of the USDA funded SCAPES project for designing Agrivoltaics for sustainably intensifying food and energy production. She has served on the USEPA Science Advisory Board for 10 years and as a Chair/member of review panels for NIFA, USEPA and NSF and as a member of USDOE Technical Advisory Committee. She is currently serving as a member of the National Academies of Sciences committee on low carbon transportation fuels. She is a University of Illinois Scholar, a Stanford Woods Institute of Environment Leopold Leadership Fellow and a Fellow and current President of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
Associate Professor, Curriculum and Instruction
Robb Lindgren is an Associate Professor of Curriculum & Instruction and affiliate faculty in Educational Psychology, NCSA, and the Beckman Institute. Dr. Lindgren is also currently directing the Technology Innovations in Educational Research and Design initiative, which is a cross-campus community of students and faculty at Illinois seeking to design and develop new technologies to address challenges in learning and education. Dr. Lindgren’s own research examines theories and designs for learning within emerging media platforms (e.g., simulations, virtual environments, mobile devices, video games, augmented and mixed reality, etc.). He seeks to understand how digital technologies can be used to construct new identities and generate new perspectives that lead to stronger comprehension of complex ideas, particularly in STEM content areas. Lindgren’s research team includes Dr. Christina Krist and Dr. Barbara Hug.
Assistant Professor, Acting
Muñoz is an actor, director, playwright, filmmaker, and educator. As an actor, he has been seen onstage across the country and in television and film: Including Stranger Things, The Walking Dead, Chicago Fire, & Cadillac Records. As a playwright and theatre maker: Lost Laughs: The Slapstick Tragedy of Fatty Arbuckle (IRNE Nominee, Best Play, Best New Play & Best Actor) at Merrimack Repertory Theatre, 2 Households 2 Assholes: Shakespeare’s R & Jat the New York International Fringe Festival. At Illinois Theatre, Muñoz was the performance director for the large-scale multimedia exhibit Folxtales, co-directed Native Gardens by Karen Zacarias at the Krannert Center of Performing Arts, and directed the workshop production of Tocaya by Nancy García Loza. Aaron is the founder of the new work incubator Nashville Story Garden, holds a B.A. from Columbia College Chicago and an M.F.A from the University of Alabama/Alabama Shakespeare Festival’s professional actor training program. He is a proud member of SAG-AFTRA, Actors Equity, the Dramatists Guild, and a recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Tennessee Arts Commission. Muñoz is currently developing a play for digital and live theatre about Shakespeare’s clown, Will Kemp.
Senior Analytical Chemist
John Scott is a Senior Chemist at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center at the University of Illinois. He has been studying contaminants in the environment for the past twenty-five years. John’s research interests include emerging contaminants (such as microplastics and PFAS), waste utilization, and natural products.
Assistant Professor, Chemical and Biomolecular
Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering who develops advanced materials for molecularly selective separations and process intensification for applications in energy, environment, and chemical manufacturing.
Associate Professor, English
Renée R. Trilling is Associate Professor of English and Director of the Program in Medieval Studies at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She is the author of The Aesthetics of Nostalgia: Historical Representation in Old English Verse (Toronto, 2009; winner of the International Society for the Study of Early Medieval England’s Best First Book Award) and the Oxford Bibliography of Old English Literature and Critical Theory (Oxford, 2016). She is also Editor for Old English of JEGP: Journal of English and Germanic Philology, published by the University of Illinois Press. Her research has been supported by the Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities, and the Center for Advanced Study at Illinois. She has published articles on Beowulf, Wulfstan the Homilist, Ælfric’s hagiography, vernacular historiography, wisdom poetry, and early medieval medicine, focusing on issues of gender, materiality, nostalgia, and literary form.
Assistant Professor, Physics
Dr. Helvi Witek is an assistant professor at the Department of Physics, where she investigates black holes and gravitational waves -- ripples in the fabric of spacetime that were first detected in 2015 by the LIGO/Virgo Collaboration. (The discovery was recognized with the Nobel Prize in 2017). Her research group develops open-source software, such as the Einstein Toolkit (jointly with colleagues at NCSA) and Canuda, to theoretically model the gravitational wave signals that are produced in the collision of black holes or neutron stars. These models, constructed from high-performance computing simulations, are crucial to interpret the faint gravitational waves, to extract the wealth of information about its sources, about the astrophysical environment that they live in and to probe the very nature of gravity in its most extreme regime. Professor Witek received her PhD at the University of Lisbon in 2012, was a postdoc at the Universities of Cambridge (UK) and Nottingham and was a recipient of the prestigious Marie-Curie Fellowship (at the University of Barcelona) and a Royal Society University Research Fellowship (UK) before joining the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2020.
Assistant Professor, Economics
Shihan Xie received her Ph.D. in Economics from University of California, San Diego in 2020. She is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Shihan specializes in empirical macroeconomics with particular interests in household expectations and monetary economics. Her research on housing seeks to understand the impacts of government policies on varies aspects of housing markets. On household expectations, she studies the mechanisms that drive the dynamics and heterogeneities in the expectation formation process.