Call for Applications for the 2020-21 ISCE Scholars Program Now Open!
The Institute for Society, Culture and Environment (ISCE) is now accepting applications for its 2020-21 Scholars Program. This signature program provides faculty support for developing grant proposals in the social sciences, broadly defined, and consistent with ISCE’s four thematic areas and the University’s Transdisciplinary Communities. Proposed projects are expected to address critical individual and social concerns impacting the lives of people and places locally, nationally, or across the globe.
The program will support faculty to undertake work in a new or existing area, with the expectation that proposals developed through the Scholars Program lead to the submission of an application for at least $100,000 to an external funding agency.
ISCE anticipates making six to eight awards of up to $30,000 per award each year. The award period is July 15, 2020-June 15, 2021.
Click on the links below to apply:
ISCE Scholars Program Recipients
Click on the 2019-2020 tab for the most recent ISCE Scholars and their project titles and abstracts, or the other tabs for prior year grantees.
The ISCE Scholars Program replaced the Summer Scholars and Scholars In-Residence programs in 2017.
Ketones Supplementation for Vascular and Cognitive Health in Middle-Aged Adults
- Kevin Davy, Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise (PI)
- Brenda Davy, Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise
- Ben Katz, Human Development and Family Science
- Tina Savla, Center for Gerontology/Human Development and Family Science
Recent estimates indicate that by 2035 nearly half of the US population will have cardiovascular disease (CVD) with costs exceeding over 1 trillion dollars annually. CVD can be fatal but can also lead to serious illness, disability, and reduced quality of life. Middle age is a vulnerable period where cardiovascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure, begin to emerge and signs and symptoms of disease first becomes evident. High blood pressure is present in 60-75% of midlife adults and associated with vascular dysfunction and cognitive decline. Thus, identifying strategies to prevent or treat age-related vascular dysfunction, and its consequences, is both a major biomedical and societal imperative. Low carbohydrate, high fat (LCHF) ketogenic diets have become increasing popular for improving cardiometabolic health but adherence is suboptimal due to their restrictive nature. Supplementation with ketone esters increase plasma β-hydroxybutyrate and mimics the metabolic effects of LCHF ketogenic diets as well as lowers blood pressure and improves vascular and cognitive function in rodent models. Whether ketone supplementation lowers blood pressure and improves vascular and cognitive health in humans of any age is unknown. The objective of this project is threefold: 1) to establish feasibility and proof-of-concept for the efficacy of ketone supplementation in reducing blood pressure and improving vascular and cognitive function in middle-aged adults; 2) establish proficiency and feasibility with the proposed cognitive function measurements; and 3) obtain preliminary data for effect size generation.
Investigating the Impact of Medicare Mental Health Provider Policy on Rural Communities
- Matthew Fullen, School of Education (PI)
- Nancy Brossoie, Center for Gerontology
- Megan Dolbin-MacNab, Human Development and Family Science
- Gerard Lawson, School of Education
Medicare is the primary source of health insurance for over 55 million Americans, including adults 65 years and over and younger individuals with a permanent disability. Nearly one in five older adults meets the criteria for a mental health or substance use condition, and if left unaddressed, these conditions may lead to impaired physical health, hospitalization, and even suicide. Despite these potential consequences, mental health coverage amoung Medicare recipients is lacking. Current Medicare provider policy, which was last updated in 1989, excludes over 200,000 graduate-level mental health professionals (i.e., licensed professional counselors [LPCs] and licensed marriage and family therapists [LMFTs]) from providing care to Medicare beneficiaries. Under every other insurance program including Medicaid, TRICARE, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and private insurers these providers are recognized as eligible mental health care providers. Their instatement could reduce provider shortages; a concern in rural areas. Over the past fifteen years there have been legislative efforts to address Medicare’s mental health coverage gap; however, there has been a dearth of empirical research into the effects of current Medicare policy on beneficiaries’ access to mental health services. The current project will use a mixed method approach to investigate the impact of Medicare provider policy on rural communities, including how frequently providers in rural areas turn away or refer Medicare beneficiaries, and how the current policy impacts beneficiaries’ access to mental health services. Project goals will be accomplished by analyzing national provider data and interviewing Medicare beneficiaries with the support of an interdisciplinary team of scholars, collaborators, community partners, and national stakeholders.
Source-Frame Congruence in U.S. National Security Public Information Campaigns
- Chad Levinson, School of Public and International Affairs (PI)
- Tanushree Mitra, Computer Science
- Brian Goode, Biocomplexity Institute
- Ian Crandell, Biocomplexity Institute
- Bianica Pires, Biocomplexity Institute
Presidents with ambitious national security goals have several options for overcoming public resistance and congressional opposition. Skeptical publics may come around to the administration's way of thinking in response to a skillfully-executed public relations campaign. Administrations often craft their arguments to inflate the public's perception of a threat, or alternatively to appeal to people's sense of responsibility to protect vulnerable populations abroad. To supplement official appeals, presidents enlist outside parties to echo and amplify the need for taking action, and the public views surrogates with credentials relevant to the stated purpose of an intervention as more credible. This project evaluates the importance of congruence between appellant characteristics (sources) and the semantic content of appeals (frames). The logic of source-frame congruence applies beyond presidential persuasion campaigns. Both domestic and foreign, state and non-state, collective and individual actors have access to the public’s attention in the new, digital civil society. This project will identify networks of extra-governmental organizations and individuals that influence U.S. foreign policy, evaluate the tactics they use, and develop a framework for evaluating credibility in social media influence campaigns. Specifically, we will test whether source-frame congruence functions as predicted in an experimental setting. We will also test whether persuasion campaigns follow the logic of source-frame congruence in practice by analyzing news media content relating to the decision to invade Iraq in 2003. This project will create substantial capacity to enhance our understanding of the national security public relations space.
A Question of Quality: Climate and the Economics of the Food System
- Ford Ramsey, Agricultural and Applied Economics (PI)
- Carl Griffey, School of Plant and Environmental Sciences
- Maria Balota, School of Plant and Environmental Sciences
- Wade Thomason, School of Plant and Environmental Sciences
Climate risks pose a potentially serious threat to the food system and worldwide agriculture. Economic impacts are determined not only by changes to food quantities, but also by changes to food quality. Because weather is one determinant of quality, changes in climate could result in significant gains or losses to the agricultural sector and society at large. Quality can refer to a grading scale for a commodity, aspects of food safety, or to an attribute that is not explicitly priced, such as nutritional content. Low quality products bring less revenue for agricultural producers and end-users and can provide less nutrition for consumers. As far as changes to climate are worldwide phenomena, impacts on the food system are local, national, and global. We will conduct a pilot study on the effects of weather on crop quality using data from Virginia and Kansas. The pilot will involve collection and coding of historical data that is not in a form amenable to statistical analysis. We will use the data to model quality as a function of weather, the level of production technology, and management practices. Estimates of the economic impacts of changes in quality can inform public development of new cultivars and the design of risk management mechanisms for quality losses.
The Effect of HD-tDCS Stimulation over the Temporoparietal Junction on Social and Economic Cognition in Older Adults
- Alec Smith, Economics (PI)
- Sheryl Ball, Economics
- Brooks King-Casas, Psychology
- Ben Katz, Human Development and Family Science
While healthy aging is associated with increased prosociality, neurodegenerative diseases such as frontotemporal dementia and Alzheimer’s disease lead to the impairment of both cognitive function and social behavior. We propose to study the effect of noninvasive high-definition transcranial direct current stimulation (HD-tDCS) applied to the brain’s temporoparietal junction (TPJ) on social and economic decision-making in healthy older adults, adding an older population to our existing study that primarily involves student participants from the Virginia Tech community. This study will investigate 1) the computational mechanisms by which the human brain produces choices involving oneself and others across the lifespan; and 2) whether non-invasive brain stimulation may improve choice rationality in older adults. The addition of an older adult sample will enable the identification of the differential role of the TPJ in social decision-making in aging, thus suggesting ways to improve health and well-being in old age. This project will establish the efficacy of HD-tDCS for modulating decision-making in older adults and will generate pilot data on the use of tDCS as an intervention to ameliorate the effect of neurodegenerative disease on economic and social decision-making in populations with early stage Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.
What Do Engineers Do All Day? Innovation, Maintenance and Everyday Engineering Work
- Lee Vinsel, Science, Technology and Society (PI)
- Jennifer Case, Engineering Education
- Marie Paretti, Engineering Education
In recent years, a variety of individuals and organizations have advocated for reforming STEM education around innovation and entrepreneurship. Yet, historical and sociological research suggests that most engineering graduates work in operations, maintenance, and other areas not focused on invention and innovation. That is, most engineers are “maintainers” – individuals who keep our technological world going – and not innovators - individuals focused on introducing new things. This exploration of engineering work is critical because recent discussions of STEM education increasingly emphasize training students in innovation and entrepreneurship – and simultaneously minimize engineers’ role in maintaining existing systems. To date, however, we lack the robust empirical data on the occupational roles of engineering graduates necessary to inform curriculum and policy decisions. We propose an exploratory study of engineering graduates from a single institution that will lay the foundation for a larger national study. Specifically, we propose to 1) write and submit a review paper on the occupational roles of engineers, particularly in operations and maintenance; 2) conduct a secondary analysis on existing data to explore innovation and maintenance in the work of new engineering graduates; 3) conduct an exploratory study of Virginia Tech engineering graduates using LinkedIn data; and 4) develop connections with professional engineering societies and other organizations that may have relevant data and/or be interested in sponsoring further research.
An Interdisciplinary Study of Intelligent Home Assistants’ Invasiveness in Family Units
- France Belanger, Co-PI, Accounting and Information Systems
- Katherine Allen, Co-PI, Human Development and Family Science
- Jill Kiecolt, Consultant, Sociology
Individuals increasingly acquire Intelligent Home Assistants (IHAs) offered by large technology companies such as Amazon (e.g. Amazon Echo), Google (e.g. Google Home) and Samsung (e.g. Samsung SmartThings). The business model is designed to capitalize on having as much data about users as possible as IHAs work by continuously listening for commands they need to respond to (also known as wake words such as “Alexa,” “Computer,” or other user-defined wake words). Yet, the real-time recording of this information and the increased use of IHAs in households raise the question about how invasive families find them to be. The purpose of this project is to understand the effects of IHA usage in families and to provide privacy-aware solutions for them. Specific areas that will be explored include what are the perceptions of various family members that lead to the use or non-use of IHAs? Can IHAs become perceived as members of the family? How do differences in perceptions across family members become reconciled into a family privacy threshold? Moreover, how can this threshold be used to develop privacy-aware solutions to protect families’ privacy when using IHAs? We will use interviews, emotion maps and forensic analyses to understand IHA usage and its consequences as well as to identify potential solutions to protect the privacy of families.
Premeal Water and Weight Loss: Cognitive, Behavioral and Physiological Aspects
- Brenda Davy, PI, Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise
- Ben Katz, Co-I, Human Development and Family Science
- J. Tina Savla, Co-I, Human Development and Family Science/Center for Gerontology
- Kevin Davy, Co-I, Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise
More than two-thirds of middle-aged and older adults are overweight or obese, and obese older adults face greater risk of disability and higher medical expenses. Thus, lifestyle interventions which promote weight loss for this population are needed. We have previously demonstrated in an efficacy trial that pre-meal water consumption increased the amount of weight lost (i.e., 2 kg greater loss) after 12 weeks among overweight/obese middle-aged/older adults. We also observed greater adherence to the physical activity regimen in the pre-meal water group during the maintenance phase. A growing body of research suggests a potential link between acute hydration status and cognitive performance, which may impact adherence to diet/physical activity intervention. As there are currently no evidence-based water intake recommendations for weight control, this project will investigate pre-meal water as a strategy that could be incorporated into clinical practice guidelines for obesity treatment and improve adherence to a hypocaloric diet prescription through improved attention and inhibitory control, reduced hunger, and increased satiety. The objectives of this pilot proposal are to: 1) determine the feasibility and establish proof-of-concept; 2) establish proficiency and feasibility of the proposed cognitive function assessments; and 3) obtain preliminary data for effect size generation. Results of the pilot will be used to support the development of a larger grant application.
Women in STEM: The Role of Role Models
- Siddharth Hari, Co-PI, Economics
- Sudipta Sarangi, Co-PI, Economics
- Lisa McNair, Technical Consultant, Engineering Education
- Marcos Agurto, Technical Consultant, Economics, Universidad de Piura
Participation of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) related careers systematically lags behind men all over the world, leading to inequalities in earnings as well as misallocation of talent. There is substantial anecdotal evidence and a large body of literature that shows the importance of role models in career development. While making decisions regarding what majors to pick in college, or which profession to join, women often choose non-STEM careers because they perceive STEM careers to be male dominated. In such a context, it is argued that exposure to female role models pursuing STEM careers might change attitudes and choices. However, very little rigorous empirical evidence exists directly testing this mechanism. The central objective of this project, therefore, is to understand and quantify the effect role models can have in the decisions of women to pursue STEM careers. We will design and implement a randomized control trial in Peru in which we will enroll approximately 3,000 students at 120 schools. Female engineering students enrolled at the Universidad de Piura will give short lectures about engineering as a career at randomly chosen high schools. We will measure how these lectures influence the decisions of female high school students to major in engineering in college based on their preferences expressed prior to the standardized test. Evidence collected in this preliminary study will form the basis of a broader, multi-year study to understand how role models influence behavior. This project is a part of a larger research agenda that seeks to understand the effects of role models in reducing inequalities in education.
An Interdisciplinary Team Approach to Study Age Friendly Community Initiatives and Policies
- Eunju Hwang, PI, Apparel, Housing and Resource Management
- Nancy Brossoie, Co-PI, Center for Gerontology
- Sophie Wenzel, Co-I, Population Health Sciences
- Max Stephenson, Co-I, Institute for Policy and Governance
The World Health Organization’s Age Friendly Cities and Communities (AFCC) initiative helps communities develop supportive environments to promote healthy and successful aging. The AFCC framework encompasses eight social and environmental domains that support resident well-being and quality of life. Yet, despite some effective policy responses to AFCC adoption, evaluating changes on participating communities and residents has been extremely limited. The interdisciplinary project team, representing gerontology, housing and resource management, population health sciences and policy, will explore how the program’s domains have affected residents’ quality of life and local communities’ planning strategies. The team will use focus group interviews in existing AFCC communities in Roanoke and the New River Valley area of Virginia to describe the experiences of residents and service providers and to identify successes and challenges of making their communities more age friendly. The information collected will contribute to the understanding of residents’ perceptions about AFCC and help the communities identify their own priorities and challenges for AFCC implementation and policymaking. Findings will also contribute to the collaborative work with community leaders and researchers associated with the PI and Co-PI’s related AFCC projects in the U.S. and South Korea.
Sustainable Renewable Energy Facilities Siting Project: Development and Testing of Sustainable Siting Process
- Ron Meyers, Co-PI, Fish and Wildlife Conservation
- Todd Schenk, Co-PI, Urban Affairs and Planning
- Peter Sforza, Co-I, Center for Geospatial Information Technology
- W. Mark Ford, Co-I, U.S. Geological Survey, VA Cooperative Research Unit
A rapid transition to renewable energy sources is integral to meeting greenhouse gas emissions targets and other sustainability objectives. Real or perceived issues with renewables projects include: visual/aural landscape changes, depressed property values, health impacts, inequitable distribution of compensation and benefits, procedural injustice, and impacts on wildlife. Opposition delays or stops many projects. Even when successful, developers expend significant resources defending projects in legal, political, and public relations arenas. Developers and other proponents need to identify and adopt siting processes that proactively address stakeholder concerns and engage them to facilitate consensus around proposals. This project integrates public policy, information technology, and social sciences to devise and test improved processes to better engage stakeholders in siting processes. We will develop a methodology for stakeholder engagement and process facilitation, an immersive 3-D visualization and aural model in which stakeholders can experience potential siting options and their impact, and survey instruments to measure project outcomes. A significant component of the project is the development of virtual representations for proposed siting projects using advanced computational modeling. The model approach will be tested with a hypothetical proposal for a wind farm on Virginia Tech land. Our goal is to demonstrate a proof of concept for our proposed processes and technology, increasing the potential to secure future industry funding.
Vividness to Improve and Rethink Long-Term Resilience of the Built Environment
- Tripp Shealy, PI, Civil and Environmental Engineering
- Tom Skuzinski, Co-PI, Urban Affairs and Planning
Actors involved in the co-production of the build environment, such as planners, engineers and residents, often make decisions that prioritize short-term gains over long-term resilience. Behavioral science research in other domains shows the potential for “vividness,” the intensity and detail with which people imagine their future, to help overcome temporal discounting, which is the human tendency to undervalue abstract futures. This project identifies ways to use vividness to improve and rethink long-term resilience of the built environment. Using an experimental and control group, we will test vividness interventions in general, and also compare the effects of different types of vividness interventions such as 2-D, virtual, human-focused and realism-focused renderings. Independent variables of interest are vividness interventions and the interaction with select actors (planners, engineers and residents). Envision, a leading rating system for sustainability that assesses built environment goal-setting, will be used to operationalize the dependent variable. By investigating the degree to which vivid experiences increase the salience of future outcomes, and therefore increase the attention they receive from the decision-maker, our project has the potential to improve the long-term resilience of the built environment.
Parent-Child Behavioral and Physiological Synchrony: Foundation for Children’s Developing Self-Regulation
- Martha Ann Bell, PI, Psychology
- Richard A. Ashley, Co-I, Economics
- Angela Scarpa, Co-I, Psychology
- Cynthia L. Smith, Co-I, Human Development
- Julie C. Dunsmore, Co-I, Psychology
There is remarkable variation between children in how well they adapt to their ever changing environments. In part, this can be explained by children’s self-regulation, a critical aspect of development in infancy, early childhood, and beyond. A set of developing regulatory processes appears to be fundamental to individual differences in behavioral adjustment and includes biological and situational components. This project will examine children’s self-regulation in the context of interactions with a parent and examine how these dyadic processes contribute to children’s developing self-regulation and general cognitive and emotion development.
Shaping Health Research Workforce for Tomorrow: Understanding Career Paths and Productivity of Early Career Health-Policy Researchers
- Navid Ghaffarzadegan, PI, Industrial and Systems Engineering
- Ran Xu, Co-I, Industrial and Systems Engineering
A robust science workforce is required to flourish national health research and development goals. While most past studies of health research workforce focus on biomedical scientists, this project’s focus is on a different and under-examined group that contribute to health: health policy researchers. Health policy research is essential in forming future research and health practice in the US by modifying/reforming high level decisions. From the science policy standpoint, it is vital to better understand career choice, research focus, and collaboration patterns of this population, especially early career ones.
The primary aims of this project are to investigate (1) trends of career choices and research topics of new doctorates in health policy over the last 20 years; and (2) effects of peers, advisers and institutional factors on their career choice and research topics.
Online Extremism in a Cross-National Context: Risk, Exposure, and Participation
- James Hawdon, PI, Sociology
- John Ryan, Co-I, Sociology
While the Internet has opened countless opportunities, its uncensored nature provides a forum for those expressing extremist ideas that some find offensive, disturbing, and dangerous. The number of sites professing potentially radicalizing ideas has proliferated, and more Americans are being exposed to extremist materials. Given the link between exposure and acts of mass violence, it is important to understand why extremism seems to be on the rise in the United States. In addition, the spread of online extremism, like the Internet itself, is a global phenomenon, and it is increasingly important to understand online extremism from a cross-national perspective. This project will address both of these needs by assembling a team of leading international scholars with expertise in online extremism. Together, the team will collect online surveys from representative samples of residents of six nations: Finland, France, Poland, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. These data will allow the team to track changes in extremism in several nations, compare types of extremism cross-nationally, test the generalizability of theories that attempt to explain who creates and disseminates extremism, and investigate if paths to radicalization are similar cross-nationally.
Thinking and Decision Making in an Age of Divided Attention
- Shalini Misra, PI, Urban Affairs and Planning
- Patrick Roberts, Co-I, Center for Public Administration and Policy
This project will investigate the challenges that digital overload poses for managerial thinking and decision making. The research team will interview emergency managers to identify the characteristics of their information environment and overload stressors. Then they will pilot a survey to test the relationship between perceived information overload and the capacity for integrative / vertical thinking. The team will also design an experiment examining the relationship between information overload and team-level macrocognition and collaborative processes and outcomes during high stress decision making contexts. The project will bring innovative psychological theories and methods to the literature on public management and crisis and emergency decision making. In psychology, the team will innovate by analyzing the effect of digital overload on the capacity for attention, integrative thinking, and collaboration in public sector managerial problem solving contexts.
Bio-Behavioral Monitoring of Self-Injurious Behaviors in Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Divya Srinivasan, PI, Industrial and Systems Engineering
- Susan White, Co-I, Psychology
- Shyam Ranganathan, Statistics
- Maury Nussbaum, Co-I, Industrial and Systems Engineering
- Zhenyu Kong, Co-I, Industrial and Systems Engineering
- Joseph Gabbard, Co-I, Industrial and Systems Engineering
Self-injurious behavior (SIB) are one of the most dangerous characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder, often leading to injury and hospitalization. They include actions such as head-banging and self-hitting, which are typically rhythmic and repetitive. Tracking these behaviors is of immense importance to understanding possible triggers of SIB, and to inform potential treatment interventions. Caregivers experience immense pressure to maintain constant vigilance and consistency to track these behaviors, since if an episode of SIB is unnoticed and/or the specific responses not executed (e.g., offering a replacement action), the child could potentially regress. Hence, there is a critical need for innovative technological solutions to monitor behaviors associated with SIB and to inform/evaluate interventions. The first goal of this project is to develop a real-time SIB prediction system using wearable sensors and innovative data analytics methods. We will collect movement behavioral data from 6 ASD patients in both clinical and naturalistic settings. Novel movement features grounded in dynamical systems theory will be used to develop an adaptive Bayesian multilevel logistic regression framework to predict the real-time probability of SIB events. The second goal is to pair this system with intuitive mobile interface designs that provide timely alerts and interventions for mitigating SIB episodes.
The Neuropsychology of Cross-Dialectal Communication
- Abby Walker, PI, English
- Mike Bowers, Co-I, Neuroscience
Due to mobile populations and global institutions, cross-dialectal communication is increasingly a part of every day life for all Americans. However, dialectal differences often impede effective communication, with both personal and economic consequences. The exact cognitive mechanisms behind such difficulties are unclear, especially since there is high variability across individual listeners. In this study we take insights from work on bilingualism and cognitive neuroscience to investigate the brain’s response to shifts in dialect, seeing if there is a neural “cost” for unexpected pronunciations, and whether this cost correlates with poor comprehension. These results will form the basis for a federal grant proposal exploring why some listeners are less affected by “accented” speech than others, and whether either poor listeners can be trained to comprehend better, or speech can be presented in a way that best minimizes dialectal costs.
Context Matters: How an End User’s Incentives Shapes their Online Behavior
- Eric Jardine, PI, Political Science
- France Belanger, consultant, Accounting and Information Systems
- David Raymond, consultant, VT Information Security Lab
Keeping computer networks safe from intrusion is one of the biggest challenges and biggest necessities in today’s increasingly interconnected world. While breached computer networks can seem like an inherently technical problem, past research has shown that human actions are linked with occurrence of security incidents in upwards of 95 percent of cases. A human error as seemingly minor as opening an email attachment can lead to a massive network breach, resulting in the deletion, corruption or theft of sensitive data. Following from this observation, most suggest that better digital education programs are required so that people can learn what is safe to do online.
While education is certainly important, everyone behaves differently depending upon the incentives that they face. This project investigates how an end user’s context matters for how they behave online in the workplace. The hypothesis is that environments where users face high costs when things go wrong should incentivize good online behavior and that low cost environments should do the opposite. An initial study found that more personally and professionally costly end-user environments are associated with better behavior in emails. This project parses the concept of end user cost and investigates how it affects good cybersecurity practices.
Neurobehavioral Determinants of Adolescent Substance Use and HIV/STD
- Jungmeen Kim-Spoon, MPI, Psychology
- Brooks King-Casas, MPI, Psychology/VTCRI
- Pearl Chiu, Co-I, Psychology/VTCRI
- Warren Bickel, Co-I, Psychology/VTCRI
- Stephen LaConte, Co-I, Biomedical Engineering/VTCRI
The developmental periods of adolescence and emerging adulthood are a time of great vulnerability to health risk behaviors such as substance use and unsafe sexual activity, all of which can have lethal consequences. These behaviors represent a major public health concern because they pose a critical—and potentially preventable—risk to health and functioning. Recent theoretical models in neuroscience suggests that the combination of biased risk/reward processing and still maturing capacities for cognitive control may contribute to heightened risktaking during adolescence. This team will investigate the independent and joint contributions of neurobehavioral factors to adolescents’ risk decision-making and health risk behaviors based on longitudinal and multilevel analyses. The investigation involves innovative multimodal brain imaging analyses using resting-state connectivity and effective connectivity to examine functional coupling between subcortical and prefrontal regions. Connectivity modeling captures spatiotemporal relations among the regions, thus offers critical information about neural mechanisms by which normal and atypical functioning occurs. The research has the potential for theoretical contribution, methodological innovation, and prevention implication for targeting risk reduction. The activities proposed for the funding will ensure completion of pilot data collection and preliminary analysis necessary for competitive renewal of the successful R01 study currently being conducted by the team.
The Impact of Diversifying China's Global Agri-Food Suppliers on U.S. Exports
- Mary Marchant, PI, Agricultural and Applied Economics
- Mina Hejazi, team member, Agricultural and Applied Economics
- Jue Zhu, team member, Agricultural and Applied Economics
- Wei Zhang, team member, Agricultural and Applied Economics
The agricultural and trade climate in China has significant implications for U.S. farmers and agribusinesses as a historically expanding market for agricultural exports. While China’s economy has decelerated recently, it was previously the number one destination for U.S. agricultural exports and we must continue to stay abreast of their policy changes and events impacting trade relations.
U.S. producers face numerous uncertainties addressing the future of U.S. trade with China. While there is potential for additional U.S. exports, China has begun initiating a trade diversification strategy. This initiative is designed to increase trade with other nations and may reduce China’s dependence on the United States. The overall goal of this research is to determine the impact on U.S. agricultural exports due to China’s diversifying its global suppliers. The team will use the preliminarily results of this project for an external grant proposal.
Measuring Academic and Professional Outcomes Gained from the College Experience
- Shyam Rangnathan, PI, Statistics
- Denise Simmons, Co-I, Myers Lawson School of Construction
As large-scale changes in the University are envisioned to create the ideal “VT-shaped student,” it is important to arrive at a holistic understanding of what the changes mean to the college experience, and how these will help undergraduates in their student and professional lives. This project aims to identify factors that measure student learning and the “quality of education” across the dimensions that matter academically and professionally, e.g., “academic learning”, “adaptability”, “teamwork”. By mapping the strengths of each student (measured using surveys and outcome measures such as GPAs) onto these different dimensions, this project will provide them an accessible measure of their strengths and weaknesses, evaluated against the needs of the career they are interested in pursuing. At the same time, the quality of education of a class or the University as a whole can now be evaluated against how it helps each individual student attain the most success they can, given their individual abilities and their career goals. This will help ensure that any proposed changes result in a resilient educational infrastructure for the University. The data collected will also help identify risk factors for overall University goals such as diversity and inclusiveness as these changes are implemented.
Adolescent Siblings of Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Stress, the Sibling Relationship, and Overall Functioning
- Carolyn Shivers, PI, Human Development and Family Science
- Jeff Jackson, consultant, Human Development and Family Science
The goals of this project are two-fold: to examine the physiological markers of stress among siblings of individuals with autism spectrum disorder while participating in dyadic tasks, and to complete the first meta-analysis of the literature examining outcomes among these siblings. The team theorizes that siblings of individuals with ASD will exhibit a greater stress response while completing a cooperative task with their brother or sister than will siblings of individuals without ASD. The team also theorizes that the meta-analysis will show that siblings of individuals with ASD are at greater risk for negative outcomes than siblings of typically-developing individuals and siblings of individuals with other intellectual and developmental disabilities. Although the extant literature clearly shows increased stress among mothers of children with ASD, there is far less research on stress and outcomes for siblings. The projects will allow the team to examine stress among siblings in real time and consolidate the current literature on siblings to better understand the experiences of individuals in this population. These activities and their outcomes will directly contribute to the success of a federal grant proposal.
Troubles with Trash: Risk and Decision Making in East Africa
- Kris Wernstedt, PI, School of Public and International Affairs
The east African city of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania faces troubles with trash. While it generates over 4,000 tons of solid waste every day, less than one-half of this makes it to the city’s landfill. The vast majority of the remaining 2,000+ tons ends up scattered in open spaces and streams around Dar, worsening public health, environmental quality, aesthetics, and flooding. The problem appears particularly acute in the city’s “informal settlements,” the unplanned urban neighborhoods that currently house 70 percent of Dar’s 5 million residents. The project looks at this problem in two parts. First, we conduct interviews and a survey of community residents to examine behavior related to trash. This helps us to understand both the risks that residents in the informal settlement perceive the trash poses, and the actions they take to minimize these. We focus particularly on “heuristics,” simplified rules-of-thumb that people around the world use to make decisions in the face of uncertain risks. Second, using the findings from our interviews and survey, we develop a protocol to test proposed policy changes to address these risks. This protocol will help local stakeholders evaluate the effectiveness of alternatives to better manage trash in the city.
Improving Emotion Recognition and Social Anxiety with Nerotechnology
- Susan White, MPI, Psychology
- John Richey, MPI, Psychology
- Denis Gracanin, Co-I, Computer Science
- Martha Ann Bell, Co-I, Psychology
- Stephen LaConte, Co-I Biomedical Engineering
- Inyoung Kim, Co-I, Statistics
This project proposes to adapt and test a novel technology-based intervention ("FER Assistant") for reducing socio-evaluative fear and distress in adults with social anxiety disorder (SAD). SAD is characterized by heightened socio-evaluative fear, social avoidance, and mechanistic differences in patterns of detecting and decoding facial emotion. By applying our iteratively developed, mixed reality intervention approach (NIMH R21 R33; White), the current project represents significant leverage of resources and personnel to a new and clinically significant area of research. The working hypothesis is that exposure, in a virtual social environment, to socio-evaluative cues (e.g., disgust, anger) will lead to symptomatic improvement. SAD is currently one of the most treatment-resistant anxiety disorders. Up to 60% of patients remain symptomatic after being treated with evidence-based protocols, highlighting the need for innovative new approaches. Exposure therapy is effective but inaccessible to many SAD sufferers. Thus, a highly accessible and easy-to-use technology-based platform (our novel intervention tool) may be useful. In this initial proof of concept study, the team will refine the platform for SAD and demonstrate usability (i.e., feasibility of implementation and consumer acceptability). The team will, as an exploratory aim, assess the degree to which this intervention promotes change in socio-evaluative distress, avoidance, and emotion recognition.
Past ISCE Summer Scholars & Scholars-in-Residence
2016 Summer Scholars
Strategic Lying and Cooperative Behavior in Games
- Eric Bahel, PI, Economics
- Sheryl Ball, Co-PI, Economics
- Sudipta Sarangi, Co-PI, Economics
- Pearl Chiu, senior researcher, VTCRI
- Brooks King-Casas, senior researcher, VTCRI
It is well established in economic theory that cooperation (between individuals, firms, or nations) often leads to efficient outcome (i.e., outcomes that maximize the overall welfare). However, it is also known that self-interested agents typically fail to cooperate, which generates inefficient outcomes. This lack of cooperation is illustrated by many well-known economic terms such as the tragedy of the commons (which describes the fact that open-access resources are overexploited, to the detriment of all parties). This project provides a way of increasing cooperation between self-interested agents by combining pre-play communication and that proven notion that agents are averse to deception or inequality (some more than others). By requiring agents to communicate their intentions beforehand, this project will show that the standard theoretical result predicating non-cooperation is reversed: some agents now have incentives to cooperate while pursuing their selfish interests. Another project component will be to design an experimental framework to test results. In particular, interest lies in (a) individual characteristics that make subjects more prone to cooperation and (b) the format of communication (simultaneous, sequential, one-sided, two-sided…) most conductive to cooperative behavior. This work has important implications for issues like trade negotiations, conflict resolution, resource (mis)use, waste recycling, etc.
Parental emotion socialization in Appalachia: Linguistic markers of cultural tension
- Katie Carmichael, PI, English
- Julie Dunsmore, Co-I, Psychology
- Thomas Ollendick, Co-I, Psychology
- Emily Satterwhite, Co-I, Religion and Culture
Social class inequality in the United States is intensified by school contexts privileging socio-emotional styles characteristic of middle class families. Parental emotion socialization may both reflect and impact class inequality due to differential emphasis on emotional expression for middle class youth versus emotional control for working class youth. Given the magnified effects of the recession in Appalachia and the possibility that cultural values may inhibit or promote acceptance of emotional expression crucial for youth adjustment, it is critical to investigate the role of parental emotion socialization in alleviating or exacerbating social class inequities among rural Appalachians. In the proposed research, videotaped discussions from a parent education group conducted in rural Appalachia will be analyzed. Transcripts will be coded for linguistic markers indicating parents’ resistance to discussion of emotional expression and control. Tokens of these markers will be analyzed for patterns related to gender, class, and cultural values. This interdisciplinary work will inform adaptation of emotion socialization intervention across these sociodemographic factors and will bring a novel intersectional perspective to linguistic and developmental literatures. Findings from pilot data will support an external grant submission seeking sponsorship for expanded examination of emotion socialization in relation to youth adjustment in rural Appalachia.
Reassembling Subsistence: The New Politics of Food in Postwar Guatemala
- Nicholas Copeland, PI, Sociology
Guatemala’s rural, primarily indigenous (Mayan) population faces interrelated food crises of malnutrition, coffee blight, rising grain and fertilizer prices, and climate change-induced drought. These problems have inspired efforts to revamp subsistence agriculture. Like many countries in the Global South facing similar food crises, subsistence renovation initiatives in Guatemala are divided between mainstream “food security” programs and alternative “food sovereignty” movements. This project will use comparative ethnography to better understand the promise and pitfalls of these competing approaches and their broader political and economic significance. The fellowship will fund six weeks of fieldwork in Guatemala on the new programs of the state’s Institute for Agricultural Science and Technology, and of the National Network for the Defense of Food Sovereignty in Guatemala. On this trip, previous fieldwork into the design of these approaches will continue, and identify sites for future ethnographic research on local responses in rural communities will be identified. This research shows the forces shaping food politics, and their connections to broader political and economic changes. It also draws attention to the risks and limitations of each approach from the perspective of rural farmers, and suggests a synthesis focusing on the redistribution of land.
Current Trends and Stakeholder Perceptions of Radon-resistant Home Construction
- Deborah Dickerson, PI, Myers-Lawson School of Construction
- Andrew McCoy, Co-I, Virginia Center for Housing Research
Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, and the second leading cause of lung cancer overall, according to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates. "Radon poses an easily reducible health risk to populations all over the world, but has not up to now received widespread attention," said Dr. Michael Repacholi, coordinator of WHO’s Radiation and Environmental Health Unit. Radon arises from uranium-containing rock in the earth’s crust and enters buildings through imperfections in their foundations. The most effective approach to controlling radon, termed “radon-resistant construction (RRC)”, is to install mitigation systems at the time a building is constructed. RRC techniques can reduce radon levels by 90% and they have a lower operating energy requirement than do retrofit mitigation techniques. Several effective RRC mitigation techniques exist to reduce the levels of indoor radon: active soil depressurization, soil pressurization, house pressurization. Many countries have established building code requirements for RRC, however, these technologies are not routinely installed in new residential construction in the United States. The proposed work would aim to discover, through survey research methods, current installation trends and stakeholder (homebuilder, home owner, green builder) perceptions of RRC, with the future goal of increasing its use in the U.S. homebuilding market.
Child temperament as a moderator of maternal emotion coaching: Implications for pathways leading to behavior problems
- Julie Dunsmore, PI, Psychology
- Martha Ann Bell, Co-I, Psychology
Emotion coaching is a parental emotion socialization style involving parents’ beliefs that children’s emotions are valuable and their behaviors validating children’s emotional experience and actively guiding their appropriate emotional expression. Research robustly shows benefits of emotion coaching for children’s socio-emotional competence. Child temperament is also related to socio-emotional competence, yet surprisingly little work has examined the role of child temperament in parents’ emotion coaching. Furthermore, no research to date has examined trajectories of change in observed emotion coaching over time. As children develop cognitive and socio-emotional skills, effective emotion coaching would be expected to change form to continue to promote growth in children’s development. The overall purpose of our proposed work is to examine trajectories of change in maternal emotion coaching from early to middle childhood in relation to emotion regulation and behavior problems, and to investigate child temperament as a moderator of these pathways. Because emotion regulation and parenting are often targeted in clinical and community interventions, this research has implications for programs to promote children’s well-being. The activities proposed for this summer funding build upon a 8-year longitudinal study and will ensure completion of pilot coding necessary for a competitive submission for external funding.
Group Information and Interaction Management
- Tabitha James, PI, Business Information Technology
- France Belanger, Co-PI, Accounting and Information Systems
Information disclosure and social interactions increasingly take place online, creating new privacy challenges. While much research explores antecedents and consequences of individual privacy, limited research has considered information privacy at the group level. Yet, strategic release of information to strategically chosen others may provide ways to advance group goals; alternatively, poor privacy behaviors may damage groups. Privacy conscious online or blended (offline-online) groups may have the potential to provide benefits in ways offline groups cannot (e.g., social support that could improve quality of life of people suffering from rare diseases or struggling with social anxiety or depression). To realize such benefits, group information and interaction (i.e., group privacy) need to be properly understood and managed. This research proposes a framework to explore group privacy and develop guidelines for group information and interaction management. The research will provide new group-level privacy conceptualizations for a more granular and complex privacy decision that better reflects our current technologically-mediated information sharing and interaction-based existence. The proposed work involves conducting 40 interviews to demonstrate the feasibility of a research project previously submitted to NSF (November 2015). Using this preliminary data and forthcoming NSF feedback, we will submit a revised proposal to NSF in November 2016.
2015 Summer Scholars
A Stress Process Model of How Parental Incarceration Impacts Youth Mental Health: The Role of Stigma, Stress, and Coping in Contributing to Child Psychopathology and Adjustment
- Joyce A. Arditti, PI, Human Development
- Elizabeth Johnson, Co-I, Child & Family Studies (University of Tennessee at Knoxville)
- Tom Ollendick, Consultant, Psychology
The goal of this project is to test a stress-process model of how parental incarceration impacts mental health among a sample of 60 high-risk urban youth who have experienced parental separation, and their primary caregivers. We theorize that parental incarceration will be associated with more intense stress proliferation than other forms of parental separation, and that stress processes pertaining to social stigma, parenting stress, daily stress, and negative life events will mediate the extent to which parental incarceration impacts youth mental health. We also theorize that youth coping will serve as a protective factor in terms of the relationship between stress processes and youth mental health outcomes. While social stigma is theorized in the literature to be an important mechanism by which parental incarceration influences child and adolescent well-being, it has yet to be measured systematically. The project will permit us to pilot a stigma by association measure as well as on-site interview methodology with youth and their caregivers. These activities and their outcomes will be crucial to the success of future externally-funded proposals.
A New Biomarker Tool for Breast Cancer Deduction in Populations at Risk
- Carla Finkielstein, PI, Biological Sciences
- Tina Savla, Co-PI, Human Development
Breast cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer among women in North America and Europe. Whereas the causes for its high incidence and late-stage diagnoses are large and varied, the consensus is that early diagnosis would help prevention and would favor early detection. Although imaging-based diagnostic techniques have been the gold standard, there are distinct shortcomings to current approaches, such as being expensive, requiring trained technicians, and being intrusive to patients. Furthermore, there is a deficiency of molecular diagnostic tools capable of capturing the complexity of non-hereditable alterations that result from gene-environment interactions, responsible for 90% of all breast cancer cases which go undetected when using conventional diagnostic tests. The emergence of advanced technologies to detect non-coding RNA molecules, however, holds promise for advancing our capacity to develop a unique genetic biomarker platform for the prevention and early detection in at-risk populations. Our ultimate goal is to develop a simple, inexpensive, accessible, and accurate test to identify biomarkers that monitor changes in breast tissue that result from chronic exposure to environmental stressors such as night-shift work. In the current proposal, we seek support to collect feasibility data that would serve the submission of a larger-scale study proposal.
Health Literacy and Self-regulation in Community-based Type 2 Diabetes Intervention
- Kathy Hosig, PI, Population Health Sciences
- Eileen Smith Anderson Bill, Co-PI, Center for Public Health Practice and Research
- Ann Forburger, Project Coordinator, Population Health Sciences
Almost one-tenth of adults in the United States had diabetes in 2012 and the total estimated annual cost of diabetes was $245 billion. Controlling blood sugar reduces medical costs associated with diabetes by lowering the risk of complications such as nerve damage, kidney disease, heart disease and amputations. The proposed project will strengthen a community-based Virginia Cooperative Extension program that is designed to control blood sugar through healthy lifestyle (nutrition and physical activity) for people with type 2 diabetes. The current program is being evaluated in partnership with African American churches in medically underserved areas of Virginia with funding from the National Institutes of Health. The program improves blood sugar control, but not as much as anticipated. Program educators and participants indicate that they would participate in additional sessions, participants need more practice with goal-setting and monitoring, and participants often do not understand details of their diabetes care. The effect of including greater emphasis on communicating with health professionals and understanding diabetes self-management recommendations from health professionals (health literacy) and improved goal-setting and tracking (self-regulation) will be evaluated. Input from current educators, church coordinators and participants will be solicited and used to design the enhanced program.
(Wo)Men Working: Gender, Labor, and Extraction in the Bakken Oil Fields
- Christine Labuski, PI, Sociology
This project investigates how gender norms are produced, sustained, and reconfigured in the context of an economic resource boom in the great plains of the United States. Based on ethnographic research conducted in and around the Bakken oil shale region of northwestern North Dakota, the project explores how local women negotiate novel and challenging professional opportunities against a background of excessive sexual harassment that constrains their bodily movement and expression. "(Wo)Men Working" argues that the degree to which women survive the Bakken oil boom--economically and physically-- depends in part on how they negotiate existing and emerging gender norms, as well as how they process and respond to this unique opportunity-harm dyad. It also investigates how women involved in extractive industries resist or confirm to longstanding notions of women as more "natural" environmental stewards.
Eye Gaze and Empathy Deficits in Children with Callous-Unemotional Tendencies
- Bradley White, PI, Psychology
- Thomas Ollendick, Co-I, Psychology
- Robin Panneton, Co-I, Psychology
An identified risk factor for particularly severe, chronic, and violent misconduct in youth is the presence of callous-unemotional (CU) traits. CU traits reflect an uncaring, unemotional, callous affective style and self-serving, manipulative interpersonal style and can be observed in early childhood. Given the role of CU traits in mediating hostile, aggressive, and interpersonally violent behavior, and the substantial societal and financial costs associated with such behaviors, the development of a method to modify this mechanism at an early age is critical. About one third of treated youth do not show substantial benefit from our most effective behavioral interventions for conduct problems (e.g., Murrihy, Kidman, & Ollendick, 2010), and social-contextual factors can interfere with parenting-focused approaches. We herein propose to develop and demonstrate the feasibility of a novel eye-gaze intervention and assessment paradigm for young children with elevated CU traits, and to examine in a single-case design the corresponding changes in parent-reported child CU, empathy, and conduct problems. The broader goal of this study, including the proposal to which it will lead, is to inform whether affective empathy deficits in high-CU children are mediated by a deficit eye gaze, emotion recognition, and affective empathy in high-CU children. The study is of considerable societal importance.
2015 Summer Scholars in Residence
A New Construct for Studying Social Reciprocity in Autism
- Angela Scarpa, PI, Psychology
- Martha Ann Bell, Team Member, Psychology
- Julie Dunsmore, Team Member, Psychology
We will develop a measure to understand social reciprocity impairments in people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) through physiological linkage. Physiological linkage refers to coordinated physiological responses among interacting partners, and is observed across multiple social contexts in typical development (e.g., parent-infant interactions, couples, groups). It promotes social competence through improved ability to understand, predict, and respond to others. We propose that physiological linkage forms a unique, objective, and quantifiable measure of reciprocity shared between interacting people that underlies social ability. Despite the view of ASD as a social disorder, physiological linkage during live social interactions is unstudied in this population. We will develop several time series analytic techniques (including coherency analysis) to create a physiological linkage index. We then apply this index to study both dyads of non-ASD individuals and dyads where one partner has ASD, validating with measures of empathy. This will be the first study of physiological linkage in ASD as a fundamental measure of reciprocity impairments during social interaction. We capitalize on a multidisciplinary team form the VT Center for Autism Research with expertise in autism (Scarpa), psychophysiology (Bell), social behavior (Dunsmore,) economics (Ashley), and physiological linkage (Waldron) to collect pilot data informing an external grant application.
2014 Summer Scholars
Hippocampal Hyperactivity in Older Adults and Its Effects on Memory Generalization
- Rachel Diana, PI, Psychology
Previous research demonstrates that increased activity in the hippocampus is paradoxically associated with better memory performance in young adults but poorer memory performance in older adults. If hippocampal activity supports episodic memory in young adults, why does hippocampal activity diminish episodic memory in healthy older adults? Are there any benefits to the increased hippocampal activity found in older adults? We propose that these findings of hippocampal activity in general may in fact arise from distinct anatomical subregions within the hippocampus and therefore reflect different functions within the medial temporal lobe memory system. Hippocampal activity in the dentate gyrus subfield of the hippocampus contributes to the ability to differentiate similar events, a skill that declines during aging. In contrast, hippocampal activity in the CA3 subfield of the hippocampus may contribute to the ability to associate similar events. Hippocampal hyperactivity in older adults is thought to arise from the CA3 region. An untested hypothesis is that older adults have a preserved or enhanced ability to generalize across similar events, as supported by increased activation in CA3. By identifying areas of maintained strength in aging memory systems we may find strategies to improve daily function even in skills that decline. This pilot research will be used in the development of a larger-scale project for which we will be seeking future funding.
Parental Socialization of Children’s Beliefs about Weight: Implications for Pediatric Weight Loss Intervention
- Julie Dunsmore, PI, Psychology
- Madlyn Frisard, Co-I, Human Nutrition, Foods, & Exercise
Childhood obesity is a major health problem in the United States. Two key aspects of intervention and prevention efforts targeting childhood obesity are healthy diet and age-appropriate exercise. Altering family eating and activity patterns is challenging, requiring sustained motivation by both parents and children. Research robustly demonstrates that beliefs that personal characteristics are fixed (entity lay theories) lead to decreased motivation when facing challenges, whereas beliefs that personal characteristics are malleable (incremental lay theories) lead to increased motivation when facing challenges. In our previous work, we showed that parents’ and children’s entity lay theories were associated with less healthy diet (i.e., lower protein intake; higher fat intake) and physical activity habits (Dunsmore, Berrey, Berry, & Frisard, 2013). In the proposed research we extend this work by observing parent-child discussions about diet and exercise in two groups: families seeking treatment for children’s weight loss, and families with children of normal weight. Findings will support an external funding submission to develop and test an educational module on lay theories to enhance motivation and adherence in pediatric weight loss intervention. The activities proposed for this summer funding will support pilot data collection necessary for a competitive submission for external funding. Security, Inequality and Gender in Central America: The Case of El Salvador Ilja Luciak, PI, Political Science The project
Security, Inequality and Gender in Central America: The Case of El Salvador
- Ilja Luciak
Security, Inequality and Gender in Central America: The Case of El Salvador, involves a case study of gender and security in post-war El Salvador. Over the past decade, women’s participation in conflict prevention, conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction has received much-deserved attention. The introduction of a gender perspective at the international, regional and national level has led to a better understanding and appreciation of women’s participation in armed conflict and subsequent peace negotiations, as well as their central role in the reconstruction of post-conflict societies. Data collected during field research over the course of the 2014 Salvadoran presidential election process is used to analyze and compare different security regimes that emerged in the postconflict environment. The research is based on participant observation, personal interviews and archival research. A grant proposal on Security, Inequality and Gender in Latin America will be developed for the European Research Council with the support of the European Union-Latin America and Caribbean Foundation (EU-LAC), created in 2010 by the European Union to examine Latin American reality over a five-year period. It is conceived as a collaborative, comprehensive effort between Virginia Tech, EU-LAC, as well as partner institutions in Europe and Latin America.
Machine learning for the early screening of autism in toddlers
- Angela Scarpa, PI, Psychology & the Virginia Tech Center for Autism Research
- Luke Achenie, Engineering & the VT-CAR D
- Scott McCrickard, Computer Science & VT-CAR
The current proposal represents a progression in a series of funded projects that seek to improve early detection of autism in large-scale screening of toddlers. The premise is that early screening improves prognosis through decreasing the age at which autism is identified, thus allowing treatment to begin sooner. The Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers – Revised (M- CHAT-R) is a reliable and valid toddler screening measure, based on early signs of autism (e.g., poor eye contact), and is recommended in a 2-stage pediatric screening process (i.e., parents complete the paper-pencil M-CHAT-R in the pediatric office, and toddlers who screen positive are followed up with further evaluation). We will use machine learning to develop an automated process of early autism screening with the data generated from administering M-CHAT-R, and use results to develop a mobile application that is efficient and userfriendly, thereby promoting use in pediatric practices in an underserved area. Our proposal capitalizes on the strengths of a multidisciplinary team from the VT Center for Autism Research with expertise in autism, machine learning, and software and usability engineering, with consultation by the M-CHAT-R developer, to collect data that will inform a feasibility and development study, and ultimately a large validation study.
Learning Trajectories Toward Cognitive, Social, Language Outcomes in Low- and High-Risk Infants
- Robin Panneton, PI, Psychology
- Craig Ramey, Co-I, Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute and Psychology
- Sharon Ramey, Co-I, Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute and Psychology
- Brooks King-Casas, Co-I, Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute and Psychology
In recent years, a resurgence of published work has shown impressive, early learning abilities in infants and young children. Infants are capable of extracting regularities from various streams of information (statistical learning), are sensitive to response- dependencies between their own actions and the consequences that such actions bring about (contingency learning), and are typically motivated by opportunities for social engagement and interactions (social learning). While difficulties in one of these domains can be associated with atypical developmental outcomes (e.g., low social learning and autism), we know very little about their combination in individual infants, their reliability and compensatory relations within infants across age, or their predictive validity of generalized and diffuse learning deficits in young toddlers (e.g., specific language impairment). This pilot study is designed to substantiate our methods and measures with infants on the extreme ends of one sociocultural dimension (social economic status). The data collected will be used in support of a large-scale longitudinal grant application.
2014 Summer Scholar In-Residence
Building a Nuclear Safety, Security and Safeguards Culture in the New Middle East
- Patrick Roberts, PI, Center for Public Administration and Policy
- Ariel Ahram, Co-I, Government and International Affairs
- Sonja Schmid, Co-I, Science and Technology Studies
Nuclear issues threaten the stability of Middle East states, and new kinds of nuclear facilities may spread to new states in the future. This proposal proceeds along three tracks in order to build a culture of nuclear safety, security, and safeguards in the Middle East to counter the dangers of nuclear accident, terrorism, and proliferation. We propose to develop simulation and scenarios for US diplomatic and security personnel; write a paper analyzing state, regional, and global nuclear security regimes in the Middle East; and write a paper analyzing the possibilities for and limits to International Atomic Energy Agency’s role in the Middle East. These tracks will be the basis for a white paper and full proposal including each of these three parts to the Department of Defense’s Minerva Initiative.
2013 Summer Scholars
Improving Individual Mobile Information Privacy Practices
- France Bélanger, PI, Accounting and Information Systems
- Robert Crossler, Co‐PI, Mississippi State University
This research focuses on information privacy practices on mobile devices, focusing particularly on technologically able but privacy unaware users. The risks of information gathering apps and location‐based services and the problem of websites collecting information from users creates a potential information privacy black hole. In this research, we test a theoretical model of users’ intentions and actual practices towards mobile information privacy protection, develop and test the effectiveness of a mobile Privacy Education, Training and Awareness program, and develop and test privacy design guidelines that application developers can use in future development of mobile apps to ensure that they protect an individual’s privacy. The ultimate goals of this summer scholar research proposal are to obtain grant funding to complete all phases of the research program and to publish in top level academic journals.
Validating Mathematical Ways of Operating with Neural Correlates (Math WONC)
- Anthony Cate, PI, Psychology
- Anderson Norton, Co‐PI, Mathematics
- Martha Ann Bell, Co‐PI, Psychology
- Catherine Ulrich, Co‐PI, Teaching & Learning, School of Education
Teaching & Learning Middle school mathematics education helps lay the foundation for future STEM coursework and careers. Using theories from education and psychology, we have developed hypotheses about potential sources of individual differences in mathematical performance and will use the ISCE Summer Scholars program to gather pilot data for future funding. Our work will focus on behavioral and biological processes associated with brain functioning that we propose is linked to the learning of fractions and algebra. The development of coordination among specific brain regions—especially in the frontal and parietal lobes—may be a key variable that relates directly to the development of mathematical abilities. Findings from such studies have the potential to help math educators develop more effective instructional techniques for wide‐ranging mathematical abilities.
Figuring it Out: A community‐based, participatory approach to develop an intervention to assist sexual minority youth in making disclosure decisions to family
- Erica L. Grafsky, PI, Human Development
- Catherine Cotrupi, Team Member, Multicultural Programs and Services
- Troy Abel, Consultant, Visual Communication Design
Recent research has documented that sexual minority youth (SMY) are at risk for negative health outcomes and that the family context may be an important factor. Given that the negative parent reactions have been linked to negative health outcomes, scholars have called for the development of an intervention to assist SMY with the disclosure process. To date, no known interventions designed to assist SMY in making disclosure decisions exist. This project will utilize a community‐based, participatory approach to develop an intervention to assist SMY in making safe and successful disclosure decisions to family. The intent for the project is to provide preliminary feasibility and acceptability data ensure strong applications for future funding to pilot test the developed intervention.
Virtual Environment‐Based Field Research on Economic and Consumer Behavior, Decision‐ Making, and Social Interaction
- James D. Ivory, PI, Communication
- Paul Herr, Co‐PI, Marketing
- Adrienne Holz Ivory, Co‐PI, Communication
- Robert G. Magee, Co‐PI, Communication
- Betsy McDonel Herr, ISCE Representative, ISCE
With millions of people using online commercial virtual worlds, research has examined both the social impact of these environments and their potential value as a “petri dish” for research on human behavior. Studies have observed a “mapping principle” wherein a range of behavioral phenomena in virtual worlds mirror behavioral phenomena in the “real” world, hinting that virtual worlds may help us understand how people act both in and out of the online environments. To expand the potential of virtual worlds as a test bed for behavioral research conducted independent from industry collaborations, we will conduct pilot research to identify ways that field experiments in virtual worlds can extend existing behavioral research findings of interest to and within the areas of expertise to our research team. Virtual worlds provide unique opportunities to impose experimental conditions and manipulations to test questions that in more standard laboratory paradigms are more difficult, cumbersome, or less naturalistic to design. This research will not only extend behavioral research in virtual worlds, but will also establish “proof of concept” evidence for the utility of independent field experiments in virtual worlds and establish the credibility of the research team for seeking future funding.
The International Atomic Energy Agency: From Auditor to Inspector: An Organization Approach to Understanding Inspection Regimes
- Patrick S. Roberts, PI, Center for Public Administration and Policy
Nuclear proliferation will dominate the foreign policy agenda of the 21st century, yet surprisingly little is known about the network of organizations, rules, and people involved in limiting proliferation. This project will analyze the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the organization at the heart of the nonproliferation regime; it will add new data about the capacity and performance of the agency and it will use that data to shed light on an ongoing debate about how to understand organizations involved in the governance of catastrophic risk. The IAEA is part of an inspection regime in which multiple countries have agreed that an international body will conduct regular, on‐site inspections of a sovereign country. Inspection regimes will become even more important in the future as countries use them to address problems of global governance. The findings of this project will be used to seek future funding.
Identity and Place: Analyzing Qualitative Narratives and Interviews of Women Navigating Spatial & Identity Transitions
- Anisa Zvonkovic, PI, Human Development
- Katrina Powell, Co‐PI, English
This project represents collaboration between a social scientist and a rhetorician who study women who experience movement across different geographical spaces and movements that reflect shifts in identity. The available data can be arranged in order ranging for quotidian, every day movements, to regular movements across countries involving some degree of danger and identity, movements that reflect displacement in their lives. These data will be re‐analyzed in light of the two methods of the researchers: the social scientist primarily utilizes grounded theory methods and the rhetorician primarily uses narrative methods. The results of this project will contribute to: 1) methodological innovation in interdisciplinary behavioral and social science; 2) theoretical advances in the study of women and identity; and 3) substantive content related to women managing their work and identity, as well as to the social problems inherent in displacement and war‐ravaged countries, from women’s perspectives. With these contributions, future funding will be sought.
2013 ISCE Summer Scholars In‐Residence
Neuroeconomics of social decision making in autism spectrum disorders
- John A. Richey, PI, Psychology
- Angela Scarpa, Team Member, Psychology
- Ken Kishida, Team Member, Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute
- Denis Gracanin, Team Member, Computer Science
- Andrew Valdespino, Team Member, Psychology
- Sheryl Ball, Team Member, Economics
This project contributes to a larger program of study that seek to delineate the neurobiological underpinnings of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We hypothesize that neurofunctional alterations in reward‐related decision‐making may constrain social behavior in ASD by depriving decision‐making structures in the brain of information related to affect and social context. We are seeking to leverage well‐established and experimental frameworks in decision‐science and neuroeconomics to measure neural responses in subjects with ASD during function magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). As part of this project, we will collect pilot data and establish feasibility so that we may pursue large‐scale federal funding to support the research agenda of the newly formed Center for Autism Research (CAR).
2012 Summer Scholars
Integrating Planning for Sustainable Economic Development and Transport: Lessons from Cities in Transition in Western Europe and the United States
- Ralph Buehler, PI, Urban Affairs & Planning
- Margaret Cowell, Co-PI, Urban Affairs & Planning
We propose to extract best practices and policy lessons of coordinating planning for sustainable economic development and sustainable transport from Western European and U.S. cities that struggle with the adverse effects of long-term outmigration, economic restructuring, and deindustrialization. Despite the complementary goals and mutually beneficial outcomes of planning for sustainable economic development and sustainable transport, little is known about the connection between these two planning areas in the context of Cities in Transition. The proposed project fills this gap in applied, policy-oriented research, and contributes to the fields of built environments and urban formations, economic development, sustainable transport, and transitional economies. Based on project findings, future funds will be sought to study coordinated planning strategies for sustainable economic development and sustainable transport in selected Cities in Transition.
Training Modules for Farm Workers and Families: Skin Cancer Prevention by Intelligent Self-Management of Cumulative Ultraviolet Exposure
- John K. Burton, PI, Learning Sciences & Technologies
- Kerry J. Redican, Co-PI, Population Health Sciences
- Robert D. Grisso, Co-PI, Biological Systems Engineering
- Don C. Ohanehi, Co-PI, Mechanical Engineering
The Center for Disease Control categorizes skin cancer as epidemic. The primary culprit is ultraviolet (UV) radiation, associated with about 90% of non-melanoma skin cancer. Farming families, the study’ initial focus, are particularly vulnerable to skin cancer. Clinically-monitored prevention programs are inaccessible to farmers. Effective self-management is needed. Based on findings from the preliminary pilot study, we will proceed with a three-phased research program. Phase 1 will be basic assessment for personal UV monitor training. Farming families will receive UV monitors and training, and assessment by the study team. Phase 2 will assess higher levels of training and handheld telemedical devices. Phase 3 will develop improved UV monitoring and alerting tools. Skin cancer occurrence reductions are expected.
The Political Dynamics of Climate Change Policy Design
- Brian J. Cook, PI, Center for Public Administration and Policy
- Michael D. Jones, Co-PI, Center for Public Administration and Policy
- Aaron Smith-Walter, Research Assistant, Center for Public Administration and Policy
Climate change is one of the most pressing policy problems facing the U.S. Despite strong scientific consensus about the predicted consequences for failing to address climate change, U.S. policy makers have labored unsuccessfully to produce policy designs that yield broad political support. Contemporary policy theories have failed to explain this phenomenon sufficiently. Addressing this knowledge gap, we propose to study elite perceptions of the development, substance, and support for various climate change policy designs. Our mixedmethods approach initially relies on content analysis, interviews, and a survey to determine the benefit and cost narratives employed by elites. We will further analyze these data to identify the networks within the climate change policy subsystem where these narratives thrive, identifying critical informational pathways. Finally, relying upon these analyses to inform our assumptions about actor perceptions and narrative structures, we will design an agent-based model capable of simulating the effects of alternative policy deigned coalition formation. The model will allow us to test hypotheses about the chances of political success for different designs. Project findings will be used to seek future external funding.
Obese by Nature or by Practice? Parent and Child Beliefs in Pediatric Weight Loss Intervention
- Julie C. Dunsmore, PI, Psychology
- Madlyn I. Frisard, Co-PI, Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise
- David E. Berry, Co-PI, Lewis Gale Hospital
Childhood obesity is increasingly recognized as a major health problem in the United States. Two key aspects of intervention and prevention efforts targeting childhood obesity are healthy diet and age-appropriate exercise. Altering family eating and activity patterns is challenging, requiring sustained motivation by both parents and children. Though motivation has been largely neglected in literature on weight loss intervention and prevention, research robustly demonstrates that beliefs that personal characteristics are fixed lead to decreased motivation when facing challenges, whereas beliefs hat personal characteristics are malleable lead to increased motivation when facing challenges and better long-term performance. In the current research we draw from this literature to inform a novel approach to enhancing motivation and adherence in pediatric weight loss intervention. We will examine parent and child beliefs related to body weight, diet, and exercise. In particular, in our external funding submission, we will examine whether parent and child beliefs predict response to weight loss intervention. The activities proposed for this summer funding will ensure completion of pilot data collection and concentrated writing time necessary for a competitive submission for external funding.
Empowerment Programs in Sri Lanka: Measuring Impact Across Rehabilitation
- Katrina Powell, PI, Sociology
- James Hawdon, Co-PI, Sociology
- Donald Shoemaker, Team Member, Sociology
In Sri Lanka, government sponsored developments, a recent tsunami, and ethnic conflict have occurred simultaneously, creating multiple layers of displacement. The proposed project examines the role of a local NGO, Sarvodaya, in providing humanitarian aid to displaced persons. The experiences of multiple displacements complicate rebuilding efforts and even raise the question whether displaced communities can be rebuilt. We seek external funding to build a “displacement scale” which will be an instrument to study multiple kinds of displacement events and serve as an indicator of the sustainability of NGOs like Sarvodaya. This will be the first study to systemically measure empowerment as a means toward sustainable peace while considering the multiple displacements as part of the context in which that empowerment occurs. The displacement scale developed for this project will then be developed for application to measure the sustainability of other humanitarian programs across the globe.
Development of a Web-Based Aid to Guide Decisions Regarding Genetic Testing for Predispositions to Alzheimer’s Disease
- Doris T. Zallen, PI, Science & Technology in Society
The genetic revolution is giving people unprecedented access to genetic tests for predisposition to common disorders. Genetic tests offer many benefits, but they also can create serious personal and family problems. Consumers need guidance to think through the technical information as well as their personal values and family dynamics when deciding whether or not to test. Unfortunately, little guidance is being given by physicians, and none by direct-toconsumer companies. This project will develop a Web-based multi-media decision aid that is designed to help consumers make informed decisions about whether genetic testing is right for them. The genetic test that provides information on risk for Alzheimer’s disease has been selected as the first target. After the initial prototype is developed, it will be examined by two focus groups and improvements will be made based on the focus-group input. Having a prototype, vetted by consumers, will make it possible to apply for future funding for studies to validate the usefulness of this innovative decision aid.
Developing a Policy Framework for Community Resilience Building after Disaster
- Yang Zhang, PI, Urban Affairs and Planning
- John Randolph, Co-PI, Urban Affairs and Planning
- William Drake, doctoral student assistant, Urban Affairs and Planning
In an effort to build more resilient communities, it is ever more critical to better understand how communities recover following a disaster event. We seek to identify the policy factors that enable both speedy recovery and adaptive learning after disaster. This will include a qualitative examination of the recovery and policy learning in selected coastal communities in the United States and a quantitative assessment of the effectiveness of the policy outcomes in these communities. The research will consist of two major tasks: a.) a review of policy actions—both recovery focused and long term resilience building focused—taken from the select disasterstricken communities; and b.) a household survey to collect data on recovery, resilience outcomes, and public satisfaction. Future funding will be sought to develop the research of post-disaster communities more fully.
2012 Summer Scholars In-Residence
Multilevel predictive modeling of risk decision-making and substance use in adolescence
- Jungmeen Kim-Spoon, PI, Psychology
- Brooks King-Casas, Co-PI, VT Carilion Research Institute
- Warren Bickel, Co-PI, VT Carilion Research Institute
- Pearl Chiu, Co-PI, VT Carilion Research Institute
- Kirby Deater-Dekard, Co- PI, Psychology
The developmental period of adolescence is a time of great vulnerability to health risk behaviors such as substance use, casual sexual activity, and reckless driving, all of which can have lethal consequences. Adolescents’’ substance use behaviors represent a major public health concern because they pose a critical—and potentially preventable—risk to health and functioning. Recent research in developmental neuroscience suggests that the combination of relatively higher inclination to seek rewards and still-maturing capacities for impulse control may contribute to heightened risk-taking during adolescence. We bring together a multidisciplinary team to investigate the independent and joint contributions of neural, behavioral, cognitive, emotional, and social factors to predicting adolescents’ risk decisionmaking and health risk behaviors. The proposed research has the potential to point to critical areas for targeting risk-reduction interventions for adolescents. The activities proposed for this summer funding will ensure completion of pilot data collection necessary for a competitive submission for future funding.
2011 Summer Scholars
Sustainable Community Resilience: Establishing a Link between Inherent and Dynamic Disaster Resilience
- Christopher Zobel, PI, Business Information Technology
- Loren Paul Rees, Business Information Technology
- S. Peter Sforza, PI, Center for Geospatial Information Tech
- Josey Chacko, Business Information Technology
Sudden-onset natural disasters, such as floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes, can have a significant long-term impact on both the physical infrastructure and social infrastructure of vulnerable communities. The propose of our research is to analyze the interaction between the dynamic disaster resilience of a community, as exhibited by its response to a specific disaster, and the (static) inherent resilience of that community against disasters in general. Mathematical models will then be developed to indicate the best path to achieving overall long-term resilience, focusing on the social dimension and including such components as (1) public general welfare/safety; (2) health; (3) education; and (4) family and social/faith networking. Data from a flooding disaster will be analyzed to calculate the observed resilience and to compare it against the expected results from the model. Based on our preliminary findings, we will seek external funding to further develop our theoretical framework and analyze the interaction between the dynamic disaster resilience of a community, as exhibited by its response to a specific disaster, and the (static) inherent resilience of that community against disasters in general.
Statistical Genetics Research on Sense of Mastery and Alcohol-Related Outcomes
- J. Jill Kiecolt, PI, Sociology
- Danielle Dick, Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics
Sociological studies of alcohol-related outcomes often use a stress process model. This model implicates sense of mastery as a personal coping resource that has beneficial main effects and buffers stressors. Cutting-edge research in sociology is now investigating how genes interact with elements of the stress process model to influence alcohol-related outcomes, such as social support. This project will establish the groundwork for a reach program to investigate how mastery and genes known to be related to alcohol-related problems interact to influence those outcomes. Upon completion of a small-scale study to examine these interactions, a proposal for external funding to use data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children to investigate changes in alcohol-related outcomes over time will be developed.
Investigating the Factors Contributing to the Under Diagnosis of Breast Cancer in Rural Southwest Virginia
- Laura Jensen, PI, CPAP
- Fatima Sharif, CPAP
Rural areas, and rural Appalachia in particular, typically are characterized by relatively high rates of cancer and other disease. There are three geographic clusters in southwest Virginia identified by the Virginia Department of Health as having a low relative risk of breast cancer incidence. The existence of three low-rate breast cancer clusters is at odds with higher levels of breast cancer incidence in other parts of the state. Because breast cancer mortality rates in the three low relative risk clusters in southwest Virginia do not differ significantly from breast cancer mortality rates in other parts of the state, the presence of a low relative risk of disease incidence appears even more anomalous. Thus, breast cancer is almost certainly being underdiagnosed, underreported, or both. Both underdiagnosis and underreporting are likely to diminish the prospects of adequate policy responses to public health needs and disease. The aim of this project is to examine how low and high relative risk clusters vary in terms of women’s access to health care, financial issues, breast cancer knowledge, fear, and patient trust. The creation and pretest of a survey will be followed by the preparation and submission of a proposal to fund a full-scale quantitative study of the causes and consequences of cancer health disparities.
Community Inclusion and Conflict in our Nation's Capital
- Derek Hyra, PI, Urban Affairs and Planning
- David Kirk, Sociology, University of Texas
The purpose of this project is to facilitate the completion of a in-depth, two-year ethnographic case study of a racially diverse mixed-income neighborhood. Through assessing the revitalization of Washington, DC’s Shaw/U Street neighborhood, a historic African-American community, this study will be one of the first to conceptualize and analyze various processes associated with multiracial gentrification, where upper and middle income whites, blacks and Hispanics, both gay and straight, move into a low-income black neighborhood. Findings will contribute to the overlapping literature on gentrification, racial integration, community inclusion, and neighborhood effects.
Exploring State Fragility and International Aid Intervention via Nongovernmental Organizations: The Case of Haiti
- Max Stephenson, PI, SPIA/VTIPG
- Laura Zanotti, Co-PI, Political Science
Haiti’s recent history has been marked by political turmoil and natural disasters, including three hurricanes and a tropical storm in 2008 and a major earthquake in 2010. International organizations, including United Nations (UN) peacekeeping forces and staff, and NGO’s have been engaged in institution building, development, and basic services provision in Haiti since the early 1990s. How ever, despite decades of strong international engagement, the Haitian state remains fragile, human security low, and poverty deep. As international donors have distributed funding disproportionately through NGOs as a key conditional tool of institution building, the civil society role in Haiti has grown, but the achievements of this form of aid provision have been uneven. We plan to prepare a proposal for external funding to assess three reputedly successful NGOs in the strategic sectors of health care, education and financial services, with the goal of developing an empirical analysis of whether and how in conditions of extreme poverty, state fragility, and heavy international presence, NGOs can provide effective services to targeted populations, and how that assistance may contribute to broader national international goals of fostering state institution building, democracy, economic sustainability and peace in fragile and post-conflict states.
2011 Summer Scholars in Residence
Neurophysiological underpinnings of social and behavioral challenges in autism spectrum disorders
- Angela Scarpa, PI , Psychology
- Read Montague, VTCRI, Human Neuroimaging Lab
- Susan White, Psychology
- Bruce Friedman, Psychology
- Stephen Porges, Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago
- Ken Kishida, VTCRI, Human Neuroimaging Lab
- Michelle Patriquin, Psychology
Autism spectrum disorders are the most common developmental disorder and significantly affect the developmental trajectory of individuals in language, social, and behavioral domains, while generating considerable fiscal strain on caretakers and society. Current literature suggests neurological (i.e., cingulate cortex, amygdala) and autonomic (i.e., respiratory sinus arrhythmia; measurement of the vagus nerve) markers of language, social, and behavioral challenges in ASD. Yet, it is unknown how these potential biomarkers may jointly contribute to difficulties in ASD. Our team will develop a proposal for external funds that will link the autonomic experience of ASD (i.e., hyperarousal) with neural origins, and how this proposed neurophysiological circuit may produce dysfunctional social and behavioral responses. This comprehensive approach will directly measure neurophysiological activity through functional magnetic resonance imaging and electrocardiogram in individuals with ASD, to provide valuable information that maps onto social and behavioral symptoms. This approach holds the possibility of informing the development of interventions that will uniquely target neurophysiological processes that contribute to the experience of ASD.
The Human Dynamics of Violence Prevention
- Diana Ridgwell, PI , CLAHS-UAAO
- Deborah Tatar, Computer Science
- Lakshmi Jayaram, Sociology
- James Ivory, Communications
- Scott Geller, Psychology
- Cynthia Smith, Human Development
- Kathryne McConnell, Academic Assessment
The Human Dynamics of Violence Prevention Research Team will submit a proposal to the National Science Foundation (NSF) for support of a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU). The intellectual focus of the REU project is the study of children’s emotional development and issues related to violence and technology. in video games, bullying, As ISCE Summer Scholars in Residence, the team will work closely together to focus on revising previously submitted the NSF FEU proposal for resubmission, meet with ISCE staff, and visit with program directors. In addition, the research group will explore other collaborative efforts, resulting in the submission of future grant proposals. Constructing Community Indicators: Engagement Narrative and the Measurement of Community Health Outcomes Matthew Dull, PI, CPAP Beth Offenbacker, CPAP Saunji Fyffe, CPAP The project involves a partnership between faculty and students of Virginia Tech’s Center for Public Administration and Policy (CPAP), the City of Alexandria, and two local nonprofit organizations to measure and inform public dialogue around the social determinants of health and resulting health inequities. Building on a multi-year Partnership for a Healthier Alexandria “healthy city” indicators effort and the City’s strategic plan, this “community indicators” initiative will engage community members in a focused dialogue specifically about quality-of-life and well-being indicators. In conjunction with proposed City funding, SS-IR program participation will enable us to develop proposals drawing together federal government/private foundation support. The ultimate goal is to contribute to community outreach, build CPAP and VT capacity in areas of significant ongoing investments, and create unique opportunities for observation/analysis that will further important scholarly research.
2010 Summer Scholars In-Residence
Enhancing Mathematics Education in Grades 4-8: Where Mobile Technologies, Games & Individual Self-Regulation Meet
- Michael Evans, PI, Learning Sciences and Technologies
- Kirby Deater-Deckard, Co-PI, Psychology
In the 21st century, a successful education increasingly involves grasping fundamental concepts in a knowledge cluster identified as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) skills. At the same time, the delivery and acquisition of knowledge will involve complex media and ubiquitous technology that is simultaneously personalized, portable, and linked through the Internet to the entire world of knowledge. Yet even as these changes in technology and knowledge proceed, there are wide ranging differences between learners in attention, motivation, and cognition that may promote or impede the successful acquisition and, more importantly, application of STEM knowledge using these same technologies. Therefore, our research goal is to determine how individual differences in a variety of personal attributes mediate and moderate learning of mathematics among several targeted populations in grades 4-8 to deliver educational experiences that motivate learners to construct sophisticated mathematical ideas in, often, co-constructive ways. Development goals revolve around leveraging principles from game design (mechanics, story, and aesthetics) to more effectively engage students in computational thinking and problem solving. The scalability and sustainability goal is to leverage the extremely viable iTunes Apps Store model to promote a market of educational applications created for and by content experts and teachers in the state of Virginia and beyond. If successful, the pedagogical pipeline would provide a streamlined process to design, develop, deliver, use, and evaluate educational content for mobile devices and platforms, and to ascertain the impact of individual differences with respect to differential efficacy of these devices and platforms.
Media Literacy Health Intervention Evaluation: Impact on Smoking, Alcohol, and Nutrition Behaviors
- Christine Kaestle, PI, Human Development
- Yvonnes Chen, Team Member, Communications
- Paul Estabrooks, Team Member, Human Nutrition, Foods, & Exercise
- Jamie Zoellner, Team Member, Human Nutrition, Foods, & Exercise
Media is a critical factor in promoting risk behaviors such as smoking, alcohol use, and junk food consumption. Therefore, understanding how medial works and defusing its power to influence youth are essential for comprehensive prevention strategies. The tobacco, alcohol, and junk food industries use very similar marketing strategies to appeal to young people; given that media content and marketing strategies have significant impact on adolescents’ health behaviors, media literacy—the ability to access, analyze, and evaluate media message—has the potential to mitigate the negative impact of tobacco media messages. Media literacy has the capacity to improve adolescents’ health by reinforcing youth’s ability to think critically about the media and to produce messages counter-arguing the harmful effects of the glamorized, unrealistic portrayals in the media. Our current understanding of the potential impact of health promotion media literacy is limited; this project fills several gaps in our understanding of how to effectively implement anti-smoking media literacy interventions. Our study design includes behavior related questions in our pre and post test instruments. We will explore interactions to determine whether the effectiveness of media literacy differs based on pre-existing conditions such as sex, age, grade, race, parental education, peer and family behavior, and current behavior. These initial data will be used to seek extramural funding.
2009 Summer Scholars
Cumulative Disadvantage and Single Mothers: Operationalizing the Theory of Maternal Distress
- Joyce Arditti, PI, Human Development
- Joseph Grzywacz, Co-PI, Family and Community Medicine, Wake Forest University School of Medicine
The goal of this project is to develop and pilot an instrument assessing maternal distress. Maternal distress is conceptualized as a multidimensional construct that comprised of a) psychological distress, most obviously manifested as depressive symptomology, b) relational distress involving intimate others, unresolved loss and guilt, and c) situational distress centered on provider and health concerns. We argue that focusing on women’s psychological state medicalizes maternal distress and diverts attention from legitimate alternative targets for promoting health and well-being for mothers and their children. A necessary first step is the creation of a valid and reliable instrument that measures material distress. The project will result in a coherent, reliable, and valid set of scale items of psychological, situational, and relational aspects of maternal distress that hold predictive utility relative to key child outcomes such as adjustment, behavior problems, and maltreatment. The pilot project will serve as the foundation for NIH/NICD proposal focused on promoting resilience in women and children in vulnerable families.
Virginia Tech's Linux Laptop Orchestra – Coupling Traditional Arts, Creative Technologies, and Scientific Research into a Compelling Platform for Creativity, Education, and Outreach
- Ivica Ico Bukvic, PI, Music, CCTAD
- Thomas Martin, Co-PI, Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
We propose to design and develop a pilot iteration of the VT Linux Laptop Orchestra (L2Ork), a cost-efficient ensemble with the supporting curriculum that seamlessly integrates Arts and Sciences by cross-pollinating centuries of collaborative tradition of the Western orchestra with contemporary creative technologies. L2Ork with its unique aesthetics does not require years of musical training and as such, its members will ideally consist of students and Faculty of diverse professional backgrounds. Likewise, its research potential as a tightly integrated, tried, and tested collaborative environment will offer an invaluable rapid prototyping sandbox for scholars and educators alike. One could easily envision exploring an array of topics ranging from distributed computing, CreativeIT, and the development of innovative network-dependent technologies, to studies of effects of Web 2.0 and other novel collaboration frameworks on human development, social interaction, and target populations (e.g., children, older adults, persons with disabilities). L2Ork's cost-efficient design using Linux-based software, coupled with low-cost hardware would encourage its wider dissemination and adoption beyond the University, including K-12 education, where such an ensemble would encourage a symbiotic treatment of STEM and Arts. We will identify a number of collaborative on-campus projects for the fall of 2009 to use L2Ork for scientific research. In addition, the project will help strengthen existing collaborative relationship with regional public schools to facilitate a joint pursuit of external funding that would enable introduction of laptop orchestras into the K-12 curriculum, particularly in the underrepresented communities of the Appalachian region.
Discourse Analysis and Multidisciplinary Research: Partnering to Address Contemporary Social Problems
- Bernice Hausman, PI, English
- Katrina Powell, Co-PI, Sociology
- Clare Dannenberg, Team Member, English
- Paul Heilker, Team Member, English
- Richard Hirsh, Consultant, History
- Jay Clayton, Consultant, English, Vanderbilt University
The theoretically informed study of language use offers important access to cultural ideals, beliefs, and experiences that are crucial to addressing pressing social problems. Our collaborative research group seeks to contribute our expertise in the study of discourse to problems that require insights from the humanities as well as the social and natural sciences. One area of interest is in examining the cultural aspects of problems whose solutions are perceived to be technological or managerial. We seek cross-disciplinary partners to develop projects in four primary areas: gender, ethnic, and class disparities; displacement and trauma; energy and culture; and risk and health. With funds from ISCE, we will pursue project partners and work with consultants to obtain funding from private foundations and federal agencies, emphasizing the interpretive research methods that are the strength of humanistic research. Refining and developing our methodology in a collaborative research context will help us connect to potential partners, articulate our projects and goals to funders, and proposals for external funding.
PHOEBE's FIELD: Exploring Physics through Narrative and Metaphor
- Mitzi Vernon, PI, Industrial Design
- Michael Ermann, Co-PI, Architecture
- John Simonetti, Co-PI, Physics
- Katherine Cennamo, Co-PI, Instructional Design & Technology
This a proposal for a traveling exhibition designed to make the abstract physics of fields concrete and relevant to middle school students. The exhibit is based on an unpublished manuscript called Phoebe's Field, written by the principal investigator. The Phoebe's Field exhibit focuses on electromagnetic fields because of their intrinsic link to the communication-centric technologies of youth culture. The exhibit uses the metaphors of sound and wind fields to explain the more complex concept of electromagnetism, and invites visitors to have a full-body, kinesthetic experience as active components of the fields. While Phoebe’s Field is meant to engage all children and their families, we target middle school girls in an effort to widen the net of general scientific literacy. The primary goal of the project is to develop aninclusive model for informal learning environments. The current project team includes a student/faculty team at Virginia Tech, the Science Museum of Western Virginia, the Paul Orselli Workshop, Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA), Resolution: 4 Architecture, the Center for Children & Technology, and the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC), with Bose Corporation and Motorola, Inc. as product and technical support sponsors. The project team will use ISCE funding to support the re-development of a proposal to the Informal Science Education (ISE) program at the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 2009.
2008 Summer Scholars
Open to Interpretation: America's Title IX Stories
- Kelly Belanger, PI, English/Center for the Study of Rhetoric in Society
- Barbara Ellen Smith, Co-PI, Women's Studies/Interdisciplinary Studies
- Stephen Prince, Co-PI, Communications
- Robert Leonard, Co-PI, Theatre Arts
Funds from ISCE will help us lay the groundwork for a documentary film, book, and outreach project that examines the discourses around Title IX, the 1972 landmark law that prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded educational programs. By focusing on the continuing, 35-year-old controversies around gender equity in education and athletics, this project examines how rhetorical, ideological narratives frame our social constructions of reality and the dynamics of social change. The proposed film and book are especially timely in light of dialogue sparked by a 2007 book that critiques the “separate but equal” premise of Title IX. The authors contend that there is “a legal conflict between Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” Their position counters conventional wisdom that Title IX is a sufficiently strong law as well as arguments that gender equity in athletics has “gone too far” and now represents reverse discrimination. Our project analyzes and contributes to this dialogue by tracing the strands of gender equity discourses back to the 1970s, the first decade after Title IX was enacted. The project centers on an early gender equity struggle that was among the first to confront the key issues that are still central to contemporary debates.
Increasing the Participation of Women in Engineering: An Examination of Gender Sterotypes, Self-Beliefs, Choice of Major, Academic Achievement, and Program Withdrawal
- Brett Jones, PI, Educational Psychology
- Serge Hein, Co-PI, Educational Research and Evaluation
- Marie Paretti, Co-PI, Engineering Education/Engineering Communications Center
- Tamara Knott, Co-PI, Engineering Education
ISCE support will be used to support the development of external grant proposals for a longitudinal study to examine how gender stereotypes and self-beliefs are related to women engineering students’ (a) selection of a major, (b) achievement in engineering courses, and (c) likelihood of withdrawing from engineering. Of equal importance, the study will examine how these variables differ across populations such as a large land-grant institution, a historically Black institution, and an all-female institution. The findings will provide the foundation for follow-up research on interventions to improve the academic achievement and retention of women in engineering. In doing so, this project directly addresses social and individual transformation within the context of human development as it seeks ways to broaden the participation of women in engineering. The proposed study will use a mixed methods design, combining quantitative data (survey instruments) and qualitative data (open-ended interviews) collected at multiple points during the participants’ freshman and sophomore years. The findings will allow us to identify significant relationships among the study variables and develop an in-depth understanding of participants’ experiences as engineering students, including their career choices.
Regional Competitiveness and the Creation of Transatlantic Markets for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
- Heike Mayer, PI, Urban Affairs and Planning (NCR)
Competitiveness – the ability to create innovative and entrepreneurial economies – increasingly depends on economic relationships that span geographic boundaries. While globally operating firms have long been a reality, scholars and policymakers have only recently started to think about how regional economies are globally integrated and how transatlantic linkages create wealth and prosperity at the regional level. We propose to examine how transatlantic relationships support innovation and entrepreneurship at the regional level. ISCE funding will support the development of proposals to the National Science Foundation and the German Marshall Fund. Reviews of a similar proposal submitted to the Delegation of the European Commission in Washington D.C. noted the importance of regional competitiveness as a topic in EU-US relations and expressed great interest in the proposed comparative focus. We will develop a network of researchers and policymakers and propose to seek external funding for a research workshop in Europe and a policy conference in Washington D.C. We draw on an international network of research and outreach partners to write a winning proposal this summer. Our proposed activities will leverage our location in Washington D.C. by connecting to the policymaking communities.
Building Related Environmental Assessments & Technology in Housing, Existing Sustainability Parameters, Indoor Environmental Quality Indicators, and Inhabitant Perceptions
- Annie Pearce, PI, Building Construction
- Deborah Young, Co-PI, Myers-Lawson School of Construction
- Casey Dawkins, Co-PI, Virginia Housing Research Center
- C. Theodore Koebel, Co-PI, Urban Affairs and Planning
Funding from ISCE will enable the researchers to prepare a grant proposal in response to a specific National Institutes of Health, National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences program announcement. The proposed project has, as its ultimate aim, a transformative increase in the adoption of sustainability technologies among inhabitants of existing housing structures. We aim to investigate sustainability parameters and indoor environmental quality of existing housing structures, along with inhabitant perceptions of economic and health benefits and risks associated with sustainable technology and indoor air contaminants. Using evaluation tools developed by the United States Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Building Assessment Survey and Evaluation (BASE) of the indoor environment, the investigators will catalog parameters from 500 non-LEED-certified housing structures across economic and geographic sectors. Relationships among parameters will be evaluated using geographic information systems and structural equation modeling, to determine key factors associated with inhabitant comfort, health, and willingness to adopt new sustainability technology. Findings will be employed in the development of intervention strategies to improve market adoption of sustainability technologies.
DARC (Digital Arts Research Collective) Summer Development Program
- Eric Standley, PI, Art and Art History
- Steve Harrison, Co-PI, Computer Science
- Carol Burch-Brown, Co-PI, Art and Art History
The Digital Arts Research Collective (DARC) is a cross-disciplinary research project that endorses Richard Florida’s observation that creative technologies bring new methods and focus to old problems across disciplinary boundaries. Foremost among DARC’s core competencies is the ability to create provocative digital simulacra such as interactive environs, animated games and other sensory interventions. These technical disciplines are complemented by a stance towards research that juxtaposes disciplinary values. For example, the aesthetics of math and science (e.g. optimization of resource utilization and compactness of representation) differ from those of retail architecture (reassurance and momentary engagement) and differ still from those of contemporary art (irony and multi-layered meaning). This approach is represented by the three activities this proposal will develop: “Singing Darwin” investigates contemporary evolutionary theory, linking art and science venues through performance, exhibit and electronic media; “Revo-over” is an art installation that intersects genres and alters the experience of physical space; and DARC’s emergent program will explore genre-crossing research. Specific activities supported through ISCE include the development of prototype elements and preparation of grant proposals to NSF (Creative IT and Informal Science Education), NEH (IMLS/NEH Digital Partnership), Sloan Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation.
Disaster Management, Climate Signals, and the Use of Science in Public Policy
- Kris Wernstedt, PI, Urban Affairs and Planning (NCR)
- Patrick Roberts, Co-PI, Center for Public Administration and Policy (Blacksburg)
- Matthew Dull, Co-PI, Center for Public Administration and Policy (NCR)
Scientific and technical advances offer the potential for science to improve public policy decision-making. In the climate realm, researchers have developed the ability to anticipate seasonal climate shifts (e.g., El Niño) and their impacts on human systems. Yet, few emergency managers have used such climate information to reduce disaster losses from floods and hurricanes. We believe targeted research and stakeholder engagement can illuminate reasons for the limited use and mitigate practical difficulties that emergency managers face. ISCE funds will be used to strengthen an existing, highly-rated proposal for a federally funded research project to 1) understand emergency managers’ use of climate signals; 2) assess the relative importance to forecast utilization of the communication of climate signals, the political and institutional context of emergency management, and forecast characteristics; and 3) develop a network supporting the use of climate information in hazards management. Our planned study combines interviews; facilitated group discussion among experts and practitioners; and a national survey of hazards managers, which employs choice experiments to examine factors shaping climate forecast use. The study’s final element entails development of an Internet-based forum to disseminate findings and build a network of practitioners and researchers to share information about climate signals.
2007 Summer Scholars
Local Knowledge, Building Science, and Technical Assessments in Post-Katrina New Orleans’ Historic Districts
- Barbara Allen, PI, Science and Technology in Society (NCR)
This project will examine the relationship between local knowledge and non-local (outside/expert) knowledge in the assessment, rebuilding and repair of historic damaged properties in New Orleans. It will focus on several predominantly minority and mixed neighborhoods in the older (19th century) parts of the city. Specifically, the research will look at interactions between local groups and individuals, NGOs and businesses that target the repair and rebuilding of historic properties, and the local, state and national government arena to further understanding of how local knowledge can be effectively combined with cosmopolitan knowledge to enable rebuilding in the wake of a disaster that is culturally and technologically appropriate and communicatively open and helpful to all participants.
Aural Matrix Haptic Display Interface: A Two-Dimensional Aural Speaker Array as a Three-Dimensional Multimodal Interactive Environment for Imaging and Navigation
- Ivaca Bukvic, PI, Music
- Francis Quek, Co-PI, Computer Science
- Denis Gracanin, Co-PI, Computer Science
Aural Matrix Haptic Display Interface (AMHDI) is an aural counterpart to the traditional visual display technology, such as TV and LCD. It uses human aural perception mechanism and its vastly underemployed discrete spatial potential in order to complement, off-load, or entirely replace human visual perception function. AMHDI serves a foundation for the development of assistive technologies for visually impaired as well as other perception-, navigation-, and coordination based. It has a creative media potential to enhance both consumer and immersive audio environments, as well as offer a new artistic medium. The main objective of this project is to produce a small but fully functional AMHDI prototype.
Parent-child Emotional Communication in Families who have Experienced Mediation Related to Separation or Divorce
- Julie Dunsmore, PI, Psychology
- Joyce Arditti, Co-PI, Human Development
- Thomas Ollendick, Co-PI, Psychology
Mediation is increasingly promoted as a way of resolving family conflicts related to separation or divorce that is both more efficient and less disruptive for parents and children compared to litigation. One critical aspect of the mediation process is the parents’ education about emotional communication. Research on children’s social and emotional development strongly suggests that children are aided by their parents’ acceptance of negative emotions and discussion of the causes and consequences of emotions. However, little of this research has been conducted with families who have experienced separation or divorce. In collaboration with Better Agreements, Inc. (BAI), our local conflict mediation center, we will examine parent-child emotional communication in families with children whose parents have participated in mediation related to separation or divorce.
Synergistic Approach to Applying Rhetoric, Creative Writing, and Music for Teaching Science and Mathematics Concepts to Young Children
- Carlos Evia, PI, English
- Tonya Smith-Jackson, Co-PI, Industrial & Systems Engineering
- Olga Padilla-Falto, Co-PI, Foreign Languages and Literature
- Ivica Bukvic, Co-PI, Music
Science and Mathematics Inclusive Learning and Engagement (SMILE) is an interdisciplinary project with the purpose of teaching concepts of science and mathematics to young children in remote regions of Appalachia through metaphors and similes embedded in children-oriented stories and songs. With personnel from rhetoric, creative writing, linguistics, music, and industrial systems and engineering, we are developing educational toys and instructional materials to convey new concepts in familiar and easy to understand terms of mining and engineering. These materials are produced in a participatory approach with potential users serving as consultants and evaluators. The purpose of this project is to develop complete and real examples of our kits, including toys/artifacts, documentation for parents, and educational stories and songs for children to be used as evidence of the project’s effectiveness when applying for external funding.
TWIST: Theater Workshop in Science and Technology
- Saul Halfon, PI, Science and Technology in Society
- Jane Lehr, Co-PI, Science and Technology in Society
- Doris Zallen, Co-PI, Science and Technology in Society
- Carol Brandt, Collaborator, Education
- Daniel Breslau, Collaborator, Science and Technology in Society
- Ann Kikelly, Collaboratior, Interdisciplinary Studies
Since 1984, the award winning Choices and Challenges (C&C) program has developed an evidence-based model for public dialog among scientists, humanists, policymakers, activists, and various publics about contentious and significant developments in the relation between science, technology, and social life. Building on past successes with performances associated with the yearly Choices and Challenges Forum, this collaboration will institutionalize a yearly cycle of development, performance, and evaluation of theater pieces that: 1) engages various publics with significant or contentious developments in science or technology, while 2) simultaneously serving as a research program for understanding how science/theater projects can and do serve as resources for developers and attendees, as well as explorations on the potential of such projects for facilitating meaningful social transformation.
Identity Transformation as Constructed in Federal Mine Safety Coal Inspection Discourse: How Miners Are Becoming Effective Agents of Change
- Anita Puckett, PI, Interdisciplinary Studies
- Lisa McNair, Co-PI, Engineering Education
The Mine Safety and Health Administration's National Mine Health and Safety Academy (NMHS Academy) at Beaver, West Virginia, have launched a massive, federally supported program to train over 500 new mine inspectors recruited from miners working in mines throughout the country, but primarily in the Appalachian coalfields, to enforce federal mining acts designed to protect workers. The purpose of this project is to explore (1) how verbal communications in mining inspections impact identity transformation as ex-miners become empowered agents for enforcing mine safety within highly visible global corporations; (2) how Academy teaching methods intersect with trainees’ prior experiential knowledge; (3) how analyzing these discourse scenarios can assist in developing educational models for transmitting the types of meta-knowledge necessary for inspectors to make culturally informed and empowered decisions shaping how globalization affects miners and their communities; (4) how results can be extended to other educational settings; and (5) how findings can be used to create a graduate-level course on social and individual transformation to be cross-listed with Appalachian Studies and Engineering Education.
Between Making a Living and Making a Place: Flexible Labor, Social Reproduction, and Latino Migration to the U.S. South
- Barbara Ellen Smith, PI, Women's Studies
The last two years have brought dramatic change to the political and social climate for immigrants in the “Nuevo” U.S. South. Initial reports of southern hospitality extended to Latino immigrants have given way to Minutemen in Tennessee, legislative initiatives in Georgia to revoke birthright citizenship, and blurred federal and local border enforcement actions across southern states. This research explores the premise that these political and social tensions arise from new frictions for both working-class immigrant and native-born residents: increasingly, their survival strategies must navigate between, on the one hand, the hypermobility and temporal unpredictability demanded of workers by flexible labor regimes and, on the other, the need for place-making and temporal routinization required for social reproduction. The research team will develop a multi-method investigation of these frictions in three strategic sites: small, deindustrialized towns with diverse racial demographics in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi.