FY22 SIGECS Grant Recipients
The Schiller Institute has awarded 15 grants to faculty members across campus in its inaugural Schiller Institute Grants for Exploratory Collaborative Scholarship (SIGECS) program. The program includes two types of grants: Type 1 grants were awarded up to $15K and Type 2 grants were awarded up to $50K (more information can be found here).
More information on the grant recipients and their projects can be found below:
TYPE 1 Grants
- Ling Zhang, History Department, Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences;
- Noah P. Snyder, Earth and Environmental Sciences Department, Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences
Project Abstract: Water is a renewable resource. In addition to being vital for all forms of life, it can be used to generate electricity. Driven by water, hydropower dams produce 16 percent of global electricity. Today, dams are being removed in the United States as their environmental impact becomes more apparent. At the same time, many more are being built worldwide, with some of the largest dams under construction or in design on the Roof of the World—the ecologically vulnerable and geopolitically contentious Himalayan region. Hydropower plays crucial roles in the world’s secure transition from dirty, unrenewable energy forms to clean, renewable sources, and in response to climate change and our pursuit of an ecologically sustainable future. How to harness water and utilize hydropower in technologically safe, environmentally conscious, socioeconomically just, and politically sensitive ways, however, still remains a question. Professor Ling Zhang’s (History) and Professor Noah Snyder’s (Earth and Environmental Sciences) collaboration takes on this question. By comparing various case studies in America and Asia, their project studies a wide range of issues in regard to hydroelectric dams, not only their problems, such as historical dam failures, damage to human settlement and livelihood, and habitat degradation, but also their potential service to energy transition and environmental sustainability.
- Rebecca Lowenhaupt, Educational Leadership Department, Lynch School of Education and Human Development;
- Gabrielle Oliveira, Teaching, Curriculum, & Society Department, Lynch School of Education and Human Development
Project Abstract: In the midst of and after disaster, schools and other child-serving institutions play a crucial role in supporting community recovery and mitigating trauma. Our multidisciplinary research team will engage in a collaborative research process to address critical societal issues in public health, immigration, and education in Chelsea, Massachusetts. Collaborating with the town and school district, we will conduct exploratory mixed-methods research focused on child wellbeing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. As research partners, we will help with the establishment of the Chelsea Children’s Cabinet to support families and children, providing, “a designated forum for regular collaboration among all government agencies and external organizations that serve children” (Ed Redesign, 2019, p. 4). In total, 25 local community leaders from the school district, social service and health agencies, government including the city manager and housing authority, and non-profit organizations have joined the Children’s Cabinet.
Our research team will document the collaborative process of cross-sector engagement, support the use of high-quality evidence, and study the impact on children’s wellbeing and health in Chelsea. The research questions that guide our study are as follows:
- How does a global pandemic affect children and families’ wellbeing?
- In response, how have schools mobilized health services, resources and community partnerships to support immigrant families in Chelsea?
- How does the Children’s Cabinet contribute to the coordination of services for children and families in Chelsea?
- Ashley Duggan, Communication Department, Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences;
- Monica O'Reilly-Jacob, Connell School of Nursing;
- Andrea Vicini, Theology Department, Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences
Project Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic moved primary care to the virtual environment essentially overnight, allowing the transactional aspects of healthcare to continue, but likely diluting the formation of patient-clinician trust that is central to primary care. Trusting relationships between patients and clinicians allows for human willingness to be vulnerable based on expectations beyond simply the professional competence of measuring symptoms. Trust is thought to be an effective tool to reduce the overuse of health care services, but the development and maintenance of trusting relationships in a virtual environment is not well understood. In fact, emerging research suggests that virtual care potentiates overuse and often results in missed human cues and patient concerns. This project brings together researchers from Communication (Ashley Duggan, MCAS), nursing health services (Monica O’Reilly-Jacob, CSON), evidence-based medicine (Allen Shaughnessy, Tufts University School of Medicine) and bioethics (Andrea Vicini, SJ, MCAS) to explore the development and maintenance of patient-clinician trust in virtual primary care and the unintended consequences of the overuse of health care services. From the Schiller grant we will produce two scholarly papers and develop foundations for theoretical frameworks and organizational structures for working together. The first paper will address trust in telehealth, with a particular focus on its effect on unnecessary healthcare utilization. The second paper will address relationship processes and missed cues in telehealth.
- David A. Deese, Political Science Department, Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences;
- Juliet Schor, Sociology Department, Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences;
- Jeremy Shakun, Earth and Environmental Sciences Department, Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences;
- Praveen Kumar, School of Social Work;
- Mike Barnett, Teaching, Curriculum, & Society Department, Lynch School of Education and Human Development;
- Ethan Baxter, Earth and Environmental Sciences Department, Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences;
- Lisa Cahill, Theology Department, Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences;
- Julia DeVoy, Counseling, Developmental, and Educational Psychology Department, Lynch School of Education and Human Development;
- Tara Pisani Gareau, Earth and Environmental Sciences Department, Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences;
- David Goodman, Lynch School of Education and Human Development;
- Mary Ann Hinsdale, Theology Department, Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences;
- Andrew Jorgenson, Sociology Department, Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences;
- Phil Landrigan, Biology Department, Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences;
- Neil McCullagh, Carroll School of Management;
- Nichola Minott, International Studies Program, Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences;
- Prasannan Parthasarathi, History Department, Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences;
- Zygmunt Plater, Law School;
- Stephen Pope, Theology Department, Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences;
- Brian Smith, Teaching, Curriculum, and Society Department, Lynch School of Education and Human Development;
- Noah P. Snyder, Earth and Environmental Sciences Department, Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences;
- Richard Sweeny, Economics Department, Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences;
- Andrea Vicini, Theology Department, Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences;
- David Wirth, Law School;
- Gautam Yadama, School of Social Work;
Project Abstract: A broad-based group of two dozen BC faculty representing each professional school and eight departments presents a multi-year faculty research seminar highlighting climate change, and cognate energy and environmental issues. The first, pilot year, includes monthly research presentations by eight to ten BC faculty. The presentations are followed by intensive discussion in a luncheon seminar format. Each presentation is proceeded by the distribution of the presenters’ working paper to be reviewed in advance by the faculty participants. Selected senior PhD students will be invited to participate in the seminar in year one. In subsequent years we will integrate research presentations by outside speakers and selected graduate students.
This project is multi-year--we have very specific plans to continue the project into future years, as long as funding can be generated, and it is multistage—we intend to build out to include outside speakers in year two, to include selected graduate student presenters in year two, to develop multiple sources of external support beginning as soon as possible, and to extend the project into a program that also engages very substantial collaborative research, curriculum exchange and development activities, and community outreach initiatives.
- Ethan Baxter, Earth and Environmental Sciences Department, Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences;
- Katherine McNeill, Teaching, Curriculum, and Society Department, Lynch School of Education and Human Development
Project Abstract: Earth and Environmental Science (EES) issues are among the most pressing of our time spanning climate change, resource depletion, hazards, and human impacts. Yet many K-12 students do not have access to fundamental EES content in a way that inspires and sustains student interest, especially among underrepresented minorities. Our proposal aims to increase the awareness and inspiration for EES in diverse communities, focusing on K-5 children by providing an interactive storytelling platform to inspire wonder, curiosity, and responsibility for the Earth. In 2020, Ethan Baxter created “Every Rock Has A Story” (ERHAS), a series of 49 YouTube videos designed to engage and inspire grade K-5 children about the Earth. We will build upon the successful platform of ERHAS by adding the science educational expertise of Kate McNeill. We will create new episodes and new instructional resources to assist educators and families in using the resources with children. A critical element of the new episodes will be a diverse group of co-hosts to promote gender & racial diversity in EES. We will use survey data and best pedagogical practices in developing new content. Our goal is to spark the curiosity of the next generation of earth and environmental scientists and thinkers.
- Conevery Bolton Valencius, History Department, Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences;
- John E. Ebel, Earth & Environmental Sciences Department, Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences;
- Jonathan Krones, Engineering Department, Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences
Project Abstract: Over the last decade, seismologists have demonstrated a troubling corollary of the extraordinary shale boom: the disposal of liquid waste from fracking operations and other fossil fuel production has caused significant and troubling earthquakes across usually quiet parts of middle America. This recent scientific work prompts historical questions.
Have earlier efforts to produce fossil fuels also produced earthquakes? Were some of the small earthquakes near oil and gas production zones over the past century possibly induced by human activity, rather than natural?
We will look for evidence of possible induced seismicity early in oilfield history, focusing on central Oklahoma and two locations in California (the southern central valley and the Los Angeles Basin). We will look for potential evidence of mid-twentieth century induced seismicity near locations of earlier, pre-shale-boom waste disposal via injection wells in northeastern Ohio. In this early-stage work, we hope to find what evidence is available for investigations of possible early induced seismicity related to pumping oil out of the earth, or pumping wastewater back into it.
- Lewis Tseng, Computer Science Department, Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences;
- Nam Wook Kim, Computer Science Department, Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences
Project Abstract: Our daily life and work are migrating to cloud computing. One major consequence is the excessive amount of energy consumed by computation and storage infrastructures behind cloud computing (namely datacenters). In 2016, the US Department of Energy found that all datacenters consumed roughly 2% of all electricity consumed nationwide. This number is expected to grow exponentially as more and more industries are adopting the clouds.
One obvious solution is running datacenters on renewable-based power grids; however, a major challenge is the volatile energy supply from renewable resources, which results in intermittent unavailability of the clouds. For cloud service providers, unavailability, even for a one-second duration, poses a huge monetary loss, because users nowadays have almost zero tolerance of service delay and/or disruption.
Most prior works focused on designing more resilient systems and/or algorithms to minimize the unavailability intervals and frequencies. We adopt a drastically different approach, by exploring a human-in-the-loop design to tackle the challenge. We aim to design an interactive system that (i) takes user preferences and their tolerance (to unavailability) into account when tuning system configuration and design, and (ii) uses system metrics and availability predictions to encourage users to adopt a more energy-efficient behavior.
- Liane Young, Psychology and Neuroscience Department, Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences;
- Richard Atkins, Philosophy Department, Morrissey College of Arts & Sciences;
- Daniel McKaughan, Philosophy Department, Morrissey College of Arts & Sciences;
- Mo Jang, Communication Department, Morrissey College of Arts & Sciences
Project Abstract: Partisans in the U.S. debate the truth of scientific conclusions about some of the most threatening natural phenomena the world faces (e.g., climate change, COVID-19). Discouraged by such debates, influential media outlets have declared this a “post-truth era.” Absent from these conversations, however, is a critical question: What is truth? While philosophers have sought an answer for centuries, little research has interrogated how ordinary people conceptualize truth. Might such folk conceptions of truth differ from how philosophers and scientists think about truth? Given widespread disagreement about the truth of many topics within environmental, energy, and health sciences—fueled by the increasing politicization of science—it is critical to better understand citizens’ acceptance and skepticism of scientific conclusions. To that end, our project aims to tackle two key questions: 1) Do folk conceptions of truth depart from philosophical accounts of truth in a way that helps explain why politicized topics receive such divergent truth labels? 2) How can science—especially in the case of politicized topics—be communicated in a way that promotes both trust and public acceptance of scientific knowledge?
TYPE 2 Grants
Junwei Lucas Bao, Chemistry Department, Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences;
Jean-Baptiste Tristan, Computer Science Department, Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences
Project Abstract: Quantum chemistry uses quantum mechanics for the first-principle exploration of chemical systems. In principle, all chemical phenomena can be studied by solving the Schrödinger equation, the approximate solutions of which, in practice, are computationally very expensive to find. From the approximate solutions of the many-electron Schrödinger equation, we can construct the potential-energy surfaces (PESs) – a fundamental concept used in chemistry.
A PES is a multi-dimensional function that maps a given molecular geometry to electronic-structure energy. Characterizing the PES, a problem known as geometry optimization, is important as correctly identifying the local minima and saddle points of a PES can be applied to predict how fast a reaction occurs and provide atomistic-level insights.
Given the recent success of machine learning in solving computational tasks previously thought unsolvable, we propose to develop methods that apply Bayesian learning to perform meta-learning to speed up and scale geometry optimization of molecular PESs for main-group molecules. The idea of meta-learning is that experience from optimizing different molecules can be adapted to novel molecular systems and, consequently, be used to speed up the optimization of those systems. Reliable and efficient structural determination is the cornerstone for constructing comprehensive mechanistic analysis for large-scale atmospheric and materials modelings.
Betty Lai, Counseling, Developmental, and Educational Psychology Department, Lynch School of Education and Human Development;
Summer Hawkins, School of Social Work;
Christopher Baum, Economics Department, Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences
Project Abstract: Disasters have a clear toll on individual and population health. As many as 14% of youth in the United States experience a disaster before reaching adulthood (Becker-Blease et al., 2010). Further, climate change is projected to exacerbate human exposure to disasters.
A vital barrier to addressing the health impacts of disasters is a lack of understanding of how disasters affect youth health behaviors. This study will address this critical gap by evaluating the impact of Hurricane Sandy (October 2012) on youth mental health and health behaviors. We will use the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a biennial school-based survey of health-related behaviors among adolescents in the United States, and the Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System, an annual phone-based survey of health-related behaviors among adults aged 18+ years across 136 metropolitan statistical areas in the United States. Both surveys included representative samples of youth located in the direct path of Hurricane Sandy and information on mental health indicators across a range of health behaviors, including substance use, sleep, and sexual health. Using data from 2005-2019, we will estimate difference-in-differences models to compare the mental health and health behaviors of youth in the direct path of Hurricane Sandy to those at further distances.
Matthias Waegele, Chemistry Department, Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences;
Kenneth Burch, Physics Department, Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences
Project Abstract: Solar fuels – fuels derived from abundant feedstocks by using solar energy – are indispensable for the implementation of a carbon-neutral economy. The water oxidation reaction and the conversion of carbon dioxide to hydrocarbons are two reactions that are central to the production of solar fuels. However, the two reactions are slow. They need to be facilitated by catalysts. Electrocatalysis, an area of catalysis that utilizes electrical energy, is a particularly promising way for promoting these reactions. However, despite their great promise, economically viable electrocatalysts for these reactions are lacking to date. The principal hurdle for the development of efficient electrocatalysts (electrodes) is the poor understanding of how these complex reactions proceed on the electrode surface. The reason for this poor understanding is the insufficient detection sensitivity of existing methods for probing these reactions. The goal of this project is to develop an experimental platform that will yield transformative insights into solar fuel synthesis. Specifically, we will fabricate plasmonic nanoarray electrodes that enhance the optical signals from reaction species by several orders of magnitude in comparison with the current state of the art. The technique is based on the interaction of infrared (IR) light with matter, which permits the identification of reactive species on the electrode surface. We anticipate that the devices will also find applications as voltage-controlled IR sensors.
Andrew A. Dwyer, Connell School of Nursing;
Maria Pineros-Leano, School of Social Work;
Sharlene Hesse-Biber, Sociology Department, Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences
Project Abstract: The ‘Genomic Era’ holds great promise for improving health of individuals and families. Unfortunately advances in genomic healthcare have not benefited all populations equally. To realize the full potential of genomic advances, there is a need to understand human factors and culturally tailor interventions to increase genomic medicine uptake. Leveraging expertise across the disciplines of nursing, social work and sociology we will elucidate promoters/barriers to genomic medicine in communities of color (i.e., non-white). Project I includes a scoping review of Latinx genomic healthcare, an Amazon MTurk survey to examine Latinx genomic literacy/numeracy and community partnerships to conduct Latinx stakeholder interviews and uncover targets for interventions. Project II focuses on familial cancer caused by pathogenic variants in BRCA1/2. Partnering with cancer support groups, we will conduct mixed-methods studies in Black/African-American BRCA+ women and BRCA+ men – groups traditionally overlooked in BRCA research yet critical for cascade screening. Quantitative surveys and qualitative interviews will be employed to examine attitudes/beliefs, norms and perceived behavioral control relating to cascade screening. Mapping findings to the Theory of Planned Behavior, we will develop culturally adapted interventions to surmount genomic health disparities and enable more effective cascade screening to improve outcomes for at-risk blood relatives.
Cal Halvorsen, School of Social Work;
Elizabeth Howard, Connell School of Nursing;
Karen Lyons, Connell School of Nursing;
Christina Matz, School of Social Work;
Sara Moorman, Department of Sociology, Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences
Project Abstract: The Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) is the sole federal workforce-training program for adults aged 55 and older. Part of the Older Americans Act, SCSEP provides on-the-job training to people with incomes at or below 125% of the federal poverty level. Despite its long history, few program evaluations have been completed. This study builds on a qualitative study by Dr. Cal Halvorsen during the summer of 2020 that revealed how program participation led to increased knowledge and use of food and housing security programs, decreased social isolation and financial stress, and increased confidence, among other findings. This proposed feasibility, acceptability, and pilot study builds upon these findings and creates a new, interdisciplinary team that has never before collaborated. We will utilize our multidisciplinary expertise from the fields of psychology, nursing, social work, and sociology to assess SCSEP’s influence on participant health across multiple domains, including physical (e.g., daily exercise), psychological (e.g., mood), social (e.g., social engagement), financial (e.g., medical costs), and interpersonal (e.g., caregiving needs) health and well-being. To the best of our knowledge, this will be the first evaluation of the health and well-being outcomes from SCSEP participation.
Mike Barnett, Teaching, Curriculum, & Society Department, Lynch School of Education and Human Development;
Avneet Hira, Engineering Department, Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences
Project Abstract: The COVID-19 crisis has perpetuated and accentuated two equity issues: the first is the disparity in access to learning opportunities, particularly in STEM and computational science (STEM+C), that youth from low-income households have compared to their more affluent peers. The second is a family’s ability to easily access healthy and nutritious food. Our work directly addresses both these critical needs in our partner communities by engaging low-income youth along with their families in hydroponics, engineering design, and physical computing by building mini Do-It-Yourself (DIY) greenhouses to grow healthy produce. Most urban youth have little knowledge of where their food comes from and have few opportunities to learn how to grow healthy produce themselves, impeding their access to produce and thus healthy eating. This underexposure to the potentials of urban farming means that urban youth also have few opportunities to recognize that in learning to grow food they are also learning many skills that can lead to a career in a STEM field (Aschbacher & Roth, 2010). Further, this also impacts eating habits of youth in that researchers have found that youth who are engaged in growing their own food improve not just their own nutritional habits, but also their entire family’s. With this year-long project we aim to develop capacity and knowledge amongst families to grow and access healthy food, which is of critical concern for the society in the area of public health, and in line with the mission of the SIGECS program.
Julia DeVoy, Counseling, Developmental, and Educational Psychology Department, Lynch School of Education and Human Development;
Brian Smith, Teaching, Curriculum, and Society Department, Lynch School of Education and Human Development;
Martin Scanlan, Educational Leadership & Higher Education Department, Lynch School of Education and Human Development;
Oliver Wunsch, Art, Art History, and Film Department, Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences;
Project Abstract: Most individuals are unaware that post-consumer textile pollution is a serious public health hazard and an issue of tremendous environmental racism that disproportionately affects communities in the Global South, those with lower socioeconomic status, and quite often communities of color. Every year, people in the U.S. generate more than 36 billion pounds of textile waste, of which 66% is sent directly into landfills, 19% is incinerated, and only 15% is recycled. Among the small amount “recycled,” more than 30% is shipped overseas, where it ends-up simply degrading in open-air dumps there instead. Decomposing textiles produce greenhouse gases and leachates that pollute groundwater, harm respiratory health and degrade environmental contexts for all living species. Despite the scale of the problem, public awareness of textile waste as a health, environmental racism and social justice issue remains low. In support of Boston College and Schiller Institute values, our project aims to address and amplify this critical challenge of textile waste, as an issue of environmental injustice, environmental racism, and risk to human health. The project work involves research collaboration across fields of engineering and design, computational learning, art and art advocacy, applied developmental psychology, social justice education, public health, and environmental studies.