2018 Award Recipients

The Provost's Office is pleased to announce recipients of the 2018 round of Provost Research Awards. Any Brandeis faculty or staff member involved in research, scholarship, or creative activity in any field was eligible to apply for an award. Projects awarded funding initiate innovative scholarly inquiry and creative activities that have the potential for significant, sustained impact.

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Doug Bafford, Anthropology
Evangelical Christians’ Engagement with the Cultural Other: Constructing an Alternative Post-Apartheid Modernity through Religious Cosmology

With this ethnographic project, I extend previous anthropological work on conservative Christianity to trace the role of conservative religious frameworks in responding to contemporary social crises in South Africa. In collaboration with undergraduates, I consider the relation between evangelical ideology and responses to the country’s ongoing racial and economic divisions.

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Sava Berhané, International Business School
Women of Color in the Workplace: A View from Greater Boston

A View from the Top: Unearthing the Life and Strategies of Women of Color in the American Workplace is a research proposal to support the undertaking of a written and media research project, unearthing the historical and current workplace experiences of women of color in America.

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Baptiste Blanc, Physics
Chemo-mechanical gel actuated by an oscillating chemical reaction

We want to create a synthetic object, made out of a non linear chemical oscillator, the Belousov Zhabotinsky hydrogel, capable of self propulsion and communication with its neighbours. A group of such entities, similar to bacteria or cells, will present rich collective behaviors, emerging from their tunable individual properties.

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Angela Gutchess & Bob Sekuler, Psychology, Neuroscience
Modeling ALS using patient-derived stem cells

The proposed research will investigate whether cultures (American and East Asian) differ in biases to attend to high versus low spatial frequency visual information. Potential differences in visual processing could underlie documented cultural differences in memory and provide evidence for a novel pathway (e.g., vision) through which culture influences cognition.

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Liz Hedstrom, Biology and Chemistry
Drug design with target degradation
This proposal lays the foundation for a new strategy of drug design that will produce more potent and longer lasting drugs. This strategy also has the potential to address diseases for which traditional drug design strategies are ineffective.
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An Huang & Bogdan Stoica, Mathematics, Physics
Physics from the primes

This project aims to initiate a new collaboration to derive results about fundamental problems in theoretical physics by changing the spaces on which the theories live, from continuum spaces to some special, discrete spaces derived from prime numbers. This is currently a relatively unexplored direction in physics, however many of the techniques we are proposing to adapt are well-established in mathematics. The project is interdisciplinary between physics and mathematics, and the results should have a broad range of applicability. The PIs have already published two papers separately on this topic, developing some of the background material that will be needed.

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Margot Davis, Marji Warfield, Janet Boguslaw, Sharon Reif, Heller
Grandparents as Parents: Unplanned consequences of the opioid epidemic

Parenting is increasingly shifting to grandparents as a consequence of the opioid epidemic. The proposed project will (1) build understanding of the challenges faced by those who are custodians of children whose parents have opioid use disorders (OUDs), and (2) assess the financial, health, and psychological well-being of grandparent care-givers.

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Janet McIntosh, Anthropology
Tough Talk, Vulnerable Soldiers: Language Ideology and the Making of United States Service Members

This project consists of research on the many relationships between language and the emotional vulnerability and sensitivity of service members, whether connected to their identity or simply their humanity and recovery from combat. I focus on the new verbal patterns established by military authorities and military culture during basic training and active service, and examine veterans’ uses of language post-service.

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Sarah Mead, Music
The Modal Expression of Musical Affect

This project is a comparison of 16th century written accounts of the emotional effects of the four principal musical modes with contemporary compositions exemplifying those modes. How closely does actual practice reflect theoretical writings? Can performance be enhanced by a deeper understanding of the affectual content encoded in modal compositions?

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Aldo Musacchio, International Business School
The Short and Long Term Impact of Immigration on a Developing Society

Brazil is one of the few countries where there is annual data on immigrant inflows from the historical past, immigrant micro characteristics, and data on economic characteristics at a disaggregated municipality level. This allows an in-depth study of the impact of immigration in both in the short and long runs.

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Robyn Powell, Heller
Barriers and Facilitators to the Application of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) within the Child Welfare System: A Qualitative Study

Although the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination, disabled parents continue to be unjustly treated. This groundbreaking study will document the barriers and facilitators to applying the ADA within the child welfare system, through telephone interviews with a national sample of child welfare workers, attorneys, and disabled parents.

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Moaven Razavi, Heller
Applications of Text Analytics and Natural Language Processing (NLP) in Healthcare Unstructured Big Data

This project customizes and applies some of the open-source and commercial software solutions in text analytics and natural language processing (NLP) to healthcare data. This pilot is vital in our success in the NIH/AHRQ grant opportunities to be submitted to their three cycles of Oct 2018, and Feb and Jun 2019.

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Jessica Santos, Heller
An Intersectional Analysis of Employment Inequities in Healthcare

Stagnant wages and a lack of career ladders in healthcare prevent many low-wage workers from achieving financial security. We will conduct a sector-specific, mixed-method analysis of employment inequities in healthcare. Findings will elaborate key mechanisms that prevent low-wage healthcare workers, women, and people of color from building wealth through work.

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Raphael Schoenle, Economics
Financial Concentration and Common Ownership

In theory, firms owned by overlapping sets of investors have reduced incentives to compete. This project will 1) extract data on common ownership of nearly 275 million companies worldwide, public and private, 2) generate stylized facts, and 3) analyze the data with respect to markups, profitability and investment rates.

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Shashank Shekhar, Biochemistry, Biology, Physics
Developing Stentor coeroelous as a new model organism to study the physical basis for evolution of multicellularity and organismal size-regulation

Unicellular organisms control both their own size and the size of their subparts (e.g. organelles)—but how they do this is not yet understood. I will develop the single-celled marine protist Stentor Coeroelous as a model organism for an interdisciplinary study combining experimental techniques in biophysics and fluid dynamics with mathematical modelling to investigate how organismal size is regulated.

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Hannah Snyder & Joyce von Steiger, Psychology and Brandeis Counseling Center
Promoting successful transitions to college for students at high risk for anxiety and depression

Anxiety and depression among college students are at all-time highs, and are significant barriers to success as students transition to college. The proposed pilot project tests an evidence-based intervention for incoming students at high risk for anxiety and depression, to evaluate its potential to improve academic, psychosocial and mental health outcomes.

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Tory Fair, Fine Arts
More than Minimal

The post minimalist sculptors in The Rose permanent collection have become part of my constitution as a sculptor, both in my studio practice and as an educator. This proposal examines how the sculptors who were part of the 1996 exhibition More Than Minimal: Feminism and Abstraction in the ‘70s are still relevant in the context of today, particularly in my own studio and in the feminist movement at large.

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Jonathan Touboul & Steve van Hooser, Math and Biology
The development of high resolution vision
At birth, human vision is blurry. Without proper visual experience early in life, visual acuity never increases (the disease amblyopia), due to abnormal development of brain circuitry rather than the eye. Using research animals and mathematical models, we uncover basic principles of the experience-development of visual acuity.
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Derron Wallace, Education and Sociology
Safe Routes to School: Black Caribbean Youth Negotiating Police Surveillance to and from Public Schools in London and New York City
This Provost Research Grant pilots a critical ethnography on the policing of Black immigrant pupils to and from public schools. The proposed study is based on a paired-case design focusing on Tottenham, North London and the East New York section of Brooklyn—regions with high concentrations of Black immigrants. This project seeks to make a signal contribution to the study of pupil policing by examining the phenomenon cross-nationally—focusing specifically on how Black immigrant youth perceive and experience ‘Stop and Search’ policies in London and ‘Stop and Frisk’ practices in New York City while on route to and from public schools.
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Tim Wiggins, Biology, Neuroscience
Identification of Genes and Neurons that Link Sleep and Learning

I propose to educate students in behavioral neuroscience while collecting credible new data. I have designed a simple 3-D printed maze for training fruit flies, and have found that learning and sleep are inter-dependent in this task. I will identify genes and neurons that link sleep and learning.