This page lists the previous five years of Richard B. Salomon Faculty Research Awardees. For information about earlier funded projects, please email email@example.com .
Biological and Life Sciences
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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).
Associate Professor of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 . 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.
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.
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.
Assistant Professor, Neuroscience: $15,000
Developing a Technique for Mapping and Manipulating Neural Circuits in Flies
Neural circuits are the basic computational units in the nervous system. Our understanding of brain function is severely limited by the lack of techniques for tracing and functionally-manipulating specific circuits. Barnea’s project combines molecular biology and genetics to develop such a technique in flies. At the core of this system is a synthetic signaling pathway that will be introduced into all neurons. Selective activation of this pathway within a particular circuit will be used to label or functionally manipulate it, and Barnea’s lab will study the behavioral consequences of these manipulations. These experiments will serve as proof-of-principle for the utility of his approach, and the establishment of similar systems in mice and primates. This project aims to broaden our understanding of normal brain function and of the causes and progression of various brain diseases.
Cici X.C. Bauer
Assistant Professor, Biostatistics: $7,500
Small-Area Estimation using Complex Survey Data
Complex designs are common in survey implementation because they allow the efficient collection of data and aid in providing access to groups who are traditionally hard to reach. For small areas, however, the conventional design-based approaches can result in highly variable estimates due to small sample sizes. Bauer will address the limitation by developing statistical methodology for Bayesian small area estimation that acknowledges the complex design in order to eliminate bias, and borrow strength across areas using spatial models. She will also create open-source software that permits researchers to apply the proposed method, facilitating the transfer of statistical methodology to practice and benefiting researchers in other areas, including health services and social sciences.
Assistant Professor, Anthropology: $12,300
Surgery for All? Understanding the Cultural Politics of Bringing Essential Surgical Care to the Global Health Equity Agenda
Surgically-treatable diseases account for a significant proportion of the global burden of disease, and can be provided at relatively low cost to the poor. Yet global health advocates struggle to mobilize the same level of political, social and financial support for access to surgical services as they have for HIV/AIDS and other, less-pressing public health matters. Few scholarly accounts have considered how institutional and professional cultures of global health and biomedicine may impact how access to surgical care is perceived – and conceived–to be a public health problem and social justice issue. Building on multi‐sited ethnographic research, Benton's project explores the role of professional and institutional cultures in shaping advocacy around, and political attention to, access to surgical care.
Assistant Professor, Biostatistics: $15,000
Health Provider Profiling Using Causal Inference Framework
“Health provider profiling” is the evaluation of the performance of hospitals, doctors, and other medical practitioners to enhance the quality of medical care. Current statistical methods rely on the strong assumption that the risk model is correctly specified, and when patients’ background characteristics differ across providers and the models are mis-specified, applications may result in large bias of the expected health providers’ outcome. Gutman proposes a novel method to address these challenges using causal inference framework. This framework posits that each patient has different potential outcomes that would be observed under the possible providers. The methodology allows for comparison of several outcome measures across providers and of patients with certain background characteristics across providers. This is especially important in personalized medicine, where certain providers perform better for specific patients and worse for others. This new methodology will also generate a latent structure of providers without heavily relying on the modeling assumption.
Assistant Professor, American Studies and Ethnic Studies: $15,000
From “Garden Warriors” to “Good Seeds”: Indigenizing the Local Food Movement
This project examines the Native American gardening movement as a food sovereignty/health promotion/cultural preservation movement distinct from, but connected to, the broader local food movement. Hoover will visit 11 Native gardening projects to interview leaders and participants in order to learn more about their motivations for participating, the successes and challenges the group has faced in running their project, the ways in which tribal history and heritage has influenced the gardens, and the extent to which each project envisions itself as part of a larger food movement. These findings have implications for greater inclusion of contemporary American Indians in agricultural anthropology, for the expansion of a sociology of gardens and social movements, and for indigenous community leaders interested in promoting garden projects of their own.
Assistant Professor, Epidemiology: $7500
Gene-environment and Gene-gene Interactions in Cancer Survival
Through this project, Huang pursues innovative investigations into lung cancer survival, especially how multiple genetic effects act through smoking behavior. Huang will build a new framework of modeling complex gene‐environment and gene‐gene interactions as a biological process for cancer progression. He will develop and employ a novel statistical methodology on an existing dataset to conduct a genome‐wide association study in lung cancer survival that characterizes genetic effects in a biological pathway with respect to its interaction with smoking. The genes and pathways identified from the analyses will provide promising targets for prognostic monitoring and therapeutic intervention. The proposed statistical model for the pathway‐environment‐disease process will be of broad utility in studying wide range of human diseases.
Assistant Professor, Religious Studies: $15,000
The Companions of Muḥammad and the Articulation of “Orthodoxy” in Medieval Islam
The historical origins of Islamic political and religious identity have recently attracted the increased attention of academics across disciplines. When Muḥammad died, disagreements over leadership arose among the friends and relatives Muḥammad had left behind, a group known collectively as the Companions. Khalek will analyze biographical and hagiographical literature from the 10th-15th centuries CE to discern different religio-political theories of succession and authority generated by medieval Muslim scholars on the basis of their allegiance to different subsets of Muḥammad’s Companions. Khalek will examine the Companions of Muḥammad through social and discursive practices of the community over time to assess the development of the authority of the Companions in biographical literature, historiography and, as much as possible, social practice. This project will broaden our understanding of the changing concepts of community and sectarian identity in the Islamic High Middle Ages.
Brandon D.L. Marshall
Assistant Professor, Epidemiology: $15,000
Agent-based Modeling to Optimize HIV Prevention for Drug-using Populations
HIV transmission among injecting dug users (IDU) is a significant public health problem. Although research has demonstrated the effectiveness of a variety of HIV prevention interventions, continuing transmission in endemic settings and emerging regional outbreaks have pointed to the need for the comprehensive and coordinated delivery of HIV prevention services. Marshall will develop an agent-based model (ABM) using computer representations of individuals to examine how sets of interventions may eliminate HIV transmission among IDU. Bayesian methods will be used to validate the model, account for variation, and conduct sensitivity analyses. This project has the potential to produce valid and robust results that yield novel insights into the complex phenomena that perpetuate HIV vulnerabilities in drug-using populations. It also aims to inform more effective strategies in epidemiology and public health that lead to comprehensive and equitable HIV prevention strategies for injecting drug users.
Assistant Professor, Economics: $7500
The Origins and Consequences of Group Identity: Evidence from Global Surveys
There is a growing understanding among social scientists that in order to gain a deeper insight of the forces behind economic and political decision making at the individual level, one has to explicitly consider the fact that agents form part of cultural groups. The exploration of the origins and consequences of group identity necessitates micro-level and anthropological data sources that cover a wide range of individual and group-speciﬁc traits. The aim of Michalopoulos’ research is threefold – to investigate the drivers of group formation, to identify the circumstances that accentuate or attenuate the importance of group identity and ﬁnally, to uncover how variation in the salience of group identity determines individual beliefs, values and attitudes towards the society, government, free-market institutions and other groups.
Eric M. Morrow
Assistant Professor, Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, and Biochemistry: $15,000
Studies in Patient-Derived Neurons using Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell (iPSC) Technologies
Intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) are common and are associated with profound emotional and monetary costs. There are currently very few biotherapeutics that target the causative pathophysiology and there are few biomarkers that may serve to predict treatment responses. Morrow’s goal is to dissect the molecular mechanisms underlying abnormalities in postnatal brain development that are associated with IDD. For the first time, Morrow’s team is able to study developing patient neurons in the lab, using an extensive collection of induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) lines from patients with mutations and related controls, and a technique that can differentiate these lines into neurons. This project will yield a mechanistic understanding of how endosomal mechanisms govern postnatal human brain growth, a critical first step in a progression of research that will ultimately lead to the development of new clinically-useful treatments for individuals with IDD or related conditions due to impoverished neuronal arborization and postnatal brain undergrowth.
Assistant Professor, Visual Art: $7,500
The Glittering Garden: An Interactive Sculptural Installation
With this research award Myoda will create an interactive sculptural installation titled The Glittering Garden. The components of the installation will be designed using basic engineering software and fabricated in aluminum and acrylic. The interactive system will include programmable LEDs, ultrasonic sensors, stepper motors and arduino microprocessors. The Glittering Garden will be a richly immersive environment for the viewer(s), with interactions ranging from attraction to repulsion, camouflage to revelation, and predictability to spontaneity.
Assistant Professor, Modern Culture & Media: $7,500
Asian Video Cultures: Comparative Media, Theory, and Regionalisms
This project centers on video as a cultural form and practice across Asia, paying close attention to regional experiences that exceed the foci of North-Atlantic media, cultural, and urban studies, among other disciplines. Neves’ research asks: How do video flows forge new inter-Asian convergences? And how have such phenomena been taken up by critical cultural scholars in distinct, but often interconnected, locations? Extending existing notions of Asia, this project seeks out comparisons and convergences that are not implicit to routine boundaries and imaginations: East Asia, the Pacific Rim, the Indian subcontinent, the former Soviet bloc, etc. Neves will build on numerous valuable studies of Asian media and popular culture, and chart the sub- and supranational exchanges that suggest shifting networks of meaning and practice in the region.
Assistant Professor, Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology and Biotechnology:$14,960
Investigating the Function of a Novel Ultraviolet-Activated Pathway in Mice with Humanized Skin
Human skin is constantly exposed to solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR), a powerful environmental risk factor for skin cancer, which accounts for more than half of all human malignancies. Exposure to low doses of ultraviolet radiation results in increased skin pigmentation, while exposure to high doses correlates with skin cancer. The larger goal of Oancea’s research is to understand the molecular processes that control the human skin’s ability to detect and respond to UVR. Using a newly-developed approach, she will test the function of a recently identified novel pathway in human melanocytes that is activated by UVR, and measure the changes in pigmentation responses as a function of UVR dose and exposure time. Oancea’s experiments will significantly advance our understanding of melanocyte function and of the skin’s response to UVR and will represent an invaluable foundation for future in vivo studies.
Assistant Professor, East Asian Studies: $15,000
Japan’s Korean War: Culture and Politics in the ‘Postwar’ Era
This project contributes to an emerging literature on the cultural history of the 1950s in Japan, which has brought into relief Japan’s deep and abiding connections to the Korean War. Perry’s research seeks to shed light on how members of the ideologically split Communist Party, the divided ethnic Korean community, and the Japanese colonialists repatriated from the former Korean colony experienced the Korean War affectively in Japan. By reading a variety of sources written by members of these three different communities—whose experiences lay in many ways on the margins of mainstream Japan—Perry will offer a new cultural history of “Japan’s Korean War” and a careful examination of how these experiences as well as the memory of the Korean War set in place narratives of class and ethnicity that would continue to be influential in Japan for decades to come.
Robert O. Self
Associate Professor, History: $12,100
The Best Years of Our Lives: Houses, Cars, Children, and American Consumer Economics
Self examines a century in the history of the American consumer economy through the lens of the nuclear family and its lifetime investments in home equity and children and its purchase of automobiles. From the 1910s through the 2010s, he seeks to trace how patterns of domestic consumption have been organized around these three sites or locations: homes, automobiles, and children. At the heart of this research is the evolution of the relationship between household spending, debt, and GDP over the decades between 1910 and the current crisis, and in particular how households have leveraged a variety of resources in distinct periods to sustain or increase levels of consumption. At its broadest, the study is concerned with both the cultural and economic dynamics of these three sites for organizing consumption and their implications for both the domestic life of individual Americans and the economic life of the nation.
Susan E. Short*
Professor, Sociology: $14,901
Social Change, Gender, and Health over the Life Course in China
Using survey data that span over two decades, this project examines the relationship between gender and health over the life course in China. Few studies have described the gender gap in health while taking into account both the age effect, conceptually the effect of gender over the lifespan, and the cohort effect, or the effect of gender on health across different cohorts. In so doing, Short will be well-positioned to contribute to discussion on cumulative disadvantage theory. This work will also contribute to efforts to elaborate the relationship between social change and stratification in China. While numerous studies have examined “who gets ahead” in post-reform China, when gender is considered, it is most often in terms of education or labor market outcomes. This research, with its focus on health, will provide a complementary perspective on gender stratification in post-reform China.
Assistant Professor, Education & History: $13,500
A Reversal of Fortunes: City Schools and Suburban Schools in Metropolitan Chicago, 1945-2000
Steffes’ research explores the city of Chicago and its diverse suburban landscape to ask important and interrelated questions about the relationship between public schooling and postwar patterns of racial and class segmentation in metropolitan areas. By examining how public schooling helped to shape, deepen, and reproduce inequalities across space and time, Steffes contributes to historical efforts to understand the persistence and evolution of racial disparities and social inequalities in an era of civil rights mobilization and growling formal equality. This research also contributes to education history and policy efforts to understand the repeated failures of reform efforts in the era to improve the quality and reputation of urban schools by exploring how this urban school failure was inextricably linked with suburban school success and by illuminating the structures, politics, and unexamined assumptions that have constrained these reform efforts.
*Funded by the International Affairs Faculty Committee through the Office of International Affairs
Associate Professor, Department of Sociology: $15,000
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: $15,000
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.
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: $15,000
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.
Assistant Professor, Department of Biostatistics and Center for Statistical Sciences: $15,000
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: $15,000
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.
Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, and Biochemistry: $15,000
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: $15,000
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: $13,798
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.
Assistant Professor, Department of Visual Art:$15,000
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.
Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science: $13,000
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.
Assistant Professor, Department of Modern Culture and Media: $9,000
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.
Assistant Professor, Department of Music: $12,440
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.