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Pilot and Exploratory Studies Core (PESC)

PESC Overview

Core Leader

Stephen Seliger, MD, MS
410-605-7000 ext. 55231

Core Co-Leader

Marc Hochberg, MD, MPH, MACP, MACR


The goal of the PESC is to provide research support and mentoring of investigators with high quality pilot and exploratory research proposals. These proposals are designed to acquire preliminary data needed for future crucial studies congruent with the Center’s focus:

  • examination of the mechanisms underlying mobility limitation
  • physical disability, and recovery from disability in vulnerable older adults
  • assessment of functional and clinical responses to novel exercise and activity-based rehabilitation interventions

This goal is being accomplished through the following specific aims:

Solicit and select high quality, innovative pilot and exploratory studies (PES) that are relevant to the UM-OAIC goal.

  • Identify talented junior faculty and other investigators in conducting studies to advance the UM-OAIC goal
  • Review, select and fund the highest quality pilot and exploratory studies that have the potential to acquire preliminary data required for future studies of innovative rehabilitation interventions that will optimize the recovery of older individuals wo are disabled by stroke, hip fracture, Parkinson's disease or other chronic metabolic, neuromuscular or muscoskeletal diseases.

Support the implementation of innovative and promising pilot and exploratory studies and facilitate their development into independently funded grant applications through establishment of multidisciplinary Research Working Groups (RWGs), in coordination with the Research Education Core (REC), Resource Cores (RCs) and Leadership and Administrative Core (LAC).

  • Assist pilot and exploratory study investigators in the conduct of their research and in accessing resources from UM-OAIC cores, research programs and centers at teh University of Maryland Baltimore (UMB), and nationally through collaboration with other OAICs.
  • Ensure and monitor adherence to ethics, safety, privacy and protection of human subjects enrolled in PESC studies; and
  • Monitor and evaluate the progress of pilot and exploratory studies.

The PESC works with the Leadership and Administrative Core (LAC), its Committees and Advisory Panels to provide leadership, advice and resources to ensure the coordination of innovative translational approaches to research in rehabilitation science and clinical investigation examining the mechanisms underlying the functional disabilities associated with stroke, hip fracture, and other chronic diseases prevalent in the elderly.

The PESC Leaders, in conjunction with the research working groups (RWGs), stimulate and sustain aging research by assisting junior and senior UM-OAIC investigators in the development of novel pilot and exploratory research, providing resources for this research, monitoring progress and accomplishments, and cultivating interdisciplinary collaborations within the UM-OAIC, and other OAICs that advance rehabilitation.  

Funding Opportunities

Funding Opportunities


The Center is excited to offer the opportunity for Pepper Center pilot investigators and junior scholars as well as Pepper Center affiliates that are interested in applying for a pilot or junior scholar position in the future to apply for micro-funds ranging from $500-$1,000 for a current project that relates to the Pepper Center theme.  There is no deadline to apply as funds are available on an as needed basis. For more information refer to Pepper Center Micro Funding.

For More Information

Contact Anne Sullens

Currently Funded Pilot/Exploratory Studies

Currently Funded Pilot/Exploratory Studies

Funded July 1, 2020

Mobile Sensor Investigation of Gait Variability and the Hip Abductors
PI: Odessa Addison, DPT, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science
University of Maryland, School of Medicine

Neural Mechanisms of Reduction in Stroke-Induced-Hemiparesis by Robot-Assisted-Training
PI: Michael Dimyan, MD
Assistant Professor, Department of Neurology
University of Maryland, School of Medicine

Ryanodine Receptors as Novel Targets in Chronotropic Incompetence in the Aging Heart
PI: B. Maura Greiser, MD, PhD
Research Associate, Department of Physiology
University of Maryland, School of Medicine

Age-Dependent Changes in Nuclear Mechanotransduction as a Driver of Sarcopenia
PI: Richard Lovering, PhD, PT
Associate Professor, Department of Orthopaedics
University of Maryland, School of Medicine

Funded July 1, 2019

Home Exercise Program (HEX) for Homebound Older Adults
PI: Alyssa Stookey, PhD
Research Associate, Department of Medicine
University of Maryland, School of Medicine

Immune Mechanisms Responisble for the Impaired B Cell Responses to New Antigens in the Elderly
PI: Franklin Toapanta, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine
University of Maryland, School of Medicine

A Combination of Ultrasound and CT for Investigators of Muscle and Functional Changes and Hip OA across the Disease Spectrum
PI: Christa Nelson, PT, DPT, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science 
University of Maryland, School of Medicine

Relations of Glucose Variability with Cognitive Function and Functional Status among Older Adults at Risk for Diabetes
PI: Tasneem Khambaty, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology
University of Maryland Baltimore County

Funded July 1, 2018

Evaluating the Progression of Rotator Cuff Intramuscular Fatty Infiltration in Older Adults Receiving Physical Therapy for Initial Management of Painful Supraspinatus Full-Thickness Tendon Tear: A Longitudinal Prospective Cohort Study
PI: Derik Davis, MD
Assistant Professor, Department of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine
University of Maryland, School of Medicine

Mobility Function as a Predictor of Community Function Among Older Adults with Psychotic Disorders
PI: Anjana Muralidharan, PhD
Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry
University of Maryland, School of Medicine

Past Pepper Pilot Studies