Veterans Reintegration Synergy Social Connects Researchers, Honor Grant Recipients

More than 50 researchers from across the USF System gathered Sept. 14 at the IDRB Galleria in the USF Research Park for the first Veterans Reintegration Synergy Social, hosted by the USF Veterans Reintegration Steering Committee and the Office of Research & Innovation.


Eight USF principal investigators from six colleges and divisions were recognized as the first recipients of Veterans Reintegration seed grants given out over the summer. Eight grants totaling approximately $300,000 were awarded to support one-year research projects. 


The Synergy Social, modeled on "speed dating" networking, provided an opportunity for researchers from different disciplines with an interest in veterans reintegration research to meet and connect with potential collaborators. A bell rang every six minutes to signal the time to move to new table.


At the end of the event, Dr. Paul R. Sanberg, senior associate vice president for research and innovation and co-chair of the Steering Committee, asked participants if they had met any new potential collaborators. Every hand in the room went up.


Dr. Karen A. Holbrook, USF System senior vice president for research, innovation and global affairs, provided a brief history of the Veterans Reintegration & Resilience initiative at USF. Thomas Bowman, Senior Advisor for VISN 8 and member of the Steering Committee, and Lt. Gen. Martin Steele (USMC retired), executive director of USF Military Partnerships and co-chair of the Steering Committee, spoke to attendees of the close connections USF has developed with the military community, including the Veterans Administration, and the importance of the work being done by USF researchers on behalf of veterans.


The Steering Committee was formed to foster research collaborations, identify funding opportunities, build the research infrastructure, and conduct state-of-the-art research aimed at the rehabilitation of military veterans and their adjustment and reintegration into civilian life, with the intention of improving the lives of veterans and their families by focusing on issues such as the causes and treatment of traumatic brain injury, development of prosthetics and robotics, treatment of behavioral health disorders, the science of physical rehabilitation and rehabilitation for wounded veterans, and the adjustment of the approximately 1250 veterans enrolled as USF students. USF has approximately 1,600 students using GI Bill benefits, including veterans, active duty reserve troops and dependents of veterans.  A major goal of the group is the formation of a nationally recognized research center aimed at the rehabilitation and successful reintegration of veterans.


The research focus of the grants is on collaborative, multidisciplinary research projects focused on traumatic brain injury and/or veteran's resilience themes, with emphasis on targeting the USF student veterans population. An important criterion was the availability of matching funds or a high potential for successful extramural funding.


Thirty-five proposals were submitted. The eight grants were awarded to the following USF principal investigators and their research teams:


-Larry Schonfeld, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Aging and Mental Health Disparities, "Behavioral health screening for student veterans"


-Merry Lynn Morris, MFA, instructor of dance, "Therapeutic investigation of the benefits of a hands free mobility chair for use with targeted veteran population"


-Subhra Mohapatra, PhD, assistant professor of molecular medicine, "Graphene nanoparticle-mediated deliver of siRNAs to Brain in a rat model of traumatic brain injury (TBI)"


-David Diamond, PhD, professor of psychology and co-director of the USF Neuroscience Collaborative Program, "G-CSF, stem cell and dietary treatments in an animal model of TBI"


-Stephanie Carey, PhD, adjunct professor of mechanical engineering, "Development of a wearable motion analysis system for evaluation and rehabilitation for TBI"


-Larry Braue, director of USF Veterans Services, "Elements of a veteran friendly campus:  perceptions by student veterans, faculty and staff"


-Cesario Borlongan, PhD, professor of neurosurgery and associate director of the Center of Excellence for Aging and Brain Repair, “Hyperbaric oxygen therapy and rehabilitation therapy in TBI animal models”


-Kristen Salomon, PhD, associate professor of psychology, "Identify cognitive and autonomic physiological markers that can distinguish combat-related PTSD from PTSD mTBI"


For more information on USF's Veterans Reintegration & Resilience initiative, visit: