Tier 1 winners for 2018

Geographies of Opportunity amidst Increasing Diversity: How Housing, Transportation, and Education Policies Shape Educational Access in Maryland
Ariel Bierbaum, ARCH/Urban Studies & Planning and Gail Sunderman, EDUC/Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership

The increasing diversity of America’s suburbs is changing the dynamics of how we think about access to educational opportunity across and within metropolitan areas. As large numbers of low-income and minority families migrate to the suburbs, how policy makers in these communities respond to increasing diversity has implications for the educational opportunities available to students. Unfortunately, we still know too little about the complex ways that education, housing, and transportation policies interact with each other to shape access to quality schools in these suburban communities. This proposed study on suburban diversification and educational opportunity is designed to address the question: How are policy makers responding to increasing suburban diversity, and how do these responses affect access to educational opportunities and school segregation? We focus on the interaction between educational and place-based policies – school attendance zone design and implementation, housing policies, and transportation access – and the ways they foster or disrupt school segregation in Maryland. We use spatial analytic strategies that link residential areas to school attendance zones and qualitative case study methods to advance our understanding of the relationships between educational and place-based policies, and the impacts of these policies on access to educational opportunity.

Making Toxic Bodies Legible: Lead Contamination in Sub-Saharan Africa
Alison Heller, BSOS/Anthropology

This mixed-methods anthropological research explores lead (Pb) contamination as embedded within historical and neoliberal systems of oppression among pregnant women and their children in Accra, Ghana; Kabwe, Zambia; and Baltimore, MD. This proposal is a pivot from my previous research and would enable timely and theoretically robust work at the nexus of medical and environmental anthropology in three new field sites. By following lead transnationally as an ethnographic object, this project explores links between lead and luxury, colonization and cognition, and contamination and consensus. With the support of this seed grant, I will establish research sites, solidify local partnerships, and conduct pilot studies during the summers and winters of 2018/2019 in order to prepare a competitive application for the National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Program.

Infrastructure, Urban Flooding and its Influence on Social Vulnerability and Mobility: A Place-based Study in Southeast Washington, D.C.
Marccus Hendricks, ARCH/ Urban Studies & Planning Program and Allison Reilly, ENGR/Civil Engineering

Urban areas are increasingly threatened by flooding. Development and increased amounts of impervious cover coupled with more frequent and intense rainfall events have added pressure to local stormwater infrastructure. Many of these systems are undersized, in poor condition, and are interconnected with other systems. This nexus results in urban flooding. Washington, DC, for example, has seen a nearly 400% increase in repeated nuisance flooding since 1960. Like other areas, this additional flooding is partially outside the “100-year” floodplain. Residents are not equally susceptible to flooding. Prior work has demonstrated that low-income and minority neighborhoods tend to have unreliable and obsolete infrastructure, live in lower-quality housing in lower-lying areas and lack flood insurance. Thus, increased exposures lead to repetitive losses and may affect the quality of life and perpetuate disparities across communities.

This pilot study will explore infrastructure, flooding, and its influence on social vulnerability and mobility along the Anacostia River in the southeast area of Washington, D.C. More specifically, it will allow us to collect secondary flood and infrastructure data and primary interview data, and initiate some preliminary modeling. Our investigation will shed light on three primary questions: (1) What is the extent of urban flooding in D.C. in the neighborhoods east of the Anacostia? (2) To what extent does flooding reduce the quality and serviceability of infrastructure, including public transit, schools, energy, and community facilities that provide essential services, and (3) Do repeated flooding events create a negative cycle that prohibits social mobility among socially vulnerable populations?

Using Chaos to Suppress Multipactor
Rami Kishek, CMNS/IREAP

Critical modern vacuum electronic systems, from communications satellites to microwave tubes to novel particle accelerators, risk a catastrophic electron avalanche known as multipactor. Multipactor can appear within microseconds when electromagnetic waves and stray electrons interact in vacuum, introducing noise and possibly shutting down entire systems by damaging critical components. Multipactor is extremely difficult to analyze. Present-day standards on multipactor design for space applications, for instance, rely on an outdated theory from the 1950s, adding arbitrary margins to account for discrepancies between that theory and experimental observations.

The PI has recently published the only theory that includes the full complexity of multipactor by drawing on tools from nonlinear dynamics. This work has sparked a revolutionary new idea: a chaos-based multipactor suppressor, intelligently introducing chaos to disrupt resonant trajectories before they can avalanche. This transformative approach could leap well beyond the state of the art, for instance enabling satellites that are smaller yet handle more internet traffic, or more reliable high power microwave devices for the warfighter. We propose the initial validation of this theory with a pilot experiment, leading to demonstration of a chaos-based multipactor suppressor.

Text Reuse and the Formation of Rabbinic Literature
Hayim Lapin, ARHU/History & Center for Jewish Studies

Text Reuse and the Formation of Early Rabbinic Literature will identify and collect the shared material found in some of the early rabbinic works (called “Tannaitic,” dating to before ca 250 CE), namely the Mishnah (“recitation”), Tosefta (“supplement”), and commentaries on the Pentateuch known as Midrash (“investigation, inquiry”). Further parallels appear in later rabbinic works (called Talmud) which are framed as commentaries ot the Mishnah. The project wil make use of digital transcriptions of the texts, and use different algorithmic approaches to the location of overlaps, starting with fast heuristic methods for string matching. The key result will be a publicly available “map” of Tannaitic literature in which overlapping passages can be viewed in the context of the texts that contain them and as isolated units of texts presented alongside the parallel passages from other works. For specialists in the history and formation of rabbinic literature, the results are important since they further the study of the formation of the literature, and of how “traditional” material circulated within it. Moreover, since practically all we now about how the rabbinic movement emerged and operated in late antique Palestine and Iraq comes from the literature, the project helps refine how we understand that history. However, the approach and methods tested here promise to be helpful in any context in which there is a body of traditional material that is variously quoted and used by contemporaries and by later generations (traditions of the Prophet, aḥadith, in early Islam, for example).

Expanding our knowledge of the history of women's health through documentation and preservation
Amanda Lazar, INFO/Information Studies

Due in part to longstanding stigma, we are missing an understanding of many topics relating to women’s health – including the history of how people have used resources to manage menstruation. Through archival analysis, this project will take advantage of a crucial opportunity for the preservation and documentation of materials related to reproductive and women’s health. There currently exists a trove of menstrual history resources in nearby New Carrollton, Maryland, including the first tampons to be marketed widely in the US and over a dozen historic menstrual dispensers. These materials briefly made up a museum, but are now vulnerable due to being housed in a space with dust and water damage. In collaboration with the owner of these materials, we will formally assess the state and size of the collection, create high resolution imagery, gather data that will inform our understanding of how to best to clean and repair the material artifacts in the collection, and draft a schema for materials characterization. In addition to contributing basic knowledge on topics of menstrual health, this project aims to begin the process of preserving this collection: unearthing it, delaying and intervening on existing material degradation, and making the archive searchable and legible for future researchers.

Reducing the Ecological Footprint of Agriculture: Developing an Innovative Framework for Water Footprint Assessment
Masoud Negahban-Azar, AGNR/ Environmental Science and Technology

Water consumption and pollution are the two major components of agriculture’s ecological footprint. Water Footprint Assessment (WFA) is an emerging research field focusing on the analysis of water use, scarcity, and pollution in relation to consumption, production, and trade. WFA in agriculture leads to answering two major questions: (a) what is the water consumption or pollution per unit of process or product (resource efficiency); (b) does total water consumption exceed water availability or does the total water pollutant load exceed the assimilation capacity of the local freshwater system (sustainability of resource use). Therefore, WFA can be effectively used to manage the ecological footprint of agricultural systems.

The objectives of this research are to develop a framework to assess the water footprints of agricultural systems in a spatially-explicit way; and to use the water footprints as metrics to monitor and manage the ecological footprint of agricultural systems. Findings from this research will help the PI to establish proof of concept to seek larger grants under USDA-NIFA Water for Food Production Systems Challenge Area, and NSF-INFEWS program.

Challenges in the Continuity of Care among Formerly Incarcerated Persons Living with HIV or HCV
Lauren Porter, BSOS/Criminology & Criminal Justice

An estimated 15 percent of Americans living with HIV pass through correctional facilities each year and 33 percent of prisoners are currently infected with Hepatitis C (HCV). Although each of these diseases can be fatal, death is preventable with treatment. HIV is a lifelong condition that can be managed with medication, while HCV can be treated and cured in a matter of months. Unfortunately, screening and treatment are inconsistent in correctional settings and incarceration can interrupt existing treatment, threatening the health of patients as well as the communities in which they are embedded. There is thus a pressing need to understand how spending time in prison or jail can threaten the continuity of care among those living with HIV or HCV. In short, these illnesses can be “caught” by the criminal justice system, but individuals with these illnesses can also be lost to the system. Our study investigates the following research question: In what ways does incarceration influence the continuity of care and outcomes for those with HIV and HCV? Within this overarching research question, we have two specific aims: (1) To delineate the challenges faced by patients who have been incarcerated, and (2) To identify the challenges faced by providers who care for formerly incarcerated patients.

Racial Differences in Vascular Function Following Induced Acute Inflammation
Sushant Ranadive, SPHL/Kinesiology

The incidence and prevalence of hypertension is significantly higher in African-Americans (AA) as compared to Caucasians (CA). Increased blood pressure in young AA may be caused by widespread subclinical microvascular dysfunction in conjunction with increased inflammation. There is evidence that following a bout of acute systemic inflammation there is a decrease in vascular function in conjunction with increased circulating inflammatory proteins even in young healthy individuals. Additionally, circulating miRs (ci-miRs) derived from and/or taken up by the endothelium can facilitate or inhibit inflammatory processes. However, the role of racial differences has not been elucidated in the vascular and ci-miR response to acute systemic inflammation. The overall goal of this study is to explore the mechanisms responsible for potential racial differences in vascular function and in turn hypertension using a model of acute systemic inflammation. We will test key ideas related to vascular function, circulating inflammatory proteins and microRNAs in sex-matched African-Americans and Caucasians following acute systemic inflammation. These questions will help us take the next steps to answer questions pertinent to a clinically significant problem of hypertension and cardiovascular disease in African-Americans.

The Role of Depression in Unintended Pregnancy
Julia Steinberg, SPHL/Family Science

In the U.S., 52.8% of pregnancies among women ages 18-29 are unintended and 15.9% of women in this age group experience a major or minor depressive episode each year. It is desirable that women or couples plan their pregnancies in order to choose when to become parents. Furthermore because unintended pregnancies are associated with negative outcomes for women, children, families, and society, it is important to prevent unintended pregnancies. Contraceptive behaviors are key determinants of unintended pregnancy. Specifically, 54% of unintended pregnancies are due to not using contraception and another 41% are due to incorrect or inconsistent contraceptive use. The purpose of this Tier 1 project is to pilot a prospective cohort study specifically designed to exam the role of depression in contraceptive behaviors. This is a unique opportunity that builds from existing relationships with community partners and will allow me to (1) collect data from 50 women for 6-12 months, (2) recruit women seeking various reproductive services, (3) investigate potential mediators or moderators of the relationship between depression and contraceptive behaviors or unintended pregnancy, and (4) gather pilot data for another project on abortion and subsequent mental health.

Role of cell mechanics in engineering induced pluripotent stem cell-derived brain endothelial cells
Kimberly Stroka, ENGR/Bioengineering

During development, embryonic stem cells can differentiate into all differentiated cells in the living organism, a characteristic termed pluripotency. Remarkably, pluripotent stem cells can also be achieved through genetic reprogramming of adult human cells. The resulting hiPSCs have shot to the frontiers of bioengineering research and therapeutic applications, as they enable the creation of patient-matched autologous cell sources of various lineages, which could be used directly in regenerative therapies, and also in in vitro disease models and drug screening applications. Recently, a few groups have successfully differentiated hiPSCs into various cell types of the neurovascular unit (NVU), including the brain endothelium, glial cells, and neuronal cells. However, these studies have been completed in flat, two-dimensional static cultures, which do not represent physiological conditions. Currently, there exists no literature assessing how mechanical cues from the microenvironment influence differentiation of iPSCs into cells of the NVU, or barrier function of the hiPSC-derived endothelium. My goal for this Tier 1 grant is to gather critical preliminary data on the role that matrix mechanics and composition play in the growth of iPSCs, differentiation into brain endothelial cells, and barrier function of the iPSC-derived endothelium. Successful completion of the proposed work will provide my lab with a novel platform to study patient-specific mechanics of the NVU in the context of neurological diseases.

Culture-independent ESBL detection with glucose cycling amplification on paper
Ian White, ENGR/Bioengineering

Infections driven by extended-spectrum β-lactamase (ESBL)-producing Enterobacteriaceae (ESBL-E) are resistant to most or all penicillins and cephalosporins, leaving carbapenems as the only treatment option. However, carbapenems are a drug of last resort and careful stewardship of its use is critical to prevent further resistance. Thus, it is imperative to identify ESBL-E infections immediately to ensure that the proper treatment is administered. Current methods rely on culture of the pathogenic organisms, which requires more than 24 hours for pathogen identification and often fails in the case of blood cultures. Our team aims to create a rapid (<1hr) and culture-independent tool to phenotypically screen for ESBL-E infections. More specifically, we are proposing a paper-based sensor in which the activity of β-lactamase triggers a molecular amplification feedback loop; the proposed cyclical amplification scheme uses the glucose inherently polymerized within the cellulose sensor package as the amplifying material as well as the signaling molecule. We believe that this design will enable the rapid detection of low copy numbers of active β-lactamase enzymes (i.e., without culture) in a low-cost paper package and an easy-to-use workflow.


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University of Maryland
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Did You Know

Kevin Plank, co-founder of Under Armour, is an alumnus of UMD's Robert H. Smith School of Business.