Innovation[X] 2020-2021


I-X-COVID-19-Proposals-Button-01.png

Congratulations to the following recipients of the School of Innovation’s Innovation[X] call for proposals related to the Coronavirus pandemic and its effects:
 
  • Effective Communication Strategies During COVID-19 – Dr. Chaitanya Lakkimsetti
  • Insecurity and Inequality in Academia: The Differential Impacts of COVID-19 on Work Conditions and Work-Life Balance among the Texas A&M Academic Community – Dr. Cynthia Werner
  • COVID-19 for Vulnerable Populations: Longitudinal Study on Evolving Community Impacts among Affordable Housing Residents and Roles of Physical and Social Environments – Dr. Xuemei Zhu
 

INNOVATION[X] 2020-2021 PROJECTS

The School of Innovation is proud to announce the following recipients of the Innovation [X] Program grants for 2020-2021:

  • Dr. Lawrence Griffing, College of Science
  • Prof. James Michael Tate, College of Architecture
  • Dr. Wei Yan, College of Architecture
  • Dr. Zhe Zhang, College of Geosciences
  • Prof. Heather Prestridge, Agrilife Research
  • Dr. Xuemei Zhu, College of Architecture
  • Dr. Chaitanya Lakkimsetti, College of Liberal Arts
  • Dr. Leslie Ruyle, Bush School of Government and Public Service
  • Dr. Srividya Ramasubramanian, College of Liberal Arts
  • Dr. Sumana Datta, LAUNCH
  • Dr. Cynthia Werner, College of Liberal Arts
  • Dr. Theodora Chaspari, College of Engineering
  • Dr. Xin Yan, College of Science
  • Prof. Carol LaFayette, College of Architecture
  • Mr. Jeremy Kenny, College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science

Project Descriptions

Name: Dr. Lawrence Griffing, Associate Professor, Department of Biology, College of Science
Email: griffing@tamu.edu
Phone: 979-845-6493 

Team Leaders:
Dr. Lawrence Griffing, Associate Professor, Department of Biology, College of Science, griffing@tamu.edu
Dr. Muthu Bagavathiannan, Assistant Professor, Department of Soils and Crop Science, College of Agriculture, muthu@tamu.edu

Team Contributors:
Dr. Krishna Kumar, Research Associate, Department of Biology, College of Science, kksharma@tamu.edu

Units/Departments Represented: 
Biology, Soils and Crop Science

Schools Represented:
Science, Agriculture & Life Sciences

Description: 
How is a discovery in basic science translated into a product that can potentially be used for the general good, while also providing a large profit? This is a practical project whereby students learn the basics of entrepreneurship, while also scaling up a lab product and testing it in the field. In the process, the students will also learn about the potential for new discoveries and patents in agribusiness.

Background
This project builds on a discovery made in 2018, which is in the process of commercializing this discovery through a start-up, Griffing Biologics LLC.  The discovery was the complete inhibition of germination of plant seeds when treated to an exogenous mix of sterols and encapsulating agent. Field-testing is an important component of the business model because the corporations interested in this intellectual property will require it. How much product development and testing is required as proof-of-concept for the business model to be viable? Furthermore, with discovery of different uses of the product, are there more opportunities to claim new, subsidiary patents based on the original claim? The opportunity to the undergraduate and graduate team provided by this context is that the team can see first-hand how such a start-up is initially developed and the linkage to the practical challenges of product development.

Goals
The goals of the project are three-fold: 1) to introduce the students to concepts in entrepreneurship, 2) to experience how lab results translate to field results in a variety of settings, and 3) to discover target and off-target effects of the treatment, which may lead to new patents.

Introduction to entrepreneurship - The introduction to entrepreneurship will be based on background video and reading. These include The Startup Owner’s Manual by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf and Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur.  Although the students will not participate in customer discovery, we will explain the process to them and its importance for achieving a successful start-up.  

Translating lab results to the field - Most basic research uses model organisms, which have ideal characteristics such as simple genomes, short generation times, large reproductive potential in the lab, and a variety of highly-developed tools provided by the research community.  Some of the discoveries immediately translate into practical products, such as medical treatments or improved food quality, but this is rare.  Instead, model organisms may have peculiarities that make their response to the experimental treatment unique. It is for that reason that we plan to take our research out of the lab and apply it in the field. 

We have several field test plots, routinely used by one of the team members, Dr. Muthu Bagavathiannan, in Soils and Crop Science.  We plan to use the lab equipment of the lab of the other team leader, Dr. Lawrence Griffing, to formulate and mix the herbicide and initially test them in the lab.  We will have four groups of 4-5 undergraduates under the team leaders, graduate students and post-doc to carry out different aspects of the field tests.
The importance of this goal is It is a necessary as proof-of-concept with our expected channel of distribution, the large agrochemical company.
 
Discovery of target and off-target effects - In these trials, we expect the unexpected. The application of sterols to soils and field plants may have a variety of off-target effects, such as changes in the development and life cycle of some insect species. These on- and off-target effects will be monitored by the undergraduate groups, with special training from the post-doctoral student in the Griffing lab and a graduate student from the Bagvathianan lab.

Outcomes
The anticipated outcomes from this project are 1) data collection for another patent and an anticipated STTR grant, and 2) a publication from the field test data.  (1) Data collection of the on- and off-target effects of the sterol application will provide insight into further possible effects of this herbicide, which may become the basis for future intellectual property claims (patents).  From initial studies, it appears that there may be salutatory effects of this treatment in dealing with pests besides weeds.  (2) The outcome from the field tests will be publishable in one or more journal articles, depending on the number of replicas that can be run within the time frame of this proposal and the success of the analysis of the plant and soil samples acquired.

Benefit to Students
The students learn about entrepreneurship, will learn to conduct publishable research, and will get experience in writing. The graduate students will benefit from the entrepreneurship lessons, since they probably won't have that in their standard training.

Read the Full Proposal

Will part of the grant be used to pay undergraduate participants?  
Yes
Will part of the grant be used to pay graduate student participants?  
Yes
Will the project require travel?  
No

Project Leader: Prof. James Michael Tate, Assistant Professor, Department of Architecture, College of Architecture
Email: tate@tamu.edu
Phone: (917) 750-9125

Team Leaders: 
Ms. Mia Kile, Graduate Student, Ph.D. Architecture, College of Architecture, Texas A&M University, mia.kile@tamu.edu
Mr. Max Gerall, Founder and CEO, REACH, Texas A&M University Alumni 2018, BA Communications, max@txreachproject.org

Team Contributors: 
Dr. Carly E. McCord, PhD. Director of Telebehavioral Care, Licensed Psychologist, Clinical Assistant Professor, cmccord@tamu.edu

Units Represented: Architecture, Psychology

Schools Represented: Architecture and Liberal Arts

Description: The project will conduct studies of existing community health facilities and develop innovative architectural design concepts that support the health of those living in rural parts of the Brazos Valley region in Texas. Our work will address questions of how building design and programing can better support the needs of people living outside of urban centers; with significant attention given to social determinates of health and preventive care. Some students participating in the project should have architectural training, but the project will benefit from the contribution of non-architectural students who are engaged in issues of improving quality of life and quality of place in underserved communities.

Background
Access to healthcare is often a challenge for rural communities with underserved populations. According to recent studies, rural residents are confronted with numerous health issues not experienced by persons residing in urban neighborhoods (John, 2018). With more than 19% of the United States population living in rural areas which are typically older, poorer, and sicker, the need for access to healthcare is increasingly important (Ratcliffe et al., 2016; Holland et al., 2019). This proposal builds on previous research which started in 2002 and focuses on rural communities within the seven counties of the Brazos Valley (Garney, et al., 2013). While the research by Garney et al., addresses the many challenges of the rural communities, there is a gap in the research which address the built environments contributions to support the needs of the users in these communities. Texas A&M University has the unique opportunity to provide continued services to the underserved populations in neighboring counties through this community engaged research proposal which also serves as a service-learning opportunity for our students through evidence-based design and research.

Goals
The goals for this project are as follows:
1. Conduct a thorough post occupancy evaluation (POE) of current facilities. This entails surveys of occupants (physicians, nurses, facilities managers, and patients, etc.), indoor environmental quality measurements (light meter readings, acoustic measurements, air temperature / quality measurements, etc.), and observational studies (traffic flow, material use/wear, building layout, etc.).
2. Hold a semester long design studio course that focuses on exploratory design concepts for rural health structures for the Brazos Valley using the information gathered through research. This studio would also engage industry professionals from the architectural design community whose focus is healthcare. These professionals would provide periodical critiques and mentor students in this studio. Students who are in the healthcare focus track of architecture will be invited to enroll in the studio.
3. Present student work to health professionals who would be potential users.
4. Development of three design proposals into plausible solutions for rural healthcare and incorporates community programming.
5. End of semester designs would be presented to both health professionals, representatives of counties and cities/towns, and available for general public comment.
6. Refinement of design and seek funding for realization of a prototype. Ideally in collaboration with the Health Science Center and the Community Health program at Texas A&M University.

Outcomes
The researchers foresee the outcomes from this work unfolding in various aspects to include: 
1. The principal outcome presents the work to health professionals and representatives from the communities who we engaged in the project. The information will serve as a road map to improve existing facilities and inform future developments in other communities. 
2. With the development of architectural strategies to improve healthcare delivery in rural communities, exposure to this work could be shared on the websites of the collaborating project partners. 
3. The work will also be disseminated in peer reviewed conferences and journal publications.
4. Lastly, the outcomes from this project should propel further interest in external funding to support implementation of design recommendations.

Benefit to Students
This project will provide students with the opportunity to formally engage in a service-learning project which directly impacts the local community. Through this experience, students will realize the impact design can have on a community and that good design should be accessible to all regardless of economic means and abilities.  Additionally, students will use evidence-based design research to inform design considerations and solutions. Engaging with the public and professional design community will also provide opportunities for students to hone their communication skills in both verbal and written form. Ph.D. student(s) will be provided with opportunities to develop survey instruments, for an Institutional Review Board (IRB) approved study, collect and discern data collected in the form of a conference presentation and journal submission.

Will part of the grant be used to pay undergraduate participants?  
Yes
Will part of the grant be used to pay graduate student participants?  
Yes
Will the project require travel? 
No

Additional Information from Project Leader
The pay rate will be either a stipend of $750 or hourly rate of $10/hour depending on the phase of the project. Student travel for the project will be within Brazos Valley counties.

Project Leader: Dr. Wei Yan, Mattia Flabiano III AIA/Page Southerland Page Professor, Department of Architecture, Presidential Impact Fellow, Texas A&M University
Email: wyan@tamu.edu
Phone: (979) 845-0584

Team Leaders: 
Dr. Wei Yan, Mattia Flabiano III AIA/Page Southerland Page Professor, Department of Architecture, Presidential Impact Fellow, Texas A&M University, wyan@tamu.edu
Dr. Dezhen Song, Professor and Associate Department Head, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, dzsong@tamu.edu
Dr. Manish Dixit, Assistant Professor, Department of Construction Science, mdixit@tamu.edu

Team Contributors: 
Dr. Mark Clayton, William M. Peña Professor, Department of Architecture, Director of the CRS Center Leadership & Management in the Design & Construction Industry, mark-clayton@tamu.edu 
Dr. Francis Quek, Professor, Department of Visualization, Director of the Texas A&M Institute for Technology-Infused Learning (TITIL), quek@tamu.edu

Units Represented: Architecture, Computer Science and Engineering, Construction Science, Visualization

Schools Represented: Architecture and Engineering

Description: Empowered by Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR) is expected to significantly enhance human’s ability to understand their living and working environments, visualize invisible information in the environments, and accomplish complex tasks of making and learning. The project team will research and develop AI-powered AR technologies through a case study of LEGO assembly, in which virtual bricks are superimposed on physical LEGO models to guide the assembly process. The prior work of the project is demonstrated with LEGO Arc de Triomphe, which is built completely with AR (https://youtu.be/7JDW_lDv7FU).

Background
Major assembly, manufacturing, construction, and maintenance projects are increasingly complex. Automation and robotics are replacing many manual, repetitive, and standard tasks. Still, more than 95% of jobs consist of activities that need human labors [McKinsey&Company 2017]. Assembly tasks can take advantages of human-machine interfaces (HMIs) that allow human operators to collect data, and monitor, program, and control the system. However, traditional HMI cannot effectively contextualize and interact with future workflows that now include physical and digital work information [Immerman 2019]. As a major field of HMI, Human-Computer Interface (HCI) has started to integrate Augmented Reality (AR) in the workflow in assembly tasks. AR superimposes digital images on the real-world view of human users, putting the answers right where the questions are [Google 2018], and may greatly benefit manufacturing, building construction, and part assembly by human workers. Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the potential to significantly empower AR and advance HCI in assembly tasks. The proposed project aims to research and develop innovative AI-Powered AR for advancing HCI in assembly tasks.

Goals
The goals for the project include the following:

  • Advancing HCI in assembly tasks through research, prototyping, and demonstration of AI-powered Augmented Reality
  • Advancing students’ learning of creativity and STEM through the project

The PIs, graduate, and undergraduate students from Architecture, Construction Science, and Computer Science as the Project Team will research and develop a prototype of AI-powered AR, and demonstrate it through a case study with LEGO Architecture assembly of sufficient complexity and intriguing for an interdisciplinary learning experience for the students. The activities are planned based on the main functionalities and challenges of the system, as well as the team’s prior work on AR applied to LEGO construction.

1) AI for AR model registration
For assembly using AR as instructions, high accuracy (on the mean localization) and precision (on the variance of localization) of virtual-real model registration are required to reduce costly errors in construction. A comprehensive review of AR for assembly points out that accuracy and latency are the two critical issues [Wang et al. 2016]. User-based evaluations by Tang et al. (2003) support the proposition that AR systems improve assembly task performance significantly, however, the limitations of tracking and calibration techniques being the biggest obstacles. The project team will research, develop, and provide findings about the following AR registration methods: edge-based localization as a flexible method for model registration and 3D point cloud SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping) for understanding the physical model’s poses of 6 degree of freedom. Both methods will be investigated with the cutting-edge Deep Learning technology.

2) AI for object recognition and hand detection
To enable efficient assembly part finding, automatic detection of the completion of assembly steps, and detection of errors in assembly, Deep Learning CNN (Convolutional Neural Network)-based object detection will be developed. For the case study with LEGO brick assembly, multi-view renderings of digital bricks as training image data will be created. The system will help the user to find correct LEGO bricks for assembly, and help detect if the assembly step is complete and has any errors, e.g. missing bricks and wrong location or orientation of the bricks. To enhance hand-eye coordination and realistic immersive AR experience of users, the project will enable "grasping virtual objects with real hands", through hand detection and hand-brick occlusion. CNN will be utilized for hand detection and hand-brick occlusion.

In the project, students will learn prototyping as a research method, computer programming for basic AR and Deep Learning methods. They will learn how to synthesize training data, setup Deep Learning model parameters, run the training process, and evaluate the outcomes.

Outcomes
The anticipated outcomes from this project include AR and AI apps on mobile iOS devices, demonstration videos, a project website, and publications about research findings. The project team’s prior AR-based LEGO construction prototype was the basis for two grant applications:

1. National Science Foundation (NSF): Brick by Brick: Augmented Reality-based Making & Gaming  for Advancing Informal STEM Learning (Pending)
2. Texas A&M  Presidential Transformational Teaching Grants (PTTG): Brick By Brick: Augmented Reality-Based Making & Gaming For Teaching Creativity and STEM (Awarded)

The above two proposals were focused on learning and teaching of creativity and STEM, and didn’t include the comprehensive AI functionalities, which are the focuses and innovative components in this Innovation [X] proposal. Based on the data collection and findings from the Innovation [X] project, the team plans to actively apply for more NSF and other external grants.

Benefit to Students
Totally 12 students (3 graduate and 9 undergraduate) from Architecture, Construction Science, and Computer Science as the major participants of the project will research, develop, and demonstrate a prototype of AI-powered AR. Specifically, in the project, students will learn prototyping as a research method, important skills in design and assembly, AR and AI methods, and computer programming. They will learn how to synthesize training data, setup Deep Learning model parameters, run the training process, and evaluate the outcomes. Students will gain experience in the interdisciplinary project. Graduate students will also gain experience of leading group tasks and collaborating among groups.

Students will co-author publications with the faculty leaders, attend conferences to present their research and development, and build networks with other students and researchers in the conferences. Experience in the SXSW Conference, expected through the participation in the Innovation Awards – VR, AR & MR programs, will enable students to better understand and learn the broad topics of creativity and STEM applied to humanities.

Will part of the grant be used to pay undergraduate participants?  
Yes
Will part of the grant be used to pay graduate student participants?  
Yes
Will the project require travel?  
Yes

Additional Information Supplied:
Three (3) undergraduate student workers will be paid with hourly salaries during the research and development phase. Six (6) other undergraduate students will be paid hourly participation fees in the evaluation phase as users. Three (3) graduate student workers will be paid with hourly salaries during the research and development phase.

Project Leader: Dr. Zhe Zhang: Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, Texas A&M University  
Email: zhezhang@tamu.edu
Phone: (979) 845-6523

Team Leaders: 
Dr. Zhe Zhang: Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, Texas A&M University, zhezhang@tamu.edu 
Dr. Ruihong Huang: Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science & Engineering, huangrh@tamu.edu

Team Contributors: 
n/a

Units Represented:  Geography, Computer Science & Engineering

Schools Represented: Geosciences and Engineering

Description: Natural disasters globally cause significant human loss and economic damage. Disaster responders often need to make quick decisions in complex situations under heavy duress. The decision goals are usually achieved through inquiry into a series of spatial parameters closely tied to specific decision objectives and their associated evaluation criteria based on diverse social, socioeconomic, and demographic conditions. In this project, we aim to design an interactive and collaborative spatial decision support system (SDSS) based on advanced cyberinfrastructure, WebGIS, and citizen science to improve situational awareness in disaster management. The proposed SDSS considers spatial and social vulnerability priorities to enhance knowledge elicitation and sharing among a diverse range of disaster responders and communities.

Background
Natural disasters have globally caused significant human loss and economic damage. Disaster responders often need to make quick decisions in complex situations under heavy duress. The decision goals are usually achieved through inquiry into a series of spatial questions closely tied to decision objectives and their associated evaluation criteria based on diverse social, socioeconomic, and demographic conditions. Furthermore, the decisions are often made by a diverse group of disaster responders with various backgrounds, skills, and their own preferred terminologies. This further emphasizes the importance of how knowledge can be collected, represented, and transferred between different disaster responders efficiently. Such knowledge, often derived from geospatial data, comes from various data sources with different formats and scales, which leads to tremendous computational challenges. For instance, considering the large volume of social media messages, advanced computational methods need to be developed to achieve automatic recognition of life-threatening events and improve disaster management efficiency.

Goals
The existing disaster information systems remain temporally imprecise, spatially vague, and do not consider social vulnerability and decision-making capabilities. In this project, we aim to design an interactive and collaborative spatial decision support system (SDSS) based on advanced cyberinfrastructure, WebGIS, and citizen science to improve situational awareness in disaster management. The proposed SDSS considers spatial and social vulnerability priorities to enhance knowledge elicitation and sharing among a diverse range of disaster responders and communities. We select Houston as our case study area due to the significant impact of hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Our project is science-driven, and the project goals are illustrated below. 

Citizen science aspect: the project team will work with CrowdSource Rescue (CSR) and develop a SDSS that integrates various computational models ( i.e., machine learning-based natural language processing models) to quickly identify social media posts that report important types of events during the time-critical disaster response phase, e.g., events of injuries, evacuations, search and rescues, events of housing damages, utility and supply failures, and road closures. We will further extract location information from event-related tweets.

Decision science aspect: the proposed SDSS aims to identify, analyze, and visualize uncertainties in disaster risk reduction at the community level while examining different decision models ( e.g., multi-criteria decision making(MCDM)  and fuzzy MCDM) that can be incorporated with uncertainty parameters to support spatial decision-making in a disaster situation. 

Social science aspect: The research team will partner with Texas Target Communities (TXTC) and Hazard Reduction and Recovery Center (HRRC), who will provide access to communities in the Houston region, and help in design and launch of local meetings and validation project findings. Students will participate in community meetings to design test methods of knowledge representation, visualization, and dissemination to improve response effectiveness and efficiency and determine the best ways of integrating social media.

Diversity and Education aspect: the project team will contribute to various national educational organizations such as the University Consortium of Geographical Information Science (UCGIS) and the American Association of University Woman (AAUW) to promote STEM research and education programs that focus on women and minority groups. For instance, Dr. Zhang currently is a member of AAUW, and she also leads the “CyberGIS and Decision Support Systems” research initiative at UCGIS. The project team will work with both organizations and present research findings at their programs to engage with university students at a national level.

Outcomes
The anticipated outcomes include: 
Publications: we expect to publish the work in highly impactful journals such as the International Journal of Geographical Information Science and Computational Linguistics Journal. 

Web Application: A free and interactive web-based spatial decision support system will be developed for all users (i.e., local governments, communities, and residents) to challenge spatial decision problems and implement solutions for disaster management.
Community meetings and outreach activities: Through Texas Targeted Communities, students will work with emergency responders and community volunteers to implement and validate the proposed spatial decision support systems. 

Education program: We will establish both residential and virtual learning labs for undergraduate and graduate students from TAMU LAND, GEOG, and Computer Science and Engineering Departments as well as K12 students through the “GIS for the Weekend program” that is led by Dr. Zhang.

Benefit to Students

  • In the project, students will develop various computational skills such as Geo-Python, WebGIS, Artificial Intelligence, and high-performance parallel computing skills. 
  • Students will also develop communication and team working skills through community meetings and international conferences and workshops. 
  • Students will also have opportunities to publish articles in high impact journals and conferences.


Will part of the grant be used to pay undergraduate participants?  
Yes
Will part of the grant be used to pay graduate student participants?  
Yes
Will the project require travel?  
No

Additional Information Supplied:
We will budget $8,000 for undergraduate students. We will budget $12,000 for graduate students. 

Project Leader: Prof. Heather Prestridge, Curator, Department of Ecology and Conservation Biology, Agrilife Research
Email: hlprestridge@tamu.edu
Phone: (979) 845-5783

Team Leaders: 
Prof. Heather Prestridge, Curator, Department of Ecology and Conservation Biology, hlprestridge@tamu.edu
Prof. Sarah Potvin, Scholarly Librarian, TAMU Libraries, spotvin@tamu.edu

Team Contributors: 
Dr. Lawrence Griffing, Professor, Department of Biology, Texas A&M University, griffing@tamu.edu
Prof. Mary Compton, Curator, MSC Visual Arts Committee, Texas A&M University, mcompton@tamu.edu
Dr. Heather Thakar, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Texas A&M University, thakar@tamu.edu

Units Represented: Ecology and Conservation Biology, TAMU Libraries, Biology, Visual Arts, Anthropology

Schools Represented: Agriculture & Life Sciences, TAMU Libraries, Science, and Liberal Arts

Description: The recent advances in production and sharing of computed tomography (CT) imaging of fluid preserved specimens from natural history collections has led to improvements in access to these specimens across disciplines. Within the natural history collections community, the concept of an “extended specimen” elevates and expands the physical specimen with an augmented suite of digitized data including genotypic, phenotypic, and environmental data types. These records are more and more commonly including images, sound, video, and other media. The project aims to work closely with a cross disciplinary group to better understand how we can forge outreach around informal and formal science education through utilization of CT data originating from our natural history collections, as well as show innovative uses of these specimens and their data through examples from other disciplines including discovery of species, virtual reality interaction, biological imaging, and fine arts.
 
Background
The recent advances in production and sharing of computed tomography (CT) imaging of fluid preserved specimens from natural history collections has led to improvements in access to these specimens across disciplines. Historically only utilized by biologists and natural history specialists in the description of species and to understand biodiversity, fluid preserved specimens in natural history collections contain a wealth of information that can be utilized across disciplines. As a lead partner with the Open Vertebrate project, funded by the National Science Foundation, the Biodiversity Research and Teaching Collections (BRTC) in the Department of Ecology and Conservation Biology serves as a scanning center for the largest of vertebrate specimens held in collections – a project that is opening doors to an unexpected user base. We would like to exploit and build upon recent interdisciplinary relationships to produce in-person and virtual exhibits drawing on student energy and expertise across four University departments and four colleges.

Goals
Within the natural history collections community, the concept of an “extended specimen” elevates and expands the physical specimen with an augmented suite of digitized data including genotypic, phenotypic, and environmental data types. These records are more and more commonly including images, sound, video, and other media. Our natural history collections community is currently linking together to form an Extended Specimens Network (ESN) to provide these interconnected datasets to a broad base of users. A recent report from the Biological Collections Network states the utility of the ESN as the following “The ESN will allow researchers to explore the rules that govern how organisms, grow, diversify and interact, and enable scientists to ask more nuanced research questions specific to how environmental change and human activities may affect those rules. The engaging vouchered specimen, coupled with the open access ESN, and immediate and relevant science resulting from the ESN, can play a unique role in promoting STEM education, engaging citizen scientists, and empowering a scientifically literate society. The specimen and the associated data provide a relatable and engaging entry point to participate in iterative data driven science, learn core data literacy skills, and build open, transdisciplinary collaboration.” (https://bcon.aibs.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Extending-Biodiversity-Collections-Full-Report.pdf)

With the above in mind, our project: “Computed Tomography (CT) technology driving innovative and creative uses of natural history collections across disciplines.” aims to:

• Work closely with a crossdisciplinary group to better understand how we can forge outreach around informal and formal science education through utilization of CT data originating from our natural history collections.
• Show innovative uses of these specimens and their data through examples from other disciplines including discovery of species, virtual reality interaction, biological imaging, and fine arts.  
• Produce an exhibit in collaboration with the MSC Visual Arts Committee showcasing work from these datasets produced by Texas A&M Students.
• Establish a virtual exhibit through the TAMU libraries (TAMuseum) that will persist post- project that trains our students in outreach and serves as a proof-of-concept for the Libraries’ efforts to engage with campus collections such as the BRTC.
• Expose the campus community at large to hidden resources at TAMU through connecting unconventional disciplines.
• Provide educational opportunities for students to engage in the use of these data
• Produce a lecture series related to each component of how are CT data are used (4 invited speakers that are experts in their discipline including biology, visualization, museum sciences, and fine arts)

Outcomes
• Virtual and in-person exhibits representing the variety of utility imbedded in natural history collections data. 
• Traveling exhibits spreading the Texas A&M University, departmental, and School of Innovation brands across the landscape from University to general public venues.
• Segmentation and production of derivatives originating from the CT datasets. These derivatives are useful for VR applications and 3D printing.
• Understanding of how different user groups can utilize our data, and through this understanding innovate improvements to data delivery and information dissemination. 
• Improvements in how we provide and market these data per user group.
• Monetized products from our datasets (eg. 3D skulls and prints for sale).
• VR experiences for k-12 youth, accessible via WWW and google cardboard and open models posted to Sketchfab.
• Development of a community of users spanning the University and local community.

Benefit to Students
Our cross-discipline team of students will benefit from their participation in numerous ways including:
• Fulfillment of internship credits (484/684)
• Increased understanding and expertise utilizing CT data in their home field of study
• Increased appreciation of other disciplines across STEM but also fine arts
• Opportunities for collaboration with peers
• Training in science communication
• Training and experience in public speaking
• Hands-on training and experience working with the next generation of visualization data
• Novel skills in museum techniques, both brick and mortar and virtual

Will part of the grant be used to pay undergraduate participants?  
Yes
Will part of the grant be used to pay graduate student participants?  
Yes
Will the project require travel?  
No

Additional Information:
Innovate. Create. Discover. Our project seeks to work closely with a crossdisciplinary group to better understand how we can forge outreach around informal and formal science education through utilization of CT data originating from our natural history collections. Are you interested in showing and creating innovative uses of these specimens and their data through examples from disciplines including discovery of species, virtual reality interaction, biological imaging, and fine arts? Students (graduates and undergraduates) will be enrolled in 484 internship and paid a small stipend.

Project Leader: Dr. Leslie Ruyle, Associate Research Scientist, International Affairs, The Bush School of Government and Public Service
Email: ruyle@tamu.edu
Phone: (979) 862-3469

Team Leaders: 
Dr. Leslie Ruyle, Associate Research Scientist, International Affairs, The Bush School of Government and Public Service, ruyle@tamu.edu
Dr. Rodney Boehm, Director, Engineering Entrepreneurship, School of Engineering, rodneyboehm@tamu.edu

Team Contributors: 
Dr. Catharina Laporte, Director of Undergraduate Studies, Instructional Associate Professor, College of Liberal Arts, claporte@tamu.edu
CCB staff; Rebecca Klein, Phale Max Seele

Units Represented: International Affairs, Engineering, Liberal Arts

Schools Represented: Bush, Engineering, and Liberal Arts

Description: We have been asked to help farmers and ranchers in Botswana protect their livestock from lions, leopards, wild dogs, jackals, and cheetah. Our local partner, Cheetah Conservation Botswana (CCB), has been working with people in the region for many years. Students will work with TAMU professors, CCB staff, and local ranchers on developing solutions on campus before taking them to test in the field in Botswana.  Students will help devise new solutions as well as improve two current requests: a device that could be place around the kraal (corral) that could make noises, lights, and maybe even high-pitched beeps and scent to scare away the predators, as well as an electronic device/app to log the number of animals entering the kraal which could send a signal with the final count back to various users.

Will part of the grant be used to pay undergraduate participants?  
N
Will part of the grant be used to pay graduate student participants?  
N
Will the project require travel?  
Y

Additional Information:
We are looking for students to help devise new solutions as well as help better two current requests: 
The first is a device that could be place around the kraal (corral) that could make noises, lights, and maybe even high-pitched beeps and scent to scare away the predators. It would need to be a low-tech solution using local materials or something inexpensive and easy to send to Botswana. Ideally, it would be a device that a local entrepreneur could manufacture and sell to local ranchers.
The second project would be an electronic device to log the number of animals entering the kraal which could send a signal with the final count back to various users. This could be perhaps an app on a smart phone or some other device that would work in this cultural and tech environment.

Students will meet every two weeks from September to the end of May. Students will talk with professors, CCB staff, and ranchers about human-wildlife conflict and co-create potential solutions. The teams will then design prototypes that will be taken to Botswana in May to be tested on the ranches. The students who will travel to Botswana will be active members all year long and may be asked to help supplement travel costs by applying for additional scholarship monies. 

We are looking for graduate and undergraduate students from the following fields:
Engineering
Computer science
Veterinary science
Animal science
Agriculture
Wildlife
Ecology
Conservation biology
Rangeland management
Anthropology
International studies/affairs

Project Leader: Dr. Srividya Ramasubramanian, Presidential Impact Fellow & Professor, Department of Communication, College of Liberal Arts
Email: srivi@tamu.edu

Team Leaders: 
Dr. Srividya Ramasubramanian, Presidential Impact Fellow & Professor, Department of Communication, College of Liberal Arts, srivi@tamu.edu
Dr. Craig Coates, Associate Dean for Inclusive Excellence in the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, Instructional Associate Professor of Entomology, ccoates@tamu.edu
Dr. Anna Wolfe, Assistant Professor, Department of Communication, annawolfe@tamu.edu

Team Contributors: 
Ms. Marisa Suhm, Assistant Director, Department of Multicultural Services, msuhm@tamu.edu
Ms. Vanessa Gonlin, PhD student, Department of Sociology, vgonli1@tamu.edu
Mr. Anthony Ramirez, PhD student, Department of Communication, arramirez@tamu.edu

Units Represented: Communication, Entomology, Multicultural Services, Sociology
 
Schools Represented: Liberal Arts and Agriculture & Life Sciences

Description: In the evolving COVID-19 global pandemic context, this interdisciplinary project uses a trauma-informed dialogue-based intervention to bring about community healing and social transformation. It brings together change-agents from various backgrounds to have honest discussions about their experiences, thoughts, and feelings relating to the COVID-19 situation. The dialogue sessions will also discuss resources and strategies at the individual and collective level. This project uses small group online discussion formats to cultivate empathy, active listening, respect for differences, between-group bonds, collective healing, and support for one another through this difficult time. The project aims to help participants listen to multiple perspectives and lays the foundation for working collectively to address the situation. Team members will be trained in facilitation skills, will help to create well-rounded honest discussions, and document critical conversations centered on the COVID-19 situation.

Will part of the grant be used to pay undergraduate participants? 
Yes
Will part of the grant be used to pay graduate student participants? 
Yes
Will the project require travel? 
No

Additional Information Supplied:
The Difficult Dialogues interdisciplinary research team is seeking 12-15 graduate and undergrad students to serve as co-facilitators to assist with our “Fighting COVID-19: A Dialogue-Based Intervention for Community Healing” project. We are looking for individuals with demonstrated commitment to and passion for social transformation, impactful action research, and community building. Ability to work well with others is required. First generation college students and students of color are especially encouraged to apply. Team members will be trained in facilitation skills, will help to create well-rounded honest discussions, and document critical conversations centered on the COVID-19 situation. The position is open to all students, both undergraduate and graduate students, in all majors at Texas A&M University.

Project Leader: Dr. Sumana Datta, Professor, Biochemistry & Biophysics, Assistant Provost for Undergraduate Studies, Executive Director for LAUNCH
Email: sumad@tamu.edu
Phone: (979) 845-1957

Team Leaders: 
Dr. Sumana Datta, Professor, Biochemistry & Biophysics, Assistant Provost for Undergraduate Studies, Executive Director for LAUNCH, sumad@tamu.edu
Mr. Dustin Kemp, Capstone Program Coordinator for LAUNCH, dkemp@tamu.edu
Dr. Sarah Gatson, Associate Professor, Sociology, gatson@tamu.edu
Ms. Bonnie Davila, FYE Learning Community Program Coordinator, LAUNCH, bedavila@tamu.edu

Team Contributors: 
Dr. Joe Sharkey, Professor, Health Promotion and Community Health Sciences, School of Public Health, jrsharkey@tamu.edu
Prof. Lisette Templin, Instructional Assistant Professor, Health and Kinesiology, lisettetemplin@tamu.edu
Dr. Craig Coufal, Associate Professor and Extension Specialist, Associate Department Head for Extension, Poultry Science, cdcoufal@tamu.edu
Ms. Carley Carpenter, Life 101 Coordinator and Extension Assistant, Department of Nutrition and Food Science, carley.carpenter@tamu.edu

Units Represented: LAUNCH, Sociology, Biochemistry & Biophysics, FYE Learning Community, Health and Kinesiology, Poultry Science, Nutrition and Food Science, Health Promotion and Community Health Services
 
Schools Represented: Liberal Arts, Agriculture & Life Sciences, Education & Human Development, Public Health

Description: First Year Eats will address food insecurity on campus through growing fresh produce for distribution, teaching students how to make tasty portable meals in jars, mugs, and crock pots, helping students to make more nutritious and less expensive choices in shopping and cooking, and providing access to ingredients by stocking a residence hall kitchen pantry.  We will be asking what freshman food insecurity looks like on campus and how helping students cook and eat better affects their ability to do better in classes and be successful at TAMU.  If you’re interested in getting involved in a variety of projects from service to teaching to research tackling hunger on campus, First Year Eats is for you!
 
Will part of the grant be used to pay undergraduate participants? 
Yes
Will part of the grant be used to pay graduate student participants? 
Yes
Will the project require travel? 
No
Project Leader: Dr. Theodora Chaspari, Computer Science & Engineering, College of Engineering
Email: chaspari@tamu.edu

Team Leaders: 
Dr. Theodora Chaspari, Computer Science & Engineering, chaspari@tamu.edu
Dr. Winfred Arthur, Professor, Psychology, w-arthur@tamu.edu
Dr. Youngjib Ham, Assistant Professor, Construction Science, yham@tamu.edu
Dr. James E. Hubbard Jr., Professor, Mechanical Engineering, jhubbard@tamu.edu
Dr. Anastasia Muliana, Professor, Mechanical Engineering, amuliana@tamu.edu

Team Contributors: 
n/a

Units Represented: Computer Science & Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Psychology, Construction Science
 
Schools Represented: Engineering, Liberal Arts, and Architecture
 
Description: Noise in the open-office can result in annoyance, heightened stress, and reduced performance. Despite the various methods which have been proposed to address noisy conditions (e.g., earplugs, noise-cancellation headsets, office cubicles), the demands of 21st-century call for a more rounded approach with experts working together to offer a combined psychological, physiological and physical solution to noise problems. This project will design an intelligent and adaptive indoor space which can continuously and unobtrusively “sense” each individual’s neuro-physiology due to changes in noise, and reconfigure the space to regulate local noise conditions. Our effort relies on a cross-discipline between building science, artificial intelligence, smart materials and structures, and behavior analysis.

Will part of the grant be used to pay undergraduate participants?
Yes
Will part of the grant be used to pay graduate student participants?
Yes
Will the project require travel?
No
Project Leader: Dr. Xin Yan, Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry, College of Science
Email: xyan@tamu.edu

Team Leaders: 
Dr. Xin Yan, Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry, College of Science, xyan@tamu.edu
Dr. Rahul Srinivasan, Assistant Professor, Department of Neuroscience & Experimental Therapeutics, rahul@tamu.edu
Dr. Shuiwang Ji, Associate Professor, Department of Computer Science & Engineering, sji@tamu.edu

Team Contributors: 
n/a

Units Represented: Chemistry, Neuroscience, Computer Science & Engineering
 
Schools Represented: Science, Medicine, and Engineering

Description: The study of metabolites in brain deciphers the spectrum of small molecules that affect neurophysiologic and cell signaling life processes. This project will use mass spectrometry imaging, an emerging label-free molecular imaging method, to create a detailed map of neural network in mouse brain and its metabolic bridge. The results will help to build a knowledge base to unravel complex brain functions and discover metabolic biomarkers for brain diseases.

Will part of the grant be used to pay undergraduate participants? 
Yes
Will part of the grant be used to pay graduate student participants? 
Yes
Will the project require travel? 
No
 
Additional Information Provided
Part of the grant will be used to pay for undergraduate researchers. Graduate students who will provide the training to undergraduate researchers will be paid.
Project Leader: Prof. Carol LaFayette, Professor, Department of Visualization, College of Architecture
Email: carol-lafayette@tamu.edu
Phone: (979) 845-3465

Team Leaders: 
Prof. Carol LaFayette, Professor, Department of Visualization, carol-lafayette@tamu.edu
Prof. Tim McLaughlin, Department Head; Associate Professor, Department of Visualization, timm@tamu.edu
Ms. Monica Vega, Assistant Coordinator, Department of Visualization, mvega93@tamu.edu

Team Contributors: 
Prof. Sabrina Carletti, Instructional Assistant Professor, Department of Visualization, carletti@tamu.edu
Dr. Sinjini Sengupta, Instructional Assistant Professor, Department of Mathematics, ssinjini@tamu.edu
Dr. Shinjiro Sueda, Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science, sueda@tamu.edu
Dr. Kim Wright, Assistant Research Scientist, Department of Teaching, Learning, and Culture, kbwright@tamu.edu

Units Represented: Visualization, Mathematics, Computer Science, Teaching, Learning & Culture, Architecture
 
Schools Represented: Architecture, Science, Engineering, and Education & Human Development

Description: Along the Texas border with Mexico many young Latinx students and their families have never imagined that learning math, science, and coding is a bridge to creating the fantastic environments they enjoy in video games and films. In partnership with major entertainment studios, our project utilizes the principles of STEAM education and digital world-building as an experiential way to introduce the creative freedom available by combining procedural techniques and design thinking. Undergraduate and graduate students interested will need to enroll in the VIST 491 course to participate.

Will part of the grant be used to pay undergraduate participants? 
Yes
Will part of the grant be used to pay graduate student participants? 
Yes
Will the project require travel? 
No
 
Additional Information Provided
We will pay selected undergraduate students to participate upon successful completion of the Fall course.
We will pay selected graduate students to participate upon successful completion of the Fall course.
Project Leader: Mr. Jeremy Kenny, Program Manager for Veterinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine
Email: jkenny@cvm.tamu.edu
Phone: (979) 458-5077

Team Leaders: 
Dr. Carly McCord, Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine. Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Educational Psychology, College of Education and Human Development; Director of Telebehavioral Health, Texas A&M Health Science Center, cmccord@tamu.edu
Dr. Lori Teller, Clinical Associate Professor for Telehealth, College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, lteller@tamu.edu
Dr. Ray Pentecost, Director for the Center of Health Systems and Design(CHSD), College of Architecture and College of Medicine, rpentecost@tamu.edu

Team Contributors: 
Mr. Jeremy Kenny, Program Manager for Veterinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine, jkenny@cvm.tamu.edu

Units Represented: Psychiatry, Educational Psychology, Telehealth, Architecture, Medicine
 
Schools Represented: Medicine, Education, Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences

Description: This project aims to bring the concepts of Global One Health into practice in rural and under-served communities by addressing the health and well-being of both humans and animals through increased access to care. The Health Sciences Center and the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences will work collaboratively to bring mental health services to indigent residents of Washington County, and veterinary care for their pets. The College of Architecture will also be involved to assist with the design and creation of telehealth work stations and hybrid treatment spaces to be used by human and veterinary patients.

Will part of the grant be used to pay undergraduate participants? 
Potentially
Will part of the grant be used to pay graduate student participants? 
Yes
Will the project require travel? 
No

Project Leader: Dr. Chaitanya Lakkimsetti, Associate Professor, Sociology & Women’s and Gender Studies/CLL
Email: clakkimsetti@tamu.edu
Phone: 309-533-0927

Team Leaders: 
Dr. Chaitanya Lakkimsetti, Associate Professor, Sociology & Women’s and Gender Studies/CLL, clakkimsetti@tamu.edu
Dr. Emilce Santana, ACES Fellow & Visiting Assistant Professor, Sociology/CLL, santana@tamu.edu

Team Contributors:
Ernesto Amaral, Assistant Professor, Sociology/CLL, amaral@tamu.edu
Ceyhun Eksin, Assistant Professor, Industrial and Systems Engineering/College of Engineering, eksinc@tamu.edu
Jennifer Mercieca, Associate Professor, Department of Communication Studies/CLL, mercieca@tamu.edu 
Defne Over, Assistant Professor, Sociology/CLL, dover@tamu.edu
Maria Perez-Patron, Research Assistant Professor/Director of the Program on Reproductive and Child Health, Epidemiology & Biostatistics/Public Health, maria.perez@tamu.edu

Units Represented:
Sociology, Women’s and Gender Studies, Industrial and Systems Engineering, Communication Studies, Program on Reproductive and Child Health, Epidemiology & Biostatistics

Schools Represented:
College of Liberal Arts, College of Engineering, School of Public Health

Description:
This study will focus on how communities respond to social distancing messages and why. It will investigate how individuals respond to social distancing policies implemented at the national and local levels, depending on factors such as race/ethnicity, gender and social class. In particular, this project will explore the role of community leadership, media sources, frequency and alignment of messages in determining whether individuals respond positively or negatively to social distancing messages.

Background:
This is a multi-disciplinary mixed-methods project looking at the impact of social distancing messages on communities during COVID-19. Social distancing as a public health strategy has been key to flattening the curve and successfully handling the pandemic. This study will focus on how communities respond to social distancing messages. It will investigate how individuals respond to social distancing policies implemented at the national and local levels, depending on factors such as race/ethnicity, gender and social class. In particular, this project will explore the role of community leadership, media sources, frequency and alignment of messages in affecting whether a community responded positively or negatively to social distancing messages. Focusing our research on Brazos and Harris counties, we will generate recommendations for effective behavior change communication strategy; draft policy relevant reports and articles; design a website that highlights the lived experiences of Texans and Aggies in particular; and build an epidemiological model that incorporates behavioral responses and interactions between individuals to simulate the effects of future public health outbreaks.

Goals:
We approach social distancing messages as a communication strategy that targets behavioral change. Behavioral change communication strategies are at the center of contemporary community based public health interventions (World Health Organization 2012) and in these strategies sources of communication vary widely from one community to another. Specifically, in the dissemination of social distancing messages community-leaders (religious, political or other), social media, news programs, health-experts, government, and religious organizations have been at the forefront. We have four overall goals for this project: The first goal of this project is to determine what are the main sources of social distancing messages in two Texan counties, namely Harris and Brazos. The second goal is examining the effectiveness of social distancing messages. We aim to investigate whether people are following social distancing messages disseminated by these sources. Harris and Brazos counties differ in terms of demographic composition and political leanings and we will field surveys in these two counties to investigate how individuals and households respond to social distancing messages. We intend to capture behavioral, socioeconomic, and demographic measures such as race/ethnicity, social class, gender, educational attainment, religion, occupation, health insurance, sick leave, political ideology, migration status, membership to community associations, and consumption of media sources. The third goal is to recruit 20-30 participants into the study to collect the lived experiences and narratives that will complement the survey. The qualitative study will capture how people practiced social distancing and different strategies they used to cope with difficulties during the health crisis. Examples of possible hurdles induced by COVID-19 include lack of child care, juggling work-life balance, strained family dynamics and interpersonal relationships, domestic violence, loneliness, lack of personal space and safety, and job loss and economic insecurities. The fourth goal is to generate models that can be utilized by policymakers and government agencies to better prepare for future public health issues. We will simulate how and why individual, household, and contextual factors affect health outcomes (e.g., transmission, prevalence, and death rates) under different hypothetical scenarios. More specifically, we will estimate agent-based models utilizing inputs from regression results based on survey data, as well as insights from qualitative analysis. This type of model allows researchers to incorporate interactions between individual decisions, behavioral responses, and social networks related to health outcomes at the county level.

Outcomes:
1) Policy-relevant research papers and op-eds that would highlight effective communications strategies. We will provide information about communication strategies that are more successful to deal with epidemiological challenges while accounting for individual characteristics. 2) A curated online archive of lived experiences of people in the two counties that will be accessible to researchers, policy makers and the general public. It could eventually become a public project where people can add their stories (e.g., slave archive). 3) External grant proposals (e.g., NIH, NSF and Russell Sage Grant) using preliminary data from the project with a goal to expand the research to other counties, states, and countries. 4) Build epidemiological models to estimate effects of social distancing on health outcomes and to simulate future outbreaks using survey and qualitative data. Our models are innovative for including social aspects and behavior changes to produce forecasts.

Benefit to Students:
The project will give an opportunity for graduate and undergraduate students to participate in current and socially relevant research. We will include both graduate and undergraduate students in all aspects of research including research design, data collection, analysis, modeling and writing policy and research articles. Because of the mixed-methods emphasis of this project they will be trained in sound mixed-methods research design, to contribute theoretically and empirically to their disciplines (Sociology, Communications, Epidemiology, and Industrial Engineering), and to formulate policy-relevant research. Moreover, students will gain exposure to the broader research community by presenting research in conferences and submitting and revising research papers to peer-reviewed journals. Graduate students in particular will receive training in writing research proposals for selective grants and work as team leaders to supervise undergraduate research.

Read the Full Proposal

Will part of the grant be used to pay undergraduate participants?  
Yes
Will part of the grant be used to pay graduate student participants?  
Yes
Will the project require travel?  
No

Additional Information Supplied:
We will offer 2 paid undergraduate RA-ships as well as lower-commitment volunteer undergraduate positions (up to 8 positions).
 
We will offer 2 graduate research hires (hourly wage for graduate students who are already RAs and TAs).

Project Leader: Dr. Cynthia Werner, Director of ADVANCE and Professor of Anthropology (College of Liberal Arts)
Email: werner@tamu.edu
Phone: 979-492-6304

Team Leaders: 
Dr. Cynthia Werner, Director of ADVANCE and Professor of Anthropology (College of Liberal Arts), werner@tamu.edu
Dr. Heather Wilkinson, Associate Dean of Faculties and Professor of Plant Pathology (College of Agriculture and Life Sciences), h-wilkinson@tamu.edu

Team Contributors:
Dr. Mindy Bergman, Professor of Psychology and Executive Director of Interdisciplinary Critical Studies (Liberal Arts), mindybergman@tamu.edu
Dr. Mary Campbell, Associate Professor of Sociology and Associate Head (Liberal Arts), m-campbell@tamu.edu
Dr. Kirby Goidel, Professor of Communication and Director of the Public Policy Research Institute (Liberal Arts), kgoidel@tamu.edu
Dr. Tracy Hammond, Professor of Computer Science and Engineering (Engineering), hammond@tamu.edu
Dr. Claire Katz, Associate Dean of Faculties, Murray and Celeste Fasken Chair in Distinguished Teaching and Professor of Philosophy (Liberal Arts), ckatz@tamu.edu
Dr. Blanca Lupiani, Dean of Faculties and Associate Provost and Professor of Veterinary Pathobiology (Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences), blupiani@tamu.edu
Dr. Stephanie C. Payne, Professor of Psychology (Liberal Arts), scp@tamu.edu
Dr. Christine Stanley, Professor of Educational Administration and Human Resource Development (Education/Human Resource Development), cstanley@tamu.edu
Dr. Sherry Yennello, Regents Professor of Chemistry and Cyclotron Institute Bright Chair in Nuclear Science (Science), yennello@tamu.edu

Units Represented:
ADVANCE, Anthropology, Office of the Dean of Faculties, Plant Pathology, Sociology, Communication, Public Policy Research Institute, Computer Science and Engineering, Philosophy, Veterinary Pathobiology, Educational Administration and Human Resource Development, Chemistry, Nuclear Science.

Schools Represented:
College of Liberal Arts, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, College of Engineering, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, College of Education and Human Resource Development, College of Science

Description:
The COVID-19 pandemic necessitated a rapid transformation of work conditions and work-life balance for university faculty, post-doctoral fellows, and graduate students. Within a week, university instructors transitioned to working from home and teaching remotely, and university researchers experienced significant disruptions to research plans. As the university continues to chart a hybrid-flexible plan for the fall semester, it remains uncertain when the “new normal” will phase into a “post-pandemic normal.” In the meantime, the psychological well-being of faculty and future faculty has been affected by looming uncertainty regarding the economic stability of the university. The metaphor “we are in the same storm, but we are not in the same boat” is an apt description for the current situation within academia. Just as some institutions are better positioned to survive this storm, some members of the academy are riding out the storm in a boat while others are desperately hanging on to a life jacket or fragments of a handmade raft. This project examines the impacts of COVID-19 on individual scholars, while recognizing that this metaphorical storm will have differential impacts that are likely to widen existing gaps along the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, caregiver status, discipline, and appointment status. Our project is guided by this central research question: How has the relationship between work-life balance and work productivity changed for scholars due to recent transformations to the organizational context of work?

Background:
The COVID-19 pandemic necessitated a rapid transformation of work conditions and work-life balance for university faculty and graduate students. Within a week, faculty and graduate student instructors teaching traditional in-person courses transitioned to working from home and teaching remotely. And, within a few weeks, faculty and graduate students whose research depends on the ability to work in labs, with human subjects, and/or at remote field locations experienced significant disruptions to research plans. In addition to these inconvenient realities, the psychological well-being of faculty has been affected by looming uncertainty regarding the economic stability of the university at a time when endowment income is down, state budget cuts are likely, and student enrollments could potentially decline. These stressful circumstances, however, are not felt equally across the academy. The pandemic has already exacerbated existing inequalities and feelings of insecurity for three of the most vulnerable groups in the academy: tenure-track faculty, academic professional track (APT) faculty, and future faculty (i.e., PhD students and post-doctoral fellows who seek academic positions).

Goals:
We will use a multi-disciplinary, mixed method research design to achieve three objectives: (1) We seek to understand the differential impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on work conditions and work-life balance within and between these three different groups: tenure-track, APT, and future faculty at Texas A&M. Within each of these groups, women and people of color (POC) are generally known to experience higher levels of anxiety, stress, and burnout compared to other groups in academia. So, concerns about job security, discrimination, invisible labor, and demanding service loads will no doubt increase given the global pandemic. For example, women faculty are likely to be doing added caretaker work at home, relative to men. And, women and POC faculty are likely to be doing more invisible labor (e.g., providing emotional support to students in crisis) than white, male faculty. Tenure-track faculty are likely to have heightened anxiety about how their research and teaching records will be impacted by COVID-19. In comparison, APT faculty are likely to have heightened anxiety about their job security given their contracts must be renewed annually and they are evaluated on their unique contributions to their departments and teaching, which have been severely impacted by COVID-19.Future faculty are likely to have increased concerns about their ability to complete their degrees, obtain academic and research funding, and to secure academic employment. For all groups, unequal impacts of COVID-19 are likely to intersect further with other aspects of their identity, including demography (e.g., religion) , personality (e.g., resilience), technological skills (e.g., their prior comfort level with technologies required for remote and online teaching), academic discipline, and their personal work from home (WFH) environment. (2) We plan to gather feedback on how current and future faculty feel about the university's response to COVID-19, and compare these perspectives with views from other universities. This would include communications from university administrators on remote teaching, as well as policies and procedures enacted in response to COVID-19 (such as tenure-clock extension and reduced emphasis on student evaluations). (3) We aim to use the results of this study to inform future university programming, practice, processes, and policy initiatives for current and future faculty. Given that COVID-19 will further exacerbate existing inequalities within academia, traditional reward systems (e.g. merit raises, promotions) and traditional structures (e.g. time limitations for graduate student funding) need to be reconsidered. We will prepare guidelines for colleges and departments on ways to ensure the use of equitable and inclusive criteria that factor in the differential impacts of COVID-19 in the evaluation of faculty, post-doctoral fellows, graduate students, and prospective faculty hires.

Outcomes:
Our project will provide a valuable dataset for understanding the impact of COVID-19 within academia. Through a longitudinal survey, we will gather quantitative data on shifts in work-life balance, experiences with remote teaching technologies, and attitudes towards the university response. Qualitative interviews will add detailed information about the impact of COVID-19 on the lives of faculty and future faculty. And, finally, web scraping will allow us to search for and analyze social media posts about the impacts of COVID-19 on faculty lives. Our project will generate a specific set of written guidelines to ensure the equitable and inclusive evaluation of current and future faculty that acknowledges differential impacts of COVID-19. The results of our research, including these guidelines, will also be shared in a series of public forums with faculty and administrators. Finally, we will use the results of our study to publish several peer-reviewed journal articles (e.g., ADVANCE).

Benefit to Students:
Graduate and undergraduate students who work on this project will have the opportunity to learn how scholars from different disciplines can work together in innovative ways. For many of them, this might be their first experience working on an interdisciplinary team, and this will provide an invaluable experience for future careers within and outside of academia. The graduate students on this team will also have the opportunity to mentor undergraduate students. Modeled after the Anthropology Department’s successful Graduate Student-Undergraduate Student Mentorship program and guided by recommendations on mentoring from the Center for Teaching Excellence, this experience is likely to be mutually beneficial as graduate students will improve their mentoring skills and undergraduate students will learn more about the research process. Graduate and undergraduate students are also likely to improve their skills in research methods, as they work with faculty to address these key questions related to COVID-19. Graduate and undergraduate students will also have the opportunity to learn a lot more about the experiences of faculty life, and the challenges that faculty members face during the COVID-19 pandemic. These insights may be particularly beneficial to students who are interested in pursuing careers in academia. Finally, graduate and undergraduate student team members will have the opportunity to collaborate on peer-reviewed publications that result from this study.

Read the Full Proposal

Will part of the grant be used to pay undergraduate participants?  
Yes
Will part of the grant be used to pay graduate student participants?  
Yes
Will the project require travel?  
No

Additional Information Supplied:
The Academic Inequities Exposed Research Team is seeking 15 graduate and undergraduate students to help with a variety of tasks. We are looking for students who are committed to and/or interested in learning more about diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts at Texas A&M. We are looking for graduate students in social sciences who are interested in assisting with qualitative data collection and analysis. We are looking for undergraduate students in the social sciences and humanities who are interested in assisting with qualitative data analysis, including the coding of qualitative interview data. We are looking for undergraduate and/or graduate students who can help with a web scraping exercise.  And, finally, we are looking for undergraduate and/or graduate students who can help design a website for this project.  Students will work together on a team and participate in team meetings where they receive guidance and support.  Student team members will either sign up for directed studies hours for this project, or be paid hourly wages.

Project Leader: Dr. Xuemei Zhu
Email: xuemeizhu@tamu.edu
Phone: 979-845-3780

Team Leaders: 
Dr. Xuemei Zhu, Ph.D, Associate Professor, Department of Architecture, College of Architecture and Visualization, xuemeizhu@tamu.edu
Dr. Chanam Lee, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture & Urban Planning, College of Architecture and Visualization, chanam@tamu.edu 

Team Contributors:
Dr. Marcia Ory, MPH, PH.D., Regents & Distinguished Professor, Director of the Center for Population Health & Aging, School of Public Health, mory@tamu.edu

Units Represented: Architecture, Landscape Architecture & Urban Planning, Center for Population Health & Aging

Schools Represented:
College of Architecture & Visualization and School of Public Health

Description:
This project aims to understand (1) how COVID-19 affects the daily living and health of affordable housing residents in Austin, Texas; and (2) how physical and social environments help or deter the COVID-19 coping process in this vulnerable high-risk population. Using a cross-sectional and longitudinal study design, we will assess impacts of COVID-19 on residents’ daily life and health using Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA), a data collection method that repeats sampling of subjects' behaviors and experiences in real time, in their natural environments. The goals are to: (1) generate new knowledge about impacts of COVID-19 and relevant roles of housing and community environments, (2) inform future practice in housing and community design and public health promotion in terms of crisis mitigation and management, and (3) showcase approaches to high-impact education that bring multiple disciplines together using a project-based approach driven by real-world problems.

Background:
With over 1 million cases in the US, the COVID-19 outbreak has brought unprecedented and pressing societal challenges. Such impacts have disproportionately affected vulnerable populations, including older adults, those with chronic conditions, minorities, and lower-income groups. COVID-19 impacts will also continue to unfold over the long term, possibly with the second wave later this year. To be better prepared for pandemics like COVID-19, interdisciplinary teams are needed to address design, planning and public health issues relevant to living in everyday community environments. This project examines the multi-faceted and evolving impacts of COVID-19 on daily living and health among affordable housing residents who bear high risk factors associated with COVID-19. They may not have the “luxury” of “social distancing” due to compact living conditions and/or the need to continue working in high-risk professions; they often have limited and unstable income; they also tend to exhibit disproportionally higher percentages of pre-existing conditions and disabilities that make them vulnerable to serious symptoms, while their access to quality healthcare may be limited.

Goals:
AIMS: This project aims to understand (a) how COVID-19 affects the daily living and health of affordable housing residents in Austin, Texas; and (b) how physical and social environments help or deter the COVID-19 coping process in this vulnerable high-risk population. METHODS AND INNOVATIONS: This cross-sectional and longitudinal study is built on a strong existing collaboration with Foundation Communities—a non-profit organization and the leading provider of affordable housing in Austin. Their 22 housing properties (apartments, studios or duplexes) offer unique opportunities for this study due to their (a) locations throughout Austin, (b) diverse environmental features, and (c) diverse high-risk resident profiles. Among their 2,717 housing units. 45.2% are for households with <50% of median family income (MFI), and 6.6% are for those with <30% of MFI. We will assess impacts of COVID-19 on residents’ daily life and health using Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA), a data collection method that repeats sampling of subjects' behaviors and experiences in real time, in their natural environments. EMA helps to minimize recall bias, maximize ecological validity, and allows for the study of microprocesses that influence behavior in a real-world context. This method is well suited for studying community impacts of COVID-19, which are highly fluid and constantly evolving, as well as long lasting and context dependent. Although widely applied in clinical investigations, EMA has not been used as widely in social science studies related to pandemics or other ongoing community challenges. DATA COLLECTION will include 3 components. First, a baseline survey will collect information on participants’ personal and household characteristics, and the impacts of COVD-19 on their (a) work and employment, (b) education and training, (c) home life, (d) social activities, (e) finances, (f) emotional health and wellbeing, (g) physical health, and (h) physical distancing and quarantine practice. Second, EMA will be pushed out periodically as a short survey through a smartphone app or text messages, to assess the changes in these 8 domains of impacts in real time and over time. Third, participants will provide real-time report (via app or messages) of physical and social environmental barriers and supports for coping with COVID-19 at time of encounter using photos and verbal descriptions. Data analysis will include regression analyses as well as advanced geospatial and machine learning methods that can help detect significant environment elements linked with specific barriers/supports. We are also proposing an innovative collaboration between researchers/educators from multiple disciplines at Texas A&M University and service providers at Foundation Communities to ensure success in outreach and recruitment, the timeliness and quality of data, and the maximum potential to provide timely support for the residents.

Outcomes:
This project will (1) generate new knowledge about impacts of COVID-19 and relevant roles of housing and community environments, (2) inform future practice in housing and community design and public health promotion in terms of crisis mitigation and management, and (3) showcase approaches to high-impact education that bring multiple disciplines together using a project-based approach driven by real-world problems. The specific products include: • Peer reviewed publications and conference presentations; • Written reports from both the research team and the student class project teams; • Research briefs to be shared with affordable housing providers and related agencies; • An app for future use by both researchers and community organizations to track attitudes and behaviors of vulnerable populations; • Design and public health guidelines in relation to coping with pandemics through housing and community design; • Pilot data for larger external grant proposals.

Benefit to Students:
Of special note, students from different backgrounds will learn concepts and methods in different fields, and how an interdisciplinary team approach can advance knowledge and action. They will be exposed to complex, real-world problems and challenges associated with COVID-19, and be trained to think critically, creatively, and collaboratively to approach problem-solving in a valid, ethical and team-based manner. Students will be assisting with and learning about (1) research design, including participant recruitment and survey instrument development; (2) data collection, including the baseline survey, EMA and the real-time report of environmental barriers and supports; (3) data analysis; and (4) publication preparation by participating in writing and dissemination tasks. They will also receive training about team collaboration, inter/transdisciplinary learning, and community-based research with vulnerable populations. Verbal, written, and oral communication skills will also be emphasized during the training and throughout the project. Special emphasis will be placed on utilizing diverse digital venues for conducting and disseminating research, which will be increasingly important post-COVID 19. Students will be expected to make class presentations, join community engagement activities, and interact with stakeholders.

Read the Full Proposal

Will part of the grant be used to pay undergraduate participants?  
Yes
Will part of the grant be used to pay graduate student participants?  
Yes
Will the project require travel?  
No

Additional Information Supplied:
We will follow university guidance regarding travel. If COVID-19 no longer poses a safety threat for travel, participating students will travel with the researchers to visit the study sites (affordable housing properties and their surrounding communities in Austin, TX). If it is still unsafe to travel during the project period, we will conduct data collection through digital communications.

 

CALL FOR STUDENT APPLICATIONS FOR INNOVATION[X] 2020-2021 PROJECTS

Now seeking applications from undergraduates, graduate students, professional students, and postdocs for our 2020-2021 Innovation[X] project cohort.
 

All student applications to Innovation[X] projects must be submitted through the online proposal form by our UPDATED deadline, July 27, 2020 (close of business)

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Learn About the Innovation[X] Program
Proposal Guidelines and Selection Criteria
 

Contact the School of Innovation
Robert Shandley
Associate Dean, School of Innovation
innovationx@tamu.edu 
(979) 862-6071
 
Emily Finbow
Assistant Director, School of Innovation
innovationx@tamu.edu
(979) 862-6071