2015 Award Recipients

2015 Recipients

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Andrea Acevedo, Heller
Inequalities in Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment

Findings from recent studies show that minority adolescents in need of treatment for substance use disorders are less likely to access treatment than White adolescents, and those who do access treatment are less likely to complete it. This qualitative study obtains treatment providers perspectives on factors that may be underlying these disparities and what can be done to address them. For this study, I interview 8-10 adolescent substance abuse treatment program providers in Massachusetts.

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Janet Boguslaw, Heller
Outsourced at Home: The impacts for Job Quality, Public Resources

In 2009, approximately 90 female immigrant workers were unexpectedly fired from their housekeeping positions at three Boston area Hyatt Hotels; they were replaced by contract workers hired to do the same jobs for less money, no benefits, and in poorer working conditions. Interviews with fired Hyatt workers will build understanding of the impacts of domestic outsourcing—as contrasted to offshore outsourcing—on job quality and benefits, public resources, family mobility and inequality.

This project improves understanding of labor market impact and the trend towards fragmented and fissured work, by examining how displacement affects family well-being (assets and wealth, socio-economic status, work quality, personal and institutional networks) and shifts costs between sectors—from private to public—impacting the broader society.

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Gregory Childs, History
‘A Series of Noteworthy Things': Translating a Journal Confiscated

Our project is a translation of a journal that was confiscated from the leader of a plot to rebel against colonialism, slavery, and racism in 1798 Brazil. The journal contained poetry and philosophical reflections and the rebellious plot, known as the Tailor's Conspiracy, is regarded by Brazilian historians as one of the earliest movements for national independence. Our translation thus contributes to nineteenth century Latin American history and literature.

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Jon A. Chilingerian, Heller
Being Better Than Average is Not Good Enough: Benchmarking Physician and Hospital Quality and Efficiency

The current economic and political environment is increasingly focused on containing the rising costs of health care.  At the state level, the Commonwealth in Massachusetts passed a law in 2012 establishing a formal commission to set annual benchmarks on health care cost growth that are tied to the state’s overall economic trends, and to monitor progress in achieving these targets.  Moreover, at the Federal level, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have initiated several pilot programs around new payment and delivery models, including accountable care organizations and bundled payments, aimed at reducing the amount paid for health services while improving the quality of care. In the private sector, many private insurance companies have developed similar initiatives.

We believe, however, that many of the current measures of efficiency and quality available to hospitals are ill equipped for these purposes.  The statistical and parametric-based approaches underlying most current measures of efficiency and quality rely on simple averages to convey information about relative performance.  Average performance, however, may not correlate with best performance. 

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Cynthia Cohen, Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts
Social Transformation through the Arts: Interdisciplinary and Cross-cultural Perspectives

This project addresses why and how the arts contribute to social transformation. Questions include: How can evaluation be designed to improve contributions of the arts and culture to community resilience? How can knowledge from sources as diverse as neuroscience and African traditional cultures advance inclusive and effective practice? My assistant, David Briand, and I, will share a pilot episode of a podcast series entitled Arts for Life: African Voices.

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Cooper, Abigail, History
Conjuring Emancipation: Black Freedom and the Refugee Camps of the American Civil War

My project is a history of the refugee camps of the Civil War. Called “contraband” camps because black refugees were considered the confiscated property of Confederates, the camps became pivotal meeting grounds for emancipation. Historians have documented the federal policy of these camps but little is known about the experience inside them. Between several hundred and several thousand strong, the camps brought together enslaved peoples of different walks in greater concentrations than had ever existed in the South. Nearly a million runaways came into Union lines before the end of the war. Uncounted others built camps of their own, outside of either army’s governance. My study examines the refugee camps over the course of the Civil War period, connecting and comparing experiences across the South. I give special attention to the religious transformations that occurred in the camps, arguing that these meeting grounds were sites of revolutionary revival. Reenvisioning emancipation as a religious event poses a challenge to our current historiographical conceptions of liberal citizenship. In Civil War historiography, it has been the scholarly concern over black citizenship that has obscured study of radical religious practice in these camps. This project corrects that misconception.

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Jane Ebert, International Business School
Effects of schedule predictability and interruption on exercise intentions

Health interventions are difficult for working midlife adults, who experience decreased well-being alongside substantial responsibilities and role conflict. We identify times that enhance intervention effectiveness, by: comparing the impact on exercise intentions and actions, in midlife working parents of school children, of an experimental manipulation (making schedule predictability OR interruptions salient), applied at a time followed by an interrupted OR an uninterrupted school schedule. An important benefit of our research would be tailoring intervention timing to many individuals at once, rather than one individual at a time.

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ChaeRan Freeze, Near Eastern and Judaic Studies
An Eye for an Eye: Jewish Terrorism and Romance in the Russian Socialist Revolutionary Movement

This project explores Jewish vengeance and violence through their roles in the leadership and terrorist Combat Organization of the Russian Socialist Revolutionary Party in the early twentieth century. Based on archival sources, it examines motivations for joining the party and participating in terrorism, relationships with non-Jewish revolutionaries (intense friendships and romances), state violence (imprisonment, and exile), betrayal and spies, and narratives of family members left behind.

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Charles Golden, Anthropology
Preliminary Investigations of the Ancient Maya Capital of Sak T'zi'

In June 2014, a landowner took my colleagues and me to his farm in the Santo Domingo valley, Chiapas, Mexico where there is an undocumented Classic period (AD 250 – 900) Maya capital city with numerous inscribed stone monuments. From 6/1 to 6/30/15 I conducted research as local permissions allowed. There are four intended outcomes: 1) long-term working relationships with landowners in the Santo Domingo valley, 2) a photographic catalog of monuments on-site and in the possession of the site's landowner, 3) a map of architectural remains at the site, and 4) photographic and drawn documentation of architectural construction sequences visible in looters' trenches.

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Debarshi K. Nandy, International Business School
Cracking the Economics of Fracking

Fracking is a drilling technique that has led to a significant increase in US oil and gas production since 2003. However, in addition to environmental concerns, questions have recently been raised regarding the geologic effects of fracking which may lead to increased incidence of future earthquakes. Thus, to properly evaluate the current economic value added for fracking we account for the present value of these long term costs and explore regulation and policy that minimizes such costs.

We also estimate the positive effects on the local economy and employment due to fracking, using census data. The net present value of such activities is estimated. Given that the large negative effects of fracking on local economic activities may only show up decades later as the magnitudes of earthquakes gradually increase, it is important to try and quantify these now so as to facilitate regulation and policy.

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Dan Oprian, Biochemistry
Optogenetic Tools for Control of Cyclic Nucleotides in the CNS

The principle of optogenetic control was first established in pioneering studies by Gero Miesenöck, who introduced a visual pigment from the fly retina into other neurons of the central nervous system and showed that he could control the behavior of the animals remotely by exposing the modified neurons to light. This spatial/temporal control of behavior in an intact animal was revolutionary but did not catch on widely because of the complexity of the visual pigment signaling pathway required for the photoreceptive protein in target neurons.  Optogentics underwent explosive growth following the discovery of a light-gated ion channel protein, channelrhodopsin, from the phototactic algae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.  Once expressed in the plasma membrane of target neuron, channelrhodopsin can control the electrical activities of the cells directly through light-dependent opening and closing of the ion-conducting pore of the protein.

More recently, Avelar et al. (2014) published a striking paper in which they identified a new protein (rho-GC) from the phototactic fungus Blastocladiella emersonii.  Rho-GC is a unique fusion protein in which a microbial rhodopsin domain, similar to that found in channelrhodopsin, is fused to a guanylyl cyclase domain to form a light-activated enzyme controlling the synthesis of the important signaling molecule cGMP.  My laboratory obtained the gene for rho-GC as well as the gene for a rhodopsin-cGMP phosphodiesterase fusion protein identified through a data mining trail, and began experiments to heterologously express the proteins for biochemical characterization in vitro. We have now successfully expressed the proteins in a human embryonic kidney cell line and have been able to purify both to homogeneity. Our goal now is to characterize the proteins with the intent of using them in optogenetics experiments in collaboration with the laboratories of Piali Sengupta and Leslie Griffith here at Brandeis.

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Harleen Singh, German, Russian, and Asian Languages and Literature
Half an Independence: Women, Violence, and Modern Lives in India

In my project, Half an Independence: Women, Violence, and Modern Lives in India, I use Humanities in the oldest fashioned way possible--to tell a story.  I research narratives of rape from the partition of India in 1947 to the present to offer an alternative history of sexual violence.  This project eschews the usual pre-modern culprits of religion, tradition, and culture to focus instead on modernity, technology, and nationalism, far more dynamic and relevant contemporary categories.

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Ilana Szobel, Near Eastern and Judaic Studies
Flesh of My Flesh: Sexual Violence in Hebrew Literature and Israeli Culture

This book project will be the first comprehensive study of the literary history of sexual assault in Hebrew literature and Israeli culture. It situates the rhetoric of gender-based aggression in the Jewish world of the twentieth century within the context of gender, disability, ethnicity, race, Zionism, and national identity. Such analysis uncovers the complex ideologies, anxieties, and bias entwined in the constructions of Hebrew cultural imagination.