This competition is closed  —  we will be accepting applications again in Fall 2020.


The REACH grant program seeks to promote and help fund promising research, scholarship, and creative arts in all areas of the University. The program is designed to provide funding to foster projects that can advance new areas of scholarly achievement.

Goals of the REACH grant program are as follows:

  • To promote innovative research, scholarship, and creative arts projects that will enhance UVM's reputation as an incubator for cutting-edge ideas. Projects can be in established or interdisciplinary disciplines, or in new and emerging fields. Successful applicants will articulate their innovative ideas and describe how they mark a new direction in their own work, its potential outcomes, and its relation to UVM's mission.
  • To advance research with broad societal, scholarly, and/or creative impact that extends beyond UVM into the community and the world. Successful applicants will address the potential scope and impact of their proposed project.
  • To encourage faculty members to reach the next level of achievement in their scholarly trajectory. Both individual and collaborative achievement is encouraged. Successful applicants will describe their long-term intellectual and professional goals and how the REACH grant will help them to achieve these objectives.
  • In those disciplines where competitive extramural funding is available, to leverage institutional investment by providing the building blocks to support such applications.

Requirement for Computational Research Funded by OVPR

For computational research at UVM, we offer the services of the Vermont Advanced Computing Core (VACC). The core has multiple clusters to provide high-performance computing to faculty, staff and students.

Use of the VACC for internally funded grants is required for funding unless the PI submits a written request (to be reviewed by the OVPR) that explains why this core facility is not adequate to suit his/her research need. If you do not currently have an account with the VACC, you must contact and specify your needs. The VACC Team will assist you with the setup of an account.


With the exception of previous/current REACH awardees, UVM faculty members active in scholarship, research, and/or creative work are eligible to apply to the REACH grant program. Previous/current REACH awardees may reapply five (5) years after the year of their REACH award.

Interfaculty and/or interdisciplinary collaborations are encouraged where such an approach enlarges the possibilities for significant accomplishment, but it is not a requirement.

Proposals that anticipate cost sharing or other funding (internal or external) are encouraged, but cost sharing is not required; such funding need not be firmly approved at the time of application.

Proposals in areas that are commonly eligible for extramural support must include a plan to leverage the REACH funding by subsequent application to an external funding agency.

Amount and Duration

For 2020-2021, the total budgeted amount for the REACH grant program is $150,000, with budget ranges from $1,000 to $30,000 considered. Funds will be available May 1, 2020, and must be expended by August 31, 2021, with no carryover of unexpended funds allowed.

Criteria for Selection

Proposals are reviewed by at least two faculty members whose expertise lies within the broad area of the applicant's field of scholarship. A scoring rubric (MSExcel) consistent with the goals of the REACH grant program guides the reviewers in their review of applications. Reviews and recommendations are then forwarded to the Office of the Vice President for Research where the final decisions are made.

Award Conditions

Persons accepting REACH grant awards must comply with all applicable procedures and regulations.

Progress reports are required once each year for five (5) consecutive years after receipt of funding. This is critical to show the efficiency of the program and ensures ongoing funding of the program.

Awardees are expected to participate in ongoing activities associated with the REACH grant program.

A REACH grant award will be acknowledged in all publications and presentations and, as appropriate, in applications for further funding.

REACH Recipients

Please click the dropdowns below to see our awardees.


Michele Commercio, Political Science

"Beyond Quotas: Gender Equality - or the Lack Thereof - in Kyrgyzstan's Political Arena"

Why is it that women remain underrepresented in Kyrgyz politics, despite the introduction of a national legislative gender quota in 2007? Having just completed a book manuscript on polygyny in Kyrgyzstan, my new research project is a book on gender and politics in Kyrgyzstan. The REACH grant will support the initial phase of this project, which is field research to explore 1) how and why women are elected to parliament, and 2) opportunities and challenges women confront once they make it to parliament. Preliminary research I have conducted suggests that there are gender stereotypes that discourage women from entering the political arena, and informal practices that party leaders use to "persuade" women elected to parliament to give up their mandate. The REACH grant will allow me to investigate these hunches through the funding of a research trip. While in Kyrgyzstan, I will interview former and current government officials as well as civil society activists working on gender equality issues.

Jaeda Coutinho-Budd, Biology

"Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms of Glial-Glial Interactions and Function"

Glia are critical components of the nervous system that provide factors for neuronal survival, regulate neuronal function, facilitate synapse formation and plasticity, and remove harmful debris in disease and injury. Glial dysfunction can therefore lead to a wide array of nervous system conditions including neurodevelopmental disorders, neurodegenerative diseases, and aggressive cancers. While most glial studies focus on neuron-glia crosstalk, this proposal aims to increase our mechanistic understanding of glial-glial interactions, and the consequences of disrupting those associations. These analyses will expose both beneficial and detrimental roles that healthy glial cells undergo in reaction to nearby glial cell dysfunction, revealing potential targets for therapeutic intervention to mitigate the effects of glial reactivity in disease.

Paul Deslandes, History

"Transatlantic Britishness: Architecture, Design, and Cultural Exchange, 1876-Present"

This grant will enable sustained research for a new book that will examine the movement of peoples, designs, artifacts, ideas, funds and, in some cases, whole buildings or structures between the United Kingdom and the United States and Canada in the period, 1876-present. This project will explore several different developments including the influence of British architecture on North American aesthetics, the trade in British architectural artifacts, the commissioning of British architects in North America, the movement of British country houses and country house contents to both Canada and the United States, and North American architectural preservation efforts in the United Kingdom. Based on sustained research with original sources, this project will use architecture as a lens through which to study British influences on North American culture, the American and Canadian investment in the more tangible aspects of Britishness, and identity formation among a diverse range of populations.

Kathryn Fox, Sociology
Abigail Crocker, Mathematics & Statistics

"Evidence-Based Prison Reform for Incarcerated Women"

Incarceration, and in particular, women's incarceration is the subject of many reform efforts in the US. Innovations in women's prisons are promising, but lack rigorous evaluation of their effects on recidivism, employment, behaviors, and the wellbeing of both the staff and incarcerated individuals. This REACH grant provides the opportunity for Professors Fox and Crocker to combine their quantitative and qualitative skills to study outcomes from an innovative prison facility in Maine. Partnering with the Maine Department of Corrections (DOC) and the Muskie School of Public Service (University of Southern Maine), this mixed-methods study provides a significant opportunity to add to the evidence base around gender-responsive, trauma-informed practices in correctional settings. The researchers have an existing partnership with Vermont DOC, which is poised to make cultural changes within its prisons, and in particular, will benefit from insights into Maine's experiences. Other states, too, will be interested in the findings from this rigorous approach. This grant will enable an information-sharing relationship across two states and academic institutions, situating the team to apply for external funding for continued research and collaboration.

Nancy Gauvin, Communication Sciences and Disorders

"To P.i.N.C.H or not to P.i.N.C.H, that is the question?"

This study examines the effectiveness of Prolonged Nasal Cul-De-Sac with High Pressure Speech Acts (P.i.N.C.H.) therapy. P.i.N.C.H. therapy is used to treat the reduced activity of the soft palate, after a cleft palate repair, reducing hypernasal resonance. In English, positive pressure buildup with the soft palate is needed to produce oral sounds in speech. Reduced movement of the Velopharyngeal Port (VP) may occur when the soft palate does not separate the oral and nasal cavities when producing oral sounds. If the VP port is unable to close for oral sounds, excessive air will flow out of the nose when speaking. If adequate pressure is not built up in the oral cavity, speech sounds will be produced through the nasal cavity causing a hypernasal resonance that impacts a person’s speech intelligibility. Continued inability to build positive pressure may lead to a physiological phenomenon known as velopharyngeal surrender that can exacerbate the inactivity of soft palate closing during the production of oral sounds. There is currently no treatment for VP gap.

Adrian Ivakhiv, Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources

"The New Lives of Images: Toward an Ontology of the Digital Image World"

This project will survey disparate scholarly literatures on images (in philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, anthropology, religious studies, visual and media studies, etc.) to develop a synthetic analytical framework for understanding how people use — and are 'used by' — images in the rapidly evolving world of digital communication. Ivakhiv will use this framework to analyze three sets of images popular with multiple audiences: (1) images addressing the climate crisis, and more broadly the Anthropocene, with a focus on The Anthropocene Project; (2) images depicting unusual trans-species encounters between animals, and between humans and nonhuman animals, as shared in multiple forms of social media; and (3) images reflecting a relationship between their artist-creators and 'transcendent' or 'spiritual' forces invoked by those artists (with a focus on the Guggenheim's 2019 exhibition of paintings by abstractionist-mystic Hilma af Klint). This research aims to provide a nuanced understanding of how images, as used in digital culture, are not merely communicative (of information) and expressive (of subjectivity), but embody affective, emotional, and 'spiritual' perceptions and dimensions of people's relationship with the more-than-human world.

David Jenemann, English/Film and Television Studies
Chris Burns, Special Collections Librarian

"You Heard it Here First: The Vermont Radio Archive"

The Library of Congress National Recording Preservation Board has identified sound recordings made prior to 1972 — especially regional radio broadcasts — as some of the most endangered historical material in the country. Much of that rapidly deteriorating, historically significant material rests in the hands of private collectors and radio hobbyists and is unavailable to researchers and the public. With funds from the REACH Grant, Professor David Jenemann and Special Collections Librarian Chris Burns will conduct the first phase of a two-phase project to identify and collect Vermont’s rich radio history with the aim of creating Vermont’s first publicly accessible digital radio archive. The creation of a Vermont Radio Archive aligns with the University's land grant mission and its proud history as the first broadcaster in the state and will mark UVM as a leader in radio preservation and research.

Kelly Rohan, Psychological Science

"Optimizing Long-Term Outcomes for Winter Depression with CBT-SAD and Light Therapy: Confirming the Targets, Mechanisms, and Treatment Sequence"

Winter seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a subtype of recurrent depression involving major depressive episodes during the fall/winter months that remit each spring. This confirmatory efficacy R01 focuses on two SAD treatments that each work for some patients: light therapy (LT) and a SAD-tailored group cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT-SAD). We examine four theoretically relevant biomarkers to determine how each treatment works when it is effective and identify the best candidates for each. We will also test the efficacy of a "switch" decision rule upon recurrence to inform clinical decision-making. We will randomize 160 adults with SAD to 6-weeks of CBT-SAD or LT in Winter 1; follow subjects in Winter 2; and, if a depression recurrence occurs, cross them over into the alternate treatment (i.e., switch from LT to CBT-SAD or CBT-SAD to LT). All subjects will be followed in Winter 3. Biomarker assessments occur at pre-, mid-, and post-treatment in Winter 1, and at followups in Winter 2 and Winter 3.


Thomas Borchert, Religion

"Monastic Attitudes to Islamophobia in Northern Thailand - Islamophobia or Not?"

While Buddhist monks are widely understood to be focused on meditation and mindfulness, Buddhism is an important part of nationalist ideologies in Southeast Asia. In the last decade, monks in Sri Lanka and Myanmar have been among the key agents of anti-Muslim activism and violence in their respective countries. Thailand has seemed to avoided these problems. Despite a twenty-year ethno-nationalist separatist movement in the Thai South, Thai monks do not publicly espouse Islamophobia. However, in interviews on Buddhism and politics in the Northern Thai city of Chiang Mai, monks have expressed ideas about Muslims similar to that of Myanmar. In this research, I will investigate the attitudes of Northern Thai monks to Islam.

Emily Coderre, Communication Science and Disorders

"What happens next?"

Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often demonstrate impaired comprehension of linguistic (i.e. spoken or written) narratives. However, comprehension impairments also occur for non-linguistic narratives (e.g. picture sequences or comics), suggesting impairments in narrative comprehension more broadly. One potential contributor to this domain-general comprehension impairment is poor prediction. Successful narrative processing entails prediction of upcoming words or events to facilitate comprehension. However, some have proposed that autism is a disorder of prediction, meaning individuals with ASD are less able to use previous experiences to process incoming information. This project uses electroencephalography (EEG) to examine prediction during comprehension of linguistic narratives (i.e. short written stories) and visual narratives (i.e. picture sequences or comics) in individuals with ASD. This work has important implications for designing effective interventions for individuals who struggle with reading comprehension.

David Darais, Computer Science
Joseph Near, Computer Science

"Data Privacy for Deep Learning via Language Design"

Data privacy is a growing concern for individuals, businesses, governments and organizations. The prevailing public consensus is to regulate the use of private data, but companies lack the necessary tools to comply with proposed regulations. The state of the art in balancing data analysis with user privacy is a data anonymization technique called differential privacy. We propose to extend differential privacy techniques to support deep neural networks. Recent advances in data privacy are focused on traditional data analysis tasks, the results of which do not apply to advanced machine learning techniques like deep neural networks. Our aim to bridge these two lines of cutting-edge research has the potential to incentivize companies to adopt data privacy protection mechanisms for users, and pave a path towards strong data privacy as the status quo in the digital era.

Niccolo Fiorentino, Mechanical Engineering

"Biomechanical Factors Six Months Post-ACLR with Meniscal Resection"

An alarming number of young, otherwise healthy people suffer from osteoarthritis (OA) after undergoing surgery to correct a traumatic injury to a joint. This is known as post-traumatic osteoarthritis (PTOA). Of particular concern, almost 50% of individuals who suffer severe knee ligament trauma and undergo anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction with a resection of their meniscus (a load bearing structure in the knee) begin to show signs of PTOA in 10-20 years. Effective treatments have not been developed because we do not know how the behavior of the meniscus and underlying cartilage changes after surgery and rehabilitation. The purposes of this study are to measure the response of the meniscus and underlying cartilage to an increasing, controlled load applied during magnetic resonance imaging, and to compare the position of the bones in the knee joint while walking.

Delphine Quenet, Biochemistry

"DNA Damage Response to PARP and PARG inhibitors in Glioblastoma"

Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most common primary brain tumor. Despite multimodal treatment combining surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, patient survival remains poor (~15 months) and recurrence is virtually inevitable. One important molecular marker in GBM is the tumor suppressor phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN), whose mutation is associated with poor prognosis and tumor resistance to radio- and chemo-therapy. Increasing evidence demonstrates PTEN role in DNA double strand break repair. Drugs targeting PARP1 and PARG proteins (PARPi/PARGi) have been designed and demonstrated antitumor activity, such as in BRCA1/2-mutated ovarian cancers. However, this concept and the therapeutic relevance of PARPi have not yet been tested in GBM. The long-term goal of this project is to assess for the first time the effectiveness of PARPi and PARGi in GBM, and predict treatment response in regard of the status of the marker PTEN to personalize therapy.

Susanna Schrafstetter, History

"Flight and Concealment: Surviving the Holocaust Underground in Munich and Beyond"

My book Flight and Concealment: Surviving the Holocaust Underground in Munich and Beyond analyzes the stories of Munich Jews who attempted to escape deportation and murder by submerging into illegality. An English translation of my book would fill a significant gap in the academic literature on the Holocaust and would allow me to position myself as a more prominent scholar in the field of Holocaust Studies both in the United States as well as internationally. This would reflect positively on the Miller Center for Holocaust Studies at the University of Vermont, on the History Department, and on the university more generally. An English edition would also be attractive for course adoption in a variety of classes, on multiple levels.


Appala Badireddy, Civil and Environmental Engineering

"Reactive Electrochemical Membrane (REM) Filtration for Ex Situ PFOA and PFOS Groundwater Treatment"

As an emerging persistent organic pollutant, perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) such as perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) have drawn great attention due to their widespread distribution in environmental and biological systems around the globe. Since the early 2000s, numerous studies on PFAS indicate that these compounds do not break down easily by natural biogeochemical processes, and they readily bioaccumulate and pose a significant risk to human and animal health. Their unique physical and chemical properties are similar to a "double-edged sword", that is, the same properties that make the PFAS attractive for industrial applications also render them hazardous to the environment. As a result, PFAS are very difficult to treat with conventional remediation treatment processes.

This proposal describes an innovative treatment approach to rapidly remove and degrade PFOS and PFOA, the two dominant pollutants in aqueous systems, using a reactive electrochemical membrane (REM) filtration under continuous flow conditions. The development of a REM-based treatment would provide safe drinking water to communities, create self-sustainability, improve environmental friendliness, be compact and easy to operate, and generate a new component for the local and global economy.

Reuben Escorpizo, Rehabilitation and Movement Science
Diantha Howard, Informatics Core Manager
Ryan Jewell, Neurosurgery
Roger Knakal, Orthopaedics & Rehabilitation
Mike Lamoy
Patrick Standen, Rehabilitation and Movement Science

"A Community-Based and Interdisciplinary Project on Spinal Cord Injury Based on a Biopsychosocial Model of Health"

The spinal cord is a part of our body that is connected to the brain and helps us move our arms and legs. When injured, the spinal cord can result in paralysis and can sometimes be life threatening. Most of spinal cord injury (SCI) survivors live in the community, hence being able to assess the functioning of people with SCI early on is critical in understanding the quality of life of people living with SCI.

Our objective is to study the functioning and disability of people with SCI in the community, using a survey tool called INSCI. We will recruit participants in Vermont and Maryland. The study will include individuals with SCI related to trauma and certain non-traumatic origin. Study participants must be 18 years and older. It is expected that the INSCI survey will provide us with information that would help facilitate the delivery of health-related services to people with SCI to improve their well-being and quality of life and increase their participation in society.

Sayamwong Hammack, Psychological Science
Mark Bouton, Psychological Science
Victor May, Neurological Sciences

"Peptide Interactions in Opioid Relapse"

While addiction to opioids represents a significant health problem, the behavioral and neural mechanisms that underlie addiction and its resistance to treatment are unclear. The activation of stress-response systems by drugs of abuse has been argued to be critical for the maintenance of addiction and stress has been shown to cause drug relapse in both humans and animals; hence, stress-systems represent an important target for the treatment of these disorders. The activation of corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) systems in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) has been demonstrated to be critical for stress-induced drug relapse in rodent models, and we argue that pituitary adenylate cyclase activating polypeptide (PACAP) is an important upstream regulator of BNST CRF activation.

The studies in this application use a new rat model allowing for the molecular targeting of BNST CRF neurons to determine whether PACAP activates BNST CRF neurons in opioid experienced rats using calcium imaging and electrophysiological techniques, and whether chemogenetic inhibition of BNST CRF neurons prevents opioid-relapse behaviors produced by BNST PACAP receptor activation. These studies will implicate a new peptide system in stress-related opioid relapse that represents an important potential target for the treatment of opioid addiction.

Eric Roy, Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources
Christopher Koliba, Community Development and Applied Economics

"Resource Recovery and Reuse to Support Phosphorus Management and Sustainable Development Goals in Sri Lanka"

The United Nations' 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development includes a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. Resource recovery and reuse (RRR) is an approach to sustainable development that can amplify progress toward multiple interconnected SDGs. RRR models are needed that transfer organic waste, including human excreta, into economically valuable, safe organic fertilizer products that can enhance soil health and fertility, boosting food production. While new technical solutions are available, the key question that remains is how to take encouraging examples to scale.

The overall goal of this project is to catalyze an international research program in the tropics focused on RRR. More specifically, our objectives are to continue to build a collaborative research agenda with the Sri Lanka-based International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and their partners, conduct pilot research in Sri Lanka focused on RRR, and prepare extramural proposals collaboratively with IWMI for submission to government funding agencies and private foundations. For the pilot research in Sri Lanka's Western Province, we will examine phosphorus dynamics in agricultural soils receiving fertilizer products derived from organic wastes, and assess phosphorus supply and demand across urban-to-rural gradients to inform sustainable RRR models.

Alice Schermerhorn, Psychological Science
Rex Forehand, Psychological Science
Dianna Murray-Close, Psychological Science

"Parent Physiology during Interparental Interactions: Improving Prediction of Children’s Risk of Adjustment Problem Development"

Studies have consistently shown interparental relationship difficulties (IRDs), including significant destructive interparental conflict and poor relationship quality, predict child adjustment problems. However, much greater precision in predicting such problems is needed. The empirical literature suggests utilizing measures of parents' physiology during interparental interactions will enable such improvements to be made. The objective of this study is to assess the feasibility of this novel approach by examining associations between parents' physiology and child functioning. To attain this objective, we will test the working hypothesis that parents' physiology during interparental interactions will be associated with child adjustment problems. We will test our working hypothesis by using the approach of recruiting a community sample of 20 families (mothers, fathers, 9- to 11-year-old children) and collecting physiological data from parents, including sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) measures during interparental interactions. It is our expectation that the proposed study will lead to increases in the precision with which we can predict children's risk of adjustment problems. This outcome would be important because it would lead to the development of therapeutic approaches for reducing children's adjustment problems stemming from IRDs.

Lance Smith, Leadership and Development Sciences
Tracy Ballysingh, Leadership and Developmental Sciences
Bernice Garnett, Education
Colby Kervick, Education

"Process and Outcome Evaluation of Restorative Practice Implementation: School-Based Factors Influencing Fidelity and Effectiveness"

National data and Burlington School District (BSD) Equity Report data reveal disparities in punitive discipline for both people with disabilities and persons of color. Nascent evidence suggests that transforming school discipline practices from punitive and exclusionary toward restorative practice (RP) models may significantly ameliorate these inequalities. This community action research project utilizes a multi-disciplinary research team from the fields of school counseling, public health, K-12 education, and higher education to understand and evaluate the process and outcomes of implementing RP. This is to be conducted in concert with school-wide behavioral support tools such as Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) that are already in use across the BSD. The REACH Grant will support ongoing pilot projects within multiple Burlington schools that are nested within a larger multi-phase, multi-year, collaborative action research partnership between the University of Vermont’s (UVM) Department of Education (DOE), Department of Leadership and Developmental Sciences (DLDS), Center for Disability and Community Inclusion (CDCI) and the BSD. National momentum toward behavioral evolution through RP, conjoined with the significant gap in both the implementation and outcome literature, has led our team to anticipate project findings will have a national impact.

Donna Toufexis, Psychological Science

"Dorsolateral Striatal Pathway Effects on Habit"

We have identified a close approximate of operant training level both immediately subthreshold and threshold for habitual responding in female rats. This allows us to examine factors that may enhance or impede habit formation in females. Published literature shows that the dorsolateral striatum (DLS) governs the formation of habitual behavior. Results from the literature suggest that both the direct and indirect pathways within the DLS are required for habit formation, and that the relative activation of each pathway is crucial in producing habitual behavior.

In the proposed study we will use viral-vector induced up-regulation of an endogenously present Gs-coupled (excitatory) serotonin receptor to test the hypothesis that increasing activation of the indirect pathway of the DLS will impede the development of habitual behavior after habit-threshold level training, and increasing activation of the direct pathway of the DLS will enhance habit formation at training levels sub-threshold to habit formation in female rats.


Isabelle Desjardins, Psychiatry/Larner College of Medicine
William Cats-Baril, Grossman School of Business
Chris Danforth, Mathematics & Statistics/Computer Science
Peter Sheridan Dodds, Mathematics & Statistics/Computer Science

"Identifying Predictors of Suicide using Social Media"

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US (44,000/year). Suicide claims more lives than motor vehicle accidents (32,000/year). Costs associated with suicide are estimated at $44 billion/year. The urgency to address this serious public health issue is rising as the suicide rate in the US jumped 26% from 1999 to 2014, from 10.5 to 13.3 deaths per 100,000 people. A high priority area in suicide prevention is better identification of high risk individuals. We aim to develop a highly-innovative machine-learning, social media based algorithm to identify individuals at high near-term risk of suicide. Our interdisciplinary team — faculty from CEMS, the Larner College of Medicine, and the Grossman School of Business — proposes to accomplish three goals: 1) create and curate a dataset of social media posts authored by individuals who have attempted or died by suicide; 2) analyze the dataset using machine-learning algorithms to identify markers of suicide risk; and, 3) perform a market assessment to commercialize a clinical decision-making tool based on those algorithms. We will apply for external funding in Fall of 2017 to both the NIMH STTR/SBIR program on Zero Suicide and to the AFSP program on assessing short-term risk of suicide.

Tyler Doggett, Philosophy

"Burlington Thinks"

I am asking for funding to support a week of public philosophy — a festival — in the Burlington area. It will be modeled on BarcelonaPensa, a weeklong, popular, successful philosophy festival in Barcelona. The content will be philosophical issues of public concern and interest. The form will be a series of interactive events involving philosophy professors but also community partners across the area.

To explain what I want out of the festival, let me explain part of what motivates me to create it: In a newspaper interview two years ago, a director of a local homeless shelter said that Burlington homeless have in common feelings of "total aloneness" and meaninglessness and that these help to keep them homeless. Of course, there are other causes. Yet the feelings of aloneness and meaninglessness are (a) something philosophers have worked on, (b) something philosophers can help with, but (c) something that people wouldn’t know philosophers work on and can help with nor (d) something philosophers do help with. I want the festival to provide a place for people to talk about philosophical issues such as the nature of loneliness and meaningfulness and to do so with philosophers and non-philosophers alike.

Mathew Failla, Rehabilitation and Movement Science

"Muscle Tissue Adaptations in Chronic Rotator Cuff Tears"

Shoulder pain is one of the most common reasons for medical visits, with 4.5 million visits attributed annually. Rotator cuff injuries make up a large portion of these visits, causing shoulder pain, stiffness, reduced function, and decreased quality of life. The majority of rotator cuff injuries are chronic in nature, resulting in adaptations beyond the tendon injury such as muscular fibrosis, atrophy, fatty infiltration, and decreased contractility. The relationship of these muscle adaptations to shoulder disability and function is not well understood. The underlying mechanisms for how these adaptations occur, have been studied in animal models, but little is known in humans. Thus, there is a need to identify the muscular changes and mechanisms by which they occur in humans with rotator cuff tears. This work will utilize various methods of measuring rotator cuff muscle quality to identify muscle changes and their relationship to shoulder function and disability. In addition, the basis will be formed by which interventions can be designed to improve functional outcomes and disability associated with rotator cuff tears and surgical repair.

Rex Forehand, Psychological Science

"Intervention for Opioid Dependent Parents"

With over 2 million Americans abusing opioids, this substance dependency has been labeled as an epidemic both nationally and in Vermont. Opioid abuse of parents places their children at high risk for multiple psychosocial problems. Parenting deficits and the broader family context (e.g., inadequate communication with co-caregivers) have been identified as contributing factors to children’s maladjustment in these families. Unfortunately, a challenge, particularly in rural states, is how to ensure that opioid dependent parents have access to treatment to enhance their parenting skills and improve the broader family context. The purpose of this grant is to initiate development and piloting of an innovative smartphone-delivered treatment for opioid dependent parents of young children which can meet the treatment accessibility challenge.

Participants will be three therapists and 27 parents in treatment for opioid addiction. Using an iterative process, therapists will be interviewed and seven parents will participate in three focus groups over 4 months to identify challenges faced by these parents. Pilot application modules then will be developed to address these challenges and tested in a small randomized control trial (n = 20). This pilot work will be used as leverage to submit proposals for extramural research funding.

Shana Haines, Education
Cynthia Reyes, Education

"Bridging the Gaps: Improving Partnerships between Refugee Families and their Children’s Teachers to Increase Achievement"

A vast achievement gap exists in our current educational system, even here in Vermont, and refugee children are often far below their peers academically (DeCapua & Marshall, 2015; Ladson-Billings, 2006). Exacerbating the achievement gap, there is a gap in the level of partnership between families and their children’s teachers within refugee communities. These two gaping differences are particularly disconcerting when occurring together; emerging research from a related study indicate that families whose children are significantly behind in school may be ignorant of this fact, may not recognize that their child needs help, and may not be given the opportunity to partner with teachers to help their child succeed. We are proposing a study involving interviewing 25 students, their families, their teachers, and multilingual liaisons who work with their families to deeply understand the nuances of both the achievement gap and the gap in family-professional partnership within the refugee population, how these two gaps relate to each other, and what can be done to improve family-professional partnership to alleviate the achievement gap. The results of this study will be used to design an intervention aimed at increasing family-professional partnership specifically for the refugee community.

Arti Shukla, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

"Exosomal micro RNA-16-5p for early diagnosis of mesothelioma"

Malignant mesothelioma (MM) is a devastating cancer of mesothelial cells primarily caused by exposure to asbestos. MM is an aggressive cancer diagnosed only terminally due to lack of identified biomarkers that can lead to early diagnosis. We propose a unique and untested hypothesis: that miRNA contained in exosomes and secreted from MM cells may have a unique signature that may help us identify biomarkers of this disease. To our knowledge, no study to date has measured the exosomal miRNA signature of MM tumors. We generated a miRNA signature from two MM cells and demonstrated a several-fold upregulation of mir-16-5p, a tumor suppressor miRNA in exosomes, as compared to mesothelial cells. Published studies report low levels of mir-16-5p in MM tumor tissues. Based on this observation we hypothesize that MM cells spit out tumor suppressor mir-16-5p in exosomes in order to survive. In the present proposal we will validate our findings (mir-16-5p) in five different MM tumor cells and measure exosomes secreted from them by qRT-PCR. Preliminary data generated from this grant could pave the way for a more in-depth study on the identification of MM biomarkers. This will be a significant contribution to the study of MM diagnosis and treatment.

Johannes Steiner, Internal Medicine, Cardiology

"Heart Failure with Preserved Ejection Fraction – Biochemical Risk Stratification and Phenotyping"

Heart failure (HF) with a normal cardiac contraction pattern [HF with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF)] is a clinical syndrome of enormous public health impact affecting millions of patients. HFpEF constitutes a major unmet health need, as no treatment to date has been shown to modify its long-term outlook. A number of prior therapeutic HFpEF trials have failed, very likely due to phenotypic diversity and a multitude of contributing cellular signaling pathways. An emerging, key component of the syndrome is systemic inflammation, neuro-hormonal activation and oxidative stress. Novel biomarker profiles related to those conditions were shown to correlate with disease severity and prognosis. Ultimately, they have the potential to differentiate distinct HFpEF phenotypes biochemically, and help to discover patient phenotype-specific, 'tailored' therapy.

It has also been proposed that changes in thyroid hormones constitute an important pathophysiological component in the development of cardiac fibrosis and subsequent symptomatic HF with impaired contraction [HF with reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF)]. These associations have not yet been tested in HFpEF patients.

We hypothesize that in HFpEF patients, changes in novel biomarkers reflect a central mechanistic role in the pathophysiology of acute decompensated HF, characterize different HFpEF phenotypes, and are related to thyroid deficiencies.


Elizabeth Adair, Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources

"Developing Accurate Regional Estimates of Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Emissions"

Faced with an expanding global population and changing climate, society must ensure food security while minimizing agricultural emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG). Agricultural activities account for 12% of global GHG emissions and 56% of non-CO2 emissions and are projected to increase. Fortunately, changes in agricultural management practices have great potential to reduce GHG emissions while ensuring food security. However, progress in mitigating agricultural emissions is hampered by the limitations of current emissions monitoring methods.

We address these limitations through advances in: (1) cost-effective monitoring of GHG emissions across complex agricultural landscapes and (2) scaling up field measurements to large regions using new remote sensing methods to monitor agricultural management. Specifically, we will design, build and validate an Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)-mounted sensing system to measure GHG emissions in a manner that is scalable to the region. UASs have great promise for monitoring and measuring GHG emissions due to frequent flight capabilities and high resolution multispectral imagery. We will test UAS monitoring side-by-side with conventional in-field GHG measurements on Vermont farms that employ multiple, representative, management practices. Once validated, the PIs will seek additional funding to use these techniques to quantify GHG emissions at regional scales with national and international partners.

Pablo Bose, Geography

"Sanctuary or Security? Refugee Resettlement Policies and Outcomes in an Unsettled World"

The proposed project examines the global refugee resettlement regime through a comparative lens at multiple scales. It begins by exploring the similarities and differences in the resettlement policies and practices among five industrialized nations of the Global North — the US, Canada, Sweden, Denmark and Norway through an analysis of their legislative frameworks, governance structures, and through interviews with key officials in their respective resettlement agencies. In its second phase the project uses a spatial model to examine the results of these policies within specific resettlement locations — eight smaller cities in Canada and Scandinavia. Such sites are increasingly the destinations for refugees all across the world, including in the US and yet remain significantly understudied compared to larger gateway cities. This project will build on an ongoing study of refugee resettlement in non-traditional sites in the US and utilize tools developed within that research to conduct fieldwork including interviews with key informants, surveys with refugees, and mapping of refugee neighborhoods to explore processes and outcomes. This pilot study will form the basis for long-term comparative and international research on and interventions into refugee resettlement patterns in both the Global North and South.

Beth Bouchard, Biochemistry

"Development of a Novel Therapy for Hemophilia A"

Hemophilia A is caused by a deficiency in the blood clotting protein factor VIII that affects ~1 in 5000 males. The associated bleeding can range from serious bleeding following surgery or trauma to spontaneous oftentimes fatal bleeding. Treatment for hemophilia A has historically consisted of replacement of factor VIII with either natural or laboratory-derived proteins. While this therapy is effective, it requires frequent transfusion with large amounts of protein making it very expensive and therefore inaccessible to many individuals. In addition, because of the body's natural immune response, some individuals develop inhibitors that neutralize factor VIII and make therapy ineffective. More recent treatments have focused on gene replacement therapy to correct factor VIII deficiency. While some success has been seen in animal models, this treatment has not translated well to humans. In addition, gene-modified cells are also a potential target for destruction by the immune system and can transform into cancer cells. Thus, there is a need to seek out better therapies. In the current application, discoveries made using basic laboratory techniques will lead to advances in patient care by the development a novel therapy for hemophilia A that is less expensive and safer than current therapies.

Thomas Brennan, Art and Art History

"Abstraction: Symbolic Representation in the Natural Philosophies"

Funding is requested to support research at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland and the British Museum of Science, London. My purpose is to use the collections at St. Andrews and the collections at the Museum of Science to investigate aspects of symbolic representation within the history of science. In particular, I am interested in the questions of position and viewpoint in charts, maps, models and other types of visual representations as these questions pertain to an increased emphasis upon the human observer in visual representations of scientific knowledge during the 15th-18th centuries.

The outcome of my on-site research will be a series of photo-based art works that will bridge the disciplines of science, art and philosophy. While these works of art will be exhibited in museum and gallery settings, the primary objective for this project will be the production of a maquette (mock-up of a book) that will lead to the publication of an artist's monograph.

Mark Cannella, Extension

"Maple Business Benchmarking: Methods and Information Management Systems"

Significant advances in sap collection technology, labor efficiency innovations and sustained high market prices have facilitated expansion of the Vermont maple industry. Industry highlights are checked with the concern that many businesses, large and small, are subject to intensifying risks of market price volatility and weather events. There was a demonstrated absence of sustained economic and financial research for the maple industry to address these concerns until the University of Vermont Extension launched a pilot maple benchmark project in 2013.

This nascent applied research project has identified key opportunities to inform issues for private and public stakeholders with interests in maple. Benchmarking embodies the dual mission of Extension outreach programs by generating relevant research findings and delivering relevant educational programming that impact practitioners. The pilot project has revealed critical limitations in data standardization techniques and database systems suitable for larger sample sizes that constrain the viability of the research. This REACH proposal addresses the critical need to research methodologies and information technology platforms that can elevate the scholarly rigor and application of project findings. This proposal will directly support faculty development and develop a multi-year external funding plan to sustain a robust and long-term research program.

Antonio Cepeda-Benito, Psychological Science

"Efficacy of a New Biofeedback Motivational Intervention for Smoking Cessation"

We propose to test the efficacy of a novel smoking cessation intervention designed to motivate quitting and promote sustained abstinence. RATIONALE: Low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) screening for lung cancer is now recommended for current and former heavy smokers; while cancer-positive test results promote quitting, cancer-negative screens appear to create a false sense of immunity in smokers and suppress their motivation and likelihood of quitting. However, past trials didn't provide cancer-negative smokers with feedback about the observable presence of noncancerous smoking pathologies in the LDCT scans. APPROACH: To fill this gap, we will test the impact of illustrating the health-related consequences of quitting vs. continuing to smoke to both, cancer-positive and cancer-negative smokers. We will develop an innovative and personalized pictorial protocol to present smokers with their LDCT scan results, and we will test the incremental efficacy of adding the customized feedback in conjunction with a brief smoking cessation intervention. HYPOTHESES. Smokers who receive the brief intervention + customized feed back will report greater perceived severity and susceptibility to smoking risks (and report greater likelihood of quitting) than smokers in the intervention only group. These treatment effects will be present also in cancer-negative smokers.

Christine Vatovec, College of Medicine & Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources

"Investigating the Clinical Sources and Social Governance of Pharmaceutical Pollution"

This project investigates the role of clinical prescribing and dispensing practices on pharmaceutical contamination of the aquatic environment. In my previous research investigating the environmental outcomes of medical care, I noticed that in certain settings large volumes of medications go unused and are eventually flushed down the drain where they enter the wastewater system, and eventually lakes and streams. Classified as chemicals of emerging concern, pharmaceuticals pose a range of risks to ecosystems because many of these compounds persist in the environment where their active ingredients can effect aquatic organisms. This research will employ ethnographic methods as a novel approach to identifying the sources of pharmaceutical pollutants. I will use REACH funding to support preliminary fieldwork and writing, and will use these results to apply for additional funding to support further fieldwork in key medical settings where pharmaceutical pollution arises. At the completion of the full project, it is my expectation that this research will have identified key sources of pharmaceutical pollutants and the social factors that govern their movement. The outcome of this research will be information in support of policy interventions to increase best practices in pharmaceutical prescribing, dispensing, and waste disposal.


Yolanda Chen, Plant and Soil Sciences

"How Do Insects Rapidly Evolve on the Pesticide Treadmill?"

The "Pesticide Treadmill" describes a widely observed pattern where agricultural insect pests adapt to frequently used insecticides in conventional and organic cropping systems, and the emergence of resistant pests then forces the pesticide industry to develop novel insecticide chemistries.

Colorado potato beetle (CPB), Leptinotarsa decemlineata, is an exemplar of this phenomenon, having evolved resistance to 52 different insecticides and all the major classes of chemicals. How insect pests such as CPB are able to acquire the novel mutations that lead to insecticide resistance remains poorly understood. One possibility is that the insecticide itself may alter patterns of insect gene expression (DNA -> protein), and such patterning can be passed to subsequent generations, also known as an epigenetic effect. In insects, methyl groups (chemical formula: CH3) are used to silence genes to prevent transcription, or the coding of proteins. Sublethal doses of insecticides are known to remove methyl groups and allow transcription to occur. However, no previous studies have examined how epigenetics can contribute to the rapid evolution of insecticide resistance.

Here, we ask: 1) How does insecticide exposure influence patterns of methylation in CPB? And 2) How does insecticide exposure influence beetle gene expression in exposed and subsequent generations?

Nancy Gell, Rehabilitation and Movement Science

"BeMobile: The Next Step to Wellness"

In recent years the number of breast cancer survivors in the U.S. has increased substantially. However, breast cancer survivors often contend with adverse side effects associated with cancer treatment including fatigue, weakness, and decreased endurance. Adherence to physical activity recommendations minimizes these side effects and leads to improvements in physical functioning, quality of life, and self-rated health. Despite these benefits, physical activity participation rates by breast cancer survivors are significantly lower compared to the general population and other cancer survivors.

We propose to test BeMobile, an innovative and pragmatic intervention to support physical activity adherence among breast cancer survivors. BeMobile integrates known preferences and determinants of physical activity participation in women and breast cancer survivors including social support, professional guidance, goal setting, self-regulation, and environmental awareness. BeMobile takes advantage of low-cost but accessible technology such as text messaging, GPS, health coaching, and wearable physical activity sensors to engage breast cancer survivors in continued physical activity after completing oncology rehabilitation.

Through an iterative design, we will assess outcomes and incorporate participant feedback on the specific components to refine the intervention prior to a full trial.

David Kaminsky, Medicine

"Ventilation Heterogeneity and Its Association with Lung Cancer"

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer mortality in the United States. Recently, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended annual low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) for patients at high risk for lung cancer based on age and smoking history. LDCT has been shown to decrease cancer mortality by 20%. However, 96% of positive results are not cancer, leading to unnecessary workup and increase in health care cost. Utilization of a simple, non-invasive test that could identify a population of smokers at even higher risk of lung cancer would help better target LDCT screening and thus reduce the false positive rate.

Smoking is responsible for 85% of lung cancers, and is associated with structural changes that could alter the distribution of airflow and particle deposition throughout the lung, leading to an increased risk of lung cancer. We propose that the heterogeneity (unevenness) of ventilation in the lung is associated with lung cancer in patients who are current or former smokers. We will analyze ventilation heterogeneity locally in the region associated with the tumor on chest computerized tomography (CT) scan, as well as globally by means of specialized breathing tests in the lungs of patients with and without cancer.

Jennifer Laurent, Nursing

"Food Addiction, High Fructose Corn Syrup, and Metabolic and Neural Correlates in Obese Children"

Childhood obesity is epidemic. Seventy percent of obese children become obese adults with health conditions including diabetes, decreased quality of life, and mortality similar to tobacco users. Increasing attention has been given to the effects of obesogenic food environment on preoccupation and consumption of foods, particularly those high in inherently addictive added sugars. Food, food cues and anticipatory consumption of high-sugar foods activate neural reward pathwways assessed by MRI in obese adults. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is the most common source of refined sugar in sugar-sweetened beverages and other foods to enhance "flavor experience."Following HFCS consumption, obese children demonstrate more efficient absorption than lean controls.

This study examines the effects that HFCS and its metabolites have upon neural pathways and the relationship to food addictive behaviors in obese children.

Victor May, Neurological Sciences

"Design, Synthesis, and Evaluation of Small Molecule Receptor Antagonists: A Cross-college Approach to Novel PTSD Therapeutics"

Pituitary adenylate cyclase activating polypeptide (PACAP, Adcyap1) and its cognate G protein coupled PAC1 receptor (Adcyap2) participate in stress- and anxiety-related disorders including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Brain PACAP infusions increase anxiety-like behavior and, in agreement, PACAP null mice demonstrate decreased anxiety behaviors. Importantly, PACAP blood levels are elevated in female PTSD patients and PAC1 receptor polymorphism is associated with PTSD in a sex-independent behavior. Although the truncated PACAP6-38 peptide antagonist at the PAC1 receptor can ameliorate stress-related behaviors, no small molecule antagonist for the receptor has been identified to date.

Using recent crystal solutions for the related glucagen and corticotropin releasing hormone receptor, our laboratories in the Departments of Chemistry and Neurological Sciences plan to model the structure of the PAC1 receptor with the aim of defining the ligand binding domain for small molecule design, synthesis, and functional testing. The identification of parent small antagonists at the PAC1 receptor may present means for intervention and/or treatment of stress-related psychopathologies including PTSD.

Matthew Price, Psychology

"An Information Systems Approach to Determine the Optimal Timing of Early Intervention to Prevent Post-Trauma Mental Illness"

Approximately one in three victims of a traumatic event, including sexual assault and physical injury, will develop a chronic mental health disorder. Prevention of such conditions is possible by delivering intervention shortly after the event. Such interventions must be personalized to the needs of the patients in that they nust address underlying mechanisms, specific symptoms, and are delivered at the proper time. A comprehensive understanding of recovery during the acute post-trauma period is needed for such interventions to be delivered effectively.

The proposed study aims to use innovative methods to gather high-frequency data during the acute post-trauma period to determine the course of recovery using machine learning. The data will inform subsequent work to develop a personalized early intervention capable of preventing chronic mental health disorders.

Severin Schneebeli, Chemistry

"Freeform Molecular Helices: Tiny Springs for Strong and Flexible Materials"

Strong and flexible materials are needed as components of medical robots, artificial blood vessels and muscles, perfected body armor, etc. Advance in this research area requires molecular structures that combine flexibility in one dimension with rigidity in another. Inspired by macroscopic springs, we predict that freeform helices — i.e., helices with minimal interactions between consecutive turns — are very well suited for this task. We are inventing a unique approach for creating such structures with efficient chemical synthesis for the first time.

Our freeform helices, which cannot unfold, will likely be more stable than other natural and synthetic helices. On the contrary, DNA and proteins are flexible chains, which fold into helical structures due to relatively weak attractive forces. Unfolding can therefore take place readily in the currently known molecular helices, hindering the desired spring-like flexibility. Our freeform helices will likely surpass all of these shortcomings due to their unique shapes. In fact, we expect that even a relatively small electrical voltage can change the length of the helices by over a factor of three, providing the basis for artificial muscles and refined impact sensors and dampers.


Vicki L. Brennan, Religion

"Sound, Urban Space, and Religious Publics in Lagos, Nigeria"

This project investigates how claims to urban space by members of religious communities in Lagos, Nigeria are produced, circulated, experienced and contested through sound. I am interested in exploring how Lagotians learn to "hear" the city as religious and secular subjects and how these modes of listening to the city shape their knowledge of and engagement with urban space.At the same time, I am also interested in understanding how religious communities contribute to the overall sonic texture of the city.

This research will be based on ethnographic fieldwork in public spaces in Lagos, including markets, streets, and shared forms of transportation. I will be using REACH funding to support preliminary fieldwork and writing. Using data gathered during this preliminary research trip I intend to apply for funding to support an additional twelve months of fieldwork in Lagos. Furthermore, I will apply for grants that support digital humanities research so that I can develop an interactive web-based program that will allow me to present my research in a multimedia format using both geo-spatial and audio technologies.

Kathryn J. Fox, Sociology

"The Socio-Cultural Impact of New Zealand's Legal Landscape"

In the 1970s, New Zealand eliminated tort laws, creating a culture without civil litigation. Although legal scholars have analyzed this system, which is still the only one of its kind in the world, the impact on citizens' orientations to risk, personal responsibility, and interpersonal relationships has never been studied.

While in New Zealand in 2013 on a Fulbright Senior Scholar Award, I noticed a profound difference in the way that New Zealanders appeared to approach notions of risk and responsibility. Exploring the cultural differences between the U.S. and New Zealand would shed light on the impact of litigation on cultures. Research on this topic would be ground-breaking in demonstrating the interaction between the legal landscape and culture.

With REACH funding, I will conduct the necessary literature review, develop a detailed research plan, conduct a preliminary research pilot and write a National Science Foundation grant proposal. I will also travel to New Zealand to access the relevant historical/legal documents and scholarship and to develop relationships necessary for the successful execution of the larger project. The short-term result of the REACH grant will be an application for external funding; the end product will be a book-length manuscript.

Tiffany Hutchins, Communication Sciences & Disorders
Patricia A. Prelock, Communication Sciences and Disorders

"The Development of a Norm-Referenced Theory of Mind Inventory (ToMI)"

Theory of Mind (ToM) is one of the most energetically pursued topics among researchers and clinicians working in the area of autism and related disabilities (e.g., Astington & Baird, 2005). Broad consensus exists that individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) demonstrate severe impairments in ToM or the ability to reason about the thoughts, feelings, and intentions of self and others. This has led many to conclude that ToM represents a core deficit responsible for the social, communicative, and behavioral impairments characteristic of ASD (e.g., Baron-Cohen, 1995). Although many measures for assessing ToM currently exist (for reviews see Baron-Cohen, 2000; Sprung, 2010), they are associated with a specific set of significant problems (Hutchins, Bonazinga, Prelock, & Taylor, 2008; Hutchins & Prelock, 2008; Hutchins, Prelock, & Bonazinga, 2012) and this has hindered inquiry in one of the most active areas of research in developmental disabilities. To address this limitation, the development of a norm-referenced Theory of Mind Inventory (ToMI) is being proposed as a resource to provide a content- and construct-valid measure of ToM.

Jana Kraft, Animal Science
Thomas L. Jetton, Medicine/Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
Dhananjay Gupta, Medicine/Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
Alexander Wurthmann, Chemistry

"Studying the Role of Dairy-Derived Bioactive Lipids as a Nutritional Intervention Targeting the Pathogenesis of Diabetes Mellitus"

Type 2 diabetes (T2D) has become a global epidemic threatening the quality of life and imposing an enormous financial burden to society. To reduce T2D, there is a clear need to promote a healthy lifestyle for the primary prevention for at-risk individuals. Epidemiologic studies have demonstrated that T2D can be prevented through diet modification. Recent clinical evidence suggests that diets rich in dairy products protect against T2D. The principal components responsible for improving altered energy metabolism are thought to be bioactive lipids (fats), in particular trans-palmitoleic acid. We have now identified another specific milk-derived lipid that may actually be responsible for these effects (15-methyl-hexadecanoic acid, a "branched-chain" fatty acid). Since the nature of this diet-associated protection is unknown, a more thorough identification and characterization of these two dairy-derived lipids are necessary.

As a crucial initial step, this REACH proposal seeks to determine the extent to which two candidate dairy-derived bioactive lipids may positively impact both insulin secretion and insulin action, the key processes underlying T2D, using cultured cell models subjected to a diabetic environment. The long-term goal of this research is to establish a cross-disciplinary program focused on the role of bioactive dairy-derived lipids in reducing the risk of T2D and its related conditions.

Christopher Landry, Chemistry
Mercedes Rincón, Medicine/Immunology

"A New Inhalable Treatment for Allergic Asthma"

Allergic asthma is a chronic disease affecting millions of people worldwide. Available therapies, usually based on aerosolized steroids, provide only short-term relief in cases of mild asthma and have little or no effect in severe asthma. These therapies often have side effects from unwanted interactions with normal cells. In addition, size and therefore effectiveness of aerosolized particles within the lung is dependent on a variety of uncontrollable environmental factors including local humidity in lung tissue and improper inhaler use.

To address these problems, we plan to develop a new therapy based on tocilizumab (TCZ), which blocks the action of a key component of the inflammatory response in asthmatic patients, and porous silica nanoparticles, which are non-toxic, non-immunogenic, and have a rigid structure that does not depend on environmental conditions. First, we will evaluate the particles' physical targeting ability by measuring their lung penetration depth after intranasal administration to mice. Then, we will measure their biological targeting ability by attaching TCZ to the particles' surfaces through a type of chemical bond that can be broken once the particles are in lung tissue, and finally we will test the ability of the delivered TCZ to reduce biological markers of inflammation.

Teresa Mares, Anthropology

"La Otra Frontera (The Other Border): Exploring Latino/a Migrant Foodways in Vermont"

This study investigates the food practices of Latino/a migrant workers in Vermont's dairy industry. The first objective of this multi-year study is to examine: how one's relationship to food and hunger shapes the decision to migrate; how accessing, preparing and sharing food influences household relationships before and after migration; and how migrant households negotiate food needs and preferences within the institutional structures and policies related to the market, the state, and civil society. The second objective is to test and improve the methodological tools used to research food security and food access within households that are excluded from US political citizenship. This study will establish quantitative measures of food security among Latino/a migrant households and combine these measures with qualitative data that provide a deeper understanding of how these households access food.

This REACH Award will support research conducted during the initial phases of this study. This includes conducting 200 surveys with Latino/a workers on Vermont's dairies using the Spanish version of the US Household Food Security Survey Module, and conducting follow-up interviews with 50 households. Additionally, interviews will be conducted with service providers and other key stakeholders in the broader social network that Latino/households engage to access food.

Rodney Scott, Neurological Sciences
Haley Woodside-Jiron, Education

"Neuroscience-Based Strategies for Learning Impairments in Children with Epilepsy"

Children with epilepsy are at high risk for learning disabilities. Unfortunately, these deficits are not often recognized resulting in a failure to intervene and support these children. Appropriate recognition and intervention could have a major impact on quality of life, as well as social and economic outcomes. Recently the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies has recommended that there be strong efforts to identify learning disabilities in children with epilepsy and to design, implement and evaluate interventions. We contribute to those goals with this research using a trans-disciplinary framework in which principles learned from neuroscience approaches in animal models are translated into human studies. These studies will provide data on the neural basis of learning impairments and whether it is possible to maximize learning even in the presence of seizures, antiepileptic drugs and pre-existing brain abnormalities. The study employs innovative EEG methods and is paired with educational interventions employing enriched environment, overtraining, and neuronal connectivity through innovative literacy instruction. This work capitalizes on an existing synergy between UVM Neuroscience, Behavior and Health TRI investigators who have well-established reputations for research in education and epilepsy-related neural abnormalities that contribute to learning problems.


Bryan Ballif, Biology
Antonio DiCarlo, Surgery

"Identifying Antigens Responsible for Antibody-Based Graft Rejection in Human Transplant Recipients"

Successful tissue transplants are a wonder of modern medicine and can increase patient lifespans by several decades. Still, roughly one quarter of transplant recipients exhibit signs of graft rejection, due in part to antibody-mediated rejection (AMR). At the heart of AMR is the variability in the molecular makeup between the donor and recipient; the recipient rejects the transplant due to molecules (typically protein variants or their modifications) on the graft that the recipient doesn’t have. Thus, the recipient recognizes the graft as "non-self" and generates antibodies to these "foreign" antigens—ultimately the graft fails. Several proteins are known to cause rejection and are the basis of pre-screening protocols to match donors and recipients. However, AMR is also caused by unknown antigens that if identified could produce more powerful screening methods and anti-AMR therapies given AMR-dependent graft failure can take years, while antigen identification may, in some cases, take only months. It is proposed to use pre-transplant and post-transplant sera from ten graft recipients showing signs of AMR to enrich for and identify by mass spectrometry the proteins harboring the antigens responsible for the rejection. This is a novel collaboration between UVM PIs Ballif (Biology) and Di Carlo (Surgery).

Michelle Commercio, Political Science

"Retraditionalization from Below: Women's Attitudes in Post-Soviet Kyrgystan"

My project analyzes the rise of traditional values among young, educated, urban women in Kyrgyzstan, a modern secular state. What accounts for the popularity of such views among women in a state governed by elites who encourage gender equality? I will explore attitudes of young women regarding Soviet gender equality policies, traditional gender and familial roles, Islam’s understanding of the role of women in the family and society, and formal and informal religious education. I will also investigate secular and religious elite understandings of the "proper" place of women in post-Soviet society. The qualitative research I propose, focus groups with Kyrgyz students from secular and religious universities and interview with secular and religious elites, will generate hypotheses that will serve as the basis for the quantitative piece of my project, which is a large N survey I will conduct in the future after analyzing data collected this fall. I will seek external funding for this survey from the National Science Foundation and the Social Science Research Council.

Deb Ellis, English

"End of Love — A Feature Documentary Film"

END OF LOVE is a feature-length documentary film about the growing phenomena of adolescent boys and men who become addicted to adult on-line pornography, and how this addiction can lead them down a path to seeking sexual arousal through child pornography. Caught in this web, these men and boys lose their ability to create and maintain intimate and healthy relationships with others. Law enforcement officials say that the possession and trading of online child pornography is the fastest growing crime in the US. The film asks: What is going on?

Barry Guitar, Communication Sciences and Disorders

"Emotional Reactivity and Treatment Outcomes in Pre-school Age Children Who Stutter"

The purpose of this study is to determine if emotional reactivity (ER), or sympathetic autonomic arousal, predicts treatment time in preschool age children who stutter (CWS). Pre-treatment ER will be quantified in 16 CWS (ages 3:0-5:11) by (a) skin conductance levels in two non-speech and speech stressor tasks (b) a validated parent report questionnaire with an ER subscale (Behavioral Style Questionnaire). The Lidcombe Program (LP) will be used as the behavioral intervention to determine treatment time in number of weeks. Speech-language variables will also be included as covariates to prevent the misattribution of variance to group differences in ER. It is hypothesized that CWS with higher pre-treatment ER will take longer to achieve fluency in therapy and will be at higher risk of relapse long term. We propose that ER, which is not directly addressed in LP treatment, is associated with childhood stuttering. The results of this study can be expected to shed critical light on maintaining factors in childhood stuttering and motivate experimental changes in treatment protocol for those children who take longer or do not do as well in treatment.

Susan Lakoski, Medicine

"An Exercise Training and Behavioral Weight Loss Program after an Acute Blood Clot: TRAIN ABC"

Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is a blood clot that forms in a deep vein of leg and can travel to the lung. It is the third most common cardiovascular illness after heart attack and stroke. Obesity is a major modifiable risk factor driving occurrence of VTE, and it’s recurrence after an initial event. While exercise training through Cardiac Rehabilitation is proven effective in heart patients to induce weight loss and improve clinical outcomes, no similar exercise program exists for VTE patients, though this is urgently needed given the strong link between obesity and blood clot formation. In our proposed pilot trial, we will randomize patients after acute VTE to 3 months of a high-caloric energy expenditure exercise program or to usual care. We advocate that high-caloric energy expenditure is a bold approach after acute VTE to reduce obesity-related VTE recurrence. Furthermore, we will challenge the prevailing notion that obesity-related VTE is due to mechanical factors affecting venous return, and hypothesize it is secondary to dysregulated adipose tissue function. The current proposal is innovative in developing an exercise and behavioral weight loss program (VTE Rehabilitation) in a high-risk patient population to reduce comorbidities and obesity-related vascular risk by leveraging existing infrastructure and strengths of the University of Vermont.

William McDowell, Art and Art History

"Ground: Killed Negatives from the Farms Security Administration"

I plan to produce an exhibition portfolio of photographs and an inkjet-printed book maquette (or book dummy). The portfolio and book maquette would be used to secure exhibition venues and publications for my project, "Ground: Killed Negatives from the Farm Security Administration". The killed negatives were created between 1935-1939 when Roy E. Stryker, the director of the photographic division of the FSA, routinely used a hole punch to destroy photographic negatives he considered unsuitable for publication. My primary interest in the killed negatives resides in their potential for abstraction. When enlarged, the hole in a killed negative prints a deep black circle. Depending on the placement of the hole within the picture frame and the tonal value of its surroundings, the black circle dominates the photograph and thus alters its reading and comprehension. The photographs in Ground have a dual temporality, with the black hole suggesting a recent intervention and the background harkening the past. In concert with the subject matter found in the photographs, the black hole poetically draws parallels between our current environmental, economic, and agricultural challenges and those of post-Depression America.

Anthony Morielli, Pharmacology
John Green, Psychology

"Novel Approaches Towards and Understanding of the Physical Basis of Memories"

More than 4.5 million children and adults in the US currently have learning disabilities, and many others have learning and memory related disorders such as Alzheimer's Disease. Pathologies related to diseases such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and sleep disorders, are also intimately intertwined with learning and memory. Finding treatments or even cures for these devastating diseases requires understanding how learning occurs in the normal brain. The healthy human brain performs the almost unimaginably complex task of storing a vast array of information in the form of long-term memories. This involves creating long-term changes in how the brain processes information, and a major way this happens is by regulating the function of specialized proteins in the brain called ion channels. Thus, disordered ion channel regulation is a prime candidate for the physical cause of learning and memory disorders. In this grant, Drs Green and Morielli propose to join forces to use cutting edge conceptual and technical advances arising from their ongoing interdisciplinary collaboration to create an innovative systems-approach for advancing a fundamental but poorly understood area in neuroscience, namely the complex interplay of molecular, cellular and behavioral processes governing ion channel regulation and learning and memory in the normal brain.

David Novak, Business Administration
James Sullivan, Transportation Research Center

"Evaluating How Disruptions in the Roadway System Affect Accessibility to Essential Services in Vermont"

This proposal extends previous research related to rural accessibility and the development and implementation of a link-based accessibility measure called critical closeness accessibility (CCA). CCA is derived from concepts in network science, location science, and transportation accessibility and is used to identify the roadway links in a transportation network that are the most important in facilitating system-wide access to essential services such as hospitals and fire/rescue services. The CCA accounts for the spatial distribution of essential facilities, the topology of the road network (relative locations and connections between roadway links and essential locations), geographical topography (the shape and features of the service area), and the engineering characteristics of the road network such as road types, capacities, volumes, and travel speeds. The CCA can be applied at different geographical scales and to disconnect networks. The approach is implemented using geographic information system (GIS) mapping and travel-demand modeling software and the state of Vermont’s road network. The specific areas of the state that are highly vulnerable to disruptions in the network due to events such as heavy rain, flooding, snow/ice, traffic accidents, and roadway maintenance projects are identified. Vulnerable areas include regions of the state and the surrounding populations that are at risk of becoming isolated from essential services as the result of a disruptive event.

Jill Preston, Plant Biology

"Determining the Genetic Basis of Flowering Time Variation in the North American Mimulus guttatus Species Complex"

Most plant species use seasonal cues to synchronize their reproductive output with favorable environment conditions. In the temperature zone, and extended period of winter cold (vernalization) can ready certain species to flower, resulting in rapid blooming in response to warm conditions of the spring. Conversely, if winter is too warm/short, species that respond to vernalization experience delayed flowering, often coinciding with conditions not conducive to seed set. Thus, depending on the climates in which they live, plants vary greatly in their flowering time responses. Despite the importance of flowering time evolution in explaining plant distributions and responses to climate change, little is known about the genetic basis and evolutionary lability of this complex trait. As part of my long-term goal to understand genetic constraints on flowering time evolution across angiosperms, the proposed project aims to identify/characterize adaptive flowering time genes in the Mimulus guttatus species complex. By uniquely integrating quantitative genetics, comparative transcriptions, and candidate gene expression analyses, results from this innovative project will strengthen our knowledge of how/to what extent gene networks can evolve in response to locally changing climates. Furthermore, funding for this project will allow generation of data that can be used to secure collaborative extramural funding.

Joe Roman, RSENR
John Barlow, Animal Science
Juan Alvez, Extension - Sustainable Agriculture Center

"Agricultural Biodiversity and Cattle Well-being: Forage Diversity, Microbial Diversity, Herd Health, and Milk Composition"

Humans are in the midst of an epidemiologic transition, in which globalization and ecological disruption are associated with newly emerging infectious diseases as well as reemerging infections previously thought to be under control. As an important livestock species in frequent close contact with humans, cattle may be similarly affected by ecological changes; they also represent a potential source of zoonotic disease. Our proposed research examines the impact of switching from conventional confinement dairy production (low-diversity) to pasture-based management (higher diversity) on microbial diversity and composition, cattle rumen and udder health, and milk quality and composition. This cutting edge work represents the first step in a long-term collaborative research project that will allow the four principle investigators to embark on a new and little studied field: the relationship between biodiversity and cattle health, the role of competitors and predators in disease regulation, and the relationship between habitat structure and cattle well-being. The work, which includes an international workshop held at UVM, has the potential to alter farmer and rancher perceptions of wildlife and native habitat, reducing the ecological impact of livestock rearing in Vermont and globally.

Michael Rosen, Engineering
Susan Edelman, Education
Michael Coleman, Engineering

"A Pilot Study: Teaching and Assessing the Requisite Skills for Recognition and Production of Tactile Drawings"

The proposed project is one facet of a larger longer-term engineering and research effort in the area of tactile graphics for the blind. The eventual outcome is meant to be a system of products and methods, integrated into school and workplace, to provide visually impaired people with access to the full range of free-hand drawing, editing, copying, communication and remote reproduction available on visual media for sighted people. This REACH project will generate novel fundamental data on how to assess school children for their skills in recognizing tactile images and drawing tactile images; and how most effectively to teach these skills. Our "reach" on this campus will be extended by developing a new axis of collaboration between CEMS and CESS, both linked to a UVM-spawned commercial venture. Our research "innovation" resides in the development of an empirical basis for teaching blind children use and appreciation of tactile graphics to support vital curriculum content and self-expression. Our eventual "impact" should be felt in the gradual population of the STEM and the arts by the blind and visually impaired (BVI), and perhaps a perceptible reduction in the 70% unemployment rate of blind working-age adults.

Richard Single, Statistics

"Analysis of Supertypes to Assess the Units of Selection in a Global Immunogenetic Database"

This project involves population-level research to gain a better understanding of the evolutionary mechanism shaping the human immunogenome. This proposal is for a multiple disciplinary collaboration with researchers at NCI, UC Berkeley, Yale, and University of San Paulo. As part of the project, we would be adding immunogenetic data for the largest set of global populations to the Human Genome Diversity Project (a long-term goal of the proposal). The addition of HLA typing on a global set of populations to this publicly available database will be a tremendous resource for the study of any of the hundreds of immune-related diseases. The potential for impact in translationary medicine is large. In addition to the expansion and integration of the database, the proposal involves conducting novel analyses of the immunogenetic data, using alternative groupings of immune gene variants (alleles) and an innovative resampling procedure that will be adapted to these alternative groupings. To date several of these methods have not been applied to population-level studies of selection in this complex genetic system. Those that have been applied previously have suffered from low statistical power due to small population sizes in multi-ethnic studies.

Carmen Smith, Education

"Motion-Controlled Games and Mathematics Learning"

In an information-based, technology-driven society, proficiency in mathematics is increasingly important, yet too many students are not receiving the instruction they need to succeed. Instead, mathematics instruction is frequently dominated by lecture and decontextualized problems that fail to connect with students. There is a critical need to reconceptualize mathematics as an engaging, interactive, relevant activity. Recognizing the body as a resource for mathematical thinking is one way to significantly change how students learn and teachers teach. New research demonstrates increased achievement when students physically act out mathematics concepts. Further, motion-controlled game systems like the Nintendo Wii or Xbox Kinect offer innovative opportunities for body-based learning. Yet, we know very little about how to effectively design and implement these kinds of activities in the classroom. The objectives of this project are to develop two applications for the Xbox Kinect for use with elementary and middle school students and to identify key design principles that support learners assigning mathematical meaning to their actions. The resulting applications will support more students developing strong mathematical reasoning skills and will propel research on body-based learning into new territory by enabling new methods of collecting and analyzing data about students’ actions.

Jonah Steinberg, Anthropology

"The Disappearing Gypsy: Spatialized Modernities, Pollutive Bodies, and Urban Cleansing in the European Union"

A contradiction emerges between EU discourses of pluralism, on the one hand, and the legal and lived experiences of the marginal and minority subjects that test these principles, on the other. A tension resides in the meeting place between European official languages of multiculturalism and diversity, and sensibilities about what constitutes a properly "modern" or "traditional" urban space (and on how that space should be policed and regulated) which push the former’s limits or render it meaningless. I explore the boundaries of liberal European narratives of tolerance through a consideration of new restrictions and regulations keeping Romani people ("Gypsies"), one of the minorities in Europe most subject to persecution and segregation, out of sight in spaces in which their movement was once more widely accepted. I seek to understand the growing regulation on Romani movement in iconic and monumental public space in urban France in the context of ideologies and moralities about "clean" space (and "clean" identities), modernity, nation, and consumption. It is not "Gypsies" that are to be kept out of high-profile space, but "visible Gypsies." Thus it is embodied, and ultimately racialized, elements of appearance, comportment, adornment, body, and movement that emerge as the object to be policed.

Sean Stilwell, History

"Pestilence and Planning: The Plague, Public Health and Colonial Urbanism in Lagos, 1903-1960"

My research project stands at the intersection of urban and medical history to examine how colonial conceptions about disease, Africans and urban space led to attempts to remake and reshape life in and the landscape of Lagos. I will argue colonial urban planning in the 1920's, 30's, 40's, and 50’s might be best described as coercive urbanism. Colonial planners attempted to remake Lagos in a way that kept the colonial state secure. Initially, these British officials often used coercion and violence to impose their policies, which were predicated on the social construction of Africans and their cities as unhygienic, primitive and diseased. Although British officials later adopted more technical, developmentalist and less directly coercive methods, their ideas throughout the period were always informed by their own perceptions about the deficiencies of Africans and African urban life. These deficiencies were directly contrasted in the minds of the British by the modern and universalistic planning and public health policies of the colonial state. Thus, colonial planning marginalized Africans and ignored their roles in both imagining and shaping Lagos in the twentieth century. This project will contribute to our knowledge about cities in the Global South, comparative urban planning and the history of health and disease in Africa and beyond.

Luis Vivanco, Anthropology

"Culture, Politics and Sustainability of Bicycle Transportation in Bogota, Colombia"

This project examines the intersections of culture, politics of sustainability, and bicycle transportation in Bogota, Colombia, a city recognized globally for its investments in accessible and environmentally-sustainable urban transportation initiatives, urban bicycle advocates, and everyday cyclists, the goal of this project is to track in qualitative terms how deeply, in what ways, and for whom bicycles have been woven into the fabric of everyday life; to detail how everyday bicycle use and car-free events shape individuals’ perceptions of their city and urban mobility; and to understand the role that a new political actor- the civil society bicycle advocacy group- is playing in city politics. This research advances understanding of the conditions under which cities can redevelop transportation systems around principles of equity and sustainability. REACH funding is sought to leverage a Fulbright Teaching/Research Award which will take place January-April 2014, to support a period of initial fieldwork during summer 2013 and the ability to stay an extra month beyond the Fulbright to continue fieldwork. The outcomes of this research project will include at least one peer-reviewed publication and an NSF application for further research.