Research

2013 Salomon Awards

Gilad Barnea
Assistant Professor, Neuroscience:
$15,000

 

Developing a Technique for Mapping and Manipulating Neural Circuits in Flies

Neural circuits are the basic computational units in the nervous system. Our understanding of brain function is severely limited by the lack of techniques for tracing and functionally-manipulating specific circuits. Barnea’s project combines molecular biology and genetics to develop such a technique in flies.  At the core of this system is a synthetic signaling pathway that will be introduced into all neurons. Selective activation of this pathway within a particular circuit will be used to label or functionally manipulate it, and Barnea’s lab will study the behavioral consequences of these manipulations. These experiments will serve as proof-of-principle for the utility of his approach, and the establishment of similar systems in mice and primates. This project aims to broaden our understanding of normal brain function and of the causes and progression of various brain diseases.

 

Cici X.C. Bauer
Assistant Professor, Biostatistics:
$7,500 


Small-Area Estimation using Complex Survey Data

Complex designs are common in survey implementation because they allow the efficient collection of data and aid in providing access to groups who are traditionally hard to reach. For small areas, however, the conventional design-based approaches can result in highly variable estimates due to small sample sizes. Bauer will address the limitation by developing statistical methodology for Bayesian small area estimation that acknowledges the complex design in order to eliminate bias, and borrow strength across areas using spatial models. She will also create open-source software that permits researchers to apply the proposed method, facilitating the transfer of statistical methodology to practice and benefiting researchers in other areas, including health services and social sciences.

 

Adia Benton
Assistant Professor, Anthropology:
$12,300 


Surgery for All? Understanding the Cultural Politics of Bringing Essential Surgical Care to the Global Health Equity Agenda

Surgically-treatable diseases account for a significant proportion of the global burden of disease, and can be provided at relatively low cost to the poor. Yet global health advocates struggle to mobilize the same level of political, social and financial support for access to surgical services as they have for HIV/AIDS and other, less-pressing public health matters. Few scholarly accounts have considered how institutional and professional cultures of global health and biomedicine may impact how access to surgical care is perceived – and conceived–to be a public health problem and social justice issue.  Building on multi‐sited ethnographic research, Benton's project explores the role of professional and institutional cultures in shaping advocacy around, and political attention to, access to surgical care.

 

Roee Gutman
Assistant Professor, Biostatistics:
$15,000

 

Health Provider Profiling Using Causal Inference Framework

“Health provider profiling” is the evaluation of the performance of hospitals, doctors, and other medical practitioners to enhance the quality of medical care. Current statistical methods rely on the strong assumption that the risk model is correctly specified, and when patients’ background characteristics differ across providers and the models are mis-specified, applications may result in large bias of the expected health providers’ outcome. Gutman proposes a novel method to address these challenges using causal inference framework. This framework posits that each patient has different potential outcomes that would be observed under the possible providers. The methodology allows for comparison of several outcome measures across providers and of patients with certain background characteristics across providers. This is especially important in personalized medicine, where certain providers perform better for specific patients and worse for others. This new methodology will also generate a latent structure of providers without heavily relying on the modeling assumption.

 

Elizabeth Hoover
Assistant Professor, American Studies and Ethnic Studies:
$15,000

 

From “Garden Warriors” to “Good Seeds”: Indigenizing the Local Food Movement

This project examines the Native American gardening movement as a food sovereignty/health promotion/cultural preservation movement distinct from, but connected to, the broader local food movement. Hoover will visit 11 Native gardening projects to interview leaders and participants in order to learn more about their motivations for participating, the successes and challenges the group has faced in running their project, the ways in which tribal history and heritage has influenced the gardens, and the extent to which each project envisions itself as part of a larger food movement. These findings have implications for greater inclusion of contemporary American Indians in agricultural anthropology, for the expansion of a sociology of gardens and social movements, and for indigenous community leaders interested in promoting garden projects of their own.

 

Yen-Tsung Huang
Assistant Professor, Epidemiology:
$7500

 

Gene-environment and Gene-gene Interactions in Cancer Survival

Through this project, Huang pursues innovative  investigations into  lung  cancer  survival,  especially  how  multiple  genetic  effects  act  through  smoking  behavior. Huang will build a new framework of modeling complex gene‐environment and gene‐gene interactions as a biological process for cancer progression.  He will develop and employ a novel statistical methodology on an existing dataset to conduct a genome‐wide  association study in lung cancer survival that characterizes genetic  effects  in  a  biological  pathway  with  respect  to  its  interaction  with  smoking.  The  genes  and  pathways identified  from  the  analyses  will  provide  promising  targets  for  prognostic  monitoring  and  therapeutic intervention.  The  proposed  statistical  model  for  the  pathway‐environment‐disease  process  will  be  of  broad utility in studying wide range of human diseases.

 

Nancy Khalek
Assistant Professor, Religious Studies:
$15,000

 

The Companions of Muammad and the Articulation of “Orthodoxy” in Medieval Islam

 The historical origins of Islamic political and religious identity have recently attracted the increased attention of academics across disciplines. When Muḥammad died, disagreements over leadership arose among the friends and relatives Muḥammad had left behind, a group known collectively as the Companions. Khalek will analyze biographical and hagiographical literature from the 10th-15th centuries CE to discern different religio-political theories of succession and authority generated by medieval Muslim scholars on the basis of their allegiance to different subsets of Muḥammad’s Companions. Khalek will examine the Companions of Muḥammad through social and discursive practices of the community over time to assess the development of the authority of the Companions in biographical literature, historiography and, as much as possible, social practice. This project will broaden our understanding of the changing concepts of community and sectarian identity in the Islamic High Middle Ages.

 

Brandon D.L. Marshall
Assistant Professor, Epidemiology:
$15,000 


Agent-based Modeling to Optimize HIV Prevention for Drug-using Populations

HIV transmission among injecting dug users (IDU) is a significant public health problem. Although research has demonstrated the effectiveness of a variety of HIV prevention interventions, continuing transmission in endemic settings and emerging regional outbreaks have pointed to the need for the comprehensive and coordinated delivery of HIV prevention services. Marshall will develop an agent-based model (ABM) using computer representations of individuals to examine how sets of interventions may eliminate HIV transmission among IDU. Bayesian methods will be used to validate the model, account for variation, and conduct sensitivity analyses. This project has the potential to produce valid and robust results that yield novel insights into the complex phenomena that perpetuate HIV vulnerabilities in drug-using populations. It also aims to inform more effective strategies in epidemiology and public health that lead to comprehensive and equitable HIV prevention strategies for injecting drug users.

 

Stelios Michalopoulos
Assistant Professor, Economics:
$7500

 

The Origins and Consequences of Group Identity: Evidence from Global Surveys

There is a growing understanding among social scientists that in order to gain a deeper insight of the forces behind economic and political decision making at the individual level, one has to explicitly consider the fact that agents form part of cultural groups. The exploration of the origins and consequences of group identity necessitates micro-level and anthropological data sources that cover a wide range of individual and group-specific traits. The aim of Michalopoulos’ research is threefold – to investigate the drivers of group formation, to identify the circumstances that accentuate or attenuate the importance of group identity and finally, to uncover how variation in the salience of group identity determines individual beliefs, values and attitudes towards the society, government, free-market institutions and other groups.

 

Eric M. Morrow
Assistant Professor, Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, and Biochemistry:
$15,000

 

Studies in Patient-Derived Neurons using Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell (iPSC) Technologies

Intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) are common and are associated with profound emotional and monetary costs. There are currently very few biotherapeutics that target the causative pathophysiology and there are few biomarkers that may serve to predict treatment responses. Morrow’s goal is to dissect the molecular mechanisms underlying abnormalities in postnatal brain development that are associated with IDD. For the first time, Morrow’s team is able to study developing patient neurons in the lab, using an extensive collection of induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) lines from patients with mutations and related controls, and a technique that can differentiate these lines into neurons. This project will yield a mechanistic understanding of how endosomal mechanisms govern postnatal human brain growth, a critical first step in a progression of research that will ultimately lead to the development of new clinically-useful treatments for individuals with IDD or related conditions due to impoverished neuronal arborization and postnatal brain undergrowth.

 

Paul Myoda
Assistant Professor, Visual Art:
$7,500 


The Glittering Garden: An Interactive Sculptural Installation

With this research award Myoda will create an interactive sculptural installation titled The Glittering Garden. The components of the installation will be designed using basic engineering software and fabricated in aluminum and acrylic. The interactive system will include programmable LEDs, ultrasonic sensors, stepper motors and arduino microprocessors. The Glittering Garden will be a richly immersive environment for the viewer(s), with interactions ranging from attraction to repulsion, camouflage to revelation, and predictability to spontaneity.

 

Joshua Neves*
Assistant Professor, Modern Culture & Media:
$7,500

 

Asian Video Cultures: Comparative Media, Theory, and Regionalisms

This project centers on video as a cultural form and practice across Asia, paying close attention to regional experiences that exceed the foci of North-Atlantic media, cultural, and urban studies, among other disciplines. Neves’ research asks: How do video flows forge new inter-Asian convergences? And how have such phenomena been taken up by critical cultural scholars in distinct, but often interconnected, locations? Extending existing notions of Asia, this project seeks out comparisons and convergences that are not implicit to routine boundaries and imaginations: East Asia, the Pacific Rim, the Indian subcontinent, the former Soviet bloc, etc. Neves will build on numerous valuable studies of Asian media and popular culture, and chart the sub- and supranational exchanges that suggest shifting networks of meaning and practice in the region.

 

Elena Oancea
Assistant Professor, Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology and Biotechnology:
$14,960 

 

Investigating the Function of a Novel Ultraviolet-Activated Pathway in Mice with Humanized Skin

 Human skin is constantly exposed to solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR), a powerful environmental risk factor for skin cancer, which accounts for more than half of all human malignancies. Exposure to low doses of ultraviolet radiation results in increased skin pigmentation, while exposure to high doses correlates with skin cancer. The larger goal of Oancea’s research is to understand the molecular processes that control the human skin’s ability to detect and respond to UVR. Using a newly-developed approach, she will test the function of a recently identified novel pathway in human melanocytes that is activated by UVR, and measure the changes in pigmentation responses as a function of UVR dose and exposure time. Oancea’s experiments will significantly advance our understanding of melanocyte function and of the skin’s response to UVR and will represent an invaluable foundation for future in vivo studies.

 

Samuel Perry
Assistant Professor, East Asian Studies:
$15,000 


Japan’s Korean War: Culture and Politics in the ‘Postwar’ Era

This project contributes to an emerging literature on the cultural history of the 1950s in Japan, which has brought into relief Japan’s deep and abiding connections to the Korean War. Perry’s research seeks to shed light on how members of the ideologically split Communist Party, the divided ethnic Korean community, and the Japanese colonialists repatriated from the former Korean colony experienced the Korean War affectively in Japan. By reading a variety of sources written by members of these three different communities—whose experiences lay in many ways on the margins of mainstream Japan—Perry will offer a new cultural history of “Japan’s Korean War” and a careful examination of how these experiences as well as the memory of the Korean War set in place narratives of class and ethnicity that would continue to be influential in Japan for decades to come.

 

Robert O. Self
Associate Professor, History:
$12,100 


The Best Years of Our Lives: Houses, Cars, Children, and American Consumer Economics

Self examines a century in the history of the American consumer economy through the lens of the nuclear family and its lifetime investments in home equity and children and its purchase of automobiles. From the 1910s through the 2010s, he seeks to trace how patterns of domestic consumption have been organized around these three sites or locations: homes, automobiles, and children. At the heart of this research is the evolution of the relationship between household spending, debt, and GDP over the decades between 1910 and the current crisis, and in particular how households have leveraged a variety of resources  in distinct periods to sustain or increase levels of consumption. At its broadest, the study is concerned with both the cultural and economic dynamics of these three sites for organizing consumption and their implications for both the domestic life of individual Americans and the economic life of the nation.

 

Susan E. Short*
Professor, Sociology:
$14,901 


Social Change, Gender, and Health over the Life Course in China

Using survey data that span over two decades, this project examines the relationship between gender and health over the life course in China. Few studies have described the gender gap in health while taking into account both the age effect, conceptually the effect of gender over the lifespan, and the cohort effect, or the effect of gender on health across different cohorts. In so doing, Short will be well-positioned to contribute to discussion on cumulative disadvantage theory. This work will also contribute to efforts to elaborate the relationship between social change and stratification in China. While numerous studies have examined “who gets ahead” in post-reform China, when gender is considered, it is most often in terms of education or labor market outcomes. This research, with its focus on health, will provide a complementary perspective on gender stratification in post-reform China.

 

Tracy Steffes
Assistant Professor, Education & History:
$13,500 


A Reversal of Fortunes: City Schools and Suburban Schools in Metropolitan Chicago, 1945-2000

Steffes’ research explores the city of Chicago and its diverse suburban landscape to ask important and interrelated questions about the relationship between public schooling and postwar patterns of racial and class segmentation in metropolitan areas. By examining how public schooling helped to shape, deepen, and reproduce inequalities across space and time, Steffes contributes to historical efforts to understand the persistence and evolution of racial disparities and social inequalities in an era of civil rights mobilization and growling formal equality. This research also contributes to education history and policy efforts to understand the repeated failures of reform efforts in the era to improve the quality and reputation of urban schools by exploring how this urban school failure was inextricably linked with suburban school success and by illuminating the structures, politics, and unexamined assumptions that have constrained these reform efforts.

 

*Funded by the International Affairs Faculty Committee through the Office of International Affairs

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