2015 REDI Awards

The Texas A&M University School of Public Health strives to support faculty in their research activities, including assistance in the development of new extramurally supported investigator-initiated research. The Inaugural SPH Dean's Research Enhancement and Development Initiative (REDI) program is designed to provide small pilot funding awards to SPH investigators in support of innovative, novel, and interdisciplinary ideas with a high probability of leading to significant external funding. 

2015 Award Grantees 

Tanya Garcia, PhD
Assistant Professor, Epidemiology & Biostatistics 
Identifying High-Dimensional Neuroimaging Biomarkers Associated with Huntington's Disease Motor-Onset
Dr. Garcia aims to overcome methodological limitations by developing a new statistical method to identify and estimate the effects of high-dimensional neuroimaging measures in relation to age at Huntington’s Disease (HD) onset. Major innovations include the introduction of tensor covariates into a Cox model, the discovery of salient structural neuroimaging biomarkers that will be useful for risk-profiling individuals at risk for HD, and the effective use of tensor properties that will allow analysis of different neuroimaging data. This will offer promising ways to predict HD motor-onset and increase the capacity to personalize early intervention based on structural neuroimaging measures.


Y. Alicia Hong, PhD
Associate Professor, Health Promotion & Community Health Sciences 
Health-Related Mobile Use Among Older Adults With Chronic Conditions
This project will provide important data on older adults’ attitudes and behaviors on health-related mobile use, factors affecting their mobile use behaviors at individual, interpersonal, and environmental levels, and their preferences for using mobile tools in chronic disease self-management. Through semi-structured interview, the specific aims will assist in understanding current mobile use behaviors among older adults with HIV, diabetes, or cancer, and explore intervention strategies on using mobile tools for chronic disease self management. It is one of the first studies to have in-depth examination of health-related mobile use among older adults, and will complement projects on mobile app development and testing to give a comprehensive picture of older adults’ mobile app usage for chronic disease self-management.

Natalie Johnson, PhD
Assistant Professor, Environmental & Occupational Health
Impact of In Utero Aerosol Exposure on Asthma Susceptibility 
This study will provide preliminary data on the role that prenatal exposure to particulate matter plays in asthma pathogenesis in offspring using a mice model. Dr. Johnson will develop a mouse model of asthma susceptibility resulting from in-utero exposure to aerosol mixtures more representative of human exposures. The research in this model is innovative because it represents a new and substantive departure from the status quo by incorporating a representative human exposure in a mouse model of asthma susceptibility. Work in this study will establish a model providing a platform to explore the mechanisms underlying prenatal air pollution exposure and asthma susceptibility. Findings are likely to inform future preventive strategies for mother’s unavoidably exposed to air pollution during pregnancy.

Ranjana Mehta, PhD
Assistant Professor, Environmental & Occupational health
Obesity, Stress & Mobility Outcomes in Older Adults 
This study will extend our understanding on how neural processes with obesity moderate mobility outcomes in older adults. This developmental research investigation is an important first step that will fundamentally advance current knowledge on obesity-related changes in neuromuscular function, which to date have mainly focused on changes in peripheral muscular capacities with obesity. This represents a new departure from the status quo by identifying obesity and stress specific neural activation patterns associated with mobility in older adults using a novel functional neuroimaging technique that allows brain imaging during movement. Outcomes will significantly influence how public health intervention strategies are designed that can improve physical functioning and mobility among obese older adults.

Brandie Taylor, PhD
Assistant Professor, Epidemiology & Biostatistics 
Director, Program on Reproductive & Child Health
Early Pregnancy Serum Short-Chain Fatty Acids & Preeclampsia
This project will provide preliminary data for future studies to identify potential biomarkers for prediction of preeclampsia subtypes. Utilizing biological samples from an existing cohort study, this study will explore the role of short chain fatty acids (SCFA), danger associated molecular patterns (DAMP)and inflammation in preeclampsia defined by severity. The study aims to determine if SCFA reduce the odds of mild or severe preeclampsia through reduction of serum markers of cellular damage (DAMP)and inflammation. This is one of the first studies to examine associations between SCFA, DAMP and inflammation in preeclampsia. Ultimately, providing a better understanding of preeclampsia pathogenesis will allow researchers to differentiate subtypes and target specific pathways to improve prediction and clinical management.


Carmen Tekwe, PhD
Assistant Professor, Epidemiology & Biostatistics
Novel Percetile-Based Statistical Methods to Model BMI Percentiles in Childhood Obesity 
With this study, Dr. Tekwe will develop flexible statistical approaches to analyze data collected on elementary school-aged children in studying the impacts of a school-based intervention program to increase their daily physical activity and reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity and its related outcomes such as type 2 diabetes. It will develop more flexible and robust statistical methods and apply them to existing data from a standing desk study to determine how Total Daily Energy Expenditures (TDEE) influences future BMI percentiles among children. This will yield innovative statistical tools for assessing the impact of current TDEE on future BMI percentiles, and advance current knowledge of the impact of school-based environmental intervention measures to prevent obesity in children.