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New Institute for Diversity Sciences Awards Inaugural Seed Grants

April 24, 2018 The director and steering committee of the campus’s new Institute of Diversity Sciences recently announced the first six multidisciplinary teams that have won seed grants of up to $12,000 to conduct preliminary studies investigating new research questions about the causes or consequences of group disparities or diversity from many angles. Nilanjana “Buju” Dasgupta, institute director and professor of psychological and brain sciences, is also the College of Natural Sciences’ director of faculty equity and inclusion. She says, “The long game is to advance each project to the next stage of seeking larger, competitive external grants.” The institute brings together faculty and students across colleges and schools whose research focuses on human diversity or disparities from multiple scientific angles, Dasgupta says, to foster innovative transdisciplinary research and education. New, interim institutes have three years to become established, after which they may apply to the Faculty Senate for permanent status. “The goal of this institute and of these seed grants is to break down disciplinary silos and foster a new kind of intellectual environment where people come together who study similar topics but from very different angles,” the director says. “Often the faculty we bring together have never met each other because they work in different parts of campus. But they are interested in solving the same broad complex problems and are looking for collaborators with complementary expertise. Problems associated with group disparities out there in the world are often complex and seemingly intractable.” Further, “Each of us as individual scientists or engineers tries to make a small dent in the problem from our own disciplinary angle. Just imagine how much more effective we would be if we pooled our expertise and attacked the problem from multiple angles in coordination.” Dasgupta adds, “The Institute of Diversity Sciences is a match-maker that brings together researchers and practitioners whose expertise and interests complement each other and we provide incentives to make the match work.” Winning teams “The Costs of Discriminating: Evidence from Employment Discrimination Lawsuits” Ina Ganguli and Fidan Kurtulus, economics; Doug Rice, political science, and Tiffany Trzebiatowski, management. “Discerning Risk and Individual Variation in Driving Behavior among Young Adults with and without Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)” Jennifer M. McDermott, psychological and brain sciences, and Shannon C. Roberts, mechanical and industrial engineering. “Sexual Orientation Differences in Menopause Timing and Symptoms,” Nicole VanKim and Elizabeth Bertone-Johnson, biostatistics and epidemiology, with Lynnette Leidy Sievert, anthropology. “Discovering African American English Speech Melodies,” Kristine Yu and Lisa Green, linguistics, Meghan Armstrong-Abrami, languages, literatures and cultures, with Brendan O’Connor, computer science. “Bias or Behavior: Reconciling Teacher Perceptions of Student Absenteeism with Administrative Records of Student Absenteeism,” Dania Francis, economics, and Sara Whitcomb, student development. “Processing Non-native Speech in Noisy Classrooms,” Lisa D. Sanders, psychological and brain sciences, Meghan Armstrong-Abrami, Hispanic linguistics, Kristine M. Yu, linguistics, and Anne Gilman, visiting assistant professor of psychology. The six winning research groups include faculty and graduate students from seven schools and colleges across campus. In addition to the seed grants, Dasgupta says the institute also hosts two monthly working groups, “Learning Sciences and Diversity” and “Health Disparities and Diversity,” where faculty who otherwise would rarely have opportunities to interact with each other present their research, seek feedback on topics related to the science of human diversity and look for collaborators. For more information, or to participate in a working group, contact Buju Dasgupta at 545-0049, dasgupta@psych.umass.edu or program coordinator Leyla Keough at 545-0689, ljkeough@umass.edu