Month: December 2013

$35,000 UCHC-UConn Storrs Seed Grants in Cancer Control

UCHC-UConn Storrs Seed Grant Funding in Cancer Control:  Three $35,000 dual-PI grants are available

UConn Storrs and the UConn Health Center (UCHC) are offering funding opportunities for dual-PI pilot projects in cancer control research with health behavior components that will be carried out collaboratively by investigators from each campus. This initiative will fund three dual-PI grants of up to $35,000 each.


  • Research teams must consist of one PI from UCHC and one from UConn Storrs (UConn Storrs includes the regional campuses). Given that the ultimate goal of this program is to have these PIs submit dual-PI cancer control proposals to NCI, one PI must be qualified to submit grant proposals through UConn Storrs and the other must be qualified to submit grant proposals through UCHC.
  • Postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and research associates are not eligible to apply for these pilot grants.


  • Letters of Intent are required and due by January 17, 2014. Applicants must receive written approval to submit a full proposal.
  • Full proposals are due by April 11, 2014.
  • Proposal review decisions are expected to be available by early May 2014.
  • Subsequent proposals for NCI funding should be submitted by the end of July 2016.

For more details, please see the Seed Grant Announcement (PDF) and the Letter of Intent form (PDF). If you have questions about this opportunity or would like assistance with identifying potential collaborators, please contact Jennifer Wang at or Alicia Dugan at

The solicitation and review of applications will be administered jointly by the Center for Health, Intervention, and Prevention (CHIP) at UConn Storrs and by UCHC. This opportunity is sponsored by the Dean of the UConn School of Medicine, the UConn Vice President for Research, and CHIP.

CHIP PI Crystal Park Has been Awarded a New Subaward

Humans are creatures of habit – we tend to have stable behavior choices that change very slowly over time, if at all. Many factors form and support our choices, often reflexively and without conscious awareness, and strong, non-conscious emotional influences and homeostatic drives often prevail over reason. In this regard, stress, negative thought patterns, and maladaptive habits can subvert our attempts to adopt more healthy behaviors. Conversely positive factors such as self-mastery, emotion regulation, and positive self-regard can sustain health behaviors despite challenging circumstances. Mind-body practices such as yoga and meditation have been shown to be highly effective for reducing stress and enhancing wellness. Some evidence also suggests that these practices can promote positive changes in other health behaviors such as diet and exercise, even when changes in these behaviors are not explicitly prescribed. We hypothesize that these practices promote the development of mindfulness, self-compassion, and self-efficacy while decreasing stress, and that these changes in turn help mediate changes in health behaviors. Mindfulness is thought to increase awareness of unhealthy habits, self-compassion and self-efficacy provide new emotion regulation skills that help catalyze lasting transformations in behavior.
The Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Lenox, MA has developed a standardized 16-week program which combines hatha yoga practice with experiential exercises focused on promoting skills to enhance wellness. Our preliminary data indicate that the program, termed the Yoga Program (YP), reduces stress and increases mindfulness, self-compassion, and self-efficacy. Preliminary qualitative data suggests that this program will also be effective for promoting positive changes in diet and exercise. Our current goals are to obtain preliminary estimates of effect sizes for positive changes in diet and exercise, to determine the optimal ‘dose’ of home yoga to achieve maximal positive changes in these behaviors, evaluate several hypothesized predictor variables, and assess various aspects of our experimental design that will enhance the design and execution of follow-up studies. The results of this project will provide the preliminary data needed to justify and design a large randomized clinical trial comparing the effects and mechanisms of the YP to an exercise-based healthy living control program.
Aim 1: Evaluate the impact of the Yoga Program on changes in diet, exercise, and body mass index (BMI) at program mid-point (Week 8) and end (Week 16), as well as at two follow-up time-points (Weeks 24 and 32). Determine preliminary estimates of effect sizes and which ‘dose’ is most effective for engendering change in health behaviors.
Aim 2: Evaluate hypothesized mechanistic variables: 1) Confirm changes in mindfulness, self-compassion, self-efficacy, and stress reduction and obtain preliminary estimates of effect sizes. 2) Determine how diet, exercise and BMI are impacted by these variables, as well as by two predicted moderators (stages of change and eating behavior style).
Aim 3: Assess recruitment strategies, acceptability and appropriateness of testing materials, and instructor adherence to the YP teaching manual.

CHIP Affiliates in the Spotlight

Several CHIP Affiliates have recently been featured in the news and other media. We are proud to share the following appearances:

CHIP Affiliate Cheryl Oncken was interviewed in an NPR Morning Edition piece on November 25, 2013, titled, “In Pregnancy, What’s Worse? Cigarettes or the Nicotine Patch?” An excerpt from the piece:

In her own research, Oncken has found that nicotine gum does help. “It helped women reduce their smoking but not actually quit,” she says. The study also showed that women who used nicotine gum had lower overall exposure to nicotine and had babies who weighed more.

And nicotine isn’t the only toxin in cigarette smoke that can affect brain development, Oncken says. There’s also a lot of carbon monoxide, which has been shown to damage fetal brain cells. “And there are other things that could be neurotoxic,” she says, “such as lead, there’s arsenic, there’s a lot of bad things in cigarettes.”

CHIP PI Seth Kalichman was featured in a UConn Today article on December 6, 2013, titled “HIV/AIDS Prevalence and Prospects,” in recognition of World AIDS Awareness Month. An excerpted quote from Dr. Kalichman:

There’s a real possibility that in the not too distant future we will look at HIV/AIDS in much the same way we look at diabetes and other chronic diseases that can be largely controlled by making certain lifestyle changes and taking appropriate medication.

One of Dr. Kalichman’s advisees and a CHIP Graduate Student Affiliate, Jennifer Pellowski, was featured on, a website that brings scientific research to the public. In the feature titled “A Pandemic of The Poor: Social Disadvantage and the U.S. HIV Epidemic,” Jennifer discusses health disparities, focusing on HIV. An excerpt:

Like many other diseases, HIV burden is greatest among the poorest people of our nation. In addition to low socioeconomic status, racial minorities and sexual orientation minorities are also disproportionately impacted by the HIV epidemic. Our review shows that in addition to being more likely to contract HIV, these groups also have differential outcomes among those living with HIV. For example, African Americans are less likely to receive standard HIV care and Latinos are more likely to experience delays in starting medical care after contracting HIV. These disparities impact quality of life as well as mortality rates. What is unique about this paper is that it pulls together all of the literature on health disparities within the HIV epidemic showing just how prevalent and far reaching these disparities are.

CHIP Research Staff Tim Gifford was featured in an Innovation Spotlight  piece on the UConn Technology Park website for his research on how robots can help children with autism learn and communicate.  Excerpted from A Story of Robots and Autism“:

Timothy Gifford – who is the CEO of Movia Robotics as well as the director of the Advanced Interactive Technology Center at UConn’s Center for Health, Intervention, and Prevention (CHIP) – sees the work as having potential to cross over into the marketplace.

“That’s really the goal: to take this out of the lab and into the classroom,” he says. “One of the reasons we wanted to make this a commercially available product is to get it into the hands of as many schools and students as possible.”


CHIP cancer research focuses on cancer prevention, risk behavior, and survivorship – such as evaluating the effectiveness of new graphic cigarette warning labels to discourage tobacco use.