Tier 1 winners

Substance Use and Health Disparities: Assessing Brain Systems Underlying Treatment Response and Etiology
Edward Bernat, BSOS/Psychology

Disparities in substance abuse treatment outcomes among racial/ethnic groups in the United States have led to efforts to identify and understand differences in substance abuse patterns and treatment response [1]. The goal of the current application is obtain funds needed to generate preliminary data in order to develop sustained extramural funding for a new EEG neuroimaging lab in a 120-bed residential drug rehabilitation center in D.C. (Salvation Army Harbor Light, SAHL). Based on our research at SAHL so far, the resident population is 85% African American, with an average income less than $10k. Approximately 60% of patients are court ordered to treatment, while 40% present voluntarily. All of these statistics represent health disparities across domains. The funds would support a research assistant and subject payments, as well as some consumable sensors for the research. There are four proposed projects that have been developed with separate collaborators, representing distinct, but related, projects that we plan to submit for federal funding within 12-24 months. The collection of collaborators, coalesced around the different proposed projects, represents a broad target from which to obtain federal funding.

HarvestLink: Connecting Farmers to Markets
Taryn Devereux, AGNR/Agriculture and Resource Economics

The AREC Women in Agriculture (WIA) program has partnered with mVuno, a technology start-up company, and StepByStep Worldwide, an NGO that performs educational work in Africa, to form the HarvestLink partnership. Using an integrated model that incorporates agricultural extension, nutrition, and service delivery, HarvestLink is developing a mobile phone application that connects communities of producers to markets.

The current award, provided by the Faculty Incentive Program (Tier 1), allows the partnership to establish a research base to support the development of local and international programs that will use this mobile phone application to link farmers to markets, with the goal of reducing food waste. The award allows the HarvestLink team, led by the PI, to collect necessary data from both urban (Baltimore, MD) and peri-urban (Lusaka, Zambia) agricultural settings and to begin pilot testing for an extension program that addresses the needs of producers and consumers within the environment they are currently operating.

The funds will support exploratory visits to the initial program sites (Baltimore, MD and Lusaka, Zambia) by 3-4 key team members with three objectives: 1) Collect quantitative and qualitative data from farmers, consumers, and potential delivery service providers; 2) Solidify local relationships and institutional partnerships (farmer coops, community groups, educational centers, etc.); and 3) Test a prototype version of the program’s mobile application technology. These visits will produce data, establish the institutional relationships to support future proposals for seed grant funding for extension projects in Baltimore, MD and Lusaka, Zambia, and establish a proof of concept to seek larger awards ($10M+).

Effect of Chemicals on Transgenerational Gene Silencing
Antony Jose, CMNS/Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics

The effect of most chemicals on life and health is not well understood. Yet, some have been reported to cause transgenerational changes in rodent studies. Therefore there is a need for simple assays that can determine if a chemical can affect epigenetic processes that are critical for the health of the exposed animal and its descendants. Here we propose to develop a simple assay to evaluate the effect of chemicals on transgenerational gene silencing using the worm C. elegans. This work will build on our recent findings that extracellular RNA can cause stable transgenerational gene silencing through epigenetic processes.

Essence Work: A New Approach for New Plays
Jennifer Barclay Newsham, ARHU/Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies

I am a creative researcher in the area of playwriting. With Essence Work: A New Approach for New Plays, I will address an unmet need in national theatre by creating an innovative model for new play development. In this project I will work with Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company and director Shana Cooper over 10 months to originate a groundbreaking, collaborative and interdisciplinary approach to developing a play about the national crisis of human trafficking. At the conclusion of the Seed Grant period, I will be able to advance the project both by publishing documentation of the process, and by bringing my play forward for consideration for national awards and productions. A Tier 1 DRIF Seed Grant would provide the support necessary for in-depth interdisciplinary research on human trafficking and extended collaborative development of the play. This project will position me for advancement to Associate Professor, while simultaneously bringing empathetic awareness to one of the great socio-political issue our times.

Can Tailored Text Messages Reduce Cardiometabolic Risk among Health Disparity Populations?
Susan Passmore SPHL/Health Services Administration

Cardiometabolic Syndrome (CMS) is a constellation of risk factors including hypertension, dyslipidemia, and visceral obesity that leaves individuals at a substantially higher risk for premature illness and death for a range of conditions including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, colorectal and breast cancer. A second commonality of the conditions related to CMS is that they disproportionately impact social and economically disadvantaged populations. The purpose of this exploratory study is to test the feasibility and acceptability of a tailored text messages based intervention with individuals at risk for CMS recruited through the 2017 Mission of Mercy emergency dental clinic hosted at the UMD Xfinity Center. This exploratory study utilizes the evidence based Group Life Balance (GLB) lifestyle protocol demonstrated to be effective for weight loss delivered through “CommunityWell,” an electronic wellness and interactive platform created in collaboration with the Smith School of Business, Center for Health Information and Decision Systems. If successful, the approach can be sustained, commercialized and scaled up for wider dissemination. By targeting underlying factors that contribute to a range of health disparities, we hope to create a great leap toward our goal of health equity.

Tracking Teenagers’ Evolving Technology Use during High School: Optimizing the Balance between Information Privacy and Disclosure across Rapidly Evolving Norms
Jessica Vitak/iSchool

Teenagers are among the heaviest users of communication technologies. Importantly, these digital natives often become immersed in a mediated lifestyle long before they begin thinking or learning about the consequences of their disclosures. They are often given a device like a smartphone, tablet, or laptop with little to no training on basic digital literacy skills, including how to safely use these technologies and protect their personal data, as well as determining what is acceptable—and unacceptable—sharing within their network. To better understand how teens’ normative practices around digital privacy and disclosure emerge and evolve throughout adolescence, this project will collect longitudinal data from students and parents at two Baltimore-area high schools through surveys and focus groups. Findings from this project will be used to develop ground truth for an extensive, longitudinal study of teenagers’ technology use, information disclosures, and privacy protection strategies. Data collection and analysis will focus on expanding our understanding of key tenets of communication privacy management theory to mediated settings and will provide first steps to developing new resources for parents, teens, and educators to increase digital literacy and prepare young people to navigate new technologies safely and securely.


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Division of Research
University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742-1541

Email: vpr@umd.edu
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