This page lists the previous five years of Richard B. Salomon Faculty Research Awardees. For information about earlier funded projects, please email [email protected].


Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Recent Experiments in American Fiction
In spring 2017, five days after the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump, I began teaching a university course titled “Recent Experiments in American Fiction.” The literary works on the reading list were chosen with a rationale that was spelled out in the syllabus description: twenty-first-century American literature, I had written, was “undergoing a renaissance, the defining quality of which is its exploration of a conceptual space located ‘on the very edge of fiction.’” The quotation was by one of the writers I would assign, the poet and novelist Ben Lerner. This book project uses the pedagogical experience of that course as a critical entry point to the autobiographical turn in the work of contemporary fiction writers in the United States. Whereas in the past such practices could be marginalized as exceptional or experimental, consigned to the work of specific writers or boutique literary movements, their recent prevalence across a range of disciplines and fields requires that we think this development as historical, rather than as ephemeral or subjective. Artists, filmmakers, philosophers, and literary critics now skirt the conceptual divide between fiction and nonfiction so routinely that the unsettled nature of the boundary seems to be a condition of enunciation. In order to grasp this development more completely and more directly than has been done in literary criticism to date, my project adopts an experimental register, treading a delicate line between scholarly and fictional discourses as a way to establish a relation of maximal closeness with its object.
PI: Timothy Bewes, Professor of English

Giamaica is a book-length poem about the complex relations between Jamaican popular culture and Italian cinema. The project’s symbolic figure is Perry Henzell, a Jamaican filmmaker who suffered mental and financial breakdown after co-writing and directing a landmark of world cinema and the island’s first feature, 1972’s The Harder They Come. It is fairly well known that THTC was a major vehicle for reggae’s global spread, due to its soundtrack, its setting in the world of Jamaican music, and its star: singer/songwriter Jimmy Cliff. Less well known is the toll the film’s production took on its director and the ontological relationships between THTC and distinct strands of Italian cinema—neorealist dramas and so-called spaghetti westerns. Henzell, who was white, was highly complex—an atheist who believed in Rastafari; a communist who came out of bankruptcy as owner of a small hotel; and a promoter of black separatists. I knew Henzell very well. Giamaica crossexamines my memory of him, his movie, works based on it, including a novel and two musicals. There is a clear trajectory between this project and my forthcoming collection Console ( Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2023), which was completed with the support of a 2019 Salomon. In both works the interdisciplinary and experimental are subsumed into the intellect of sound. As a newly promoted associate professor in a department with a history of close engagement with diverse artistic practices and legacies of Europe, I stand to complicate, expand and reshape a tradition with this work.
PI: Colin Channer, Associate Professor of Literary Arts

"How We Go Missing" A New Play Development Residency and Performance
This proposal seeks funding from the Salomon Faculty Research Award to support a new play development residency that will conclude with a public performance presentation on campus. How We Go Missing, is a new play by Indigenous playwrights Tomantha Sylvester, of the Anishinaabe Theatre Exchange and Dr. Carolyn Dunn, Assistant Professor of Theatre at Cal State LA. The proposed week-long residency and performance presentation will bring together four artist collaborators from the Anishinaabe Theatre Exchange and the playwrights. How We Go Missing orients Theatrical Performance as Intervention. Pressing socio-political concerns impacting contemporary Indigenous women and communities remain largely invisible in mainstream narratives. How We Go Missing unearths potent concerns and polyvocal truths. The storytelling gives rise to humanistic inquiry, and ultimately invites healing through the tradition of oral storytelling. Support from the Solomon Faculty Research Award will increase the canon of new Indigenous works and advance greater visibility of Indigenous Theatre Performance. New Indigenous play development and a public presentation on campus can situate Brown as a significant site of Indigenous Theatremaking and amplify commitments to collaborative public humanities other commitments to campus initiatives. 
PI: Sarah dAngelo, Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies

Environmental Disputes: International Cooperation and Conflict over Air Pollution at the India-Pakistan Border
Air pollution from crop residue burning is a leading cause of respiratory diseases and mortality in developing countries. Notwithstanding legislation preventing it, this practice remains widespread in South Asia, where affected areas have levels of airborne particulate 20 times higher than the safety threshold established by the WHO. We study the political causes of environmental laws enforcement by focusing on polluting behavior at one of the most conflictual borders, that separating India and Pakistan. First, we develop a strategy to identify the contribution of each country to air pollution using detailed spatial data on fires occurrence and a meteorological model predicting the spread of PM particles in the air. Second, we study the political incentives to stop or allow polluting behavior by leveraging shifts in wind direction causing a fire in the same location to generate pollution externalities for its country or for the neighboring country. Finally, we explore variation in political incentives to curb polluting behavior in areas with a history of violent territorial disputes, and where religious sites of the other confession might induce moderating behavior. Our study highlights the environment as a fundamental dimension of border disputes in international relations. Findings from this study have important implications for the reduction of environmental degradation and of the additional health costs paid by individuals living in conflictual areas due to pollution wars.
PI: Gemma Dipoppa, Assistant Professor of Political Science

Ghost Room
The Salomon Award  would support the creation of Ghost Room, an installation of fifteen 30 x 40 lenticular prints. Ghost Room builds on the ideas and methods of Paper Empires, a series of large collages based on photographs of trompe l'oeil fantasies from Pompeii. The images for the lenticulars will be based on videos of Vesuvius' crater, intermixed with architectural details from Pompeii. Throughout the history of European art and architecture, Greco Roman decorative details have been deployed to invoke myths of the stability of “Western Civilization”. In contrast, this piece is a meditation on the impermanence of architecture, the self, and institutions. My intention is to use Pompeii as a foil to consider other worlds that have disappeared. The ghostly presentation of architectural forms that appear and disappear on rock faces suggests enough about ruins, loss, and impermanence without requiring a specific affinity for or interest in Roman architecture. As one moves through the room, panels will flicker between images of rock faces and trompe l’oeil architectural forms. I have worked in both video and still images. Lenticulars (interlaced still photographic images overlaid with linear lensing material to create the illusion of movement) hover between these media, suggesting the 4th dimension. The installation will be open to the public. Audiences will include the Providence art community, people interested in decorative arts, architecture and spacial politics.
PI: Theresa Ganz, Associate Professor of Visual Art

Border Assemblages: Re-collecting Moria
This project supports and supplements the born-digital monograph Border Assemblages: Recollecting Moria, part of the University’s Digital Monographs Initiative. The monograph is an archaeological ethnography of the largest refugee camp of Europe, the camp of Moria on the island of Lesvos (Greece), which was destroyed by fire in 2020. Based on fieldwork between 2016 and 2022, the monograph explores how materiality and temporality (and the interplay between the two) shaped life and experience in the camp for the hundreds of thousands of people-on-the-move who passed through it. It also narrates how, through various material interventions, the camp inhabitants engaged in their own practices of resistance and reshaped life in the camp, especially when top-down policies and practices were failing. This materially grounded history can inform global discussions on bordering practices and on the new kinds of border infrastructure currently in operation around the world. It can also constitute an important theoretical contribution on transient materiality, and on difficult or “dark” material heritage. As part of this grant, collected objects will be curated, a database will be created, and a public website/photographic diary will be designed, telling the visual story of this camp, a resource of important archival value which will also enhance the digital monograph. This project will support a flagship Brown University initiative on digital publishing, it will strengthen further migration studies at Brown, and will contribute to the rescuing of the material memory of the mass journey from the Global South to the Global North.   
PI: Yannis Hamilakis, Joukowsky Family Professor of Archaeology and Professor of Modern Greek Studies

Walled Media, Mediating Walls
As global media networks promise boundless access, we are facing increasing layers of walls: the computer firewalls, the Facebook Wall, China’s Great Firewall, and the virtual walls in the virtual reality (VR) technologies…. The existence of these walls shatters the myth of an open space of flow and highlights the significant function of the walled enclosure as a prevalent media apparatus in managing, structuring, and framing information, knowledge, and experience. This project studies the technological and socio-cultural history of walls in digital media by examining the formation of the “wall” as simultaneously a material object and a structural metaphor. Combining media studies, architecture studies, and history of science and technology, the book analyzes the mediating function and controlling mechanism of the above-mentioned four types of digital walls, presenting both an archeology of the wall as a technological artifact and a genealogy of the wall as a discursive formation. The project asks: Where do these walls come from for what purposes? How are they designed and operated? It analyzes the wall as an asymmetrical and contradictory structure that is both a blocking barrier and a displaying surface. Shifting from the metaphor of “window” to that of “wall,” the book calls for a theoretical reconsideration of modern media, changing the focus from visual representation to environmental management that is marked by distinction, demarcation and discrimination. The project contributes to Brown’s prominent scholarship in the interdisciplinary fields of digital and environmental media studies as well as the critical studies of science and technology.
PI: Jinying Li, Assistant Professor of Modern Culture and Media

The Poetics of Elsewhere: Itineraries of Japanese-Chinese Resonant Verse
Compiled by the virtuosic Fujiwara no Kintō in the early eleventh century, The Collection of Japanese-Chinese Resonant Verse (Wakan rōeishū, 1010s) is an understudied monument of classical Japanese literature. It is also a site from which to survey the vantages and grounds of literary comparison in our latter day. Hewing to a quirky encyclopedic order, the bilingual anthology juxtaposes fragments of poetry and prose written in Chinese (kanshibun)—the scripta franca of prenational East Asia—with local “songs” (uta) of thirty-one syllables in the local Japanese vernacular. Vividly recognizable as a kind comparative literature avant la lettre, the recombinatory collection throws radically different poetries into a relation of mutual estrangement and resonance. Meanwhile, it discloses a “geopoetic” imagination of the wider world with its manifold locales: Japan and China, yes, but also westerly Persia, mythical Penglai, bygone Parhae, and elsewhere. Poetics of Elsewhere explores itineraries departing from The Collection of Resonant Verse and moving through unattended terrains of its millennium-long afterlife. In so doing, the project considers how a premodern, nonwestern text might equip us with approaches to the study of remote times and cultures today. Already in progress, Poetics of Elsewhere will result in a new critical translation of the anthology and a scholarly monograph assessing the work outside constrictive binaries (Japan/China, premodern/modern, East/West, etc.) and spatialities (the “area” of area studies, the “nation” of national philology, etc.). The grant will facilitate long-delayed visits to archives and libraries and collaboration with researchers in Japan, where borders have recently reopened.
PI: Jeffrey Niedermaier, Mulberry Essence Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature and East Asian Studies

Hidden Money: School-Supporting Non-Profit Funds and Persistent Inequality
Five decades of school finance reforms have increased equality of state funding, providing more money for low-income districts. Yet the achievement gap between high- and low-income students grew by 40% since 1970, driven by faster growth in high-income areas. One explanation for growing inequality despite more equal funding could be hidden money from school-supporting non-profits, including parent-teacher associations (PTAs) and booster clubs. Non-profit funds are a hidden source of inequality because they do not appear in district budgets, but can cover expenses that free district funds for instructional spending. This project creates the National Longitudinal Database of School-Supporting Non-Profits 1995-2020 based on millions of non-profit tax return records from the Internal Revenue Service. Non-profits are geocoded and linked to district-level data on finances, student composition, and performance to examine how much non-profit funds differ by student income and race and how they relate to student outcomes. Preliminary analyses indicate highly unequal non-profit funds. Seed funds would allow testing and adjustment of the non-profit coding process to provide proof of concept for future grant proposals.
PI: Emily Rauscher, Associate Professor of Sociology

Links Between State Policy and Dementia in the United States
This project will explore links between state policy and dementia, a devastating neurodegenerative syndrome that is among the most pressing population health issues of the century. While dementia prevalence is known to vary geographically in the U.S., the contextual factors underlying these patterns are poorly understood. This project focuses on state policy as a potential contextual correlate of dementia, one that may contribute to observed geographic variation. Prior research shows that places with more liberal policies or policy orientations—more generous income supports and social services, stronger protections for marginalized groups, and stricter economic and public health regulations—evince longer life expectancies and lower disability than more conservative contexts. The proposed research will therefore study the relationship between state policy orientation and dementia. Funds will enable the assembly of longitudinal state policy data spanning several decades, and linkage with individual-level data from the Health and Retirement Study, a nationally representative panel survey of older U.S. adults. This project will contribute to an emerging body of literature on the macrosocial and multilevel factors driving large and growing geographic disparities in health. It will also provide preliminary evidence to be used in the development of a proposal for external funding. It will advance Brown University’s position by facilitating the development of new expertise in gerontology—a field for which Brown is already internationally recognized—from a social scientific perspective and with an emphasis on social determinants of health, life course processes, and health disparities.
PI: Meghan Zacher, Assistant Professor of Population Studies (Research)

Biological and Life Sciences

Effects of anthropogenic disturbances on development and behavior
Anthropogenic disturbances pose a serious threat to animals and their ecosystems. Aquatic ecosystems have been identified as particularly vulnerable to the impacts of human activity due to their isolation and fragmentation; biodiversity is also at risk because endemic aquatic species cannot relocate or adapt fast enough to rapidly evolving new conditions. In this collaborative student-centered research project, we will assess the combined effects of climate change and chemical pollution on behavioral, neurodevelopmental, and genetic endpoints using a zebrafish model system. Specifically, studies will focus on the interaction of heat waves and exposure to forever chemicals including PCBs, PFAS and microplastics and to common agricultural pesticides including chlorpyrifos, paraquat and ziram. The significance of increasing temperature on freshwater biota has long been recognized but there is relatively sparse information about the effects of exposure to more extreme weather events such as heat waves in combination with chemical pollutants on biological systems. This project addresses that knowledge gap. Our research also resonates with Brown’s strategic plan as it falls under the topic of Sustaining Life on Earth and is founded on an integrated plan of scholarship and education that partners a faculty member with undergraduate students using an evidence-based approach that promotes STEM retention and STEM diversification and allows students to flourish as independent researchers making authentic research contributions to problems with significant societal impact.
PI: Ruth Colwill, Professor of Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences

Molecules for Need and Want
Why do we crave alcohol and not apples? We are innately wired to seek and respond to rewards, but addictive substances can overwhelm our natural reward pathways required for memory formation and impulse control. In recent years our knowledge of molecular genetics has exploded, and has influenced the field of neuroscience so much that we have an exponentially greater understanding of how our genes and molecules impact addiction. Recent scientific research from animal models suggests that drugs and alcohol can alter the way that DNA is tightly wound, the way DNA get transcribed into RNA, the way RNA gets translated into proteins and the function of these proteins. Furthermore, new research is emerging showing how we can change our own brain gene expression through lifestyle and pharmacology. However, this level of understanding has yet to reach the level of physicians, educators, government and the general public. It is essential to clearly communicate this new science, and bridge the gap between science, education and policy because it can have major impacts on treatment for alcohol and substance use disorder.
PI: Karla Kaun, Associate Professor of Neuroscience

Physical Sciences

Advanced methods for digestion and isotope analyses of meteorite samples
Meteorites are fragments of planetesimals left over from the earliest stages of planet formation and, therefore, investigating their chemical and isotopic compositions can provide direct insights into the nature and timescales of processes in the nascent Solar System (about 4.5 billion years ago). A uniquely powerful tool in this respect are nucleosynthetic isotope anomalies, which are mass-independent isotope variations resulting from the heterogeneous distribution of presolar grains that condensed in previous stellar environments. Such analyses, for example, aid in constraining (i) the stellar environments that contributed material to the Solar System, (ii) how this material was transported and processed in its early stages, and (iii) how planetesimals accreted and eventually grew to planets. However, current cosmochemical research and progress is severely hampered by analytical issues regarding the incomplete dissolution of presolar grains during sample digestion and the inability to obtain certain types of isotope data on the very same sample material. This work aims to overcome these limitations by establishing new procedures for complete sample digestion utilizing laser-assisted melting and for combined isotope analyses of oxygen and ‘heavy’ elements. Combined, these capabilities have great potential for providing unprecedented insights into currently uninvestigated processes and powerful new means for revisiting our understanding of the early dynamical evolution of the Solar System, the genetic relationships among meteoritic and planetary materials, as well as the processes of planet formation, including the origin of Earth’s building materials and habitability.
PI: Gerrit Budde, Assistant Professor of Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences

When the Antarctic was warm
This project will develop proof of concept data directly relevant to the long-term stability of the Antarctic ice cap. Graduate student Jared Nirenberg, working with Prof. Herbert, has discovered that a marine sediment core lying off the Antarctic coast likely contains unique clues both to the temperature of the ocean and continental climate over the period ~17-14 million years ago, the last time in earth history that the Antarctic was largely deglaciated. Ground-truthing of geochemical measurements will be essential to buttress a proposal to be submitted to the NSF Marine Geology and Geophysics program. These initial measurements will broadly capture ocean temperatures off Antarctica and also recover evidence of plant material washed or blown from the continent during the period of warmer  climate.  Given the importance of Antarctic ice volume to global sea level, successful completion of the project should result in high impact publications that would strengthen EEPS strong reputation in the study of past climates, and the research group of Prof. Herbert, which is becoming known as a leading center for the study of past warm climates.
PI: Timothy Herbert, Henry L. Doherty Professor of Oceanography, Professor of Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences, Professor of Environment and Society

Learning Implicit Structured Neural Network Representation by Watching and Listening to Astronaut Spacewalk Videos
Structured and compositional concept learning is essential for principled generalization in Artificial Intelligence, such as deploying a robot to a novel environment. Existing approaches (e.g. neuro-symbolic learning) assume that the structured concepts are to be constructed explicitly, for example by detecting individual objects and their attributes in a scene. In this proposal, we ask the research question: can we learn implicit structured representations in a generic, multi-task, and end-to-end trained neural network? Our hope is that the implicit representation achieves similar compositional generalization behavior as the explicitly structured concepts. Solving this question would enable us to apply a flexible and unified neural network to jointly perform perception, reasoning, and planning, all of which are crucial for robotics manipulation. We hypothesize that recent advances in self-supervised and multimodal learning from visual and audio data provide promising solutions to learn the implicit structured representation, via dynamic concept binding in deep neural networks. To demonstrate the effectiveness of our proposed learning framework, we propose to collect a new multimodal video-language dataset of astronaut spacewalks in collaboration with professors working on robotics, language understanding, and computer vision in the Computer Science department.
PI: Chen Sun, Assistant Professor of Computer Science

Public Health

Project PACS:  Evaluating the Feasibility and Acceptability of a Psilocybin-Aided Smoking Cessation Study (PACS) for People with HIV who Smoke
Cigarette smoking is more prevalent in people with HIV (PWH), when compared with the general population, and is linked to increased morbidity and mortality. PWH who smoke have increased rates of cardiovascular disease, pulmonary disease, and lung cancers. While most PWH report a strong desire to quit, they are less likely to quit when compared to the general population. PWH often respond poorly to traditional smoking cessation treatments, which may be partly due to their difficulty managing anxiety and depressive symptoms. Psilocybin, a classic psychedelic, has been shown to have potential as a therapeutic treatment for psychiatric symptoms, such as anxiety and depression, and substance use disorders, including tobacco dependence. Our specific aims are to:  1) explore, using qualitative methods, perceptions of psychedelic treatment: perceived benefits and harms, barriers, preferences, and likelihood of engaging in psilocybin-based treatment for smoking cessation; and, 2) examine the acceptability of psilocybin-based treatment for smoking cessation among PWH who smoke. We will enroll 40-60 PWH who smoke cigarettes and will conduct 60-minute in-depth qualitative interviews. The results from this project will provide the foundation for an application to the National Cancer Institute to conduct a pilot randomized clinical trial. Anxiety and depression can be broad barriers to any behavior change. Administering a cutting-edge treatment, such as psilocybin, to reduce anxiety/depression may help PWH who smoke make a healthy behavior change. This study will be the first to examine the feasibility and acceptability of utilizing psilocybin to improve smoking cessation outcomes among PWH who smoke.
PI: Patricia Cioe, Associate Professor of Behavioral and Social Sciences



Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

My proposal requests funding support to involve Brown students and recent alumni in the production of BACKLIGHT, a microbudget narrative film. Production (principal photography) will take place in Providence this summer. Brown students and alumni will fill numerous crew and cast positions, working with professionals in key creative, technical and organizational roles who will provide guidance and training, and help ensure a safe and professional working and learning environment. In my 25 years of teaching filmmaking and screenwriting, first at RISD and since 2013 at Brown, students have been substantially involved in all of my filmmaking, including three feature films and several shorts. A Salomon Research Award would enable me to formalize and support the involvement of Brown students and recent grads in this project, and help address a substantial demand for learning through hands-on production experiences. Funding would go towards production expenses and stipends, and help to make internship opportunities accessible to students with financial need. Low-budget, professional-level filmmaking, which gives young filmmakers direct on-set experiences and mentorship, has been especially hampered by the pandemic, resulting in few opportunities for this type of learning. This project will help fill this gap, bringing groups of students and professionals together for the multifaceted and intensively collaborative experience of film production.
PI: Laura Colella, Assistant Professor of the Practice of Literary Arts

By Way of Revolution
I am proposing an expansion of my current interdisciplinary art series, “By Way of Revolution,” in preparation for several national and international exhibitions between 2022 and 2023. The project creates space for dialogue and communion among BlPOC women (cis, trans, gender non-conforming) who have historically served as overlooked yet vital assets within care politics and activist labor. The research based project combines oral, written, and embodied histories from civil rights movements of the past with images of present day activists. The work begins with gathering oral histories from present day activists and descendants of civil rights activists. I also conduct library research in liberation archives, including Black Panther newspapers and civil rights photographs. The work is further grounded through movement based research on psychosomatics and body based tools for healing and social organizing. I then work with the archival relics that activism leaves behind, turning these residues into artworks. In mixed media collages, images of historical activism are transformed into crowns of adornment on images of contemporary women. Through video, female performers activate gestures of resistance with archives projected onto their bodies. Through sculpture, crowns are made three dimensional and are worn by performers who activate space through processional style protests. I involve community at every level of this project, including in its research and production phase. Recent iterations have included Black Lives Matter chapter leaders and founders. Upcoming iterations involve Brown students, faculty and staff who identify as women of color. 
PI: Helina Metaferia, Assistant Professor of Visual Art

Scientific Americans: Knowledge Migration in the Biological Century 
This project explores how individuals who migrated to the US as adults for life science graduate training—a population I term “knowledge migrants”— make migration and professional decisions following their training’s completion. Extant literature focuses on how knowledge migrants primarily weigh scientific aspirations and economic effects in making these choices. This approach neglects individuals’ wider experiences and desires, including their experiences of the US academy and potential conflicts between kin in the nation of origin and new ties made in the US. This project examines not only these interpersonal factors but also the political, popular, and academic discourses that knowledge migrants contend with as they decide their future—especially those that construct knowledge migrants as the most desirable kind of migrant and the university as the locus of pure knowledge. This ethnographic project provides a person-centered account of how individuals weigh self, science, and circulating social norms in making these nation- and academy-altering decisions. Funding for initial work on this project will thus benefit Brown in three ways: 1) it will greatly strengthen planned applications for external funding; 2) it will enhance the project’s potential to inform graduate education in the life sciences; 3) it will advance not only the PI’s career but also the position of the campus units with which she is affiliated (Department of Education; Population Study and Training Center; Annenberg Institute; Taubman Center; Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies).
PI: Andrea Flores, Assistant Professor of Education

The Global Grey Parrot
“The Global Grey Parrot” puts a charismatic African animal (Psittacus erithacus and P. timneh) at the center of world history. Drawing on diverse sources and methods, “The Global Grey Parrot” follows these birds through centuries and around the globe. This more-than human history is not only environmental and economic; it also explores cognition and affect, revealing a fraught more-than-human politics. It also is distinguished by connecting non-human networks to human exclusions of race and class. It begins in African forests before 1500, where Greys shared knowledge and culture in flocks. Caged and exported throughout the Atlantic World, they retained their social expectations. When tamed, they do not readily submit to discipline and act out their trauma. During centuries of captivity, Greys and people developed experience of each other, but only humans transmitted knowledge to others. In isolation, Greys cannot produce culture. Now, in the Anthropocene, Greys are trafficked from their native habitat as one more commodity demanded from Africa by global markets. They are also bred in agro-industrial facilities, many produced far from their native forests in South Africa, where super-exploitative wages allow profitability. Theirs is an African condition. As wild populations decline and captive ones grow, Greys’ collective experience will be increasing confinement in human spaces. Sanctuaries and re-wilding projects offer respite from human demands. Human-parrot co-parenting of chicks may show how to create a common culture and bequeath it to offspring of both species. Recognizing parrots’ historical world-making could foster mutual world-making. The proposed fieldwork will complete the research.
PI: Nancy Jacobs, Professor of History

Investigating Plague and societal change in early medieval central Italy
The First Pandemic of Bubonic Plague caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis struck the Mediterranean world in 541 CE and recurred for 200 years. Our understanding of this disease has long relied solely on fragmentary written records but has recently been revolutionized by archaeogenetic research on human skeletons from Spain, France, Britain, and Germany where Y. pestis aDNA has been preserved in dozens of plague victims. Though at least 14 Plague outbreaks are known in Italy from written sources during this period, no archaeological research has yet been undertaken to identify Plague victims in excavated cemeteries. Building on our ongoing archaeological fieldwork at Vacone, Italy, where we have excavated a cemetery of the 7th century AD, we aim to establish a comparative chronological framework through which we can investigate health and disease in the hinterland of Rome. To do this, we propose here a first step of radiocarbon dating 40 skeletal samples from early medieval cemeteries in order to obtain absolute dates and refine chronologies for these burials. These dates will allow us to contextualize these burials within their historical context and ask targeted research questions such as those related to the First Pandemic. This project lays the first steps to a fuller understanding of an already turbulent period where Byzantine, Papal, and Lombard powers jostled for control, and investigates--for the first time in Italy--archaeological evidence for the role that pandemic disease played in this difficult and poorly understood period.
PI: Candace Rice, Assistant Professor of Archaeology and the Ancient World and Classics

Children Seeking Freedom: Race, Labor, and Childhood in Cuba
Children Seeking Freedom: Race, Labor, and Childhood in Cuba is the first book-length historical study that explores how children and childhood were implicated in, and central to, the transition away from enslaved labor in the Caribbean. The book examines the conditions and fates of poor children as they were subject to shifting notions of freedom and parental, adult, and state authority from the slow end of slavery in the 1880s through the consolidation of the postcolonial Cuban republic in the 1910s and 1920s. By straddling the colonial and national divide, Children Seeking Freedom traces the development of legal, social, institutional, and economic structures as they related to and affected the lives young Cubans living on the margins of society—especially orphans, incarcerated children, and poor children who had intermittent exposure to traditional public education or parental support. Rather than focusing primarily on institutional responses to and discourse about Cuban children, however, Children Seeking Freedom centers the experiences, hopes, creative choices, and struggles of young Cubans living on the margins of society. Taking inspiration from Saidiya Hartman’s call “to recover the insurgent ground” and “illuminate the radical imagination and everyday anarchy of ordinary colored girls” in the United States, Children Seeking Freedom looks beyond the elite perspectives of social reformers, state officials, and criminal justice and reform institutions, exploring how poor boys and girls experienced the transition from colony to independence, formed community,  and developed their own moral codes and ways of being in an emerging republic characterized by deep inequality.
PI: Daniel Rodriguez, Associate Professor of History

Making Electronic Music Inclusive: A Virtual Studio for Visually Impaired Composers
Over the past decades, electronic tools have expanded the opportunities for creative musical expression. Modern composers have benefited from this development, with access to ever more powerful and user-friendly technologies. And yet those technologies are not equally accessible to all. The ubiquity of graphical interfaces makes most tools for music composition useless for the visually impaired. My project seeks to address this challenge. Working closely with a talented and visually impaired graduate composer, I have seen first-hand the ineffectiveness of currently available solutions. Screen-reading software provides users with basic information, but it never allows them to tap into other sensory modalities—such as haptic and interface-coupled auditory feedback—that could tell them even more. My project proposes to flip the script in order to create a more inclusive and ultimately more creative solution. Building on my patent-awarded research, I will develop an original software/hardware system with a custom user interface that allows visually impaired composers full access to create interactive electronic music. With the help of a Salomon Faculty Research Award, I will design and build enabling technology to address the inequity of currently available tools. Ultimately, this project will: Allow visually impaired composers access to tools that sighted peers use daily; Bolster Brown’s reputation as a site of accessible human-computer interface design; Develop new technology with possible patent potential; Foster new creative work by visually impaired composers in the field of electronic music; and Provide a tool for sighted composers as well, through concepts of universal design.
PI:  Joseph Butch Rovan, Professor of Music

The Long Walk to Freedom: A Historio-Graphic Collaboration
The Long Walk to Freedom is a public humanities collaboration between historian Vazira Zamindar and independent graphic novelist Sarnath Banerjee to create a graphic novel and animated short about a long walk that Mahatma Gandhi and Abdul Ghaffar Khan (affectionately called Frontier Gandhi) took in 1946/47 across a landscape of intense religious strife, to heal its wounds and restore faith in our capacity to live together as part of a multi-religious society again. By literally drawing from these forgotten scenes of an extraordinary friendship, this project is imagined as an intervention in 1) historiographic debates on anticolonialism and ‘freedom,’ 2) public memory where such friendships can become ‘anti-national’ heresy, and 3) ethno-religious nationalisms that target religious minorities, and continuously produce and naturalize an irreconcilably divided South Asia. While archival material for this project is drawn from my monograph The Ruin Archive, as a collaboration between a historian and an artist, we draw on our own friendship to walk with Gandhi and Khan, and in so doing we push against the historian’s craft and the artist’s, to restitute a shared inheritance beyond Hindu/Muslim, beyond nation/state. This project captures Brown's commitment to public and collaborative humanities, and we hope will speak to the historical imagination for another kind of South Asia.
PI: Vazira F-Y Zamindar, Associate Professor of History

Biological and Life Sciences

NMR fragment-based design of b-lactamase inhibitors
A sharp and widespread increase in antimicrobial resistance (AMR) over the past three decades has seriously threatened our capability to treat bacterial infections. Of particular concern is the emergence of multi-drug resistant (MDR) and extensively-drug resistant (XDR) strains of pathogens that resist even the last-resort drugs like carbapenems, cephalosporins, and polymyxins. WHO warns that current clinical pipelines contain an insufficient number of new compounds to mitigate this rising AMR challenge. Fortunately, the past few decades have also seen a rapid development of structural biology techniques like nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), a form of spectroscopy that can generate high-resolution atomic insights of protein structure, thereby opening new avenues for structure-based drug design. These advances have led to the development of a new discipline called Fragment-based Drug Discovery (FBDD), which is at the forefront of many pharmaceutical research programs and has proven success in antimicrobial drug development. Of note, FBDD is ideal for drug optimization and should not be confused with high-throughput screening (HTS). Given the fact that the majority of recently approved antimicrobial agents for Gram-negative pathogens are β-lactam-β-lactamase inhibitor combinations, here we propose to use the FBDD approach to design inhibitors against Ambler class A/C/D β-lactamases TEM-1, SHV-1, OXA-40, and PDC-3. Our long-term goal for this project is to develop new inhibitors based on the diazabicyclooctane scaffold found in the next-generation β-lactamase inhibitors like avibactam. This application seeks funds to purchase a commercially available fragment chemical library to establish NMR-FBDD screening platform. 
PI: Mandar Naik, Assistant Professor of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry (Research)

Physical Sciences

RLang: A Declarative Language for Expressing Prior Knowledge to Reinforcement Learning Agents
Reinforcement learning (RL) is a machine learning paradigm concerned with agents that learn to solve tasks by trial and error. While RL has advanced quickly in recent years, learning is, compared to humans, incredibly slow, requiring millions of trials to learn something that a human can learn in hundreds. One key difference is that RL is accomplished tabula rasa, whereas humans come to each new problem with a wealth of prior knowledge about the world, which dramatically accelerates learning. Matching human learning efficiency will require a means of communicating such knowledge to RL agents. We therefore propose RLang, a domain-specific programming language designed to express anything that a human may wish to tell an RL agent. RLang will serve as a direct means of giving such information to an agent, and as a target for automatically translating natural language instructions. No such language currently exists, and the opportunity to develop one and have it see wide uptake would cement Brown’s already prominent reputation in both RL and grounded natural language.  However, a prerequisite for a credible RLang grant is a substantial software-engineering effort, of the type not well suited to AI graduate students. I am therefore applying for funding to hire a Research Assistant--who has experience in software engineering, AI, and natural language--to spend six months building the software infrastructure necessary to support a research program centered on RLang.
PI: George Konidaris, John E. Savage Assistant Professor of Computer Science

The limiting distribution for the number of real roots
Random polynomials occur naturally in various areas of Physics and Mathematics, such as in quantum chaotic systems and approximation theory. The study of random polynomials has a number of applications in computer science and engineering. In addition, studying roots of high-degree polynomials is an important problem in Mathematics that is useful in both pure and applied sciences. The goal of this research project is to study fundamental problems concerning the distribution of roots of random polynomials and, more generally, random functions.  More specifically, the project aims to study the variance and the Central Limit Theorem for the number of real roots of various classical models of random functions. To attack these problems, the PI will develop the local universality method and build on different tools in analysis and probability.
PI: Oanh Nguyen, Assistant Professor of Applied Mathematics

Environmentally Safe (green) Chemical Reactions to Prepare Antiviral & Ion Channel Blocker Analogs
The need to develop and carry out organic chemical reactions under environmentally friendly conditions is a key national goal.  I propose to develop organic reactions that will be done without using organic solvents.  Preliminary results obtained during the summer 2021 suggest that it is possible to prepare new, patentable analogs of antiviral compounds to treat a variety of viral infections including new and existing COVID variants and also analogs of a potent ion channel blocker, tetrodotoxin (TTX), of current interest to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  I seek funds to develop a small-scale reactor for conducting no solvent reactions with reactive organometallic reagents to synthesize new physiologically active compounds. The most impact of this research program is environmental.  Success of this project will lead to a very significant decrease in the quantity of bulk solvents utilized to prepare, transport, store and use organic chemicals. Hence the unifying theme of this proposal is that development and control of organic reactions carried out without the use of solvents and storage/transport of chemical and pharmaceutical compounds is safer, cheaper and more efficient when the reagents are prepared and handled without utilizing toxic organic solvents such as volatile hydrocarbons, halogen containing compounds and/or ether pollutants. These solvents are utilized at the multimillion-ton scale annually. Elimination of these portend a very favorable environmental impact.  I will focus on the synthesis of analogs of antiviral and other physiologically active compounds starting from readily available, non-toxic sugars and monosaccharides to develop green chemical methodology. 
PI: Paul Williard, Professor of Chemistry

Public Health

Leveraging new databases to understand medication use in the post-acute care setting among older adults with hip fracture
Real-world data are critical to understand drug effects in populations that are excluded in randomized controlled trials (RCTs). US Medicare claims are among the most powerful real-world data, given their large size and inclusion of older adults who are often excluded from RCTs. An important area of real-world research for older adults is health outcomes that result from transitions of care (e.g., discharge from a hospital to a post-acute care skilled nursing facility [SNF]). Medication changes during this period are particularly important to understand, as drugs are often started or stopped due to competing health demands. However, Medicare data do not capture medication use in post-acute care SNFs because of bundled payments. Thus, to date, we have been unable to examine medication use and effects in the post-acute care SNF setting. Our team has recently acquired Omnicare long-term care pharmacy data (>60% of US nursing homes) that can be linked to Medicare claims to fill this gap. We propose a pilot project to use Omnicare data in a retrospective cohort study of older adults who experience a hip fracture and are discharged to a SNF for post-acute care. First, we will examine initiation of analgesic regimens post-fracture. Then, we will explore which of a patient’s medications used before the hip fracture are continued or discontinued in the post-acute care SNF setting. This project will provide proof of concept, preliminary data, and an established track record for the team to enhance an R21 proposal on discontinuing medications during transitions of care.
PI: Kaley Hayes, Assistant Professor of Health Services, Policy, and Practice

Bayesian Machine Learning for Sequential Decision-Making with Incomplete Information
In our application of interest, we observe data on children diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Patients move through a sequence of treatment courses, with physicians deciding the next treatment given response to past treatments. Our goal is to answer important clinical questions: what would, say, 2-year survival rate have been had patients followed one treatment sequence versus another? Is there an “optimal” sequence that maximizes 2-year survival? In practice, confounding impedes direct attribution of survival improvements purely to the treatment sequence. For example, patients following less aggressive sequences may have better cardiac function throughout and, therefore, better survival prospects even had they followed another sequence. Moreover, adjusting for confounders (e.g. cardiac function) is difficult since they are irregularly measured over time – yielding incomplete information. We propose modeling the decision process via robust, state-of-the-art Bayesian machine learning (ML) methods which simultaneously adjust for confounding and sequentially impute missing values over time. Though motivated by AML, potential applications range from health policy to economics. For instance, public health policies are often rolled out sequentially (e.g. statewide vaccination done county-by-county) and we may be interested in estimating an optimal rollout schedule. Economists often model sequential pricing decisions as firms respond to competitors, with the goal of estimating an optimal pricing strategy. This proposal therefore has intrinsic merit and potential for broad impact in addressing complexities encountered across a range of interdisciplinary areas. Moreover, our findings will help launch a broader future research program developing Bayesian ML methods for sequential decision-making.
PI: Arman Oganisian, Assistant Professor of Biostatistics


Humanities and Social Sciences Biological and Life Sciences | Physical Sciences | Public Health

Humanities and Social Sciences

The Migrant's Spirit. Industrial Revolution in the German Lands
It is a commonplace today that empire was integral to the making of the industrial revolution in Great Britain. But the connection is far less obvious in other parts of Europe. In German central Europe especially, the history of industrialization continues to be told as a tale of technological prowess, coal and steel, and cultural particularity—the vaunted Weberian ‘Protestant’ work-ethic. The Migrant’s Spirit offers a much-needed corrective to such economic nationalism. While innovation, steel, and industriousness were undoubtedly key to Germany’s development in its later stages, in this book I argue that their role has been overstated in service of a history that downplays the region’s profound connections to and dependence upon violent colonial settler projects in the Americas. Between the 1810s and 1890s, some five million Germans emigrated to the ‘new world.’ Using a narrative approach that reconstructs the dynamics within extended families who lived scattered across Europe and North America, the book reveals how ordinary emigrants, rather than mere victims of an extant industrialization process, became an inadvertent driving force behind that very process. By reconstructing the transatlantic lives of working families, the book sheds new light on longstanding puzzles in the literature on industrial revolution, including questions about sudden shifts in norms governing work and domesticity that helped to mobilize an agrarian society for an industrial production regime. As such, my research compels us to re-imagine the geography of industrialization in Europe as one intricately tied to, and indeed determined by, the geography of mass migration overseas.
PI: Benjamin Hein, Assistant Professor of History

"Soutenez moi, li max d'amours m'ocit" [Sustain me, for lovesickness is killing me]: A Translation and Critical Edition of Li Romanz de la poire
One of the most important Medieval French literary texts is the Roman de la Rose, an allegorical dream vision that narrates the development of love and the dreamer’s attempts to gain his lady’s affection. This text was wildly popular, frequently imitated, and highly controversial, with many important literary debates on its merits and faults arising after its publication, and enduring over many centuries. A relatively unknown work that also engages with the formative tradition of courtly love, directly cites the Rose, and recounts a similar story—though its intrigue swirls around a pear instead of a rose—is the Medieval courtly romance Li Romanz de la Poire [The Romance of the Pear]. The Poire reflects the principal allegorical tropes of Medieval love literature, while deftly managing various intertextual strands from Classical and Troubadouric traditions. In particular, the Poire is highly metaliterary, and stages many scenes in which the exemplarity of other texts is discussed and weighed. Given its capacious treatment of various literary traditions, discussion of traditional representations of love in art, literature, and music, and its vibrant illustrations, Li Romanz de la Poire is a crucial document for better understanding Medieval literature and culture. I am proposing the first English translation and critical edition of the Poire to make it accessible for scholars and students. My translation, along with annotated commentary on the original and critical essays, would offer a significant contribution to Medieval scholarship at Brown by directing attention to a pivotal, but heretofore inaccessible and understudied text.
PI: Alani Hicks-Bartlett, Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature and French Studies

The Routledge Critical Adoption Studies Reader
The Routledge Critical Adoption Studies Reader collects perspectives on adoption in the humanities in a single volume for researchers discovering the field or those wanting a convenient collection of foundational scholarly materials for teaching or reference. Its humanities perspective sets it apart from the recent Routledge Handbook to Adoption whose focus is psychology and sociology, and makes it the first of its kind to collect scholarly chapters, essays, and excerpts arranged around the central questions humanities scholars ask about representations of adoption, as a complex practice of family-making, in art, philosophy, the law, history, literature, political science, and other humanities disciplines. As a key tool in supporting and fostering a new generation of critical adoption scholars, The Reader includes foundational work by critics and theorists such as Judith Butler, Dorothy Roberts, Margaret Jacobs, Arissa Oh, Marianne Novy, and Kori Graves, and will find audiences here and abroad among professional academic researchers and graduate students (recent graduates include Kira Donnell [Berkeley], Emily Bartz [Texas A/M], and Mette Kim-Larsen [Columbia]), and in undergraduate humanities programs where such courses are routinely taught, as at Princeton (Marina Fedosik), MIT (Sally Haslanger), Yale (Margaret Homans), and now here at Brown. This project will advance Brown's growing position at the center of this field, furthered with my hire: I edit the journal of record, edit the field's book series at The Ohio State University Press, sit on the executive board of the field's central organization, and am planning a symposium and conference at Brown as well.
PI: Emily Hipchen, Senior Lecturer in English

Tito Princilliano Achong: Race and Radicalism in the Ebb of Empire
This study, the first of its kind, aims to critically explore the life of Tito P. Achong, Mayor of Port of Spain, Trinidad, from 1941-1943, anti-colonial theoretician and agitator and inveterate champion of public health reform, who has been sidelined in modern histories of Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean. I hope to unravel and understand the complicated intersections in his career, including the impact of his time studying at Tennessee’s all Black Knoxville College, the influence of revolutionary Chinese politics on his formation and his relationship to radical anti-colonial trends and personalities in Trinidad. Among the questions I pose are: what drove him from poverty in rural Trinidad to the heights of academic success in the USA, then back home, where he eventually became Mayor of Port of Spain? How did he assimilate and reconfigure the ideas of Marx, Garvey, Dubois and Sun Yat Sen among others, to his own purposes? How did his philosophy conform and contrast with others in a country and period that produced globally significant scholar-activists such as CLR James, George Padmore, Claudia Jones and Eric Williams? What was the impact of his unrelenting political engagement on his family and how might we use Achong’s life to engage with patriarchy and gender inequality in the first half of the century? Finally, how can we think about the silences and exclusions in Caribbean and African Diaspora history to explain how he faded from both national life and the scholarly gaze in the decades since then?
PI: Brian Meeks, Professor of Africana Studies

Moral Depths: Making Antiquity in a Medieval Chinese Cemetery
Moral Depths focuses on the extraordinary recent discovery of the tomb of the forefather of Chinese archaeology, Lü Dalin (d. 1093), in what is to date the largest and most complete medieval family cemetery ever uncovered in China. Tracing the ways in which Lü and his family excavated, documented, and reburied ancient vessels with their dead, and the ways in which contemporary archaeologists are now re-excavating these same vessels in pursuit of the origins of their discipline, the project stages an ethical debate between past and present ways of seeking the past in things. It mobilizes this debate both as an intervention into contemporary scholarship on muzang yishu (burial art), and, more generally, as an opportunity to reflect on our collective moral obligations to the distant dead. The grant will support my ongoing participation in an international research and exhibition project on the cemetery, and will facilitate remote and on-site investigation of a related site—the Forest of Steles (Beilin). Established as a resource for scholars by Lü Dalin and his brothers in the eleventh century, the “Forest” features thousands of inscribed steles gathered from sites across the country in what is, arguably, China’s oldest “museum.” Integrating this site will elaborate the museological implications of the project’s dialogue between past and present pasts, and thereby culminate the final chapter of my second book project—Moral Depths: Making Antiquity in a Medieval Chinese Cemetery.
PI: Jeffrey Moser, Assistant Professor of History of Art and Architecture

The Past and Future of Chika Sagawa, Japanese Modernist Poet
This born-digital publication developed under the auspices of the University's Mellon Foundation-supported Digital Publications Initiative, brings together American and Japanese scholars and artists to reexamine the legacy of one of Japan’s most influential poets, Chika Sagawa (1911–1936), largely ignored by critics and known within the Japanese poetry community as “everyone’s favorite unknown poet.” The first extensive study of any female modernist poet in Japan, the digital publication widens and deepens our understanding of literary developments in Japan in the 1920s via a necessarily “anti-orientalist” reading of literary culture. The importance and impact of this project, however, extends beyond a re-presentation of Japanese literature through the lens of global modernism. As a cross-disciplinary, multimodal digital publication, The Past and Future of Chika Sagawa forges connections between contemporary arts communities (poets, visual artists, and sound artists) that are actively engaged with Sagawa’s poetry. Enhancing the multidisciplinary dimension of the project, a video recording of a specially organized taidan, or formal conversation, provides dynamic content to sit alongside Sagawa’s poetry, accompanying interpretive texts by US-based scholars, and newly commissioned electro-acoustic and visual works. Moreover, as a bilingual university press publication, The Past and Future of Chika Sagawa will foster critical exchanges between American and Japanese scholars and artists and will be beneficial to both Anglophone and Japanese audiences. As such, the digital publication has the potential to significantly elevate the stature and historical importance of Sagawa’s poetry in the widest possible context.
PI: Sawako Nakayasu, Assistant Professor of Literary Arts

Biological and Life Sciences

Targeting Transcription-Repair Couping Factors for Development of an Anti-Evolution Drug
Due to the increased use and misuse of antibiotics in the last decades, many pathogenic strains have developed resistance to these agents, which has led to a global public health crisis. This can only amplify, particularly in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, which often results in secondary bacterial infections that need to be treated. Unfortunately, our current arsenal of antibiotics is failing. We therefore propose to develop an inhibitor of molecular evolution, which administered in combination with existing, well-characterized antibiotics could extend the time window of their efficacy, would help curb the development of resistance and would help combat infections to a variety of pathogens. To this end, we will target the pro-mutagenic processes mediated by the transcription-repair coupling factor Mfd for inhibition, and will employ a combination of in silico screening for inhibitory small-molecules and their testing in vitro and in vivo using orthogonal functional assays. Our proposal puts forth a novel, innovative angle of attack of the problem of antimicrobial resistance, and opens the avenue to the development of a broad-spectrum agent to effectively combat the pressing public health issue of antimicrobial resistance.
PI: Alexandra Deaconescu, Assistant Professor of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry

The role of grammar and descriptions in referent identification
The ability to identify and track the physical objects discussed in a conversation is critical for humans at all stages of development, from children’s learning of new words and concepts, to adults’ abilities to sustain communication with each other. Despite the pivotal role this ability plays in multiple domains of cognition, core research areas within cognitive science do not align in how they think this process of “referent identification” works, or what auxiliary capacities it involves. Moreover, because different theories are siloed in different fields, their incompatibility has gone unnoticed and their differential predictions remain untested. In this project, we compare the two leading perspectives on referent identification—one from developmental psychology and the other from linguistic semantics—in terms of their predictions for children’s behavior. We develop a novel experimental paradigm, the “referent-transformation task”, which will probe the divergent predictions of these theories in both child and adult populations. Findings from this study will inform the scientific understanding of the development of referential communication. The project promises to advance Brown’s position in multiple fields of study – linguistics and psychology – by synthesizing theories and phenomena across fields for the first time, using an innovative empirical method.
PI: Roman Feiman, Assistant Professor of Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences

Mapping the Molecular Determinants of Long-range Allostery and Altered Specificity in CRISPR-Cas9
Gene regulatory mechanisms are critical for proper cellular and protein function, and numerous pathologies have been linked to dysregulation of these processes. CRISPR-Cas9 has potential to modify disease-causing genes, but is prone to off-target alterations due to poor temporal control of its expression. It is therefore desirable to develop a "controllable" Cas9 that elicits no function unless activated, circumventing this limitation. Cas9 is reliant on conformational dynamics for allosteric function, but prior studies offer little mechanistic insight, necessitating new approaches such as solution NMR and molecular simulations to generate atomistic maps of dynamic networks within the protein. We recently identified a pathway of millisecond timescale protein motions spanning several domains of Cas9 that computational results suggest is a portion of a larger allosteric network that controls Cas9 function. My laboratory aims to illuminate regions of allosteric crosstalk that may become functional handles for enhanced spatial and temporal resolution of Cas9 with an integrated approach of solution structural biology, in silico biophysics, and in vivo biochemistry. We will (1) establish the mechanism of inter-domain signaling between multiple subdomains of Cas9 and (2) characterize allosteric mutants of Cas9 that are known to alter its specificity. This project will probe multi-timescale conformational dynamics in Cas9, revealing specific amino acids responsible for transmitting biological information throughout its structure. Understanding the way in which the spatially distinct domains of Cas9 are functionally coupled has exciting potential for precision medicine and bioengineering applications.
PI: George Lisi, Assistant Professor of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry

Physical Sciences

Towards a theory of deep learning
Deep learning has revolutionized modern technology and is one of the most exciting areas of research. Despite its grand technological impact, the foundational principles that govern learning and generalization of deep neural networks (DNN) are not understood. With traditional mathematically rigorous techniques failing to provide new insights, we propose to view DNNs as stochastic interacting systems compliant with the laws of non-equilibrium statistical mechanics. We will develop new theoretical techniques, that cannot be directly borrowed from physics and will have to be built from the ground up, and experimental protocols that will determine the validity of the theory empirically both in toy and realistic DNNs, that result in a practical theory of deep learning. The DNNs will be viewed through the lens of condensed matter physics as a kind of material, whose properties we would like to predict.The proposed research will help to establish a group of physicists (faculty and students) interested in using their background to impact modern technology as well as in applying deep learning to physics problems as a tool. We hope to foster cross-department collaborations as our group grows. We are interested in adapting research direction to the important problems facing engineers and computer scientists. We also hope to take inspiration from the neurobiology research at CIBS.Natural science angle at deep learning is a very recent branch of research and its impact is hard to predict. Early investment in this research area will put Brown in the leading position in the years to come.
PI: Andrey Gromov, Assistant Professor of Physics

Computational modeling of hypercoagulability in COVID-19
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), has infected more than 100 million people worldwide and claimed millions of lives. While the leading cause of mortality in COVID-19 patients is the hypoxic respiratory failure from acute respiratory distress syndrome, emerging evidence suggested that people with COVID-19 are prone to experience thrombotic events, such as venous thrombosis, pulmonary embolism and arterial thrombosis, and develop cardiovascular complications. These findings raise attention about appropriate disease management to prevent or treat thrombosis for COVID-19 patients. Clinical data indicated that all the three factors of Virchow’s triad, namely stasis, endothelial injury and  hypercoagulable state, are likely to contribute to the increased risk for thrombosis in COVID-19. Here, we propose to develop a novel computational framework to simulate the undesired thrombosis in microcirculation, a prominent clinical feature of COVID-19. This new framework will integrate seamlessly the four key components in the process of clotting in hemostasis, including hemodynamics, transport of coagulation factors and coagulation kinetics, blood cell mechanics and platelet adhesive dynamics, such that we can dissect the complicated process of pathological thrombus formation in COVID-19 and investigate its underlying mechanism. Our simulation results can help to improve our understanding of the pathogenesis of hypercoagulability, identify the key factor that triggers thrombus formation and provide insights to explore new therapeutic approaches for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19-associated thrombosis.
PI: He Li, Assistant Professor of Applied Mathematics (Research)

Unraveling the mystery of superconducting magic-angle twisted bilayer graphene
The recent discovery of magic-angle twisted bilayer graphene (tBLG) has opened a new chapter for material engineering and quantum science researches. It is demonstrated that a flat superlattice miniband emerges when two sheets of graphene are rotated by a so-called “magic angle”, giving rise to numerous novel emergent phenomena in the quantum limit, such as correlated insulators, superconductivity and intrinsic magnetism. These discoveries have set off a “gold rush” in studying quantum phenomena in magic-angle tBLG for the following reasons: (i) the fact that a potentially unconventional superconducting phase is stabilized by a simple “twist” in graphene offers renewed hope that experimental study could provide a full understanding of unconventional superconductivity, which will potentially revolutionize our approach to building a quantum computer; (ii) rotational alignment between 2-dimensional layered materials provide a new method to engineer material properties, introducing an unexplored landscape for future research; (iii) twisted 2D materials feature novel magnetic properties with versatile experimental controls, which holds the promise of unlocking new generations of computational technologies. The PI’s group at Brown University has recently developed a new device structure and demonstrated the capability of directly probing and controlling electron correlation within twisted 2D materials. In this proposal, the PI plans to utilize the same device structure to examine the pairing symmetry of the superconducting phase in magic-angle tBLG. The proposed project will provide important constraints for theoretical models aiming to accurately describe superconductivity in magic-angle tBLG.
PI: Jia Leo Li, Assistant Professor of Physics

Privacy-Preserving Exposure Notification
Exposure notification technology allows a public health app running on a personal device to discover that it had been in contact with an individual who later tested positive for an infectious disease, and notify its user of the prior exposure. Existing approaches were designed with privacy and security in mind, however their privacy and security features can still be significantly improved. This project is about incorporating state-of-the art cryptographic approaches for privacy-preserving authentication into exposure notification schemes.
PI: Anna Lysyanskaya, Professor of Computer Science

Using deep learning to model spatiotemporal gene regulation in single-cells
The availability of single-cell measurements provides a fine-grained heterogeneous cell landscape revealing developmental trajectories across time for diverse cell types. Studying these cell development trajectories gives us a better understanding of gene misregulation, leading to a diseased state in the cell. However, due to technical limitations, researchers can only observe this development at specific time-points or stages. We propose to use deep-learning models to fill this information gap by generating realistic in silico gene expression measurements. These measurements will be produced for missing time-points to augment the single-cell trajectory data, allowing improved downstream biological analyses. Recently, due to the generation of a large number of datasets, cutting-edge advancements in deep learning have been applied to the single-cell domain. However, the existing methods fail to factor in the temporal structure (time-point information) in the data - an important signal for observing cell development in single-cells. We will model the temporal information in the single-cell gene expression experiments using auto-encoders and Recurrent Neural Networks (RNNs). We will also extend our framework to use the existing chromatin accessibility experiments to integrate spatial information (related to active and inactive regions in the DNA) in single cells. We hypothesize that the accurate modeling of the underlying biology will produce high-quality measurements for unobserved time-points. Understanding how genes are regulated across space and time is an important question for researchers in the field (including at Brown). We aim to leverage the existing information using data-driven deep learning methods to help answer it for single-cell development.
PI: Ritambhara Singh, Assistant Professor of Computer Science

Public Health

Postpartum health care receipt among immigrant women in the United States
In the United States, nearly one quarter of women giving birth were born outside of the United States, and an estimated one out of every 16 births in the country is to an undocumented immigrant mother. While most low-income women are eligible for Medicaid during and after pregnancy, in many states low-income undocumented and recent immigrants are not eligible for pregnancy Medicaid and are covered instead by less generous programs which often do not cover postpartum care. This project will begin by documenting state public insurance coverage policies for pregnant and postpartum immigrant women and by generating a novel dataset that links population representative survey data from postpartum moms with maternal place of birth as documented on birth certificate records. Using these resources, we will examine whether postpartum outcomes vary between foreign-born and US-born low-income women and will examine the relationship between state public coverage policies for pregnant and postpartum immigrant women and disparities in postpartum care between foreign and US-born women. The results of this study will provide information to public health practitioners and policy makers about whether there are disparities in health care use after pregnancy between immigrant women and women born in the United States. Further, this study will contribute to our understanding of the relationship between state insurance coverage policies for pregnant and postpartum immigrant women and postpartum health care use.
PI: Maria Steenland, Assistant Professor of Population Studies (Research)


Humanities and Social Sciences

Fela's Queens: Performance, Play and Punishment in an African Music Subculture
The unlikely combination of Nigeria’s postcolonial military complex, restrictive postcolonial gender norms and postwar youth disaffection inspired the birth of an insurgent group of female singers and dancers in the 1970s. Scarcely educated and from poor and working-class backgrounds, the “Afrobeat Queens” (as this group of artists became known) carved out a distinct space of female rebellion in Nigeria’s popular music industry. Quite predictably, the Queens’ eroticized stage performances and their support of a musical genre that propagated anti-establishment sentiments elicited the contempt of Nigeria’s elite class. Powerful social actors consequently enacted state-sanctioned violence against the Queens, while also fomenting their erasure from scholarly and popular histories of Afrobeat music or African popular culture. In this study, Ayobade combines oral historical and archival methods to reconstruct the Queens’ sustained use of popular performance as tool and platform for social critique and self-affirmation in the face of intersecting gendered constraints. In what would become the first book-length study of this iconic group of women, Ayobade pursues a feminist reading of the Queen’s craft as critical punctuations of a male-dominated cultural scene that was being consolidated in the wake of colonialism.
PI: Dotun Ayobade, Assistant Professor of Africana Studies
Funded: $11,500

Un-Documented - Undoing Imperial Plunder
This film project (a trilogy) studies and compares two trajectories of migration, which are thought as unrelated and are often studied separately by scholars from different disciplines in the humanities, art and social sciences. The first migration is that of objects that generated professional care, scrupulous documentation, generous hospitality in museums and archives, and occasional public display. The second is the migration of people, who do not have, never had, or are unable to obtain the documents without which they are banned from access to most kinds of care and hospitality, and from rebuilding their homes and worlds. The publication last year of the Sarr-Savoy report on the objects plundered by the French empire and held in French public collections, testifies to the timely trait of this project of Un-Documented, that brings to this global conversation about restitution a unique point of view that connect together the objects in questions and people (in their place of origins and diaspora). This project has emerged out of years of research and a book project, published this November by Verso. The trilogy is based on the idea that artifacts preserved in Western type museums can no longer be treated only as exemplary masterpieces but can serve as site for renewed rights. This year I completed the first part of this trilogy, that is being shown now in The Fundació Tàpies. This award will enable work on the second and third parts of the trilogy.
PI: Ariella Azoulay, Professor of Comparative Literature and Modern Culture and Media
Funded: $14,860

The Epistemic Politics of Social Movements
This award will advance an ongoing study investigating the growing participation of scientific, medical, legal and agronomic experts in the grassroots movement against glyphosate pesticide use in Argentina’s soy-producing regions. The movement holds great political significance, not just in Argentina, but globally, as farmworkers and agricultural communities around the world protest the skyrocketing use of glyphosate pesticides and the frightening impacts of long-term exposure to these dangerous chemicals. The study, which promises to shed light on the epistemic structure and dynamics of social movements, represents an international collaboration undertaken with Professor Florencia Arancibia, a political sociologist at Universidad Nacional de San Martín (UNSAM) in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and is supported by a two-year National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Award that began in September 2019. We are using the NSF award primarily to pay Dr. Arancibia’s salary and research and travel expenses during the data collection phase, which will extend through May 2020. I am seeking funding during a sabbatical leave that will allow me to make a month-long research trip to Buenos Aires in Fall 2020 to work directly with Professor Arancibia to develop a book prospectus, draft several manuscript chapters of a coauthored book, and convene a workshop to disseminate study results.
PI: Scott Frickel, Professor of Environment and Society and Sociology
Funded: $8,132

To Feel the Earth Move: "Einstein on the Beach" and Us
The Salomon award will support preliminary research for my second book project, “To Feel the Earth Move: Einstein on the Beach and Us.” This book will focus on a singular work from the history of 20th-century performance: Einstein on the Beach, the 4-hour-long experimental opera created by theatre director Robert Wilson, composer Philip Glass, and choreographer Lucinda Childs that was first performed in 1976. Rather than attempting to offer a comprehensive history of the work’s development, formal structure, or cultural impact, this book takes its cue from the formally innovative, radically conceived structure of the opera itself. In so doing, the book demonstrates how a single work of art can challenge audiences and scholars of performance to cultivate modes of critical attunement that open outward into broader, collectively shared histories and cultural inheritances. Einstein on the Beach constellates Cold War-era anxieties about technology and the threat of nuclear annihilation; the unfulfilled promise of the African American Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 60s; avant-garde musical and theatrical techniques including seriality, minimalism, durational performance, and a range of non-Western cultural forms; and the complex role of artistic “outsiders” and the “amateurs” within the historically fraught negotiation between experimental and commercial models of artistic production. By strategically narrowing its critical aperture to a singular—if inexhaustibly complex—work of collaboratively realized performance, this book will help me advance Brown’s position in the field of theatre and performance studies by elaborating novel methods of “doing” performance criticism.
PI: Leon Hilton, Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies
Funded: $12,900

Of Poetry and Power: Robert Frost in Khrushchev's Russia and the Emergence of a Cold War Consensus
My research focuses on a 12-day trip that the American poet Robert Frost took to the USSR in the late summer of 1962. The idea for the trip was hatched by the Soviet Ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Dobrynin, and JFK’s Secretary of Interior Stewart Udall. The Kennedy administration endorsed the trip and the US State Department helped to organize it. In the USSR, leaders of the Writers’ Union welcomed Frost and introduced him to literary luminaries in Moscow and Leningrad. Frost also met directly with the Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and shared his vision of a “friendly competition” in “sports, science, art, and democracy.” Udall met with Khrushchev separately. Frost, Udall, and Khrushchev seemed to agree that soft power was as important as hard power. Khrushchev apparently left his meeting with Frost determined to deepen the process of de-Stalinization in Soviet society. At the same time, the potential for the rivalry to turn violent was not far from the surface. As Khrushchev chatted with Frost and Udall, he was also coordinating the shipment of nuclear missiles to Cuba. Studying this episode has the potential to re-balance our understanding of the Cold War by juxtaposing poetry with politics, cultural exchange with high-level personal diplomacy, and non-violent competition with brinkmanship. This award will fund research trips to relevant repositories in the United States (National Archives, Frost’s papers at Dartmouth, Stewart Udall’s papers in Arizona) and in Russia (the State, Party, Literature, and Foreign Policy Archives.)
PI: Ethan Pollock, Associate Professor of History, Associate Professor of Slavic Studies
Funded: $14,825

The Intergenerational Transmission of Educational Advantage? The Case of Latinx College Students from Mixed-Educated Households
This mixed methods research will examine the relationship between parents' educational attainment and students' post-secondary educational outcomes in Latinx families. The intergenerational transmission of educational advantage posits that all students with college-educated parents equally benefit from their parent's educational attainment. Yet research has long demonstrated differential returns to education across and race and ethnicity. Using data from theELS:2002 and looking at dual-headed households, the proposed quantitative study examines how Latinx student outcomes vary when both parents are college-educated, when neither parent is college-educated, and when one parent is college educated, but the other is not. Qualitatively, I propose an interview study that illuminates how Latinx college students from mixed-educated households navigate college settings at both selective and-selective campuses. Situated in cultural capital theory, this analysis contributes theoretical insights to understanding who and to what extent educational advantage is “passed on” from parent to child with a focus on the Latinx experience. This project innovates by problematizing the idea that having college-educated parents portends academic success, which may only be true for particular groups of students. Research has failed to consider important heterogeneity in student outcomes for those from mixed-educated families. This project contributes to the extant literature by bringing important attention to a group of students that are considered “advantaged” based on research and policy definitions, but whose outcomes may present a different picture. The focus on Latinx families and the theoretical insights derived from the study extend Brown's excellence in educational research with attention on an understudied population.
PI: David Rangel, Assistant Professor of Education
Funded: $8,800

Imperial Transitions in the Upper Amazon Basin: Forced Resettlement, Diet and Political Subjectivity at Purun Llaqta del Maino, Peru
This award will support archaeological research on the effects of imperial forced resettlement on native Peruvian households, through the study of materials excavated from the site of Purun Llaqta del Maino (PLM). The region in which PLM is located, Chachapoyas, was home to a series of loosely confederated ethnic groups who built their homes in thousands of hilltop sites between 1100 and 1470CE, before the area was violently incorporated into the Inka empire (1470-1535CE). According to written sources, Inka officials radically reconfigured the regional landscape following its conquest, intensifying maize production and resettling tens of thousands of people into new towns. Then, following the Spanish invasion of 1532-35CE, clergy and administrators again reorganized local communities with the goal of reshaping their political subjectivities and directing their labor towards Spanish colonial projects. This history makes Chachapoyas an ideal context for studying how political subjects are shaped through distinct imperial discourses and how households respond to imperial challenges. My previous research at PLM indicates that the site was occupied from at least 1100-1600CE and includes a pre-Inka hilltop village, an Inka imperial feasting hall (kallanka), and a Spanish colonial planned town (reducción). Study of materials excavated in 2019 – plant and animal remains from houses, human remains from burials, and soils from adjacent abandoned fields – will enable us to assess how native households living at this site responded to two successive movements of imperial expansion and resettlement. Results will be incorporated into VanValkenburgh’s second book project, articles, and external funding applications.
PI: Parker VanValkenburgh, Assistant Professor of Anthropology
Funded: $14,600

Musical Simulacra: Holding Up Cultural Mirrors Through Sound and Image
A combination of exoticism, Western cultural prestige, and deeply-rooted inferiority has led to the re-creation of European-style villages built as exact copies outside major cities in China. The hope of using reproductions of European architecture and urban styles to revive and attract new settlements doesn’t always turn out well in reality. But it contributes to a direct clash of unrelated civilizations and cultures – a “new world” in denial of its own past seeking out different “old worlds.” Inspired by this cultural simulacra, I composed Transplant, Transpose for chamber ensemble with two renowned improvisors. The work was premiered at my American Academy in Berlin Portrait concert last spring. I’ve been thinking about ways to create a fuller version to more thoroughly express the ideas of the work. To enrich the sonic environment, I will extend the current version and add field recordings, common propaganda slogan announcements, excerpted interviews, and processed and distorted sounds as varied as Venetian gondola songs, Korean pop music, nighttime urban soundscapes from Paris and Shanghai, laughter and merriment celebrating western holidays, alphorns, car horns in traffic, local Chinese opera, etc. A visual component will consist of still photos. The Salomon award will aid in the studio recording and documentation of the final version of Transplant, Transpose. It will strongly represent Brown’s versatility and commitment towards the contemporary arts, and support a composer widely praised for her ability to comment on and synthesize the complexities and misconceptions of cultural exchange and modern life in her music.
PI: Lu Wang, David S. Josephson Assistant Professor of Music
Funded: $12,800​

Biological and Life Sciences

Promoting Immunity Against Ovarian Cancer by Stimulating Intratumoral Pathogen-Specific Resident Memory T Cells
Despite significant advances in surgical and chemotherapy-based treatments, ovarian cancer remains the most lethal gynecologic malignancy. The overall 5-year survival rate still remains dismally low at 45% as most patients develop drug resistance and relapse. There is a significant medical need to develop second line of therapies. Recent progress in immunotherapeutic approaches based on using patients’ own immune system to fight against cancers have proven effective against multiple tumor types. Studies in animal models and humans clearly show that cytotoxic CD8 T lymphocytes are effective against ovarian tumor. But often the CD8 T cell numbers are low and their quality is negatively impacted by the highly immunosuppressive ovarian tumor microenvironment. Our proposal relies on a newly recognized subset of memory T cells called, resident memory CD8 T cells in the ovarian tumor microenvironment. Resident memory T cells are primarily described in infectious disease settings where they maintain heightened cytotoxicity and also produce copious amounts of inflammatory cytokines and chemokines after stimulation. We want to leverage these T cells’ immunostimulatory properties to generate a broad antitumor reaction. Using a mouse orthotopic ovarian cancer model we will evaluate the effect of local resident memory T cell stimulation on activation of other immune cells present in the tumor stroma. We expect a broad activation will convert the suppressive tumor microenvironment to an immunostimulatory milieu and will enable potent synergistic antitumor action by multiple immune cell type. When combined with existing first line therapies this approach has the potential to enable durable cure.
PI: Lalit Beura, Assistant Professor of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology
Funded: $15,000

The Role of Extracellular Vesicles in JCPyV-induced Brain Pathogenesis
The human polyomavirus JC (JCPyV) infects a significant proportion of the general population worldwide. Initial infection is asymptomatic, and the virus is thought to establish a life-long persistent infection in the kidney of healthy individuals. Under conditions of immune suppression, JCPyV can reactivate and cause progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML), an often fatal demyelinating disease of the brain. The mechanism by which JCPyV evades the barriers that protect the brain and then destroys glial cells is currently unknown. We recently discovered that primary choroid plexus epithelial cells (CPE), the cells that create the blood-cerebrospinal fluid barrier, are susceptible to virus infection. In addition, infected CPE produce abundant amounts of extracellular vesicles (EV) containing virus that can infect naïve glial cells, the target cells of PML, providing a pathway for the virus to travel from the periphery to the brain. Here, we hypothesize that EV derived from JCPyV-infected human CPE contain specific microRNAs (miRNAs) and proteins that mediate cell–cell communication and promote viral pathogenesis in recipient glial cells.  We will test this hypothesis by first comparing the contents of infected vs. uninfected CPE-derived EV, then by functional analysis of these components in our viral infection system. The results of this study should lead to a greater understanding of JCPyV-induced brain disease and to the identification of biomarkers to better predict which patients are at risk for developing PML.
PI: Sheila Haley, Assistant Professor of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry (Research)
Funded: $15,000

Biological, Life, and Physical Sciences

Non-equilibrium molecular dynamics simulations of protein diffusiophoresis for biomedicine
Investigating the conformational and global dynamics of proteins using molecular dynamics (MD) simulations is a critical focus area in computational biology. However, most MD simulations of proteins are currently performed under equilibrium conditions, whereas biological proteins typically exist in the presence of chemical concentration gradients, which affect protein dynamics through electrokinetic and steric interactions. Non-equilibrium MD simulations are impractical with most standard simulation packages, because the wide-spread use of periodic boundary conditions drives the dynamics toward equilibrium, and non-equilibrium phenomena of interest often occur on long time scales. In this project, we propose to overcome these challenges by implementing novel force models in the boundary regions of MD simulations to drive the dynamics toward predictable non-equilibrium states. We will use these tools to simulate the protein dynamics in solute concentration gradients and characterize the role of protein/solute interactions on the conformational and global dynamics of proteins. Ultimately, the development of these methods and tools will facilitate new investigations into the non-equilibrium global and conformational dynamics of single- and multi-protein systems, with potential applications to protein phase separation and the formation of membraneless organelles. The tools and research proposed here have broad applications to quantitative and computational biology, especially towards advancing our understanding of the role of non-equilibrium processes on protein dynamics and aggregation that critically contribute towards cell physiology and disease. Furthermore, this research will facilitate the development of new biomedical technologies and applications involving the selective control and measurement of multi-protein systems, such as protein detection, sorting, and pre-concentration.
PI: Jesse Ault, Assistant Professor of Engineering
Funded: $15,000

High-Resolution 3-D Access to the Brain through Multi-Site Complex Probe Architectures
The goal of this project is to address key challenges for contemporary chronically implanted neurotechnologies through innovative design and use of complex, integrated 3-D probe architectures enabling enhanced, scalable spatial access to the brain while limiting implant size and invasiveness. In contrast to traditional approaches obtaining at best, two-dimensional access to neural signals from the cortex, we aim to engineer in this project, a cortical probe platform enabling high-density and high-resolution, three-dimensional access to large cortical volumes.  We propose to leverage advanced microfabrication techniques to directly integrate 3-D “microneedle” probes with high-performance, integrated electronic chips for measuring and modulating neural activity, thereby eliminating the need for tedious and failure-prone interconnects. Additionally, we plan to customize these probes at a micrometer-scale resolution to yield multi-site constructs which may be used to investigate a novel concept of spatially-compressive, columnar- composite neural sensing as a mechanism to enrich the information content for high-performance neural decoding in the context of Brain Computer Interfaces (BCIs). Key advancements from the proposed technological platform are anticipated to produce a significantly enhanced brain implant, appropriate for real-time neural interface applications. Brown University has been a long-standing pioneer in the fields of Neuroengineering and BCIs, and this endeavor will continue to solidify its conceptual and engineering leadership in this community.
PI: Farah Laiwalla, Assistant Professor of Engineering (Research)
Funded: $15,000

Physical Sciences

Tailoring Taylor Dispersion for Microfluidic Applications
The proposed research focuses on the spreading of chemicals and particles in small-scale fluid flows for a range of applications. As fluid moves down a pipe or channel, it is known that the combined effects of fluid transport and molecular diffusion lead to an enhanced spreading of an initial concentration of a solute, an effect now known as “Taylor Dispersion.” For many applications this enhanced spreading leads to a rapid dilution of a chemical compound which is undesirable. In the first two sub-projects of the proposed work, novel methods will be investigated for reducing or otherwise controlling dispersion in microchannels through surface modification and mechanical deformation of the channel walls. These methods are readily transferable to standard microfluidic manufacturing processes and thus have the potential for immediate impact on technology. In the the third sub-project, we will investigate the dispersion of elongated nano-scale particles, specifically self-assembled “nanorods,” directly relevant to promising new technologies for targeted drug delivery. The outputs of these projects will contribute to numerous related scientific and technological fields and facilitate future projects and collaborations.
PI: Daniel Harris, Assistant Professor of Engineering
Funded: $12,000

Towards GDPR Compliance by Construction through Better System Design
Comprehensive data protection laws such as the European Union's recent General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) better protect citizens' sensitive data, but impose a high cost for compliance on organizations that operate digital services. The expense comes partly because retrofitting compliance onto current computer systems is difficult, manual, and time-consuming. In this project, we seek to understand where current software abstractions and common practices come into conflict with laws like the GDPR, and to develop new computer systems designs that address these problems and make data protection a primary design concern. One example will restructure the databases that web services use today as federations of per-user micro-databases. Users can add or remove their personal micro-database at any time, and all data related to them are stored in their personal micro-database. Applications combine users' information by computing derived views over these micro-databases, and update them as the underlying set of subscribed micro-databases changes. We hope to build a Brown-based research group that turns this idea into a real system, and to build collaborations both with industry and non-CS academics interested in data protection. Brown currently has isolated centers of interest in data protection legislation and its impact, including in Computer Science, the Watson Institute, the STS program, the Policy Lab and others. This project will bring these groups together, introduce industry and off-campus perspectives, establish Brown as a household name in this emerging field of research, foster interdisciplinary thinking in the Brown spirit, and seek to create new technology that makes data protection a primary design goal.
PI: Malte Schwarzkopf, Assistant Professor of Computer Science
Funded: $13,000

Bio-inspired Novel Hydrogel Architecture for Energy Harvesting
Nature builds functionality using soft hydrogel like materials and relies on linear or complex hierarchical assemblies to scale-up forces and energy in an efficient manner. An integrated computational and experimental research is proposed to scientifically develop an energy-harvesting hydrogel-based hierarchical material structure that draws inspiration from naturally occurring biological materials, structures and mechanisms. The proposed research could enable the design of hydrogel-based hierarchical assemblies that continuously convert chemical energy into mechanical energy by exploiting the Belousov-Zhabotinsky (BZ) reaction. This research aims to identify molecular architectural concepts that enhance the power density obtained from self-oscillating hydrogels using the BZ reaction, and develop hierarchical soft materials based structures which can scale-up mechanical energy. Molecular dynamics simulations will be conducted to develop a fundamental understanding of the role of polymer molecular architecture in oscillating energy density output from the BZ reaction. Experiments informed by electric eels micro compartment design and a coupled multi-physics continuum model will be developed to obtain a hierarchical hydrogel structure for energy harvesting and scale-up. The scientific understanding relating molecular structure and swelling-deswelling response of hydrogels and hierarchical self-oscillating energy harvesting hydrogel structure developed as part of this research will be a fundamental advancement in basic energy sciences frontier material research.
PI: Vikas Srivastava, Assistant Professor of Engineering
Funded: $13,300

Public Health

Patient Profiles and Settings of Care Following Opioid Use Disorder Related Hospitalizations in Medicare
Increasing opioid-related hospitalizations and emergency department visits among adults ≥65 years of age have been reported. Recent major federal efforts aim to improve the screening and management of opioid use disorder (OUD) in Medicare. The objective of this study is to understand the context of these hospitalizations with respect to the attributes of the patients, hospital admission, and the settings of care following opioid-related acute care use. We emphasize the skilled nursing facility (SNF) setting because it is a prominent care transition following hospitalization, and yet it is unclear if SNFs have the willingness, ability and/or capacity to manage OUD. The need for better integration of addiction treatment with both geriatric and post-acute medical care serves as the rationale of this study. To achieve the study goals, we will analyze administrative claims for 100% Medicare beneficiaries linked to nursing home assessments, and the Residential History File. The proposed research will provide data to promote awareness of OUD in SNFs, and among older adults, which can lead to improvements in clinical practice and policy to ensure appropriate monitoring and interventions are provided. Establishing and/or enhancing the capacity of SNFs to manage OUDs could improve resident quality of life and health outcomes while also contributing to national efforts to improve the management of OUD across different settings.
PI: Patience Moyo, Assistant Professor of Health Services, Policy and Practice
Funded: $13,454


Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences

Leticia Alvarado
Assistant Professor of American Studies

Cut/Hoard/Suture: Aesthetics in Relation
Cut/Hoard/Suture: Aesthetics in Relation analyses pairs of contemporary artists of color from distinctly racialized communities whose work shares both formal qualities and strategies for negotiating a hostile present. In the pairing of artists conventionally siloed along identitarian lines in studies of art and race, this project elaborates a relational black and brown aesthetic attentive to the ways cultural products move through fields of distinction calcified within systems of capital through which taste is established and mounted. The featured artistic pairings reflect on legacies of slavery and colonization honing in on what scholars have theorized as racial capitalism; histories of pathology in which race and gender serve as critical rubrics; and alternative frameworks for living organisms that are future-oriented, historically rooted, and deeply resonant in the present. Foundationally animated by the question of how to enter the political through the aesthetic given the later epistemology’s development with projects of empire, Cut/Hoard/Suture roots in feminist theory and queer of color critique, the scholarship of the black radical tradition and Latin American Subaltern Studies in order to orient us to artistic maneuvers of informed and resistant engagement. During the tenure of the fellowship artist interviews, studio visits, and major exhibition attendance will take place to augment secondary theoretical, historical and analytical scholarship research and build toward to completion of a first full manuscript.

Sheila Bonde
Professor of History of Art and Architecture

The Sensory Monastery
This new and intentionally innovative project engages with the sensory experiences of monasticism across time. It will focus on the abbey of Saint-Jean-des-Vignes (France), and will use Saint-Jean as a case study for aspects of the phenomenological that were typical of medieval and early modern monastic life. Chapters will include analysis of the abbey’s soundscape; visual signs and the experience of visuality at the abbey; smell and the tactile aspects of monastic experience; the changing architectural frame for liturgy and daily experience (the conversion of the dormitory into single-celled rooms in the early modern period, or the addition of a smokehouse adjacent to the refectory to accommodate changing diet, for example). Within the scholarship of the ‘sensory turn,’ our work will interrogate the deliberate absence or ‘claustration’ from sensory experience that was an important part of monastic life. One important part of the study will take the form of semi-fictional ‘narratives.’ We have selected seven individuals that are found in the texts relating to Saint-Jean and will expand their descriptions in order to help explore their sensory experiences. These narratives will complement the visual, CAD reconstructions of the architecture, and the audial aspects of the monastery’s soundscape. This digital book project will combine a scholarly book project with creative writing and digital imaging. It will advance the digital humanities at Brown, and will contribute not only to our understanding of sensory experience in the past, but also to our strategies for analysis and re-presentation of the sensory.

Colin Channer
Assistant Professor of Literary Arts

A modern retelling of Gilgamesh — the 4,000 year-old Akkadian epic that continues to shape literary practice across the world. Mine will be a contemporary epic set in the Caribbean and the North America over the course of the 20th century. In it, characters with echoes of Gilgamesh and Enkidu are recontextualized as musical collaborators during the sociopolitical and creative upheavals of the late 1960s. 

Kaijun Chen
Assistant Professor of East Asian Studies

The Culture of Expertise in Eighteenth Century Qing China: The Imperial Porcelain Industry
The proposed research project, a book manuscript titled “The Culture of Expertise in Eighteenth Century Qing China: The Imperial Porcelain Industry,” reveals the vital role that bondservant-experts, working within the constraints of Qing imperial ideology and political institutions, played in producing technological knowledge and distinctive artistic forms central to cultural policies of the state. Most broadly this project, grounded in the methods of science and technology in society, literary and art history, and studies of global empires, contributes to the field of the historical sociology of knowledge. It joins the traditionally strong scholarship on Chinese history at Brown University with its fast growing Program in Science, Technology, and Society. In its focus on imperial institutions and ideologies in early modern East Asia and on technological exchanges between Chinese and European Jesuits, it adds an important new dimension to the study of early modern Western history and cultures at Brown. Finally, this research, based in part on analysis of archaeological excavations at the Imperial Porcelain Manufacture in Jingdezhen, engages, too, the interest of scholars in the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World.  Drawing on first-hand archaeological evidence from Jingdezhen, as well as the voluminous Archive of the Imperial Handicraft Workshops (Zaoban chu dang’an), the book manuscript consists of six chapters investigating the industrial regulatory institutes at court, regional factory in Jingdezhen, the imperial design system, technological treatises and experiments deployed in porcelain manufacture. The manuscript will be completed in Spring 2020.

Sreemati Mitter
Kutayba Alghanim Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern History and International and Public Affairs

A History of Money in Palestine: From the 1900s to the Present
This project investigates how the condition of statelessness, which is usually thought of as a political problem, affects the economic and monetary lives of ordinary people. It approaches the question by examining the economic lives of a stateless people, the Palestinians, over a hundred-year period, from the last decades of Ottoman rule in the early 1900s to the present. With a particular focus on the violent transition, in 1948, from the termination of the British Mandate for Palestine to the creation of the State of Israel, this historical narrative investigates what happened to the financial assets and economic lives of the Arab Palestinians when they no longer had access to the protections of a sovereign state. The award will enable me to complete the final stages of research for the manuscript. Brown’s position will be enhanced by this project as (1) no histories currently exist that tell the story of Palestine in the 20th century from the perspective of banks, both local and foreign, and their customers (2) it makes arguments that contribute to our understanding of the economic dimensions of statelessness, which is of interest not just to historians but also economists, political scientists, and policy makers interested in sovereignty (3) it makes use of international and local banking and legal archives which have not yet been used by historians of Palestine (4) it brings economic and financial history into conversation with legal history (5) it interjects a new class of actors into the narrative of Middle Eastern history.

Paul Myoda
Associate Professor of Visual Art

Complicity Clocks
I am creating a series of interactive kinetic sculptures that have visible clockwork mechanisms. Viewers provide the energy required to keep the sculptures moving, via legible user interfaces such as hand cranks, adjustable weights and pull cords (no electrical components are used). Once set in motion each sculpture begins a series of movements that will result in a small-scale catastrophic event unless the viewer continues to provide additional energy, thereby making them instrumental in either abetting the catastrophic occurrence or staving it off.  I am imagining a spectrum of these small-scale catastrophes, each with its own particular physical and metaphorical resonance, e.g., liquids spilled, objects harmed or destroyed. I plan to design and fabricate approximately six “cuckoo clock” sized kinetic sculptures, each with different clockwork mechanisms and actions, and one larger-scale sculptural installation for exhibition in a public gallery and/or museum.

Elena Shih
Assistant Professor of American Studies

Tech-washing Trafficking: Corporate Vigilance, Worker Voice, and Labor Organizing
As global supply chains become increasingly multi-tiered and vertically de-integrated, new anti-trafficking laws have called upon global businesses to become vigilant in eradicating slavery from their supply chains. Such demands have launched a host of new corporate endeavors to increase transparency across the supply chain--many heralding the promise of technology to identify, expose, and reduce labor abuse. This research project takes a close look at various worker voice reporting technologies that have emerged to elucidate labor risks and abuses in supply chains. The global proliferation of mobile phone-based technology tools – including SMS, smartphone apps, hotlines, polls, and other methods – offer exciting opportunities to integrate the feedback of workers, in large numbers, into supply chain monitoring. However, despite universal claims to target "modern day slavery," this research is interested in understanding how such worker feedback technologies may enhance, dilute, or displace traditional labor organizing strategies. 

Jason Protass
Assistant Professor of Religious Studies

Buddhist Rituals across Social Topography of China, 1065-1130
My second-book project investigates socio-spatial differences in Buddhist teachings during the latter half of China’s Northern Song dynasty (960-1127). I will demonstrate how a network of Chinese monksmoved across the lateral expanses of geographical landscape and adapted to differences in social and religious conditions. This will develop my recently completed digital mapping project and build on publications that analyzed regional patterns of patronage. My work
will make several contributions to the study of Chinese religions. First, this work will demonstrate productive ways to incorporate digital methods into humanistic inquiry. Second, my work will bridge a long-standing divide in the academic study of Buddhism between the
study of ideas and the study of social institutions. I investigate how the Buddhist teachings of a single network of monks differed across geographical space and social topography. Across five chapters, I use diverse sources, including rare woodblock-printed materials, legal
codes, medieval ghost stories, and my GIS database of the geospatial distribution of Chan abbacies. This research is informed by modern Western, Chinese, and Japanese scholarship. The result of this work will be a single-author monograph. This work will contribute to developing the PhD program in Religious Studies at Brown as a desirable destination for graduate students seeking to study the history of Chinese religions in ways that combine digital methods with
humanistic inquiry.

Andrew Scherer
Associate Professor of Anthropology, Associate Professor of Archaeology and the Ancient World

War, Food Security, and Water Management in a Classic Period Maya Kingdom
Funding will support a first season of archaeological research at the capital of the ancient Maya kingdom of Sak Tz’i’ (“White Dog” in the Classic Mayan language), located near the modern indigenous community of Lacanja Tzeltal, Chiapas, Mexico. This important Classic period (AD 350-900) polity capital was only recently located by my colleagues and me in 2014. We have completed one exploratory visit to the site in 2018 and will initiate a multi-year project (minimum of three years) at Sak Tz’i’-Lacanja Tzeltal to begin in the summer of 2019. Aside from reconstructing the culture history of the site through excavation and decipherment of its hieroglyphic texts, research is aimed at understanding the diachronic dynamics of war, food security, and water management within the kingdom. Specifically, my colleagues and I will test the hypothesis that investment in defense, intensive agriculture and hunting, and water management was unchanging over the course of the Classic period. This simplistic hypothesis is a point of departure for exploring more nuanced questions pertaining to the relationship among food production, water management, and the threat of violence. More broadly, this study ties into research on resiliency and collapse, among the Maya and other ancient societies.  This research will involve four Brown Ph.D. students. As a newly identified Maya kingdom, research at Sak Tz'i'-Lacanja Tzeltal will be of significant interest and the questions to be tested are of current interest in Maya archaeology and in the study of ancient societies.

Daniel Vaca
Assistant Professor of Religious Studies

A Religious History of Taxes in America
In the contemporary United States, taxes serve as a primary site of political, economic, and moral conflict. Drawing upon the methods and historiographies of religious studies, this book-length research project reveals key ideals, behaviors, and practices that have propelled disagreements about taxes and taxation. Because tax revenues constitute the financial foundation of contemporary economies, taxes can seem little more than a requirement of secular citizenship. Yet tax policies and practices always have premised their fiscal strategies upon metaphysical and moral priorities. A Religious History of Taxes in America accordingly treats tax policies and practices as means by which Americans have articulated divergent understandings of society's ideal shape, including but not limited to understandings of social and economic inequality. Focusing on the nineteenth- and twentieth-century United States, this project not only examines prominent tax innovations—including income taxes, consumption taxes, and exemptions for religious corporations—but also excavates some of the religious ideals and behaviors that have oriented debates about those innovations. That religious history includes forms of financial stewardship, church finance, understandings of religious freedom, concepts of religious community, and theories of social reform.

Physical Sciences

Haneesh Kesari
Assistant Professor of Engineering

Understanding the potential of architecture in enhancing material toughness through mechanical testing of robot-assembled, bio-inspired, composite materials
Stiff structural biological materials (SSBMs), such as bone and shell, are an interesting class of materials. Despite predominantly being composed of brittle ceramic materials, they have been shown to possess extraordinary toughness. SSBMs are composites that consist of a ceramic phase and an organic phase mixed together in intricate 3D architectures. The highly organized nature of these architectures is thought to be at the root of the SSBMs’ remarkable toughness. However, SSBMs’ toughness has only rarely been reproduced in synthetic composites. The key hurdle behind this is the lack of the scientific knowledge that connects how small-scale architectural motifs affect overall toughness. The proposed project addresses this key hurdle. In it, we propose a new method—robot-assisted large-scale assembly—to manufacture idealized physical models of a prototypical SSBM. In this method, brittle polymers will be laser cut into millimeter-sized tablets that will then be positioned, with micrometer precision, and glued back together into centimeter-sized specimens using (4) four-axis robotic arms. We will develop the robotic-end effectors for our robotic arms so that the first arm positions and orients the tablets, the second applies glue to the tablet’s edges, and the last two apply force to the tablet as the glue sets. We will guide our robotic arms using computer vision. Through systematically varying the key parameters in the architectural motifs and mechanically testing the robot-manufactured material specimens, we aim to gain key insights into how small-scale architectural motifs affect large-scale toughness.

Biological and Life Sciences

Stephen Gatesy
Professor of Biology, Professor of Medical Science

Fibular Mobility and the Evolution of Avian Bipedalism
The origin of birds from predatory dinosaurs represents one of the major transitions in vertebrate history. Although the emphasis of most studies is on the evolution of powered flight, changes in the hind limbs are equally important. Based on preliminary data from living guineafowl, turkeys, and alligators, I propose that the splint-like fibula in the drumstick of modern birds has biomechanical significance for locomotion. Specifically, I hypothesize that a reduced fibula allows for extreme long-axis rotation at the knee, better foot reorientation, and thus improved maneuvering. Salomon Funds will advance this research through X-ray Reconstruction of Moving Morphology (XROMM) analyses of 3-D fibular movement and related studies. Support for a Brown undergraduate in the summer of 2019 is sought to assist in data recording, analysis, and synthesis. These XROMM data from extant taxa will form a solid foundation for future in-depth studies of the fossil record.

Jennifer Merrill
Assistant Professor of Behavioral and Social Sciences

Mobile-delivered feedback on drinking events: Pilot testing an intervention for heavy drinking college students
College students report high rates of heavy drinking and negative alcohol-related consequences. Given substantial morbidity and mortality associated with alcohol among college students, continued refinement of interventions is essential. Augmenting motivation to change among heavy drinking college students and improving intervention outcomes requires innovations in the timing and targets of intervention. The goal of the proposed study is to develop and pilot test a personalized feedback intervention delivered to heavy drinking college students via smartphones. A primary innovation of the proposed intervention is delivery the morning after drinking - a "teachable moment" not previously exploited for harm reduction. An initial intervention prototype is under development and will be refined through end-user input gathered in 3-4 focus groups (n=18-28, Phase I). A second set of participants will be recruited for a 30-day pilot test of the intervention and follow-up interview (n=20, Phase II), in order to establish feasibility and acceptability. During the pilot, in response to submission of a morning survey indicating prior day drinking, a participant will receive an immediate feedback report delivered via smartphone, targeting a range of determinants of behavior change (e.g., social norms). This highly innovative study capitalizes on advances in mobile health, with direct implications for reducing risk among college student drinkers, their non-drinking peers, and the larger community. Moreover, the current funding will provide the necessary pilot data for a full-scale NIH grant in which the intervention is tested in a randomized controlled trial. 





Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences

Bathsheba Demuth
Assistant Professor of History and Environment and Society

Where Ideology and Ecology Meet: Telling Russian and American Environmental History at the Bering Strait
At the Bering Strait, northeast Russia and northwest Alaska share a common ecology: rolling tundra and icy mountains divided by the narrow ocean. Every living thing exists without plentiful solar energy, curtailing the productivity evident in temperate climates. Yet between 1848 and 1988, Russians and Americans alike were drawn north by Beringia’s potential riches, particularly the biotic energy resources available on the region’s lands and seas—its whales, walrus, and reindeer in particular. These outsiders stayed to make converts, fortunes, and states. Europeans began by harvesting whales, moved to hunting walrus on coasts, attempted to farm reindeer on land, sought gold underground, and finally returned to hunting whales. Organized around these spaces, this research project traces a narrative from the stateless meetings of indigenous Yupik, Inupiat, and Chukchi with commercial hunters, to the inception of national borders and ideas of citizenship on opposite sides of the Strait, through to the region’s division along ideological lines. This proposal seeks funds to complete the book manuscript “Beringian Dreams: People, Nature, and the Quest for Arctic Energy 1848-1988” that chronicles these environmental, political, economic, and cultural revolutions. The research includes archival visits to Alaska, Hawaii, and New Bedford, to add new collections – particularly those featuring indigenous perspectives – to the manuscript. It also includes research and funding to work with a cartographer to create maps, and with a research assistant to locate images. Brown is becoming one of the strongest environmental history programs in the country; this book will contribute to that growing profile.

Kevin Escudero
Assistant Professor of American Studies

Not 1 More Deportation: Movement Lawyering and Grassroots Community Partnerships in the Immigrant Rights Movement
Attorneys working closely with social movements activists are oftentimes viewed as occupying a dual role: as an advocate in the justice system and ally of movement participants. While some may argue that this dual role may prevent challenges for attorneys whose interests align with the movements they are assisting, increasing numbers of attorneys have worked to bridge this divide by developing innovative models for collaboration including movement lawyering, public interest lawyering and rebellious lawyering. These models place significant emphasis on how lawyers engage social movement participants. In this project, however, I make the case that further attention must be paid to examining the bi-directional nature of activist-lawyer partnerships. Utilizing a case study of undocumented immigrant organizing in Chicago, Illinois, a city in which activists have partnered with attorneys in fighting the deportations of local community members, I aim to demonstrate how activists display a high level of legal knowledge and influence attorneys’ approaches to litigation and defense of the undocumented community. To gain a clearer and most holistic understanding of how this process takes place, I will conduct ethnographic fieldwork and in-depth interviews with movement attorneys, activists and individuals fighting their cases. From this research I will develop two research articles: 1) an article examining the relationship between activists and attorneys in the immigrant rights movement and 2) a methodological reflection on ethical considerations when working as a researcher and ally of undocumented community members.

Margot Jackson
Associate Professor of Sociology

Public Investments, Private Investments and Class Gaps in Children's Academic Achievement
Recent research identifies significant class gaps in parental investments, defined by expenditures and time with children, as well as in children’s academic achievement.  Parents with more income and education are disproportionately likely to invest resources and developmentally targeted time toward their children, and these investments influence cognitive and academic development.  Public investments in children and families, though increasingly under threat, have the potential to reduce class gaps in child investments by freeing low-income parents to alter expenditures and time use.  The combination of public investment and equalization in private investment then has the potential to reduce class inequality in child development. Indeed, cross-national evidence reveals wider class gaps in academic achievement in the United States than in countries where public investments in children and families are larger. However, evidence on how public and private investments interact to impact family and child inequality is quite limited.  The purpose of this project is to examine how public investments in children and families affect class inequality in child investments and academic achievement.  The research has three aims: 1) Collect state-by-state data on local, state and federal spending on major programs affecting children and families.  2) Examine whether class gaps in: a) parental investments, and b) children’s academic achievement are smaller or larger in states with higher child and family spending.  3) Examine whether parental investments play a weaker role in explaining class gaps in child achievement in states with higher spending?  

Felipe Martinez-Pinzon
Assistant Professor of Hispanic Studies

Producing the People: Sketches of Manners and Liberal Reform in Latin America (1820-1870)
How did post-independence elites in Latin America fabricate national folk out of wildly diverse colonial populations with equally diverse identities? My book “Producing the People: Sketches of Manners and Liberal Reform in Latin America (1820-1870)” answers this question through the analysis of one particular literary genre: cuadros de costumbres or the sketch of types and manners. This short, illustrated genre frequently appeared in popular periodicals across Europe in the early to mid-19th century where it both described and satirized the mores of peoples by producing them as types —the dandy, the spinster, the pickpocket, and so on. So popular was the genre that many of these individual portraits would be compiled later into collections that produced a panorama of a city or a nation through the compilation of its most salient types. Paradoxically enough, this European genre traveled to Latin America and was used as a nationalizing tool by post-Independence elites seeking to organize what they saw as the ethnic and social chaos of the newly founded republics. “Producing the People” investigates the aesthetic and political choices that shaped the production of national folk, exploring the patrician sensibility of Latin America’s post-war ascending classes’ and the role they played in imagining the people as disciplined subalterns infused with local color.

Eric Nathan
Assistant Professor of Music

Recording Project - Portrait Album Release
My proposal focuses on the publication of my musical compositions in recorded form. In the field of music, documentation of a work through sound recording is critical to the work’s recognition. The Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP), recognized as the leading American orchestra dedicated to performing and recording contemporary music, proposes to release a portrait album of my music on the BMOP Sound Label, featuring premiere recordings of five compositions for large ensemble (for both orchestral and large ensemble forces). In these works, written between 2011 and 2016, I engage with ideas of why old places (of both historical and personal significance) matter and how a sense of shared continuity with the past can help us better understand our present. I experiment with performance techniques in creating both asynchronous and unified textures that highlight the power of the individual within a larger collective.

Tara Nummedal
Associate Professor of History and Italian Studies

Furnace and Fugue: A Digital Edition of Michael Maier's Atalanta fugiens (1618) with Scholarly Commentary
This project, co-edited with Donna Bilak (Columbia University) in collaboration with the Mellon-funded Digital Publishing Initiative, is simultaneously an exploration of an extraordinary seventeenth-century multimedia book, the German alchemist Michael Maier’s Atalanta fugiens (1618), and an experiment in digital publishing today. Atalanta fugiens reinterpreted Ovid’s myth of Atalanta as an alchemical allegory via a series of fifty emblems, each of which contains text, image, and a musical fugue for 3 voices. By linking intellect, sight, and sound with the theory and laboratory practice of transmutational alchemy, Maier offered his readers a complex epistemological tool and an argument about the proper balance of intellectual and sensory work in exploring nature’s secrets. We are constructing a multimedia digital edition that will enable modern readers to read, see, and hear and manipulate Atalanta fugiens the way Maier’s readers would have, as well as to engage with new scholarly interpretations of Maier’s book and its context. At the same time, as part of the Digital Publishing Initiative, the project is part of Brown’s efforts to rethink the scholarly monograph in a new digital age. From the outset, we have envisioned our edition and scholarly essays as an exploration of the possibilities and processes involved in producing rigorous and accessible digital scholarship. This award will support a crucial piece of this project that the Mellon grant is not able to fund, namely recordings of the fifty fugues in Atalanta fugiens.

Josh Pacewicz
Assistant Professor of Sociology and Urban Studies

The War for the States: Advocates and Bureaucrats in Polarized Times
In the contemporary United States, many advocacy campaigns focus on states and, under conditions of polarized and deadlocked federal politics, there is reason to expect state policies to diverge. This dynamic challenges the conceptual tools of political science and sociology, which focus disproportionately on federal over state politics, legislative activity over executive and street-level rule-making, and publicly-oriented movements over coalitions consisting of political insiders. The project investigates the politics of state policy divergence via a mixed methods study of Rhode Island, a state currently under unilateral GOP control, and New Hampshire, currently under GOP control. I focus on five policy domains—budgeting, voting rights, environmental regulations, school and municipal finance, and Medicaid-funded services—and draw on archival tracking of policy, observation of legislative and administrative hearings, and interviews with advocates, legislators, and bureaucrats to map the range of progressive and conservative advocacy strategies. Unlike traditional social movements, contemporary advocates build backstage coalitions with sympathetic agency leaders and legislators to selectively implement the law, derail it, or repurpose state and federal policy. The project develops new conceptual tools for the study of policy change and speaks to timely public issues.   

Biological and Life Sciences

Christine Montross
Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior & Medical Science

Acquainted with the Night: Mental Illness in America's Prisons
This award will support the writing of "Acquainted with the Night," a literary nonfiction book about the confluence of mental illness and the criminal justice system. In my work as a psychiatrist, I frequently treat people who have served time in our nation’s correctional facilities.  Their stories reveal a broken justice system plagued by inhumanity. "Acquainted with the Night" will thematically explore the realities of the American correctional system.  Chapters entitled “On Isolation,” “On Evil,” “On Revenge,” “On Fear,” and “On Madness” will blend neuroscience and social science research with lyrical accounts of my work in prisons and psychiatric hospitals, and of my visits to a diverse collection of correctional facilities.  These include Chicago’s Cook County Jail, ingloriously dubbed the nation’s largest psychiatric hospital; Northern Correctional Facility, a supermaximum prison whose inmates are held in solitary confinement; and Norway’s Halden Prison, where maximum security detainees cook with knives, go on overnight passes, and take art classes with chisels and hammers. Since the inception of the Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME), Brown has formally positioned itself as an institution that values the concurrent studies of medicine and the liberal arts—and as an advocate for the mutual enrichment of both fields which results from such endeavors. Support for "Acquainted with the Night," which has already been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in Nonfiction and is under contract for publication with The Penguin Press, will provide a nationally visible example of current work at Brown which embodies this interdisciplinary spirit. 

Timothy Whitfeld
Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (Research)

Succession and tropical forest dynamics in unstable terrain
Ecological succession describes the change in species composition in natural communities following disturbance. Although general patterns are understood, there is little documentation of the very earliest stages of succession, immediately following disturbance. This is especially true for the lowland forests of New Guinea, a tropical area prone to natural disturbance from landslides. This proposal tests the hypothesis that New Guinea experiences higher than average rates of natural disturbance compared to other tropical areas. Furthermore, the proposal investigates seed and seedling dynamics immediately following disturbance to document baseline changes in patterns of tree species composition. The proposal takes advantage of high resolution satellite imagery to locate and map forest disturbance across the northern lowlands of New Guinea. It also establishes a network of small plots for tracking the very earliest stages of ecological succession in a tropical rainforest. This will be the first large-scale, empirical documentation of natural disturbance on the understudied island of New Guinea. As such, the project is an important contribution to global models of carbon sequestration since New Guinea contains the world’s third largest area of tropical wilderness.

Physical Sciences

Theophilus Benson
Assistant Professor of Computer Science

Democratizing Web Performance: Principled Measurements and Optimizations for Performance in Developing Regions
Mobile devices have become the primary mode of Internet access in both developed and developing countries. Yet, in developing regions, driven by their low cost, mobile devices are often equipped with small memory sizes and slow CPUs. For example, according to a recent study of mobile devices in Pakistan, 90% of devices were equipped with at most 1024MB of RAM, and 89% had 1GHz or slower processors. Despite the prevalence of such low-end devices in these markets, there are few systematic studies of the differences between web performance on low-end and high-end smartphones. Additionally, we lack principled techniques to analyze and improve performance on these low-end phones. The goal of this proposal is to fill this vital gap.  First, using low-end smartphones prevalent in developing regions, we will conduct a large-scale measurement study to identify bottleneck resources (e.g., CPU, memory, and network) in the page load process and analyze how these bottlenecks may change over time based on device characteristics, network connectivity, server configuration and page structure. The insights from this study will help in understanding the effectiveness of various infrastructure design choices (e.g., the role of CDNs), operating system principles (e.g., Android One) and page load optimization techniques (e.g., Polaris) for developing regions.  Second, we will develop a set of data-driven optimizations that enables, both large providers, e.g., Facebook, and small and local startups, to leverage our insights and improve end-user performance. In designing these optimizations, we will explore various architectural design choices to enable efficient continuous analysis of large data sets while providing fine-grained control over end-user connection characteristics. 

George Konidaris
Assistant Professor of Computer Science

Machine Learning for Solar Tracking
Solar panel tracking improves the solar panel energy production by pointing them towards the sun throughout the day. Existing tracking algorithms compute the location of the sun in the sky via astronomical calculations, and move solar panels to match that angle. However, these calculations do not account for reflective and diffuse radiance or weather conditions that impact the efficiency of tracking algorithms. We reframe the problem of collecting energy from the sun as a contextual bandit problem, where the solar panel is controlled by a learning program attempting to maximize the "reward" (i.e. energy) it collects. A small working group of graduate and undergraduate students at Brown has performed extensive simulated experiments in a variety of scenarios, indicating that in many locations on the Earth contextual bandit approaches outperform existing baselines. The group has also constructed a small, low-cost prototype of a single-axis solar tracking system, leading to preliminary results and publications accepted to RLDM, EnviroInfo, and IAAI conferences. Moving forward, our proposed goals are threefold: (1) construct a larger, more reliable dual-axis tracker to validate our approach over longer timescales (2) develop advanced algorithmic solutions for contextual bandit problems, with sustainability as a motivating application and (3) expand our computational sustainability working group within the AI/robotics research labs at Brown. We aim to place Brown at the forefront of computational sustainability research, combining our existing focus on socially-conscious robotics with computational efforts to ameliorate environmental problems facing modern society.

Kemp Plumb
Assistant Professor of Physics

Investigating a new class of spin-orbit entangled quantum materials
Quantum materials are solids with macroscopic properties that are manifestly quantum mechanical. The most extreme example is a quantum spin liquid, a state of matter where the spins of localized electrons in a solid material become entangled and continue to fluctuate even at zero temperature. Low energy defects in this quantum entangled state behave as strange quantum-mechanical “quasi-particles.” For example, energetic defects in the Kitaev spin liquid that may be found in insulating honeycomb lattice magnets have the properties of Majorana fermions, these are particles that are their own antiparticle.  Pairs of such defects may be created and measured in laboratory experiments and their controlled manipulation could enable future technologies which encode information in their quantum state. Thus, the search for quantum spin liquids is motivated both by fundamental physics, because they enable the exploration of new realms of many-body quantum phenomena, and from a technological perspective, because of the promise of solid-state quantum information technologies. The objective of this project is to synthesize and characterize a new class of heavy transition metal-based quantum materials where the crystal lattice geometry, strong electronic correlations, and strong spin-orbit coupling conspire to promote quantum fluctuations. The many body quantum states of newly synthesized model materials will be explored using neutron and x-ray scattering. This work will support a growing effort in quantum materials research at Brown and form the foundation of a broader program to uncover the fundamental principles underlying collective quantum phenomena in strongly correlated materials.

Jonathan Pober
Assistant Professor of Physics

Demonstrating the Impact of New Analysis Techniques for Neutral Hydrogen Cosmology
Neutral hydrogen cosmology is a powerful new probe of our universe. These observations are hindered, however, by the presence of numerous, bright, interfering signals. The research proposed here focuses on the development of a new analysis technique that uses advanced statistical methods to separate the cosmological emission from contaminants. Brown is a partner institution of the Hydrogen Epoch of Reionization Array (HERA), a new experiment currently under construction, looking to measure this neutral hydrogen signal. HERA has the potential to transform our knowledge of the universe, but advanced techniques, such as the one proposed here, will be necessary for extracting this information from these measurements. This award will be used to support computing hardware to enable the operation and development of this new analysis in-house at Brown. This investment would put the university at the forefront of this field, ready to make an impact as soon as data from new experiments like HERA arrive, as well as in prime position to compete for future investment from funding agencies. 

Public Health

Elizabeth Aston
Assistant Professor of Behavioral and Social Sciences (Research)

Marijuana Vaporization: An Ecological Momentary Assessment Pilot Study
Vaporization of marijuana, or “vaping,” is rapidly becoming a prevalent mode of administration in the wake of legal and political shifts surrounding marijuana. Vaping prevalence is expected to continue to rise as device availability and popularity grows, and the market profitability will be prioritized without consideration of public health implications, as seen with electronic cigarettes. Unfortunately, several basic questions about vaping remain unanswered including: when, where, and why do individuals vape, how much do they consume, and for whom is vaping most problematic? This pilot study aims to utilize novel ecological momentary assessment methodologies to examine vaping in “real time” from users in their natural environment during a 30-day monitoring period. The study will use an observational within-subjects design of 15 frequent marijuana users who have experience vaping marijuana oil. Participants will be provided with a cutting-edge, handheld vaporizer that wirelessly records vaping consumption data in real-time that syncs with a mobile-application that can capture what happens in-the-moment when individuals vape. The following primary specific aims are proposed: (1) Examine frequency of marijuana vaping within- and across-days; (2) Examine quantity of marijuana consumption while vaping; (3) Examine where vaping occurs; and (4) Examine precipitants to use, including situational, cognitive, and emotional factors. An exploratory aim is to examine individual differences that influence vaping, including age, medical user status, and presence of psychopathology. This funding will facilitate innovative and significant research and will provide the necessary pilot data for an NIH R01 grant.

Jon Steingrimsson
Assistant Professor of Biostatistics

Deep Learning for Incomplete Data: Individualized Treatment Decisions for Breast Cancer Patients
Standard models predicting risk for breast cancer patients commonly only use a few clinical markers and a few hormone receptor statuses. Recently assembled databases on breast cancer patients often include high dimensional biomarkers such as genetic or molecular variables. There is need for models which can utilize these high dimensional data structures and capture the potentially complex and non-linear effects these markers have on survival. Prediction models built using deep learning have had enormous success when trained on high dimensional databases. One major obstacle to using deep learning to analyze health data is that the outcome of interest is commonly only partially observed, due to dropout from studies or participants not experiencing the event of interest before the end of the study. This proposal uses semi-parametric efficiency theory to develop methods to appropriately deal with such incomplete outcomes when building risk prediction models using deep learning. The developed methodology will be applied to predicting risk for breast cancer patients.


Biological and Life Sciences

Scott AnderBois
Assistant Professor of Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences


Multi-purpose corpora for modern Mayan languages
Organized collections of annotated written and spoken language use from various genres (corpora) are important tools for linguistic research of various kinds. For languages where primary materials are lacking, corpus building can only take place along with the development of these materials. We propose a novel approach to corpus-building in such languages, making use of modern database and user interface computing to create a collections of spoken and written language that can be displayed in different ways depending on the needs of researchers, educators, and other kinds of users. The project develops this idea through the construction of a user interface along with pilot corpora in two modern Mayan languages: a smaller corpus of spoken Kaqchikel and a larger corpus of written Yucatec Maya. Mayan languages represent an ideal test case since they are relatively research-rich compared to most endangered languages, both in terms of prior linguistic documentation and in terms of the amount of native speakers who have interest and training in linguistics (including two collaborators on the project). In the long term, then, the extensible and flexible nature of proposed infrastructure will promote the crowd-sourcing of corpus construction for Mayan languages, meeting the needs of both researchers and language users.

Eric Darling
Associate Professor of Medical Science, Associate Professor of Engineering, Associate Professor of Orthopaedics


Visualizing gene expression in MRI
Gene expression is used extensively to describe cellular characteristics and behaviors; however, most assessment methods are unsuitable for living samples, requiring destructive processes such as fixation or lysis. Recently, nucleotide-based molecular beacons have become a viable tool for live-cell imaging of gene expression/mRNA. Unfortunately, standard, fluorescence-based beacons are severely limited for in vivo imaging due to light penetration issues. The current proposal seeks to synthesize and apply a novel, magnetically resonant molecular beacon to detect specific mRNA molecules via magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). We have already developed a biologically compatible synthesis scheme to create a first-generation beacon using fluorine-19 resonance as a reporter that can be broadened, or turned “off,” via paramagnetic relaxation enhancement (PRE) from a nitroxide radical spin label. This beacon is “on” when thermally denatured or hybridized to its complementary nucleotide sequence. Signal intensity scales with concentration, allowing detection of mRNA abundance. The proposed project involves synthesis and optimization of a beacon containing three-times the number of fluorine reporters, which will substantially increase the signal-to-noise ratio of the beacon. Preliminary experiments using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) have shown the functionality of prototype beacons, but translation to a more practical format (e.g., MRI) requires a scale-up of material synthesis and funded time in Brown’s imaging core facilities. The ultimate goal of this project is to obtain data showing feasibility for detecting mRNA molecules in MRI. Experiments will begin with solution-based tests, then progress to in-cell measurements, and ultimately to whole animal evaluations.

Mamiko Yajima
Assistant Professor (Research) of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry


Optogenetic approach to control sub-cellular localization of developmental regulators
Regulating protein functions with spatio-temporal precision is an essential biological strategy for many cells to accurately control their functions and fate determinations during animal development. “Localized translation on the mitotic spindle” serves as one of such mechanisms: Proteins are synthesized and function immediately on site for mitotic regulation and/or for delivery to daughter cells with high fidelity. This mechanism is important in embryonic cells and in cancer cells, both of which proliferate quickly. Mechanisms of this biological event have been, however, opaque due to limited analyses of sub-cellular manipulations. The proposed research develops an optogenetic approach to manipulate sub-cellular localization of an essential regulator in development: Vasa, an RNA helicase. The PI’s group previously identified that Vasa is present on the spindle of every blastomere during mitosis, and is involved in a majority (~80%) of general protein synthesis during embryogenesis. A similar dynamics are seen in selected cancer cells. Further, its expression at the plasma membrane facilitates ectopic mRNA translation, causing developmental failure in the resulting embryo. Based on these observations, the PI hypothesizes that Vasa on the spindle may regulate localized mRNA translation during mitosis, assisting sufficient protein synthesis during rapid embryonic/cancer cell divisions. To test this hypothesis directly, the proposed research will develop a method to dissect the functions of Vasa at each sub-cellular region and identify if/how its sub-cellular level of activities contributes to cell regulation. This approach should then be widely useful for many other regulators and cell types to understand cellular compartments more effectively.

Physical Sciences

Jiji Fan
Assistant Professor of Physics


Applying astrophysical data to test the complexity of the dark world
Eighty-five percent of the total matter in cosmos is made up of some invisible substance, which we know very little of and thus refer to as "dark matter." The existence of dark matter is one of the biggest mysteries in the universe and any progress towards unveiling its identity will enhance human knowledge deeply. The usual response to dark matter in the science community is to turn to the minimal models of a single cold, collisionless particle. Still, confronted with the richness and complexity of the visible world around us, it is tantalizing to imagine that the dark world could be similarly complex, full of structures, forces, and matter that are invisible to us. One might hope that a whole sector of the dark universe as rich as our own exists just out of sight. The project will demonstrate that this imaginative idea should be taken seriously as a testable hypothesis. Fan aims at developing non-minimal models with non-trivial dark matter dynamics such as dissipation and collective phenomena, which could lead to complex structures in the dark world, e.g, a dark disk and dark stars; and applying Gaia satellite data, which will be released in 2017, to test these theories. The project will serve as the first step toward exploring a plethora of new possibilities for dark matter dynamics. It will also help bridge all the local dark matter scientific efforts at Brown to make a global impact.

Timothy Herbert
Henry L. Doherty Professor of Oceanography, Professor of Environmental Studies, Professor of Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences


Investigating ocean-climate interactions through novel isotopic measurements
Reconstructing the past cycling of water on the planet's surface is a challenging, but essential goal of paleoclimatology.  We propose to ground-truth the application of a new method to this problem, based on the stable isotope ratios of Deuterium to Hydrogen (D/H) in organic molecules ("alkenones") synthesized by marine algae.  We take advantage of analytical and environmental expertise developed at Brown over the last decade related to the use of alkenones in paleoclimatology.  We request funds to cover analytical costs of stable isotope analyses at Brown that will verify that alkenone D/H faithfully reflects modern environmental water D/H patterns in the ocean.  Once this study has been completed and published, Brown will be in a unique position to grab one of the "brass rings" in our field- one with applications to understanding controls on past sea levels, glacier stability, variations in river run-off to the ocean, and more.

Andrew Peterson
Assistant Professor of Engineering


Coupling surface reactivity with bulk oxidation to catalytically reform biomolecules
Renewable fuels face a scalability limitation, and most estimates suggest that the US could sustainably replace only about a third of current transportation fuel demand with carbon-neutral alternatives using today's technologies. This project aims to develop solar-enriched biofuels that can augment the energy content in unconventional biomass resources to produce a fuel with a net energy content 2-3 times greater than those made with traditional biofuel reforming processes, thus offering a solution to the scalability issue. Our approach takes advantage of oxidizable metals which can serve as both an oxygen sink and a reactive surface for bio-molecule deoxygenation; this chemical reduction process increases the energy carrying capacity of the fuel. The reactive metal is subsequently regenerated with an external thermo(-electric) energy source, such as solar thermal or nuclear, which serves as secondary carbon-neutral energy input, thus allowing a greater total fuel yield. In this project, we will examine the theoretical underpinnings of this process, ultimately correlating surface reactivity of these materials with their bulk oxidation energy. This will allow us to develop design principles for the advancement of this technology, and by coupling technological relevance with hypothesis-driven science, will advantage our group for external funding opportunities.

Jerome Robinson
Assistant Professor of Chemistry


Water- and Acid- Tolerant Lanthanide/Transition-Metal Bimetallic Systems as Catalysts for Oxygen Reduction
In Nature, the use of oxygen as a controlled chemical oxidant is accomplished by metalloenzyme active sites composed of abundant first-row transition metals such as Mn, Fe, and Cu; however, the development of biomimetic systems which display comparable or enhanced reactivity profiles remain a significant challenge. Lanthanide and rare-earth metals are exceptionally strong Lewis-acids, and have recently been shown to increase the rate of oxygen reduction by seven orders of magnitude. Unfortunately, these applications have required the stoichiometric addition of these elements, rendering their application unsustainable and impractical for areas like the efficient generation of carbon-neutral energy carriers (chemical energy storage) for intermittent renewable energy sources such as solar and wind.

The objective of our study is to develop modular water- and acid-tolerant lanthanide/transition-metal bimetallic systems for catalytic oxygen reduction. We expect these systems will enable oxygen reactivity tunable through appropriate choice of tether and metal binding pockets. Furthermore, the modular nature of these systems and mechanistic-driven reaction optimization will enable guiding design principles for bimetallic oxygen reactivity and provide fundamental understanding of reactive lanthanide oxygen species. Systems demonstrating desired reactivity will be further explored as primary components in chemical energy storage systems and novel green oxidants.

James Tompkin
Assistant Professor of Computer Science


Interactive Light Field Inpainting 
Light field imaging uses camera arrays or microlens arrays to capture a scene from many different angles. As such, it is arguably the only viable medium for realistic photo and video presentation for virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR). With the forthcoming introduction of professional light field cameras, and with the emergence of camera arrays on smartphones, light field imagery is likely to be prominent within the next 5 years. However, being a nascent format, one problem is that the medium has very few tools for editing. While some works attempt to extend existing 2D metaphors for light field editing, they neglect the opportunity to directly manipulate scenes in light field space. For intuitive and high quality editing of light field imagery, new advances are needed in light field segmentation, matting, and inpainting--these must exploit the inherent underlying structure in the light field data. Further, user tests assessing the usability of manipulation tools for light fields are needed. The proposed research aims to use state-of-the-art hardware devices to display captured light field imagery, and with this develop new software to both process light fields into more easily editable forms, and to devise and test with users new interaction techniques and metaphors for simple editing of complex light field data, e.g., removing or repositioning scene objects without noticeable artifacts in the edited imagery.

Arts, Humanities, & Social Sciences

Andrea Flores
Assistant Professor of Education


Citizen Scholars: Civic Belonging and Latino Students' College Experiences in Tennessee
This project investigates the link between belonging in higher education and civic belonging for Latino students. Scholars have demonstrated the impact of K-12 schooling on diverse youth’s sense of civic belonging; yet, little research examines higher education or the perspectives of young adults. Additionally, while quantitative research demonstrates that diversity and inclusion programming is correlated with positive academic outcomes for diverse youth, we do not know either the experiential mechanisms through which that happens or the effect these experiences have beyond classrooms. This project’s ethnographic focus provides a person-centered understanding of that programming’s ramifications for youth’s broader lives. This pilot research supports a larger project for which the PI will seek external funding. In this stage, using semi-structured interviews and participant observation, the investigator will compare the experiences of two cohorts of Latino students enrolled in private colleges in Nashville, Tennessee. Data collected will elucidate how differences in institutional inclusionary practices are felt by students and potentially affect their sense of civic belonging.  The project is methodologically innovative within educational studies’ approaches to higher education and theoretically original regarding social scientific understandings of how civic belonging is forged. Brown will benefit in three ways: 1) the project may lead to external funding; 2) the research has the potential to inform inclusion efforts on college campuses; 3) the advancement of the PI’s career will enhance the position of the units with which she is affiliated (Education; Population Studies and Training Center; Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies).

Kym Moore
Associate Professor of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies


Time's Up!
Time's Up! is an original multimedia performance I have been devising in collaboration with Professor Todd Winkler since June 2013. The piece explores the relationship between "perception" and "reality" by incorporating interactive media to explore the hidden dimensions of cross-cultural, gender normative, and human relationships.  Professor Winkler is planning to write a paper about our early research, and is no longer directly involved with the project.  The funds I am requesting are meant to pay for the production team to attend the SIBU International Theater Festival in Romania next June 2018. Festival organizers have extended an invitation to attend the festival, but are unable to provide round trip airfare for the production team. Once in Romania all expenses will be paid by the festival.  Attending the festival will be the culminating event in a research process that has been developing over the past four years.  As you will see in the proposal outline, there have been multiple iterations of the piece and this final revision is confirmation that it is ready for public release.  The benefit to Brown is recognition of the university's commitment to academic and creative innovation. Festival organizers were especially interested in presenting this piece as a way of introducing this approach to multimedia performance to the European community. Such wide spread exposure is also likely to make an impact in the field at large because of the way in which this work foregrounds a whole new approach to incorporating interactive media in live performance.

Paul Nahme
Dorot Assistant Professor of Judaic Studies and Assistant Professor of Religious Studies


A Minor Secularity: The German Jews of Weimar Between Race and Religion
This project aims to identify the interrelationship between racializing discourse—the institutions, epistemologies, and scientific regimes that produce and manage racial difference—and the religious beliefs, practices, and identities managed by state secularism. By turning to the historical experience of Jews living in Weimar Germany as a period of social and political crisis now commonly invoked in comparison to our own as a time of irredentist identitarianism, essentialism, and scientific justifications for racism, I suggest that Weimar evokes more than just a convenient analogy. The Jews also represent a case study of what can happen to minorities trying to negotiate the institutionalization of racialized and religiously exclusivist language and norms when such belief structures triumph over rationalizing liberal discourse. But I suggest that this particular history also serves as a resource for theorizing new ways of understanding the relationship between religious and racial identities in a world of resurgent nationalisms. This research project therefore not only aims to advance research in the field of Jewish thought and culture, but also to serve as a critical intervention into one of the most vexed and politically significant conversations facing the global humanities: the relationship between race, religion, and politics.

Itohan Osayimwese
Assistant Professor of History of Art and Architecture


Ruins and Remittances: Contemporary Architectures in the Anglo-Caribbean
This project investigates the emergence of a contemporary built environment characterized by incompleteness--a landscape of ruins--in the English-speaking Caribbean. It interprets this development in relation to 1) historical and contemporary patterns of emigration, return migration, and flows of capital associated with these movements; 2) the tourism industry and its volatile economic system; 3) patterns of land tenure and ownership that have their roots in the rigidly stratified plantation societies of the past. The project is significant because it focuses attention on a region that has been almost completely ignored in Euro-American architectural history scholarship. Furthermore, the project builds on recent attempts to explore architecture's relationship to modes of production, finance, and regulation. This project will renew and extend an earlier Caribbean research focus in Brown's History of Art & Architecture Department and make it one of three major research programs in Caribbean architectural history in the United States.

Jayanti Owens
Mary Tefft and John Hazen White, Sr. Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs and Sociology


Exclusionary Discipline: Racial Disparities in How Teachers Evaluate and Sanction Misbehavior
School suspension and expulsion predict school dropout, juvenile detention, adult incarceration, and recidivism. Male students and non-white students face more exclusionary discipline: by grade 12, 20% of Black boys are suspended out-of-school, compared to 12% of Black girls, 9% of Hispanic boys, and 6% of White boys.

Neither a higher incidence of misbehavior among Black boys nor their lower responsiveness to non-exclusionary sanctions, like tutoring and counseling, fully accounts for this gap. Scholars have proposed teacher bias as a possible explanation: teachers might sanction Black boys, and other students, more readily and more severely for the same behaviors. This hypothesis has received little empirical attention.

This project investigates teacher bias in both evaluations of and reactions to misbehavior using a video vignette experiment that involves different kinds of students committing identical infractions. A diverse national sample of teachers view randomly assigned, videotaped infractions, then rate the behavior and report their likely reaction. Responses are analyzed by the characteristics of the students and the teachers. Finally, the proposed experiment also tests an intervention for reducing bias.

This project sheds light on: (a) whether teacher bias helps explain disciplinary disparities; (b) the mechanisms that lead to harsher sanctioning of some students (i.e., perceptions of the same behaviors); and (c) the factors magnifying bias, like student--teacher race and gender pairings or school disciplinary policies, and (d) the contexts most conducive to a promising new discipline intervention that involves promoting an empathetic mindset. Results will help guide teacher training and school disciplinary policy.

Stratis Papaioannou
Associate Professor of Classics


Critical Edition of an Eleventh-Century Byzantine Collection of Letters
The collection of ca. 520 private letters that Michael Psellos sent to a network of friends and patrons is a landmark of personal literature from the Middle Ages. A professional public speaker, ingenious teacher, and influential courtier in eleventh-century Constantinople (Byzantine Empire), Psellos has been regarded as one of the most important Byzantine authors. His letter-collection stands at the peak of a long tradition of Greek letter-writing as an exquisite literary form in which writers displayed their learning, expressed personal emotions, and narrated autobiographical stories. Letters were also used as tools for social advancement. As such, apart from its literary value, Psellos’ letters are a major source for the social history of Constantinople at a time that this grand city was a vibrant center of power, economy, and culture in the wider Mediterranean world. Finally, the collection is a major document for the history of gender and interpersonal relations, as Psellos often constructs highly intricate images of friendship, affection, and love. The project that will be funded by the Salomon Award is devoted to the completion of the critical edition of this collection, based on ca. 40 Byzantine and post-Byzantine manuscripts. The work which will be published in two volumes by De Gruyter (Berlin and Boston).


Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Joseph Butch Rovan
Professor of Music


The Globe: a New Gestural Interface for Interactive Performance
My research and creative work over the past several years have focused on the expressive potential of human gesture. This broad area of inquiry takes a number of specific forms, from the creation of new music and video pieces to the design of software and hardware for interactive performance. In all these endeavors I am concerned with exploring the limits of human-computer interaction and harnessing the body’s movement to enable new forms of musical expression. This avenue of research has led me to the field of new musical instrument design. I perform internationally on new instruments of my own design; my teaching is highly focused on this area; and I am working with Brown’s Technology Ventures Office to commercialize one of the new instruments that developed in my lab. Among these new instruments is the Globe, a luminescent orb that fits in the hand and responds to velocity, acceleration, pressure, and proximity. To perform with the Globe requires a form of choreography, and as a musician performing with the Globe I have found myself pushed in the direction of a hybrid form of music-dance. Now I plan to put this new instrument directly in the hands of dancers, moving it away from the strictly musical sphere to explore the choreographic potential of the Globe. My proposed project involves both technical and creative components: 1) redesigning the hardware and software of the Globe, and 2) collaborating with a dancer/choreographer to create a new interactive dance work that uses the Globe as the gestural interface for real-time control of sound and image.

Leslie Thornton
Professor of Modern Culture and Media


Spark (The Great Invisible)
Support is requested for final production and post-production costs of a feature-length film project. Set in Algeria, (Spark) is an experimental narrative that spans a period of 120 years. It blends fiction and documentary in a film about ‘outsider’ women, that is, women who conduct their lives in a manner that goes against the grain of their time and society. The core narrative centers on the infamous 19th Century traveler and adventuress Isabelle Eberhardt, who fled Europe for Algeria in 1901, reinventing herself as a Sufi man. She has been a touchstone in several of my films that take up questions of Orientalism, historiography and gender. (Spark) calls upon her persona in counterpoint to contemporary women who are her cultural peers, who are passionate, who transgress, who live at risk, and in today’s climate, enjoy far less freedom. The entwined and overlapping stories of the film push equally at linear and vertical narrative dimensions. In (Spark) we are drawn into the cauldron of storytelling; we experience sparks that ignite each other and dissipate, across the depicted subjects and within the narrative construction itself. This will be my first feature-length narrative film, opening avenues to a larger audience. This is a culminating work resulting from over 30 years of teaching and collaboration with students and alumni.

Katherine Mason
Assistant Professor of Anthropology


Bundles of Sorrow: Family Experiences of Perinatal Mood Disorders in the U.S. And China
This project seeks to relocate the study of perinatal mood disorders (including prenatal and postpartum depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder) to the home environment, and to examine these disorders as shared family experiences, as opposed to just individual psychiatric conditions. It also seeks to broaden our understanding of the experiences of perinatal distress to a wide range of families across cultural, ethnic, and socioeconomic divides. The project will use qualitative research techniques of participant observation and open-ended interviews with women and their family members to build a comprehensive understanding of the entire family ecology of perinatal mood disorders. The proposed pilot project will be the first stage of a larger, multi-sited ethnographic project for which the PI will seek external funding. In the pilot stage the investigator will compare the experiences of the families of women diagnosed with postpartum depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder in the U.S. and China.

Kerry Smith
Associate Professor of History


Saving Tokyo from Itself
I am nearing completion of a book on the rise of earthquake prediction and disaster science in modern Japan, and am requesting funding for a brief trip this coming January to archives and libraries in Tokyo to resolve questions specific to one of the key episodes in the study. The manuscript focuses on Japanese scientists’ efforts to translate their growing knowledge of the risks and hazards that earthquakes posed to the nation into persuasive narratives and effective policies - and the popular responses to those efforts - from the early 20th century to the near present. The episode in question revolves around seismologist Kawasumi Hiroshi’s attempts beginning in the mid-1960s to convince Tokyo’s government and its residents that their city was on the verge of being struck by a devastating earthquake. Kawasumi’s reputation and credentials were impeccable, and his warnings forced city officials and urban planners to explain how they would prepare the metropolis to withstand the coming catastrophe. The tension between what “disaster experts” knew or thought they knew about the hazards the nation faced, and the state’s reluctance to acknowledge that such risks existed is especially evident in the debates that followed. A focused research trip to Tokyo will make it possible to finish a key chapter in the book, and in so doing establish that the hurried preparations triggered by “Kawasumi’s earthquake” reveal a significant shift in the nation’s thinking about future disasters, and about scientists’ claims that they were best equipped to map the safest way forward. 

Sarah Thomas
Assistant Professor of Hispanic Studies


The Filmic Child: Childhood, Temporality, and the Self in Spanish Cinema
Across borders of nation and genre, the child in film serves as a potentially universalizing figure to which a broad range of spectators can connect – or project fantasies or anxieties upon – using their own childhood memories and experiences. It is therefore surprising that this figure has only just begun to attract substantial attention in cinema studies, largely since the turn of the present century. Recent critical engagements attest to a growing acknowledgement of the child as a subject not only worthy of study, but also one that raises key questions about identity, subjectivity, temporality, emotion, and knowledge. Spain’s transition to democracy, a historical moment currently under scholarly and popular re-evaluation, provides a paradigmatic case for understanding the appeal of the child onscreen, particularly in moments of social or political crisis. I argue that the child’s persistent and troubling presence in this cinema enables engaging with broader questions of the relationship between self and other, as well as the limits of knowledge. My book, The Filmic Child: Childhood, Temporality, and the Self in Spanish Cinema analyzes eight films by three of Spain’s most important directors of the period (Carlos Saura, Víctor Erice, and Jaime de Armiñán). I draw from a varied theoretical framework to explore how the filmic child emerges as a figure that destabilizes easy understanding of the self, the other, and the historical past. While historically anchored in Spain’s transitional period, my analysis opens broader avenues for theorizing the child’s presence in cinema beyond its borders, contributing to wider conversations about the child in film from a number of national contexts, especially those of the post-dictatorship. The generous support of the Salomon Award will fund a trip to Madrid in fall 2016 for final research before I submit the manuscript: consulting films only available for viewing in the Filmoteca Española, examining non-digitized press reviews and the original film scripts in the Spanish National Library, and if possible, interviewing some of the directors whose works I explore.

Debbie Weinstein
Assistant Professor of American Studies


Why War?: A History of Human Nature in Modern American Thought
This project examines the intertwined histories of modern American thought about human nature and the nature of war. By tracing the shifting efforts by twentieth-century behavioral scientists to understand war in terms of human nature, my research asks how the meanings and limits of notions of human nature have evolved in concert with the political and scientific upheavals that marked twentieth-century America. My project is framed, on the one end, by early twentieth-century studies of the eugenic, physiological, and psychoanalytic underpinnings for war in the years surrounding the Great War, and on the other end, by recent debates about the implications of primatology and evolutionary psychology for understanding societal conflict in an age of an ongoing War on Terror. The diverse episodes in my project have received separate historical attention, but the relationships among them remain unexamined. My research further considers how the question "why war" garnered popular attention in films, advice literature, newspaper articles, and other facets of twentieth-century US cultural history. Financial support from a Salomon Award will enable me to conduct the major archival research for the project.

Biological Sciences, Life Sciences & Public Health 

Alexandra Deaconescu
Assistant Professor of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry 


Mechanistic Basis for Stress-Induced Transcriptional Reprogramming of Bacteria via Anti-Adaptor Proteins
Under stress conditions or in the stationary phase, bacteria mount a general stress response orchestrated by the RpoS factor, a dissociable promoter recognition subunit of RNA polymerase that directs the expression of a large subset of genes in different environments.  The control of intracellular RpoS levels is thus crucial for appropriately scaled and regulated transcriptional programs that are triggered by a variety of environmental cues. One strategy utilized to achieve this control relies on the ability of anti-adaptor proteins to stabilize RpoS against degradation by the ClpXP machinery. This is accomplished through interactions of anti-adaptor proteins that inhibit RpoS degradation. Interestingly, anti-adaptors, induced by different stress signals, share no sequence homology and have limited homology with proteins of known structure, raising questions about how they function. The project proposed here integrates concepts from molecular biology, biochemistry and structural biology to elucidate the structure and function of anti-adaptors involved in the DNA damage response. Our studies have direct relevance for the formation of biofilms, complex communities of bacteria that are able to better withstand challenges such as antibiotics, biocides, phagocytosis and dessication compared to their planktonic counterparts, and which have been estimated to be involved in 80% of all infections.

Wen-Qing Li
Assistant Professor of Dermatology and Epidemiology


Clinical and genetic epidemiology of atypical nevi
Atypical nevi (AN) are described as being on a continuum between common acquired melanocytic nevi (MN) and melanoma, and are recognized as strong risk factors and precursors of melanoma. The etiology underlying AN remains largely unknown but is believed to involve the interplays of genetic, environmental, and host factors. Based on a well-established men’s cohort, the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS), we propose to prospectively determine the associations between environmental and host characteristics and risk of incident AN. We will examine measures of sun exposure, MN, and pigmentary traits (hair color, eye color, and sunburn susceptibility) in relation to the risk of incident AN. We will conduct a genome-wide association study (GWAS) to identify the genetic susceptibility, and the effect modification and medication by other factors, associated with AN. The HPFS (n=51,529) has confirmed diagnosis of AN (expected n>3500) during the follow-up, detailed data on host and environmental factors prospectively collected, and available GWAS data, which provides with the ideal setting to address our goals. Our proposed study would be the first epidemiologic study to comprehensively and prospectively determine the interplays of environmental, host, and genetic factors associated with the risk of AN. This study would shed light on etiology of AN and melanoma and has potential to improve targeting of melanoma prevention and management at an early stage. Clarifying the etiology in the cascade of MN, AN, and melanoma by integrating the genetic, environmental, and host characteristics will contribute substantially and uniquely to the precision prevention and management of melanoma.

Kali Thomas
Assistant Professor of Health Services, Policy & Practice (Research)


Constructing a Longitudinal Database Spanning Multiple Settings of Care for Older Adults with Traumatic Brain Injury
There is little information available on the predictors of long-term prognosis of older patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI). Without this information, clinical decision-making and discharge planning will be limited thereby preventing ideal patient-centered, cost-effective, and appropriate care for older patients with TBI. The objective of this proposal is to create a longitudinal database that follows older patients with TBI across multiple healthcare settings. The team will use deterministic and probabilistic matching to merge data from the National Trauma Data Bank, the largest aggregation of national trauma registry data, with Medicare claims, the Minimum Data Set and the Inpatient Rehabilitation Facility Patient Assessment Instrument thereby innovatively creating a national cohort of older patients with TBI that can be followed from hospital admission through post-acute care (PAC) discharge. The rationale that underlies this proposed research is that having these novel, linked data allow us to examine predictors of improvement in physical and cognitive function, PAC therapies provided to patients, and subsequent healthcare utilization and outcomes that could impact care for older patients with TBI. In addition, this work provides the first step in a continuum of research to be proposed in a future R01 grant application that is expected to elucidate the comparative effectiveness of different types and intensities of PAC therapies, and differences in treatment and outcomes among various subgroups of older adults with TBI. Consequently, Brown University will position itself as the leader in research on the outcomes of older adults with TBI.

Shipra Vaishnava
Assistant Professor of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology


Regulation of gut microbiome biogeography
Clinical and experimental evidence strongly links intestinal flora with the pathogenesis of chronic bowel inflammation. However attempts to identify specific changes of the intestinal flora that are associated with chronic inflammation have either failed or are inconsistent. It is likely that the intestinal flora is structurally organized and so far large-scale sequence analysis of intestinal microbiota that uses fecal biota or entire intestinal luminal content as a surrogate for looking at gut microflora changes have failed to pick up changes in bacterial organization within the intestinal lumen as a key feature of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). This study seeks to develop novel strategies to determine the localization of bacterial communities transversely within the mammalian intestine and provide novel insights into intestinal microbiome assembly and structure. Studying the spatial relationships between intestinal microbiota and host tissues and the underlying immune mechanisms that maintain this symbiosis should have a far reaching effect on understanding the role of bacterial communities in human physiology, nutrition and immunity. The research proposed in this application will promote the development of an experimental pipeline for studying host associated microbial communities at Brown University. It will set up a framework for future work on looking at the role of microbial communities in health and disease and that could rapidly be extended to translational studies in collaboration with the medical school.

Ashley Webb
Assistant Professor of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry & Neurology


Elucidation of the mechanisms that govern human neurogenesis
Neural stem cells (NSCs) are the source of new neurons in the adult brain, including the human brain. These cells provide a potential source for regenerative therapies to treat age-related neurodegenerative diseases. Yet the mechanisms by which quiescent NSCs are activated to form new neurons in the human remain undiscovered. This is in part due to the lack of an established system for culturing quiescent human NSCs. The goal of this proposal is to identify the specific genes and pathways that govern human NSC function and use this information to establish an in vitro model to study human neurogenesis. This study will significantly advance the neural stem cell field and uniquely position our laboratory and Brown University to study the mechanisms of human NSC activation. The proposed work has the potential to transform our understanding of why neurogenesis declines with age in the human and lead to strategies that increase neuron formation in the aged or diseased brain.

Physical Sciences

Ou Chen
Assistant Professor of Chemistry


In-situ Real Time Study of Nanocrystal Superlattices under Pressure
Nanocrystals as a new class of materials is now poised for not only fundamental scientific research, but also for a widespread applications in advanced technologies. To further promote this new generation materials, the ability to fine-tune the inter-nanocrystal distances, and consequently enhance the near-field coupling between nanocrystals in their superstructure assemblies recently becomes critical in fabrication of nano-, meso- and macro-scale materials with novel and enhanced properties. However, this type of study has been hurdled by the difficulty of fine-tuning the inter-particle distance while maintaining their size-dependent properties (i.e., avoid coalescence). The overarching goal of this proposal is to exploit the use of high pressure as a novel means to precisely tune the inter-particle distance at angstrom level inside colloidal nanocrystal superlattices and superstructures from atomic to the nano- and meso-scales. Thus, the overall study will allow one to achieve: (1) new understanding of the nanocrystal superlattice formation mechanism in situ and in real time, (2) exploring the pressure tuned property change of nanocrystal superlattices, and (3) exploring new “pressure-sintered” nanocrystal superlattice architectures. Upon completion of the proposed research, we will be able to gain fundamental knowledge of the nanocrystal superlattice formation mechanism and the correlations between starting nanocrystal superlattice structures and “pressure-sintered’ new mesostructures. The structure-property correlations as functions of pressure and inter-particle-distance will be constructed. Eventually, this “pressure-sintering” approach will pave a new engineering avenue toward creation of undiscovered NC structures with novel and enhanced functionalities.

Jonghwan Lee
Assistant Professor of Engineering


Cellular viability imaging with dynamic light scattering optical coherence tomography
Normal functioning of cells critically depends on intracellular energy synthesis, and thus the energy metabolism-related cellular viability can be an important measurand in studies of various diseases. However, technologies for monitoring the cellular viability in living animal disease models are currently lacking. This project will test if our recently developed technology can provide a means to image the cellular viability with single-cell resolution. The technology was developed by integrating dynamic light scattering (DLS) with optical coherence tomography (OCT). DLS analyzes fluctuations in light scattered by particles to measure diffusion or flow of the particles, and OCT uses coherence gating to collect light only scattered from a small volume for high-resolution structural imaging. Thus, our integration of DLS and OCT enabled high-resolution 3D mapping of the diffusion coefficient and flow velocity. While intracellular organelles are known to exhibit energy-consuming motions, the degree of the motions is closely correlated with the cell’s energy synthesis and the motions look like a random walk in the confined intracellular space (i.e., being quantifiable by the diffusion coefficient). Therefore, the cellular viability could be quantitatively imaged by our DLS-OCT. The proposed pilot project will explore this possibility by imaging the intracellular motility and characterizing its responses to the environmental conditions such as the temperature and oxygen. When validated through this project, the technology will offer a unique tool for cellular viability imaging and enable many disease studies to monitor individual cells’ healthiness during disease progress or therapeutic treatment in stroke, epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s disease among others.

Jacob Rosenstein
Assistant Professor of Engineering


3-D Localization in Implantable Cardiac Defibrillators 
Cardiac arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat) are a major cause of morbidity and mortality and are linked to increased risk of stroke, heart attack, and sudden death. One important detail in their treatment is the fact that arrhythmias are often highly localized, and the effectiveness of therapies is often related to how precisely the arrhythmia can be pinpointed in three dimensions. Millions of Americans have implanted electronic cardiac rhythm management devices (pacemakers) to help detect and treat arrhythmias, but currently available implantable systems do not support localization. In this project, we will investigate opportunities for 3-D localization of arrhythmias using standard implanted pacing leads. An important goal of this project is to understand how accurately arrhythmias can be localized using the limited power budget available to implanted electronic devices. We will explore signal-processing approaches and low-power electronic hardware implementations, and simulate their performance using clinical 3-D electrogram datasets obtained from catheter mapping by Dr. Antony Chu at the Cardiovascular Institute of Rhode Island. Real-time geometric localization of cardiac arrhythmias could improve the efficacy of implanted pacemakers, reduce the frequency of defibrillation events, and provide clinicians with rich datasets for better heart disease management.

Environment and Sustainability

Jung-Eun Lee

Assistant Professor of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences

Quantifying leaf photosynthesis using solar-induced chlorophyll fluorescence and thermal imaging
Plant photosynthesis has profound implications for climate change mitigation, food security, and weather forecasting. Yet, we still lack the ability to accurately quantify and model the spatial and temporal variability of global photosynthesis, especially during the extreme climate events such as droughts. Recent developments in remote sensing of solar-induced fluorescence (SIF) provide a means to quantify the photosynthesis, however, the mechanistic relationship between fluorescence and photosynthesis remains elusive. We propose a bottom-up approach to understand the relationships among the three major outlets of absorbed solar radiation by leaves: photochemistry, fluorescence, and heat dissipation from the leaf scale. Specifically, the proposed research goals include 1) understanding the relationship between SIF, photosynthesis, and leaf temperature at the smallest scale relevant to remote sensing -- leaf scale. The measurements of SIF at the leaf scale was difficult as the weak SIF signal is washed out by much stronger reflected solar radiation from leaf surface. The methods currently being employed can only extract SIF at limited spectral regions. Our proposed project will develop a novel instrument that is capable of measuring the full SIF spectrum; 2) examine the universality of SIF-photosynthesis-leaf temperature relationship across various species, leaf growth stage, and particularly under water stress; 3) incorporate the mechanistic relationship into a land surface model to improve the simulation of photosynthesis. The new instrumentation will provide a fast and portable tool to understand plant photosynthesis. The improved understanding between SIF and photosynthesis will facilitate the use of satellite products to better quantify global vegetation activities.


Ariella Azoulay
Assistant Professor of Modern Culture and Media and Comparative Literature

A Visual Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Today, amidst an ever-growing abundance of photographs depicting the violation of human rights, this research project asks how we can visualize human rights differently. In the wake of WWII, a very particular type of photograph stood for a “human rights photograph.” In distinction from this particular type that I identified elsewhere as the embodiment of a sovereign gaze, in this project I propose to look for a civic gaze at human rights. In this project I approach the seminal exhibition The Family of Man (shown in 1955 at the MOMA) as a visual supplement to the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man (signed a few years earlier by UN member-states) and the photographs as a series of civic claims regarding that which should not be violated. My aim is to rethink the concept of universal-right and expand the repertoire of rights that can be reconstructed from it. I plan to study the images of the FOMin juxtaposition to an array of images from other places and through this juxtaposition to intervene in and shape the conditions of visibility of rights violations. I will show that images from the FOM are not only a far-from-ideal plurality of similar situations the world over as was often read, but are in fact records of people’s concrete conditions of living the world over. Through photography I propose to ask what are proper conditions and the degree of violation of the depicted situations such as dwelling, working, playing, learning and so forth. 

Andre Willis
Assistant Professor of Religious Studies


Afro-theisms and Post-democracy: A Progressive Philosophy of Black Spirituality
‘African American religion’ and its representative institutions have been a central source for activism that has significantly impacted the evolution and development of the American democratic experiment. Since 1965, however, the tradition of religiously inspired African American activism has dwindled as black peoples have become more integrated into political life in the US. Concurrently, ‘American democracy’ itself has become more controlled by business interests and corporate agendas: elections are increasingly considered little more than spectacles managed by marketers and widening gaps between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ have seemingly corrupted democracy’s promise. As a result, civic engagement has also declined, and the perception of democratic possibilities has shifted. Some thinkers have advanced the term ‘post democracy’ to capture this state of political being.

In light of these historical realities, this project is interested in how the revolutionary reserves of black American spirituality might respond to the current political and economic predicaments in the US. The influence of religious views in the public sphere has long led many to be concerned about the proper role for religion in a democratic society. Rather than ask “what is the place of religion in American public life?” I propose to explore how the socio-economic and political conditions might be framed so that we can conceptualize how African American religious traditions have been, and may yet be, used to revitalize democratic energies. Moving bi-directionally, this analysis aims to re-interpret the contemporary political moment in ways that demonstrate new possibilities for religiously inspired, racially progressive activism.

Rebecca Carter
Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Urban Studies


From Slavery to the Human Rights City: Confronting the Past while Planning the Future in Nantes, France 
This preliminary research examines the development and promotion of Nantes, France as a ‘human rights city.’ It considers the history of Nantes as France’s dominant port city in the triangular slave trade from the mid-17th to the mid-19th century juxtaposed with its current reputation for innovation, inclusivity, and sustainable growth. The research traces a national effort to remember and recognize the slave trade and slavery as crimes against humanity, particularly following the 2001 passage of the Taubira Law, and it examines the sites and actions in Nantes that stem from this legislation. Grounded in an urban anthropology that is simultaneously in and of ‘the city,’ the project focuses on the emergence of several distinct forms of public performance that modify, reimagine, and contest dominant framings of local history. These include the annual Marche des Esclaves (March of the Slaves), a living memorial in Nantes that reenacts an African slave procession from the city center to the wharf, and the recent performance of Le Mur de Planck, a three-day spectacle by the Nantes-based Royal de Luxe performance company featuring giant marionettes that move and dwell within the city streets while narrating a particularly complex history of Nantes. The research thus explores the possibility of the human rights city as individual subjectivities are linked through creative experience to large-scale historical, cultural, and political processes. It considers more broadly how this transpires in Atlantic port cities, where visions for an inclusive urban future must first recognize and come to terms with the past.

Elizabeth Fussell
Associate Professor of Population Studies (Research)    

Is Housing Damage and Displacement an Explanation for Population Change in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina?: An Analysis of the American Housing Survey in New Orleans, 2004-2009
Hurricane Katrina caused an unprecedented near complete evacuation and prolonged displacement of New Orleans’s residents. The selective return of residents and the arrival of new residents radically altered the city’s population size and composition: the population decreased by half in the first year after the disaster, and became “wealthier, older, and whiter” (Frey, Singer, and Park 2007; Fussell, Sastry and VanLandingham 2010). This is consistent with a well-established finding that members of low-income households, female headed households, and minority-headed households are all more vulnerable to losses and displacement after a disaster, a relationship that is hypothesized to be associated with their greater likelihood of renting, although this has not been empirically demonstrated (Fothergill, Maestas, and Darlington 1999). In this research I focus on housing damage and residential displacement as a mechanism that explains the recomposition of New Orleans’s population in the first four years after Hurricane Katrina. I will use the American Housing Survey for New Orleans which follows housing units from 2004 to 2009 and records changes in occupancy, housing unit and resident characteristics, and disaster impacts. This data is only available through a Census Research Data Center to protect residents’ identities. My main hypothesis is that ownership status is an important predictor of change in occupancy, even after taking into account pre-disaster housing quality and disaster-related housing damage, and because rental households are more likely to have low-incomes, female, or racial minority heads of household they were also more likely to be displaced. My investigation into this mechanism has practical implications for post-disaster housing policy as well as for a new scholarly research agenda on housing as a nexus for environment-population relationships.

Jennifer Lambe
Assistant Professor of History


(Post)colonial Confinement: Carceral Circuits of the Spanish Empire, 1840-1915
This project aims to trace the history of an institution at the very heart of late Spanish colonialism: the prison. Imprisonment in the Caribbean and Spain, seconded by deportation to penal colonies in Fernando Pó, Ceuta, and Chafarinas, represented a distressingly common fate for generations of political opponents of empire, including the highest echelons of the colonial elite. Internationally decried, these facilities further darkened the already dismal reputation of Spain on the world stage and, above all, in its remaining Caribbean colonies. Yet little has been written about the history of Spanish prisons, despite their evident importance to late imperial strategies of rule. We know even less about the experience of non-elite actors, many of whom found themselves shuttled among multiple nodes of the Spanish “carceral archipelago.” Strikingly, this network continued to operate as such even after the formal demise of Spanish empire, raising important questions about the legal and institutional transition to postcoloniality. With the generous funding of a Salomon Faculty Research Award, I propose to conduct preliminary archival research into the many carceral voyages forcibly undertaken by Spain’s colonial subjects, both before and after the end of empire.

Rebecca Weitz-Shapiro
Stanley J. Bernstein ’65 P’02 Assistant Professor of Political Science


Controlling Corruption with Credible Information? Evidence from Argentina
Under what conditions are citizens most likely to vote corrupt politicians out of office? In spite of clear evidence that citizens hold strong anti-corruption attitudes, endemic corruption among political elites continues to be a problem in many lower and middle-income democracies. In ongoing research, Matthew Winters (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) and I investigate the individual and country-level factors that affect when and whether anti-corruption attitudes translate into punishment of corruption at the ballot box. We argue that a citizen’s ability to act on her anti-corruption preferences depends on the credibility of the corruption allegations that she encounters and on her ability to distinguish more from less credible information in an often complex, crowded information environment. Our previous work, based on original survey data collected in Brazil, provides evidence that politically sophisticated citizens are the most able to discern the credibility of corruption allegations and to alter their behavior accordingly. We propose to extend this work in a number of important ways by purchasing questions on a three-round, panel survey that will be conducted over the course of Argentina’s 2015 election campaign. This extension will allow us to test new hypotheses about how political sophisticates process information about political malfeasance and how political party identities may affect that processing. Our results will have implications for scholars’ understanding of the relationship between citizen sophistication and political accountability as well as implications for the types of public policies that are most likely to yield actionable information for citizens.

Kareen Coulombe
Assistant Professor of Engineering and Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology and Biotechnology


How Shape and a Three-dimensional Microenvironment Influences Human Cardiomyocyte Phenotype
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide and a global epidemic according to the World Health Organization. A heart attack kills up to 1 billion cardiomyocytes and novel therapies to replace these cells using human induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC)‐derived cardiomyocytes aim to restore heart function. While hiPSC‐derived cardiomyocytes are a renewable and clinically tractable cell source, these cardiomyocytes are phenotypically immature and lack the shape and functional properties of mature, adult cardiomyocytes. Developing a deeper understanding of how cell shape and three-dimensional (3D) extracellular matrix interactions influence the structural organization and electrical, biochemical, and mechanical function of hiPSC‐cardiomyocytes is necessary for developing tissue engineering therapies that will maximize the contractile contributions of the graft. In this proposal, we aim to independently and simultaneously alter cell shape and 3D extracellular matrix to examine structural organization, electrical activation, calcium transients, and contractility in hiPSCcardiomyocytes. We will pattern three shapes in 2D – an ellipse, rectangle, and bowtie – to mimic the elongated shape of mature cardiomyocytes and use immunohistochemistry to assess adhesions and myofibril organization of single hiPSC‐cardiomyocytes. Using a thin hydrogel of four matrix components – collagen, fibrin, fibronectin, and laminin – we will measure functional outputs including contractility using traction force microscopy of hiPSC‐cardiomyocytes either plated on 2D patterned surfaces and coated with gel or embedded in gel. Finally, we will assess neighboring cell interactions and time-dependent plasticity of hiPSC‐cardiomyocytes and hypothesize that cues from shape, matrix, and neighboring cells will maximize organization and function of hiPSC‐cardiomyocytes.

David Henann
Assistant Professor of Engineering

Predictive modeling of size-segregation in dense granular flows
Granular materials are ubiquitous in industry and day-to-day life but remain poorly understood. They display a variety of complex behaviors which arise due to the finite size of the grains – a feature which differentiates them from conventional solids or fluids. One especially curious phenomenon exhibited by granular media is size segregation. Briefly, flowing granular materials composed of different-sized grains tend to de-mix, resulting in separate domains of large and small particles. This phenomenology has a significant impact on the performance of industrial processes involving powders and grains and affects the damage done by landslides and avalanches, and consequently, predictive models of granular flow including the effect of size segregation are needed. This has been a particularly persistent challenge, since the segregation process crucially depends upon the grain sizes present in this system. Current models of granular segregation either don’t account for all the mechanisms at play or rely on kinematic fields, such as the velocity, to be given as an input. The proposed work is aimed at addressing and filling this need. Building upon recent modeling successes, we propose to develop a continuum-level model capable of describing size-segregation in dense granular flows. In particular, to aid in the development and testing of a model, we will build a split-bottom cell – an experimental apparatus ideal for probing this phenomenology – and perform a systematic series of experiments in which the effect of grain-size disparity in bidisperse granular systems is probed.

Jeff Huang
Assistant Professor of Computer Science


Learning Eye Tracking Through User Interactions on Mobile Devices
Eye tracking is commonly used for usability testing, psychology experiments, behavioral analytics, and other applications. Typical eye trackers today are specialized equipment costing tens of thousands of dollars, and thus eye tracking must done in on-site labs. Compared to commercial eye trackers, eye tracking using webcams has poor accuracy (making them unfit for professional studies) and requires software installation and calibration in typical home environments (unfit for large-scale in situ studies). My research takes a new approach to improve the accuracy of eye tracking webcams by using user interactions to continuously calibrate the eye tracker during regular activity: when a user clicks on a web page, they first look where they intend to click, and the eye is likely to be 2–4 characters to the right of the last typed character on the screen. Webcam images during these user interactions can be collected by the website to use as cues for what the user's pupil looks like when that user interacts with a particular location. Future observations of the pupil can be matched to past instances with similar-looking pupils as the eye tracking system collects mappings of pupil features to eye-gaze locations on the page, allowing a model to infer the eye-gaze location even the user is not interacting. The pupil data can be collected without disrupting the user experience, at the beginning of a computer usage session to provide model training data that better matches the local environment in terms of ambient lighting, sitting position, and background environment.

Peter Belenky
Assistant Professor of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology


The Impact of Antibiotics on Horizontal Gene Transfer in the Microbiome
The imbalance between the rate of new antibiotic discovery and the propagation of antibiotic-resistance is leading to an imminent antibiotic crisis. Identifying treatment protocols that limit the spread of antibiotic resistance is a potent method to prolong the useful lifespan of our current antibiotic arsenal. Thus, it is critical to understand the mechanisms underlying the spread of resistance through horizontal gene transfer (HGT). Natural transformation is a form of HGT in which extracellular dsDNA is taken up and incorporated by competent bacteria in a process that unlike conjugation or transduction, is independent of the DNA source. Natural transformation can promote the transfer of resistance genes between highly divergent bacteria, and within complex microbial communities. Recent work has indicated that in vitro rates of natural transformation can be elevated by treatment with DNA damaging antibiotics. Additionally, antibiotic treatment can lead to the release of bacterial genomic DNA into the environment, increasing the opportunity for HGT of resistance genes. Despite these early insights, the proportion of the microbiome that can undergo natural transformation and the consequences of antibiotic perturbations on the rates of natural transformation in microbial communities remain largely unknown. The goal of the proposed work is to study the impact of antibiotic induced stress on the rates of natural transformation in key organisms that make up the human microbiome.

Nicolas Fawzi
Assistant Professor of Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology, & Biotechnology


Turning off the molecular switch for RNA-binding protein aggregation in neurodegenerative diseases
RNA-binding proteins are essential components of large complexes that carry out fundamental processes including transcription, splicing, and DNA repair. The vast majority of RNA-binding proteins contain putatively unstructured, aggregation-prone sequences called prion-like domains. These domains are thought to mediate crucial interactions in normal RNA metabolism by forming dynamic associations enabling tunable, reversible spatial clustering. Yet, prion-like domains also have a dark side: their aggregation-prone nature contributes to accumulation of toxic aggregates in neurodegenerative diseases, and their fusion to DNA binding domains through chromosomal translocations drives uncontrolled gene expression in cancers. The structures of prion-like domain assemblies and the normal mechanisms to avoid disease-associated aggregation are currently unknown because they are invisible to traditional techniques in structural biology. However, I have developed novel structural biology techniques that will allow me to visualize at atomic resolution the dynamic assembly of prion-like domains into aggregates. Using the human RNA-binding protein FUS, I will map the effect of disease-causing mutations and evaluate the potential of post-translational modification to act as the protein clustering switch. Using structural studies of FUS combined with directed screens for aggregation and toxicity in yeast models of FUS aggregation diseases will enable future design of breakthrough therapies to alter pathological protein associations in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal dementia without disrupting normal function. Because FUS is only one of many essential RNA-binding proteins containing prion-like domains, my work will serve as the foundation for understanding the interactions of an entire class of proteins and for correcting their dysfunctions in disease.

Alexander Jaworski
Assistant Professor of Neuroscience


A genetic system to study commissural neuron connectivity
To understand nervous system function, it is of crucial importance to define the structure of neural circuits and map their synaptic connections. Combining this information with experimental manipulations of neuronal properties helps delineate how a neuron’s connectivity contributes to circuit function.

The long-term goal of the proposed research is to understand how somatosensory information from the periphery is relayed to the brain. The sensory neurons that receive this information connect to neurons in the spinal cord, which in turn make connections in the brain. However, the logic of how different sensory modalities are represented in subsets of spinal cord neurons and relayed to different brain areas is incompletely understood. We will study the function and connectivity of commissural neurons, a group of spinal cord neurons that relay input from sensory neurons to several distinct targets in the brain. We will map commissural neuron inputs and outputs and determine how the type of sensory information these neurons receive relates to the brain regions they connect to. These studies will greatly improve our understanding of commissural neurons and provide important insights into somatosensory information processing.

Our work requires the development of novel genetic tools that allow the combination of mouse genetics with viral circuit tracing methods. The immediate goal of the proposed project is the generation of these genetic tools, which are expected to have wide applications beyond our immediate research interests, as they can be combined with a plethora of pre-existing mouse lines to map neural circuits in various anatomical contexts.


Theresa Ganz
Assistant Professor of Visual Art

Slabs – Residency and Exhibition 
Slabs is a series of trompe-l’oeil photographic collages on panel. The work will be produced during a residency at the Kala Institute of Art summer 2014 and exhibited as a solo show at Steven Wolf Fine Arts in San Francisco in the fall. This body of work is part of an ongoing visual investigation of landscape, nature, architecture and ornament. The residency will be an opportunity to use Kala Institute’s state of the art facilities to make large‐scale prints and to use their project space to install a site-specific artwork in preparation for the show.

Ed Osborn
Assistant Professor of Visual Art

Palm House Transect 
Palm House Transect is a large-scale, site-specific sound installation developed for the greenhouse at the Lyndhurst Estate in Tarrytown, New York. Lyndhurst Greenhouse, view from inside the West side of the structure.The piece consists of a generative sound composition played through a set of loudspeakers spread irregularly throughout the greenhouse structure. The movement of sound in the space is articulated visually by a set of brightly colored cables that run from point to point among the speakers and key structural elements of the greenhouse. The work is based around the idea of a line transect, which is the path along which an observer counts and records occurrences of the phenomena of study. This very specific, attentive mode of moving through space provides a model for visitor engagement with the piece and the site. It also provides a concrete methodology for developing the sonic elements of the piece in close correlation with its site.

The piece will be operational from June through October of 2014 as part of “The Garden of Sonic Delights,” an exhibition of outdoor site-specific sound installations that will take place, and during its exhibition a series of four performances with guest musicians will take place within it. These are intended to activate the site and the piece in specific ways and provide focal points for audiences to experience the work.

Alex Gourevitch
Assistant Professor of Political Science

The Right to Strike in a Liberal Democracy 
Every liberal democracy in the developed world recognizes the right to strike. As recent strikes from the United States to Spain to Brazil remind us, it remains a socially divisive issue. Yet there is reason to think that liberal democratic theory cannot fully justify the right to strike. How should we interpret this disjunction between theory and practice? My hypothesis is that the right to strike can be understood as a right that does not have full moral justification but instead exists for pragmatic reasons: in order to maintain social peace. Surprisingly, political scientists, especially political philosophers, have given the right to strike almost no attention at all. This is unfortunate because the right to strike is very important to our understanding of the moral and practical foundations of liberal democracy. Understanding this right’s justification is further important to knowing how it should be permitted and regulated in law. My knowledge of the law and history of the right to strike in the United States suggests preliminary confirmation of my hypothesis that the right to strike is best interpreted as a pragmatic right. But I would like to engage in cross-national comparison of the history and legal status of the right to strike in a number of liberal democracies: UK, France, Spain and Sweden. I expect to use this research to generate a theoretical argument for the right to strike, and more importantly, a series of proposals regarding the most justifiable way of recognizing the right to strike in law.

Jo Guldi
Assistant Professor of History

International Squatterdom and the Fall of Global Housing Policy, 1946-1989 
My project examines the moment in the 1970s when governments around the world, faced with overwhelming problems of overcrowded public housing, departed from the traditions of liberal governance by expertise. In New York City, London, New Delhi, and at the World Bank, policy-makers began to investigate new theories that bottom-up organization, rather than top-down control, could solve problems of housing crowded cities.

The social and intellectual events that constitute this shift are only slightly familiar to historians. In the decades after the Second World War, simultaneous outbreaks of squatting in Western cities inspired urban planners to contemplate the potential benefits of releasing abandoned stretches of the city to self-built housing movements. Gradually, books such as John F. C. Turner’s Housing by People (1977) held up squatters as the key to similar problems in the global South. By the 1990s, Nobel Prize in economics nominee Hernando de Soto had foregrounded the squatter as the hero of development, arguing for a policy shift from eviction to endorsement, a policy that promised to expand global credit economy while simultaneously overturning barriers of race, class, and privilege. Once merely peripheral figures of resistance, squatters had become one of the first and major case-studies for the merits of neoliberal economic policy.

My project will draw on an integrated program of archival research and digital analysis to probe the question of squatters’ role in the making of global land policy, extending the way we think about the long history of Western property law and its contestation.

Keisha-Khan Perry
Assistant Professor of Africana Studies

Transnational Feminist Political Thought and Praxis in Brazil 
I propose to carry out preliminary research in Brazil on how black women mobilize political movementsScholar-activist Rita de Cássia Santa Rita at a street protest in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. across borders and how they understand themselves as agents in creating a transnational and diasporic community. This research will allow me to apply for additional grant funding to continue this work in Brazil and in other countries in Latin America. I aim to produce an analytical book and an edited volume that will be the first major multi-lingual and transnational work exploring black women’s political work in Latin America. Focusing on the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking Americas, I will examine how black women utilize transnational feminist thought and praxis in local and national struggles for collective recognition as well as citizenship and human rights. This research is innovative because it is international and collaborative in scope, building on a network of African-descendant scholars and activists whose interpretative writings are not readily available. It is my primary claim that black women’s theoretical and political formulations in Latin America reflect the transnational movement of black feminist ideas and the diasporization of black social movements. This research will contribute to Brown’s ongoing commitment to supporting international and collaborative research and the Africana Studies department and the Pembroke Center’s leading role in promoting black women’s scholarship produced throughout the African Diaspora.

Lukas Rieppel
Assistant Professor of History

Assembling the Dinosaur: Science, Museums, and American Capitalism, 1870-1930 
I am writing a book that tells the story of how dinosaurs from the American West rose to become one of the most recognizable icons of modern science and popular culture during the late 19th and early 20th century. In doing so, I bring the history of science into dialogue with the emerging field of the history of capitalism. Photo courtesy of the Library of the American Museum of Natural History.By examining the way dinosaur fossils were collected, studied, and put on display in large natural history museums, I document how the ideals, norms, and practices of modern capitalism manifested themselves in the creation of scientific knowledge about the deep past. Philanthropically funded museums are a particularly good site in which to explore how science and capitalism intersect. This is because it is there that the moral economy which ostensibly governed the trade of specimens, information, and credit came into direct contact with the modern market economy. What these institutions demonstrate, I argue, is that we cannot understand the production and dissemination of scientific knowledge without also understanding the changing nature of capitalism during this period. Not only that, but something of the reverse holds as well; namely, that changes taking place at the museum document the ambition of modern capitalism to create public goods in addition to profits. The Salomon Faculty Research Grant will provide crucial funds to expand the evidentiary base of my book manuscript, allowing me to conduct archival research in the United States and Europe during the summer of 2014 as well as portions of the following academic year.

Felipe Rojas
Assistant Professor, Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World

Brown University Labraunda Project 
The Brown University Labraunda Project is an archaeological expedition to one of the main ancient religious sites in western Turkey. The purpose of the project is to excavate, document, and analyze the largest and perhaps the earliest monumental fountain house in Labraunda, a mountain sanctuary to Zeus whose main benefactors were the Hekatomnid rulers of Karia in the late 5th and 4th centuries BCE. Previous generations of archaeologists have neglected this monumental fountain because it is not made of marble and because it does not accord with canonical ideas of classical Greek or Roman architecture. These peculiarities are precisely what makes the building exceptionally interesting; in fact, the monument has the potential to shed light not only on the history of water‐management and early monumentalization of Labraunda, but also, and more importantly, on the dynamics of cross‐cultural interaction between the cosmopolitan Hekatomnids and the local quarrymen and masons who had to face the challenges of building ambitious architectural projects in inland Karia. The fountain, long dismissed by scholars as a “bizarre” monument, is actually a unique window into the life of the sanctuary, not only in the Late Classical and Hellenistic period, but even into the Roman and Late Antique periods.

Anita Shukla
Assistant Professor of Engineering 

Bacterial Stimuli-Responsive Antibiotic Delivery Coatings 
The proposed research will use an innovative approach to develop superior antibiotic releasing coatings that are responsive to bacteria-specific stimuli. Local antibiotic delivery systems have the potential to reduce many of the complications associated with systemic antibiotic delivery. The passive long-term release of sub-therapeutic levels of antibiotics from most currently existing systems, however, renders these materials ineffective and contributes to rising levels of drug-resistant bacteria. Layer-by-layer (LbL) self-assembly based drug delivery coatings have the ability to overcome many of the challenges posed by traditional local antimicrobial delivery systems, but have thus far been unable to achieve the control in drug release that is desirable for an ideal antibiotic releasing device. We will develop LbL film architectures held together by molecules containing β-lactam ring structures. Production of the enzyme, β-lactamase, by several common bacteria will lead to hydrolysis of these β-lactams causing a triggered film degradation and release of film components. Non-β-lactam antibiotics will be incorporated into these film architectures as the antibiotic payload whose release will be triggered in the presence of β-lactamase producing bacteria. This study will lead to the development of antibiotic releasing coatings for local drug delivery that effectively combat bacteria while limiting exposure to potent antibiotics and therefore, control drug resistance.

Stefanie Tellex
Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Engineering

Automatically Perceiving Children with RGB-D Sensors 
Americans with children under six years spend an average of seven hours each day caring for them [1]. Despite this fact, minimal research in robotics to date has focused on assistance with childcare tasks. A critical barrier to enabling robots to safely interact with children is the difficulty of accurately perceiving their locations and activities. Although much research has addressed pose-tracking in adults, little research has focused on children. Our goal is to bridge this gap by creating a perceptual system capable of tracking the pose of children and toddlers over time using the Kinect, a commodity sensor developed for the XBox video game system and commonly used in robotics. Instead of merely returning a color (RGB) image, the Kinect augments that image with depth (D) information, yielding an RGB-D image. We propose to collect the first corpus of RGB-D video of young children paired with ground truth position and pose obtained from a motion capture system. Then we will develop a pose tracking algorithm and assess its performance on the dataset. We plan to release the code and datasets resulting from this project. This project will be part of a broader effort to develop robotic childcare assistants; besides robotics, we expect the software and data to have many other applications in research and educational contexts.

Christopher L. de Graffenried
Assistant Professor of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology

Generating bloodstream form Trypanosoma brucei containing analog-sensitive polo like kinase to evaluate new strategies for drug design 
Trypanosoma brucei is the causative agent of human African trypanosomiasis (HAT), a debilitating illness in sub-Saharan Africa that afflicts 30,000 people annually. The drugs available for treating HAT are either difficult to administer, toxic, or in danger of being overwhelmed by resistance. New drugs that target unique aspects of the parasite’s biology are sorely needed, but few compounds are currently under investigation. T. brucei has a complex and highly polarized cytoskeleton that is vital for its pathogenicity and viability. In work conducted in the insect-resident (procyclic) version of the parasite, we have shown that the T. brucei polo like kinase homolog (TbPLK) regulates several key steps in the biogenesis of the cytoskeleton. We generated procyclic cells that express analogsensitive TbPLK, which allows the kinase to be inhibited by a small molecule that cannot inhibit other kinases. This approach was essential to determining TbPLK function in procyclics. We will extend our work into the mammalian-infectious form of the parasite, known as the bloodstream form (BSF), so that we can directly test if TbPLK is a viable candidate for drug design. Establishing an analog-sensitive TbPLK BSF cell line is an essential step towards this goal, which would allow us to confirm that the kinase has the same function in this lifecycle stage and begin to perform experiments in animal models. Showing that TbPLK is a viable drug target would be an important advance in my field and would identify the T. brucei cytoskeleton as a novel point of intervention for treating HAT.

Stephen Gatesy
Professor of Biology

The Origin of Dinosaur Footprint Diversity 
Fossil footprints preserve unique evidence of behavior in extinct species such as Mesozoic dinosaurs. Correct interpretation of these traces requires an understanding of the dynamic interaction between foot and substrate during track formation. Shallow and deep dinosaur tracks from the Amherst College collection. (Hitchcock, 1858).I propose to study the rich diversity of Early Jurrassic (~200 million year old) dinosaur tracks housed in the Bineski Museum of Natural History at Amherst College. Specifically, I will image the internal structure of fossil tracks using a high-resolution CT scanner at a facility at the University of Texas. Such volumetric data will provide insight into the 3-D path of the foot as it sank into and was removed from soft substrates. These trajectories will be combined with experimental data from living birds, biped robots, and computer simulations to create a unifying context for the spectacularly disparate track shapes in the Amherst collection.

Amanda Jamieson
Assistant Professor of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology 

Understanding the interaction of the airway micobiome with pulmonary diseases 
The human microbiome is made up in part by approximately 100 trillion bacteria that reside throughout the body. It is now recognized that the intestinal microbiome impacts many facets of physiology, however very little is known about the impact of the airway microbiome on lung diseases. Recent studies in humans have shown that the airway microbiome is altered in pulmonary disease states such as infection, asthma, COPD, and cystic fibrosis. These studies show a correlation between lung disease and changes in the airway microbiome, however the key to understanding the interplay between the microbiome and the host is to understand the feedback loop between disease etiology and alterations of the microbiome. To determine how the airway microbiome impacts lung disease we must develop an animal model. To date there is no thorough published cultivation-independent characterization of the bacteria in the mouse lung. My laboratory is currently identifying bacteria in the mouse respiratory tract using next-generation sequencing, and we will determine how lung diseases alter the composition and location of the microbiota. We are pioneering a technique in the lung using fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) probes specific for 16S ribosomal RNA to identify the anatomical location of bacterial subsets in the airway. These techniques and tools will be a springboard leading to a complete understanding of the airway microbiome. Understanding the precise impact that the airway microbiome has on specific lung diseases will lead to significant advances in the field of pulmonary biology.

Katherine F. Smith
Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology 

Up and Down the Rabbit Hole: Host-Pathogen Dynamics in New England’s Threatened and Invasive Cottontails 
I am broadly interested in the host-pathogen dynamics and disease risks associated with two types of wildlife: 1) threatened species heading for extinction and 2) species introduced (intentionally or accidentally) to new regions. Photo courtesy of John Greene.To date I have studied these groups separately, but now have the opportunity to merge these interests through a new study of threatened native New England Cottontails (NEC) (Sylvilagus transitionalis) and co-occurring invasive Eastern Cottontails (EC) (Sylvilagus floridanus). I aim to study changes in pathogen composition and disease risk associated with 1) NECs during population declines, 2) NECs during reintroduction and recovery, and 3) ECs during invasion and establishment. Findings will be used to test a new conceptual model of pathogen loss and gain during host species perturbations. Samples will be collected from museum specimens and from zoo and wild populations with support from Roger Williams Park Zoo, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, and Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game. The proposed work will advance the fields of disease and invasion ecology, which both suffer from a lack of studies documenting host-pathogen dynamics as species flourish and fail. Findings will also fill a critical gap in the management plan for the NEC, specifically by identifying pathogens early on that may pose a disease risk. Finally, findings will be used to determine NEC competence as a reservoir host for regional disease threats to humans like tularemia. 


Gilad Barnea
Assistant Professor, Neuroscience: 

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: 

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: 

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: 

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: 

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: 

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: 

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: 

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: 

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: 

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: 

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: 

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:

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: 

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: 

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: 

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: 

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


Nitsan Chorev
Associate Professor, Department of Sociology: 

India and China’s “Development Cooperation”  with Africa:  The Case of Pharmaceutical Companies
Both India and China have dramatically increased their engagement with Africa in recent years. Chorev’s project, one of the first comparative studies in  this area, will examine the very different strategies employed by Chinese and Indian pharmaceutical companies when trading with African countries. Through interviews with drug companies in India and China, and distributors and regulators in Nigeria, Tanzania, and Kenya, Chorev will study the strategies employed by the Chinese and Indian companies, the causes for their chosen strategies, and the respective impact they have on the economic and social development in the African countries. Chorev’s research has the potential to make a number of important contributions to current scholarly and policy debates on African development, including insights into the types of commercial relations more likely to be beneficial for the receiving countries. 

Eric M. Darling
Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology, & Biotechnology: 

Stem cell enrichment via molecular beacon technologies
Adipose-derived stem cells pose exciting possibilities for cell-based regenerative therapies. However, stem cells must first be separated from other cell types before therapeutic use, a process that has proven difficult using standard approaches. Darling offers an alternative strategy using recent findings in his lab that shows molecular beacons can be used to visually identify stem cells that express genes associated with specific tissues, like bone. Since molecular beacons function by emitting narrow wavelengths of light, labeled cells can also then be rapidly sorted via flow cytometry. Furthermore, multiple flourophores can be employed to target several genes simultaneously, which would increase the specificity of the sorting process. Darling aims to develop and evaluate a set of molecular beacons that will facilitate the study of stem cell heterogeneity while also providing possibilities for clinical translation.

Erika J. Edwards

Richard and Edna Salomon Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology: $15,073

Uncovering biases in gene recruitment during the evolution of C4 and CAM photosynthesis in flowering plants
CAM and C4 photosynthetic syndromes have both played fundamental roles in the evolutionary success of flowering plants, but investigations have historically focused on each as separate and unrelated adaptations. Edwards’ novel approach is to study the similarities instead, in the hopes of better understanding the preconditions that would promote the evolution of one pathway over the other.  This project will examine a plant lineage that has evolved both CAM and C4syndromes multiple times over the past 30 million years. Edwards will analyze the transcriptomes of select species and identify the major gene lineages that have been recruited into each origin of CAM and C4. Edwards expects to show that, regarding ancestral enzyme diversity, there was not a strong genetic constraint driving the evolution of one syndrome over the other.

Rachel S. Franklin
Assistant Professor (Research), Population Studies and Training Center; Associate Director, Spatial Structures in the Social Sciences: 

The Geography and Policy of Depopulation in the Developed World:  A Pilot Study on Germany and the United States
Research in geography, planning, and related fields typically focuses on issues related to population increase, but for much of the developed world growth in some locations is paired with population decline in others. Franklin’s project will develop two case studies as the basis for a larger research proposal on sources and impacts of population decline in the developed world. The United States represents localized population decline in the context of overall population increase. Germany, in contrast, is a highly developed country faced with the near-term prospect of population decline. Franklin aims to establish the geographical scale of population decline in both countries, to develop a typology of declining places, and to offer an assessment of the range of policy responses proposed in both countries to meet the current and future challenges of population decline.

Eunhee Kim
Assistant Professor, Department of Biostatistics and Center for Statistical Sciences:

Statistical Methods for Combining Multiple Biomarkers in Cancer Studies
With improved biological and medical technologies, non-invasive and accurate imaging biomarkers are more commonly used for disease diagnosis and screening. The integration of multiple biomarkers has emerged as an important method in cancer management for its potential to improve prognostic or predictive accuracy; however, few statistical methods currently exist to accommodate multiple biomarkers and assess their effectiveness. Kim proposes to develop a novel statistical method for combining multiple, continuous-scale imaging biomarkers to evaluate response to cancer treatment. Additionally, this project will develop user-friendly, open-source software that implements the method developed in this project. Kim’s research has potential clinical roles in individualized cancer therapy and the improved management of cancer patients.

Savvas M. Koushiappas
Assistant Professor, Department of Physics: 

Novel statistical techniques in astro-particle physics
​Koushiappas aims to tackle one of the most interesting problems in astro-particle physics: the origin of diffuse light at very high energies (γ-rays), or light that does not seem to originate from any sources. An analogy can be made with viewing the distant lights of a city. One cannot distinguish every single light bulb in the city, but collectively one sees "diffuse" light originating from this direction. In astro-particle physics, this diffuse light corresponds to γ-rays, and the physical processes that give rise to γ-rays point to interesting and exotic sources such as active galactic nuclei, black holes, cosmic rays, and perhaps dark matter. Koushiappas will apply novel mathematical techniques to state of the art data from the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. Using this new statistical approach, coupled with experimental data, Koushiappas expects to shed light on the complex properties and origin of γ-rays.

Nicola Neretti
Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, and Biochemistry:

A large-scale drug screen for healthspan-extending interventions
As life expectancy increases in industrialized countries, more people are at risk of chronic age-related diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. An effort is under way to identify pharmacological interventions that can reduce such risks, but large-scale experimental testing of drugs is still prohibitively time-consuming and expensive. To address these challenges, Neretti proposes to perform an in silico large-scale drug screen by using a novel algorithm to compare changes in gene expression across experiments; this algorithm has successfully identified a significant similarity across species between resveratrol treatment and dietary restriction, one of the most robust interventions known to extend lifespan in several model organisms. This methodology aims to identify new associations between existing drugs and healthspan, and will be the basis for additional studies in experimental gerontology.

Matthew T. Rutz
Assistant Professor, Department of Egyptology and Ancient Western Asian Studies:

Tracing Middle Babylonian Scholarship: Text, Transmission, and Tradition in Nippur, ca. 1500–1000 BCE
​Archaeologists working in Mesopotamia (Iraq) have recovered thousands of clay tablets inscribed with cuneiform writing, many of which the work of ancient scholars who produced various written forms of knowledge, including medicine, divination, and lexicography. This book project will study ancient scholarship in the Babylonian city of Nippur in the late second millennium BCE, a transitional and formative period for cuneiform literature as a whole. Rutz will gather together manuscripts scattered in museum collections in the US, Germany, and Turkey, and study this corpus using a powerful imaging technique, Polynomial Texture Mapping, as well as a well-established platform for digital publication, the Open Richly Annotated Cuneiform Corpus. These digital images and text editions will be used to study the texts’ contents within the wider context of early Mesopotamian scholarship.  

Vanessa L. Ryan
Assistant Professor, Department of English: 

The Invention of the Intellectual: Edwardian Fictions of Decline
A growing chorus of writers have recently deplored the demise of the public intellectual in contemporary culture. If the figure of the intellectual is in decline today, when was its height? This project offers a pre-history of the current debate over the death of the intellectual, uncovering the nineteenth-century origins of our idea of the modern intellectual and our fear at its disappearance. Looking at British authors, poets, and social critics of the late nineteenth century and Edwardian period, Ryan’s project examines the crucial role these writers played in shaping public and literary discussions over cultural authority both then and now. Ryan will consider the debates specifically as a response to the increasing professionalization of science at the end of the nineteenth-century.

Leigh Tarentino
Assistant Professor, Department of Visual Art:

Picture Window
 A visual artist, Tarentino makes monumental, panoramic watercolor drawings and digitally altered photographic prints that are about transforming the contemporary American vernacular landscape into a fantastic imaginary place. Picture windows are designed for an unobstructed view of the landscape as if through a picture frame. Adopting that framing convention, Tarentino presents in the place of a typical view of a suburban neighborhood, a dreamy, ambiguous view of an otherworldly landscape. Multiple, overlapping curtain‐like layers of sheer fabric will be printed with digital photographs that together form an imaginary landscape constructed like a collage. With a rich surface texture and the physical presence of a large relief sculpture, this project made with digital printing is more like a hybrid of drawing, painting, and sculpture than it is a traditional photographic print. Picture Window will be presented in a solo exhibition in South Korea, in June 2012.

Michael Tesler
Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science: 

Uncovering Racial Dynamics in American Politics with the 2012 Cooperative Congressional Election Study
Tesler’s research suggests that the election of President Obama ushered in a new contemporary highpoint for the influence of racial considerations in American politics. This project supports the purchase of data from the 2012 Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES) that will provide unparalleled insights necessary to support a comprehensive account of racial dynamics in American politics since the 2008 Election. Access to this data will allow Tesler to develop his research about race and the Obama presidency into a second book, and to advance his secondary research projects on political communications. Moreover, CCES data will become an important public resource for all students of American political behavior at Brown.  

Mark Tribe
Assistant Professor, Department of Modern Culture and Media: 

Forty More Years
Forty More Years 
will be an hour-long video about the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, FL. Shot on vintage Portapak video cameras, it will adopt the documentary strategies and methods of Four More Years, a canonical videoshot on Portapaks by the guerilla video collective TVTV 1972 at the Republican National Convention in Miami, FL. In this way, Tribe aims to investigate the potential of obsolete video technology for contemporary practice. This project will compare and contrast the 2012 RNC to the 1972 RNC, focusing particularly on the spectacle of political performance and the ways in which it is represented in mainstream media (television) and critiqued in alternative media (guerilla video). Further, Tribe hopes to advance the field of contemporary media art by revisiting a historically important work, and, in so doing, reframing contemporary American party politics as a reenactment of its own history.

Joshua Tucker
Assistant Professor, Department of Music: 

Before the Nation and Beyond Hybridity: Popular Music in Belle Epoque Brazil
Since the 1930s, research on the work of Brazilian popular musicians has been defined by issues of hybridity and national representativity. Earlier music is typically treated as a precursor to representative genres like samba and bossa nova. Tucker argues that a serious consideration of alternate visions of musical activity that informs Brazilian cultural life is overdue.  In examining letters, performance programs, sheet music, and criticism from choro music from Brazil’s Old Republic (1889-1930), Tucker means to look beyond the issue of national sentiment, and ask how the era’s musicians and audiences conceived of music’s purpose; how the working out of these ideologies during a musical career led performers to connect different listenerships to different genres; and how these genres thereby came to bear a variety of distinct cultural values.

Petia M. Vlahovska

Assistant Professor, Department of Engineering:$15,000

Tension regulated phase separation in biomimetic multicomponent membranes

Cells and cellular organelles are encapsulated by membranes composed of hundreds of lipids. This lipid diversity is essential for cell functions such as signaling: lipid mixtures organize into rafts, which serve as platforms for molecular-binding events at the membrane interface. Raft dynamics is regulated by physico-chemical variables like composition, temperature, and tension. Vlahovska’s proposed research centers at the effects of tension on raft evolution and stability, which is virtually unexplored due to difficulties in tension control and quantification. Vlahovska proposes the use of electric fields and microfluidic flows to create well-defined tension conditions that will allow her to experimentally investigate lipid demixing and domain evolution in tense membranes. This knowledge will benefit bioengineering applications that exploit cell signaling machinery, e.g., targeted drug delivery.


Laurel Bestock
Assistant Professor, Artemis A.W. and Martha Sharp Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World and Department of Egyptology and Ancient Western Asian Studies: $15,020
The Evolution of Sacred Space in the Abydos North Cemetery
Family seat and burial ground for kings of the First Dynasty, Abydos is one of the most important sites in Egypt. Its mortuary significance, lasting more than 3000 years, was ultimately predicated on the fact that the earliest kings were buried there. Despite the Egyptians’ dependence on a long historical perspective in developing the built and conceptual landscapes of Abydos, most excavations of the area have focused on a single time period. By contrast, Bestock’s project proposes a six-week excavation specifically designed to shed light on the complex process by which later users of Abydos incorporated elements of the past. Building on previous excavations in the Abydos North Cemetery, Bestock will examine remains from three distinct periods of its history. 

Linford D. Fisher
Assistant Professor, Department of History: $15,000
Indian and African Slavery in Colonial New England
Although New England successfully reinvented itself as a bastion of liberty in the nineteenth century (vis-à-vis the slave-holding south), the reality in the colonial period was far more complex and interesting. Only recently have scholars begun to unpack the ways in which un-free labor and various forms of enslavement were central to New England social life and economy. Building on recent regional investigations of colonial slavery, this book-length project will bring together for the first time a more comprehensive interpretive narrative of both Indian and African slavery and servitude in New England during the period preceding the Revolutionary War.

Rodrigo Fonseca
Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science: $15,000
Energy Efficiency Exploration in Sensory Network Protocols
Wireless sensor networks are a new class of small, battery-powered computers embedded in the environment and useful in many settings, including industrial, health, urban, and environmental monitoring, home and building automation, agriculture, and disaster warning. The most critical resource when designing and deploying these systems is energy, as it is generally infeasible to replace or recharge their batteries once they are deployed. While much research into energy measurement for these systems has depended on simulations, Fonseca’s previous project involved building Quanto, a system that allows energy measurement of a live network, and evaluating its usefulness on small-scale experiments. This project seeks to address limitations in Quanto’s initial design, and ultimately propose optimizations to new and existing protocols that improve the usefulness and energy efficiency of these networks. 

Sherine Hamdy
Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology: $15,000
Recalibrating Life: the social lives around prenatal genetic testing in the Arab Muslim World
Genetic screening technologies, which can test fetuses for genetic abnormalities, place prospective parents in the unprecedented role of making decisions about the value of unborn life. Hamdy’s project examines the moral dilemmas surrounding prenatal genetic testing in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, complicating the universalism of Western bioethics and the notion of a singular “Islamic” response to emergent biotechnologies. The goal of the project is not only to provide a rigorous set of questions and guidelines in collaboration with stakeholders, but also to expand the analytical and theoretical frameworks of social scientific approaches to health, biotechnologies, and Islam. 

Laura Kertz
Assistant Professor, Department of Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychologic Sciences: $8,775

An Expectation-Based Model of Discourse Processing
Research into sentence-level processing has consistently shown that readers do not wait until they have all of the information needed to construct the perceived meaning of the sentence. Rather they use the information at their disposal to generate predictions about likely meanings. Relevant cues can include probabilistic information about the types of structures licensed by the grammar and their relative frequencies, semantic cues, and fine-grained statistical information. This study will test the proposal that an expectation-based processing model can be extended to explain how readers construct meanings of larger works, by using self-paced reading time and visual world paradigms to test predictions against those of a priming based model, which is blind to discourse structure.

Erica Larschan
Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry: $15,000

Establishing sub-nuclear domains of coordinate gene regulation
Coordinate gene regulation is a fundamental biological process essential to all cells. Larschan’s lab studies X-chromosome dosage compensation, a regulatory mechanism that increases transcript levels of genes on the male X-chromosome to equal those on the combined female X-chromosomes, as part of a long-term goal to define how proteins identify their targets within the nucleus.  It has been proposed that the Male Specific Lethal complex, central to dosage compensation inDrosophila, first identifies high affinity sites on the male X-chromosome and then spreads along its length, though there currently exists no temporal data to support this model. Larschan’s project will develop an innovative cell induction system to define the dynamics of this process and provide a new paradigm for the establishment of sub-nuclear domains of coordinate gene regulation across species that will be relevant to all biological processes and disease prevention.

Shreyas Mandre
Assistant Professor, School of Engineering: $15,000

On the development of a research program in thermoacoustics
Thermoacoustic devices exploit the temperature changes associated with acoustic waves to convert between mechanical and thermal energy. Due to the thermodynamically reversible nature of sound, the energy conversion is efficient. The potential for innovation is far-reaching, with applications in matters of global interest such as water desalination, waste energy harvesting, and spot cooling of electronic circuits. Mandre’s research program, predominantly for undergraduate researchers, proposes scaling down these devices to the centimeter scale and using them to develop new thermoelectric materials, which would open doors to a new field of mechanics in thermoacoustic materials.

Susan Moffitt
Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science and Taubman Center for Public Policy: $14,900                                   

Public Advice: Controlling Knowledge through American Bureaucracy
Greater transparency and public participation in government agencies are commonly prescribed antidotes to bureaucratic secrecy, bias, and expansion of power. Yet, secrecy represents only one side of the power that information confers: government decisions to reveal information represent the second side. Transparency policies, such as public advisory committees, complement secrecy as sources of bureaucratic power. Moffitt’s preliminary analysis suggests that transparency through public committees creates spokesmen for executive branch policy positions and shapes public discourse.  By analyzing public committees in the FDA and the Department of Education, this project offers a novel view that runs counter to standard arguments about bureaucratic power and contributes to current debates on the development of transparency policies to encourage agency accountability and capability.

Sriniketh Nagavarapu
Assistant Professor, Department of Economics and Center for Environmental Studies: $15,000

Reforming Social Protection through NGO Delivery: Impact on Corruption and Food Security
Around the world, grave concerns over food security persist despite the presence of large-scale programs to combat hunger. One such program is the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), a costly and extensive food security program in India. The TPDS uses “Fair Price” shops to sell grains and other goods to poor households at below-market rates. Unfortunately, the design of the program gives the government-appointed shopkeepers a strong incentive to sell goods on the black market. The Government of Punjab has begun experimenting with reforms to TPDS aimed at side-stepping shopkeepers and distributing goods to households through an NGO. This project seeks to evaluate the results of these reforms, consulting closely with the government as we collect, digitize, and analyze a crucial second wave of survey data.

Marc Perlman
Associate Professor, Department of Music: $15,000

The Puzzle of Musical Property: Decolonization, Digital Technology, and Musical Ownership in the 21stCentury
The rise of digital technology, along with the emergence of the indigenous peoples’ movement, has called into question legal and informal norms of musical ownership. In response to rampant Internet filesharing, legislators, entrepreneurs, and musicians have been trying to imagine new normative orders to govern the circulation of music. Meanwhile, developing countries and indigenous peoples have called for an international legal regime to prevent the misappropriation of their culture by outsiders. Perlman’s proposed written account of these debates will examine their history, explain technical details for the non-specialist reader, and locate normative upheavals within a broad socio-cultural context, and as such will be the first major ethnomusicological study of these world-historical changes

 Joo-Hyun Song
Assistant Professor, Department of Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Sciences: $15,011

Neural substrates for target selection for actions
Purposive action requires the selection of a single movement goal toward a target. Studies have shown that structures involved in movement planning and execution often exhibit activity related to target selection. Thus, activity related to eye-movement target selection has been identified in oculomotor areas, whereas activity related to reach target selection has been identified in skeletomotor areas. This project will examine the extent to which eye-movement related brain structures are involved in reach target selection, and conversely which reach-related structures are involved in target selection for eye movements. Results will also have profound implications for ongoing efforts to develop neuroprosthetic devices for people with paralysis or debilitating neurological disorders as well as a humanoid robot equipped with coordinated eye-hand movements.

Kristi Wharton
Associate Professor, Department of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry: $14,989

In vivo analysis of negative feedback on transcription of BMPs, dpp and gbb
In the development of multicellular organisms, it is essential that cell-cell communication via intracellular signal transduction be regulated on many levels. The BMP signaling system serves as an important regulator of many developmental pathways in both vertebrates and invertebrates. Prior investigations into the regulatory mechanisms underlying the establishment and maintenance of a BMP signaling activity gradient critical for patterning the limb led to the discovery of a negative feedback loop. This project seeks to acquire results from in vivo experiments to address the roles of transcriptional regulators and BMP signaling itself in the expression of BMP ligands dpp and gbb.