UMass Amherst’s Institute of Diversity Sciences (IDS) recently announced that it has awarded five grants to multidisciplinary teams of researchers in its annual seed grant competition. The winning teams focus on health equity, environmental justice, the political implications of the “majority minority” narrative, learning equity and the impact of transportation inequities on Black maternal health.
The goal of these grants is to support STEM research that addresses social problems with an equity angle. Awardees received a total of $82,032. Most 2023 grants averaged $15,000, while one grant, awarded to a partnership between IDS and the Elaine Marieb Center for Nursing and Engineering Innovation, was for $25,000. Researchers supported by these grants came from 14 departments at UMass Amherst.
Director of IDS, Nilanjana Dasgupta, director of the Institute of Diversity Sciences and Provost Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences says, “we are delighted to fund such wide-ranging research projects. Each project brings together faculty and students from two or more departments and colleges across UMass. We hope our initial funding will help these teams gather preliminary data so that they can aim higher for large external research grants.”
A multi-dataset analysis of equity in the treatment of patients with Acute Myocardial Infarction (AMI) in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU)
In this project, a team of clinicians and data scientists come together to determine whether there is inequity in treatment of patients who experienced heart attack and subsequent care in an ICU. This team is particularly interested in assessing whether there are race and sex disparities in diagnosis and treatment of patients suffering heart attacks in intensive care units. Team members include Madalina Fiterau Brostean (computer science), Rachel Walker (nursing), Joohyun Chung (nursing), Stephanie Carreiro (emergency medicine, UMass Chan Medical Center) and Purity Mugambi (computer science).
Integrating social vulnerability into rehabilitation decisions for transportation structures following hazard
This team shines a light on environmental justice by examining how intense rainfall affects the quality and dependability of engineering infrastructure, such as drains near and under public roads. They will test whether or not socially vulnerable communities are likely to have crumbling infrastructure that is in danger of disrupting essential services. Led by Jessica Boakye (civil and environmental engineering), Scott Jackson (environmental conservation) and Scott Civjan (civil and environmental engineering), the team will give a new “essential services score” to drainage systems near public roads in various communities across Massachusetts based on the likelihood that disruption will cut off access to medical services, places of employment or schools. Their goal is to use this data to inform the public as well as state and local government to make better decisions that allow for an equitable distribution of resources to vulnerable populations.
According to Census Bureau data, the United States will become a “majority minority” nation by 2042. Much research shows that the “majority minority” narrative activates anxiety among white Americans, but its effect on people of color in the U.S. in unknown. Seth Goldman (communication), Tatishe Nteta (political science) and Linda Tropp (psychological and brain sciences) received a grant from the IDS to measure how “majority minority” narratives of rising diversity are interpreted by Asian, Black, Latinx, Multiracial and white Americans to determine whether it encourages greater allyship and collective action motivation or greater interracial division and factions.
This team will focus on learning equity. They designed a project to test whether self-directed, socially conscious, project-based learning is more effective in enhancing student interest, motivation, confidence and persistence in science compared to other types of project-based learning. They predict that self-directed, socially conscious, project-based learning will attract more diverse students in the classroom and retain them in class more effectively. This team is led by Martin Hunter (biomedical engineering), Enrique Suárez (education), Erica Light (iCons) and Elyssa Serrilli (Northeast Biogas Initiative).
Black Maternal Mobility in Western Massachusetts: The experience of transportation among Black Pregnant Women
This project brings together a team of researchers from nursing, engineering and nutrition to shine a light on the impact of transportation inequities on Black maternal health. Black women are disproportionately vulnerable to maternal morbidity and mortality compared to other women in the United States. Shannon Roberts (mechanical and industrial engineering), Lindiwe Sibeko (nutrition), Lucinda Canty (nursing) and Favorite Iradukunda (Nursing) will conduct an exploratory study on the transportation needs of pregnant Black women and identify the factors that may contribute to disparate health outcomes. This grant was jointly awarded by IDS and Elaine Marieb Center for Nursing and Engineering Innovation.