Chemistry professor receives project funding from the university's Presidential Research Quest Fund

July 6, 2021

Eighteen Virginia Commonwealth University researchers have won support from the Presidential Research Quest Fund this year.

Their work seeks to enhance the human experience by responding to societal challenges such as the changing workforce, addiction and sustainable sources of energy. A total of $512,000 will fund research efforts on both the Monroe Park and MCV campuses, including in business, the sciences, public affairs, education, the health sciences, social work, engineering, pharmacy and VCU Libraries.

“The 2021 Quest fund recipients represent a diversity of disciplines. Although vastly different, each research project has the common goal of improving the human condition,” said VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D. “I am pleased that the university continues to fund the program and I look forward to seeing how these projects will translate beyond the university.”

Since the fund was founded in 2014, it has supported more than 100 projects, with recipients making more than 241 presentations and publishing more than 200 peer-reviewed papers. At least five patents have been filed from past research projects. According to the most recent data, the financial return on VCU’s $4.5 million Presidential Research Quest Fund investment has garnered over $25.3 million in state, federal, private and industry funding in the academic years 2016-21.

To qualify for the program, faculty members’ research must align with VCU's Quest 2025: Together We Transform and the initiatives of the newly launched One VCU Strategic Research Priorities Plan.

"I am so pleased with the exceptional potential of the research projects the [Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation] awarded through the 2021 Presidential Quest Fund," said Srirama Rao, Ph.D., vice president for research and innovation. "The research that comes out of this program is often groundbreaking, and this time around we have aligned the process with the aims of our strategic research priorities plan. Through this coordinated effort, VCU can continue to expand its reach and amplify its impact as a premier, urban, research university."

Three of the Presidential Research Quest Fund projects work to support sustainable ecosystems, including one from chemist Indika Arachchige, Ph.D., on “Bimetallic Transition Metal Phosphide Nanostructures as High-Efficiency, Earth Abundant Catalysts for Electrochemical Water Splitting.”

With electrochemical water splitting, Arachchige, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry in the College of Humanities and Sciences, seeks to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen to produce economical and environmentally friendly fuel. This water-splitting process produces clean hydrogen gas that could be used to fuel cars and other motorized vehicles. When this clean hydrogen gas is burned, the only combustion byproduct emitted is water, compared to the harmful carbon dioxide gasses emitted from petroleum fuels.

View the full VCU News feature to see the full list of awardees.