2012 Seed Awards

Climate Change, Biological Evolution, and Biogeochemical Cycles in Lakes of Central Sulawesi, Indonesia

The overarching goal of our research is to investigate coupled climatic, environmental, and biological evolution in central Indonesia over the last ~700,000 years. Indonesia lies at the heart of the Indo-Pacific Warm Pool, the largest pool of warm ocean water on Earth. Evaporation and rainfall over Indonesia controls the amount of water vapor in the Earth’s atmosphere and globally important climate processes such as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. Long-term variations in Indonesian rainfall, combined with the tectonic evolution of the Indonesian archipelago, provide the environmental backdrop for the evolution of some of the most diverse ecosystems on Earth in Indonesia’s rainforests and lakes. We will investigate this variability by developing a Brown-led interdisciplinary science team to drill and analyze sediments from Lake Towuti, central Sulawesi, the largest lake in Indonesia.   


PI: James Russell, Associate Professor, Department of Geological Sciences

Co-PIs: Anne Giblin, Senior Scientist, Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole

Yongsong Huang, Associate Professor, Department of Geological Sciences

Stephen Parman, Assistant Professor, Department of Geological Sciences

Alberto Saal, Associate Professor, Department of Geological Sciences


Funded: $85,000


Traffic Pollution and Acute Cardiovascular Events in Post-Menopausal Women

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the U.S. Wellenius will lead the first detailed study in a nationwide context of whether traffic pollution may increase the risk of cardiovascular events. This project will evaluate the association between long-term exposure to traffic pollution and cardiovascular risk within the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), a large, national, prospective cohort study of 161,808 postmenopausal women. The proposed work is part of a broader research program to understand how different sources of ambient air pollution influence cardiovascular disease risk. The findings will likely have direct relevance on cardiovascular disease prevention by informing public health policy regarding the need for refinements to air pollution regulation, and position Brown University at the center of an exciting, important, and highly visible area of public health research.


PI: Gregory Wellenius, Assistant Professor, Department of Epidemiology

Co-PI: Charles Eaton, Professor, Departments of Family Medicine and Epidemiology


Eric A. Whitsel, Research Associate Professor, Department of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

Yi Wang, PhD, Post-Doctoral Research Associate, Department of Epidemiology

Melissa Eliot, PhD, Data Analyst/Programmer, Center for Environmental Health and Technology


Funded: $85,000


Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms Underlying the Transition from Acute to Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is a serious health problem affecting millions of people in the USA alone. Chronic pain is highly prevalent in patients with diabetes, cancer, autoimmune deficiency, and following peripheral nerve injury. Strong evidence supports the theory that chronic pain is a maladaptive response of neurons to tissue injury or inflammation. The synapse is the site where neural transmission is scaled up and down in response to changes in neuronal input, but it is also now recognized as the critical pathological site in several brain diseases. Lipscombe and Kauer propose to begin to define fundamental cellular and molecular steps that support the development and maintenance of long-term changes in synaptic efficacy in the spinal dorsal horn, and then examine synaptic plasticity in the dorsal horn in animal models of chronic pain. The seed grant will allow them to garner preliminary data for future NIH applications.


PIs: Julie Kauer, Professor, Department of Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biotechnology

Diane Lipscombe, Professor, Department of Neuroscience


Funded: $85,000


How Do Funding Mechanisms Affect Health Care Choices? Action for Health and Children’s Health in Mali

A key barrier to the cost-effective delivery of health care services in low-income countries is the lack of a full understanding of how families make decisions about when and where to seek healthcare. The aim of this project is to study these decisions in the context of children’s care. Sautmann and Dean will assess the relative importance of different factors that may affect the parents’ choice: financial constraints and costs; information and beliefs about the child’s need for care; and the preference of parents about trade-offs they must make e.g. between spending today and tomorrow, certain or uncertain outcomes or healthcare for their children versus other expenses. They frame their analysis in a dynamic model of healthcare decision-making, and use a randomized control trial of the “Action for Health” program of the Mali Health Organizing Project to estimate this model. The results will allow the researchers to predict changes in parents’ behavior and their impact on children’s health outcomes in response to different healthcare funding mechanisms.


PI: Anja Sautmann, Assistant Professor, Department of Economics

Co-PIs: Mark Dean, Assistant Professor, Department of Economics

Caitlin Cohen, M.D. Candidate, School of Medicine


Funded: $85,000

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