S/T committee explores pandemic recovery opportunities to move priorities forward

At the University of Guam EPSCoR Science and Technology (S/T) Committee meeting earlier this month, members looked at addressing its priority challenge areas by tapping into resources that recently opened to support the recovery of communities during the pandemic. 

The S/T committee’s priority challenge areas include IT and cybersecurity, biosciences and technology transfer, medical and healthcare, and sustainability (food-waste-energy nexus).  

Robert Underwood, committee vice-chair and voting member, said possible funding sources include the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration grants. The EDA grant received around $3 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act to reinvest in communities across the US. The program can support both the development of pandemic recovery strategies and the implementation of recovery projects.  

The recovery projects under the grant are aligned with the focus of the S/T committee. The list of eligible projects includes construction and development of technology-based facilities, wet labs, science and research parks, workforce training facilities, and telecommunications infrastructure. The EDA grant could potentially generate anywhere between $500 thousand to over $5 million in funding.  

With the committee’s mandate to expand the University’s research capabilities, tapping into statewide planning, research, and network grants supported by EDA was also discussed during the meeting.  

The meeting also highlighted several gains achieved by committee members which address the priority challenge areas. For example, Melanie Mendiola, GEDA administrator and committee voting member, provided updates on the government’s plan to build a medical campus facility, which addresses the medical and healthcare challenge area. According to Mendiola, the first phase of the project includes constructing a Center for Disease Control laboratory on Guam. She said the Office of Island Affairs (OIA) under the CDC has approved around $30 million for the project.  

At the start of the meeting, UOG President Thomas Krise also provided updates on the University’s infrastructure projects such as the School Engineering, the Student Center, and the Guam Cultural Repository building. He anticipates the repository to open by the end of this year. Krise also highlighted the importance of delivering the message that research advances can help the community, and activities relating to science and technology are investments that yield returns. 

For the next few months, the S/T steering committee will be developing a new Guam Science and Technology plan focusing on the following areas: Micronesia/international research collaboratorium; STEM capacity-building; STEM infrastructure; communication, and; diversified economy. 

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