Greenberg Junior Faculty Grant Winners Announced

May 08, 2023
Submitted By: Ann Brown

Seven faculty members have been awarded Greenberg Junior Faculty Grants for AY2023-24: Laura Enzor, Amy Weiss, Ayelet Brinn, EB Caron, Xin Shen, Yudi Dong, and Amy Schoenecker.

Ayelet Brinn, Assistant Professor of Judaic Studies in the College of Arts & Sciences, titled her project “Censorship and the Transformation of American Jewish Culture, 1917-1925.” In the lead-up to the United States’ entry into World War I, the government passed legislation requiring all foreign-language newspapers to submit translations of articles on national or international politics to government officials before publication. If censors found objectionable material, publications faced heavy fines or suspended mailing privileges. This legislation impacted newspapers in many languages. However, it created particular problems for the Yiddish-language press, which the government assumed was comprised of publications that were inherently unpatriotic and dangerous. In response, politically conservative and radical Yiddish newspapers alike reshaped their ideological agendas. They also formed uneasy alliances across political and linguistic boundaries including with Jewish leaders across the political spectrum, as well as editors of other foreign-language newspapers. Together, these groups crafted new narratives about the American Jewish past and present that privileged the seamless convergence between Jewish culture and American patriotism. Historically, scholars and Jewish communal leaders have emphasized the comparative freedom of expression afforded to Jews in America, in contrast to other areas of settlement. By focusing in on a moment when that freedom was very much in question, Dr. Brinn’s project excavates the fraught, contentious origins of these narratives of Jewish belonging and the ways they diverged from historical realities. Grant funding will support two course releases for Dr. Brinn and the services of a student research assistant.

EB Caron, Assistant Professor of Psychology in the College of Arts & Sciences, titles her project, “Therapist Strategies that Predict Treatment Outcomes in Early Childhood Intervention for Depression.” Early intervention is a promising strategy to address the growing mental health crisis among youth, but efforts to intervene are limited by a lack of knowledge about what makes therapy work. The current project will examine therapists’ use of coaching as an active ingredient in Parent-Child Interaction Therapy – Emotion Development (PCIT-ED), the only empirically supported treatment for early childhood depression. This project will involve a secondary analysis of session videos from 188 families enrolled in an already completed randomized controlled trial of PCIT-ED. Results will identify the therapist strategies that are linked to families’ outcomes, knowledge that will refine the focus of therapist training and supervision, and ultimately improve outcomes for children. Grant funding will support two course releases for Dr. Caron and a student research assistant.

Yudi Dong, Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the College of Engineering, Technology, and Architecture, titles his study “Leveraging mmWave Sensing and Advanced AI for Non-Contact Vital Sign Monitoring and Health Diagnosis.” This project proposes to develop a system that utilizes a millimeter Wave (mmWave) radar device to achieve non-contact, continuous, and non-invasive vital sign monitoring. Based on the vital sign information derived from mmWave signals, the proposed system is able to evaluate the health condition and detect the respiratory/cardiac disease of a human subject by implementing advanced artificial intelligence (AI) techniques. The proposed system is promising to provide low-cost, high-reliability, and high-accessibility vital sign monitoring and health diagnosis for home healthcare scenarios. Grant funding will support two course releases and equipment needed for the study.

Laura Enzor, Assistant Professor of Biology in the College of Arts & Sciences, titles her study “Exploration of Microfibers as a Vector for Vibrio parahaemolyticus Infection of Crassostrea virginica in Response to the Interactive Stressors of Temperature, Salinity, Hypoxia, and pCO2.” Global Climate Change (GCC) alters a suite of abiotic factors simultaneously, yet research on how projected environmental scenarios impact the physiological homeostasis of aquatic organisms largely explores the effects of only one or two environmental variables together. Four abiotic factors (temperature, salinity, pH, and dissolved oxygen) change concomitantly in estuarine environments, and sessile organisms that inhabit the estuary must rely on physiological plasticity to cope with daily environmental perturbations. Eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica, is a keystone species in estuaries, as well as a focal aquaculture species in the northeast. While a large body of literature exists exploring how climate change impacts oysters, there are no studies exploring how the interaction of more than three environmental variables impacts the physiology of this species. Therefore, the capacity of how oysters may cope with climate-induced physiological stress is not fully understood. Additionally, these bivalves can consume large amounts of marine debris suspended in the water column (microplastics and microfibers) as they filter their surrounding waters for food. Various microbes have been shown to colonize the surface of microplastics, including human pathogens of the genus Vibrio. There are currently no studies investigating microplastics as a disease vector for pathogenic bacteria in projected environmental scenarios, despite GCC predictions of expanding bacterial ranges as a direct result of oceanic warming. As a major human food source, bacterial infection of oysters, particularly from pathogenic strains of the genus Vibrio can be detrimental. It has been demonstrated that bacteria are capable of colonizing microplastics; as the most prevalent form of debris in the Earth’s waters, it is imperative that the possibility of microplastics/microfibers serving as a vector for bacterial infection and range expansion be investigated. Therefore, Dr. Enzor, with her collaborator, Dr. Silver, will explore how anticipated changes of temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, and pCO2 as a result of global climate change impact the colonization of Vibrio parahaemolyticus, on microplastics, and the subsequent infection rates in C. virginica. Not only will the proposed experiments provide novel data on the impacts of marine debris and bacteria on the immune response of eastern oysters, but will also provide the foundation for further exploration of global climate change factors on the expansion of pathogenic bacterial infection rates in a focal aquaculture species. Grant funding will be used for equipment, supplies, and travel to complete this study.

Xin Shen, Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the College of Engineering, Technology, and Architecture, titled his study “Three-dimensional Integral Imaging for Advanced Optical Sensing, Information Processing and Visualization.” This research project aims to establish an Integral Imaging (InIm) based three-dimensional (3D) imaging system and develop information processing methods for advanced optical sensing, information processing, and 3D visualization. The outcomes will be applied to 3D object recognition, non-contact surface profilometry estimation, cell identification, and other medical fields. As one of the promising 3D imaging approaches, Integral Imaging technology can provide real 3D images with no need for any additional viewing glasses and it has the potential for the next generation of vision-related information systems. A deep understating of the system parameters and interaction with the state of art signal processing methods is a necessary but challenging task for system design. In addition, it remains unclear how to implement 2D (conventional) and 3D (novel) compatible visualization. To overcome these issues, three goals are proposed in this proposal: (1) Conduct a continuous study on the system performance and setup demo systems for laboratory experiments and analysis; (2) Develop a statistical approach for 3D depth estimation and formulate a model for information processing; (3) Develop an original platform and graphic user interface for 2D-3D display. For educational goals, this project will provide research and training opportunities to undergraduate students, and integrate research and education through project-based activities for curriculum development. The proposed approaches and procedures will be conducted through optical and digital imaging methods and be evaluated experimentally. The research results will be disseminated through peer-reviewed journal publications and conference proceedings. We also plan to present our work via seminars and university-wide outreach events for the Uhart community and K-12 STEM education in Connecticut to encourage student participation and increase the diversity of students who study in the fields. This research will be the preliminary work for applications for external grants such as National Science Foundation (NSF). Grant funding will be used to support a course release in AY 23-24, student assistants, the purchase of supplies, and conference expenses.

Amy Schoenecker, Assistant Professor of Politics in the College of Arts & Sciences, titles her study “Legislating Surrogacy in Asia.” This project explores recent bans on commercial surrogacy in South and Southeast Asia, which forbid foreign or unmarried couples, single women, and gay and transgender individuals and couples from receiving a child born from a surrogate. In 2015, Thailand banned surrogacy for noncitizens and homosexual couples. In 2016, India banned all commercial surrogacy. Nepal made surrogacy illegal for single men and women, transgender couples, and foreign nationals in 2016. Finally, existing in an-between area of legality is Cambodia where the country’s Ministry of Health announced a ban in 2016, but did not create new legislation. Instead, the government has been cracking down on foreign commercial surrogacy using human trafficking laws. These four countries represent the case selection for the project. This research project intervenes in these policy shifts to ask two critical questions: First, what explains the seeming sudden surrogacy bans in these Asian countries? Second, why did Cambodia follow suit, but only in a de facto sense, not in a legal, de jure sense? While these countries claim that they are banning foreign surrogacy to protect women from exploitation, this is questionable, given the significant levels of patriarchy, continued violence and discrimination against women in parts of Asia. For example, there are more than 63 million missing women and girls in India due to sex-selective abortion and a general preference for male sons. Academically, this research is important as very few studies compare surrogacy across countries, and none explore the range of countries and cases that this project proposes. While a few studies explore the political and legal ramifications behind surrogacy bans, these remain single case studies. Exploring and comparing these bans in a region will create a deeper understanding of what is behind these policy shifts. This research is also important to understand the rights of women and gender minorities in the region. Grant funding will support two course releases and the purchase of books.

Amy Weiss, Assistant Professor of Judaic Studies in the College of Arts & Sciences, titles her project “Realigning Faith: American Jewish Communal Organizations, Evangelicals, and Israel, 1966–2018.” The American Jewish Committee’s 1977 conferral of its first National Interreligious Award to famed evangelist Billy Graham demonstrated that Jewish communal organizations considered evangelicals—and not mainline Protestants or Catholics—as their interfaith collaborators by the late 20th century. Whereas the American public, and scholars, often have questioned the sincerity or strangeness of this alliance, this book project argues that interfaith relations between Jews and evangelicals served as a natural outgrowth of the shared cultural and ideological significance they affixed to the land of Israel. This research intervenes in debates within the humanities by transforming perceptions of the “Judeo-Christian” past. It also reshapes conversations about church-state separation, abortion, and religious freedom by examining how Jewish communal organizations navigated these important policy debates with their evangelical counterparts. Also supported by a Fordham University Research Fellowship from the Center for Jewish History, Dr. Weiss plans to draft a book manuscript for submission to Oxford University Press. Grant funds will support two course releases and travel.

The Greenberg Junior Faculty Grants are internal grant awards intended to promote high-quality scholarships by faculty members who are just beginning their careers. These grants are made possible by a generous gift from Arnold and Beverly Greenberg.