GSE news brief artwork.
Illustration representing collection of research grant dollars.

Published April 20, 2023


A tireless commitment to research

GSE scholar leads, provides expertise on seven UB grants

Portrait of Sunha Kim, PhD, associate professor in UB’s Department of Counseling, School and Educational Psychology and Department of Learning and Instruction.

Sunha Kim, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Counseling, School and Educational Psychology and
Department of Learning and Instruction

Sunha Kim, PhD, associate professor in UB’s Department of Counseling, School and Educational Psychology and Department of Learning and Instruction, exemplifies the university’s commitment to interdisciplinary collaboration and research. The GSE researcher was recently awarded over $1.2 million in funding.

Kim was awarded a $478,044 three-year grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The project, “Using Survival Analysis to Identify Opportunities for Retention of Librarians of Color,” examines the retention of librarians who identify as Black, Indigenous and people of color. Amy VanScoy, PhD, associate professor of information science, also serves on the research team, which seeks to investigate when and why BIPOC librarians are likely to leave the profession.

As co-PI/PI, Kim was also awarded $31,080 in federal funding to expand high-speed internet access in Buffalo’s Fruit Belt neighborhood and collect the data to explore digital divide issues. The award is part of “Project OVERCOME,” a $2.7 million initiative run by U.S. Ignite, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Schmidt Futures, a charitable organization, aiming to expand high-speed internet access to underserved communities. UB engineer Filippo Malandra served as a PI for the main project.

In addition, as co-PI, Kim has served on a $757,877 grant by the National Institutes of Health to explore harnessing microbial genome sequencing and data with teachers and students in high school. The three-year project, “The Metagenomics Education Partnership: Harnessing the Power of Microbial Genome Sequencing and Big Data with High School Students and Teachers,” allows high school students and teachers the opportunity to perform genome sequencing of bacteria.

“To date, I have been awarded external funding for grants totaling $1,284,424. Additionally, I have provided my expertise as an evaluator or consultant for additional grants totaling $3,770,632. These funded grants have significantly contributed to my growth as a researcher, resulting in the publication of ten peer-reviewed papers and team awards from prestigious organizations such as IEEE and ASIS&T,” said Kim. “Moreover, these grants have enabled me to make a valuable contribution to the community by providing resources such as high-speed internet accessibility, interventions for PreK-12 school students and teachers and scholarships for students at GSE and UB.”

She currently serves as an evaluator on four five-year NSF grants, including:

  • “Citizen Science Teachers: University at Buffalo (UB) Noyce Residency Scholars”

    Award amount: $1,199,545

This project aims to serve the national need to increase the number and retention of diverse and effective science teachers in high-need school districts in Western New York. With a citizen science focus, this project will explore innovative strategies for preparing science teachers through civic engagement, the study of local environments, and transformational approaches sustained in partnership with schools and communities. Amanda Winkelsas, PhD, GSE clinical assistant professor of learning and instruction, is the principal investigator. Co-principal investigators include Julie Gorlewski, PhD, GSE professor and senior associate dean of academic affairs and teacher education; Alexandra Schindel, PhD, GSE associate professor of learning and instruction; and Joseph Gardella, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor in UB’s Department of Chemistry.

  • “CAREER: Facilitating Autonomy of Robots Through Learning-Based Control”

    Award amount: $571,087

This CAREER project establishes a novel learning-based framework that equips drones with new capabilities of “learning from the experience” of other drones despite their different dynamics and platforms. This approach to the design of planning and control of drones will significantly reduce the design, test, evaluation and certification of drones, uniquely and efficiently customized for applications in their operating environment. The integrated research-and-education activities will provide students in the Western New York area with hands-on experience and internship opportunities on drone techniques, toward better preparing the future workforce for the unmanned aerial system industry in the United States. Minghui Zheng, PhD, assistant professor in UB’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, is the principal investigator.

  • “CAREER: Reliable Superinsulated Building Envelopes via Predictive Multiphysics Modeling”

    Award amount: $595,593

This CAREER award supports research investigating the design of additively manufactured insulation components of building envelope (roofs and walls) based on novel high-performance materials, using predictive computational modeling, and applying rigorous uncertainty quantification methodologies. The extraordinary properties of fiber-reinforced silica aerogel composites make them the most promising insulation materials that can significantly reduce energy consumption and carbon dioxide emission of next-generation buildings, leading to extensive environmental benefits, improving human health and welfare, and enhancing national economic competitiveness. Danial Faghihi, PhD, assistant professor in UB’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, is the principal investigator.

  • “CAREER: 3D Printed Carbon-Metal Nanohybrid Aerogels for Highly Efficient Adsorptive/Catalytic Removal of PFASs”

    Award amount: $500,000

The overarching goal of this CAREER project is to lay the foundation for developing a novel and integrated filtration/catalytic reactor system that can extract and destroy PFAS from contaminated water sources. To advance this goal, the principal investigator proposes to use 3D printing to explore the fabrication of adsorptive/catalytic graphene-metal nanohybrid aerogels with high surface area, tunable surface chemistry, and hierarchical and interconnected pores for fast water/mass transport to enable efficient extraction and degradation of PFAS from contaminated water sources. Nirupam Aich, PhD, volunteer assistant professor in UB’s Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering, is the principal investigator.

“My research activity will have a positive impact on promoting investigation efforts that maximize opportunities for the success of minoritized groups. Specifically, these research activities will provide a) measurement instruments related to engagement, academic success, ICT access and uses, retention, and attrition; b) various data sources such as Buffalo data to promote digital equity, nationally representative longitudinal data to enhance the retention of BIPOC professionals, and big data from science experiments to improve academic success and STEM access among at-risk students; and c) guidance on statistical and analytical models to investigate these efforts,” Kim said.

X. Christine Wang, PhD, GSE professor, associate dean for interdisciplinary research and director of the Fisher-Price Endowed Early Childhood Research Center, believes that Kim’s grant activity serves as an example of the interdisciplinary innovation in research at UB.

“Dr. Sunha Kim is a successful grants-getter at GSE. As a highly sought-after quantitative researcher, she has worked tirelessly with researchers in different fields, including library science, engineering and biotechnical science, among others,” said Wang.

“Interdisciplinary research is critical as we face increasingly complex problems in the world; however, it also comes with some unique challenges,” Wang continued. “Dr. Kim’s success in this challenging space is a testament to her intellect, cross-discipline communication skills, and perseverance.”