Team Grants & Application to Seed Grants 2024

Team grants photos and graphic

The Institute of Diversity Sciences (IDS) awards research grants to teams of faculty and students working together across disciplines, including the social sciences, natural sciences, health sciences, engineering, computer sciences, and humanities on research topics that have an equity focus. IDS aims to spark new multidisciplinary research by providing preliminary funding that teams will leverage to seek larger external grants in the future. Winning teams each receive up to $15,000 for 18-month projects. 

This year's deadline has passed, but information about the application process can be found in the documents below. The next deadline is February 7, 2025. Next year's RFP and application form will be released in the fall.

Any questions, please contact:

Buju Dasgupta, Director, Institute of Diversity Sciences:

We welcome consultations before proposal submissions.

Teams we’ve funded in 2024

From left: Ciara Venter (Psychological and Brain Sciences), Lucinda Canty (Nursing), Maureen Perry-Jenkins (Psychological and Brain Sciences), Favorite Iradukunda (Nursing), Diego Barcala-Delgado (Psychological and Brain Sciences)

Health outcomes for Black mothers is a well-established example of health inequity. But the impact of work conditions remains an under-studied aspect of this issue. This study unveils the complex interplay between employment practices and the well-being of Black mothers navigating the delicate period of new parenthood. Through a lens of resilience and systemic challenges, we aim to understand and ultimately reshape the landscape of perinatal health equity.


From left: Tihitina Andarge (Resource Economics), Sean McBeath (Civil & Environmental Engineering), and Mohammad (Kiron) Shakhawat (Civili & Environmental Engineering)

Clean drinking water is a human right. But chemical contaminants present a hidden danger, and they disproportionately impact socioeconomically marginalized communities. Working at the crossroads of policy and environmental justice, this study aims to uncover how these invisible threats navigate from human-made sources into our taps – and the challenges faced by communities across the country to come into compliance with a necessary but costly new EPA regulation.

From left: Ashish Kulkarni (Chemical Engineering), Hung-Hsun Lu (Chemistry), Mehak Malhotra (Chemical Engineering), Jithu Krishna (Chemistry), and S. Thayumanavan (Chemistry and Biomedical Engineering)

Cancer cells possess a formidable defense: over time, they become resistant to established treatments, nullifying their effects and leading to patient relapse. In a sense, cancer cells are like locks – now, a multi-disciplinary team may have discovered a set of keys, designed to seek out and neutralize cancer's protective mechanisms. This breakthrough could revolutionize treatment for those facing the toughest battles with cancer, transforming despair into hope.

From left: Shelly Peyton (Chemical Engineering) and Courtney Babbitt (Biology)

Breast cancer is a terrible affliction across the whole world. But in Ethiopia, it seems to be especially menacing, striking women at younger ages and at more advanced stages. Now, a cross-continental team of researchers is embarking on a groundbreaking project to understand why. Comparing the genetic landscapes of Ethiopian tumors with those in the U.S., they aim to uncover the mysteries of this devastating disease – and offer new hope for innovative treatments.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of women across the world die from breast cancer, and millions more are diagnosed. This tragic, terrible disease produces global traumas.

Teams we’ve funded in 2023

From left: Linda Tropp (Psychological & Brain Sciences), Tatishe Nteta (Political Science), Seth Goldman (Communication).

The United States is undergoing a transformative diversification, and the media is awash with narratives about it. Yet the impact of these narratives on people of color remains underexplored. Join us in unpacking this critical perspective as we delve into the shifting dynamics of responses to rising diversity.

The United States is diversifying. 

According to the Census Bureau, fewer Americans are identifying solely as non-Hispanic White, while a growing number identify as Black, Latinx, Asian, or Multiracial. These racial projections have become major media events, as well as fodder for politicians, activists, and talking heads.

From left: Jessica Boakye (Civil & Environmental Engineering), Scott Jackson (Environmental Conservation), Scott Civjan (Civil & Environmental Engineering)

There is widespread agreement that some communities are more vulnerable than others to the impacts of climate change. To ensure that government resources are distributed equitably, state and local decision-makers need to be equipped with accurate, data-driven measures of which communities face the greatest risks and therefore have the greatest needs. This study aims to do just that.

From left: Favorite Iradukunda (Nursing), Lindiwe Sibeko (Nutrition), Lucinda Canty (Nursing) and Shannon Roberts (Mechanical and Industrial Engineering).

Why are Black women three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women? This study explores the critical link between maternal health disparities and transportation challenges. Our multidisciplinary team, comprising engineering, nursing, and public health experts, delves into the experiences of Black pregnant women in Western Massachusetts, shedding light on mobility barriers and advocating for inclusive interventions.

From left: Elyssa Serrilli (Northeast Biogas Initiative), Enrique 'Henry' Suárez (Education), Erica Light (iCons) and Martin Hunter (Biomedical Engineering).

The shift towards renewable energy is accelerating, yet the transition risks excluding those communities most vulnerable to climate change. In this project, students will join local partners to drive a groundbreaking biogas research project. By implementing small-scale biogas systems in local agricultural organizations, students will bridge the gap between renewable energy and social justice, empowering them to see STEM as a means not just to understand the world, but to change it.

From left: Purity Mugambi (Computer Science), Rachel 'Rae' Walker (Nursing), Joohyun Chung (Nursing), Stephanie Carreiro (Emergency Medicine) and Madalina 'Ina' Fiterau Brostean (Computer Science).

Many prior studies have revealed disparities in patients’ quality of care based on systemic racial, gender, age, and other biases in healthcare systems. However, so far, the findings of this research have been difficult to analyze and generalize due to the limitations of the studies’ methodologies. Intending to overcome healthcare disparities, this study introduces an innovative approach to measuring the data, providing a much broader, big-picture view of healthcare inequity.

Do healthcare providers discriminate?

Teams we’ve funded in 2022

From left: Ivon Arroyo (Education and Computer Science), Marialuisa Di Stefano (Language, Literacy, and Culture), Beverly Woolf (Computer Science)

For children to learn, they need to feel like they belong. But when Latinx kids look at STEM fields, they rarely see Latinx role models, or receive instruction in their native language. This project seeks to address this by developing a novel math and language tutoring software featuring Latinx digital avatars and bilingual instruction. The team hopes this approach can increase not only the students’ proficiencies but also their sense of connection and confidence with the field.

From left: Youngmin Yi (Sociology), Jamie Rowen (Legal Studies and Political Science), Joshua Kaiser (Sociology), Cindy Xiong (Computer Science), Guiherme Santos Rocha (Undergraduate, Sociology and Computer Science), Hamza Elhamdadi (PhD Student, Computer Science)

The 2020 Black Lives Matter protests brought widespread attention to racial inequality in the criminal justice system and spurred many district attorneys to introduce reforms to their practices. In doing so, such “progressive prosecutors” have turned to data to assess their progress and increase transparency. But are these reforms truly advancing equality and accountability?

scales of justice

From left: Emily Kumpel (Civil and Environmental Engineering), Airín D. Martínez (Health Promotion and Policy), Carlos Veras (Graduate Student, Environmental and Water Resources Engineering)

Water mistrust drains the health and wealth of communities nationwide, as people turn to bottled water and sugary beverages in lieu of their taps. But most experts agree that tap water is generally very safe – so why don’t residents trust it? That’s what this study aims to discover. Engaging residents in towns across Massachusetts, this project aims to uncover the sources and impacts of water mistrust, and what water utilities can do to improve public perception.

Do you trust your tap water?

Teams we’ve funded in 2021

From left: Narges Mahyar (Computer Science), Jane E. Fountain (Public Policy and Political Science), Ali Sarvghad (Computer Science), Ethan Zuckerman (Public Policy and Communication)

If all politics is indeed local, it is imperative that local politics are drivers of equity and participation. Piloting two novel digital technologies, this research team aims to determine the potential of STEM innovations to improve community engagement at the town level.

Community engagement is imperative for democracy, yet difficult to achieve.

If you have ever attended a town hall or public meeting, you may have seen it: bright community members going unheard because they struggle to speak up or articulate – or, conversely, discussions hijacked by a handful of your most outspoken neighbors.

Research Team pictured above from left: Christian Guzman (Assistant Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering), Seda Salap-Ayça (Lecturer, Geosciences), Christine Hatch Associate Extension Professor (Geosciences), Eve Vogel (Associate Professor, Geosciences), and Cielo Sharkus (Graduate Student, Civil, and Environmental Engineering)

Natural disasters may hit rich and poor communities indiscriminately, but post-disaster impacts, such as flooding and related hazards, are far from equitably distributed. In this research project, an IDS-funded team will use innovative mapping and data analysis to show which communities are most vulnerable to flooding, ultimately providing Massachusetts policymakers with the information they need to ensure environmental justice in their flood mitigation efforts.

From left: Ning Zhang (Assistant Professor, Public Health & Health Sciences) and Joohyun Chung (Assistant Professor, Nursing)

Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia (ADRD) can be debilitating conditions. Yet, like in so many other areas of healthcare, the data suggests significant disparities in access to necessary care for ADRD on the basis of race. This study will attempt to uncover the roots of this disparity using quantitative and qualitative analyses. Ultimately, the team aims to help address these disparities by sharing their findings with relevant stakeholders.

Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia (ADRD) can be debilitating conditions. Palliative care, which aims to improve the quality of life for patients, is often crucial for individuals with ADRD.

Teams we funded in 2020

From left: Mark Pachucki (Sociology), and Nicole VanKim (Biostatistics & Epidemiology)

What if the criminal justice system were damaging people’s health at the deepest level – indeed, literally, in their very cells? While social justice activism and research have clearly demonstrated the over-policing of Black communities in particular, little research has been done on the actual impact of the constant stress of this policing on people at the cellular level. This project seeks to unravel this question, providing further evidence for the need for police reform.

From left: Paige Warren (Environmental Conservation), and Nathan Chan Resource Economics)

Prior research has long confirmed something that many of us know intuitively: that time spent in nature is good for our happiness and well-being. But for those living in cities, natural spaces and biodiversity are preciously scarce, and access to such spaces is often unequal. How do disparities in access to urban biodiversity affect human well-being? Examining data from across the country, this research team aims to find out.

Prior research has long confirmed something that many of us know intuitively: that time spent in nature is good for our happiness and well-being. But for those living in cities, natural spaces and biodiversity are often preciously scarce.

From left: Krista Harper (anthropology), Erin Baker (Mechanical & Industrial Engineering), Matthew Lackner (Mechanical & Industrial Engineering), and Anna P. Goldstein (Mechanical & Industrial Engineering)

The call for a “just transition” away from fossil fuels is nearly universal among advocates for environmental justice – but what does this mean? This project aims to clarify this question, examining specifically the impact of the transition to renewable energy in Holyoke, Massachusetts.

Teams we funded in 2019

From left: Carolina Aragon (Landscape Architecture), Ezra Markowitz (Environmental Conservation), Trisha Andrew (Chemistry), and Elisabeth Hamin (Landscape Architecture)

When art meets science, the story of climate change finds a new canvas. The FutureSHORELINE project, an innovative blend of public art and social research, explores the impact of art on public perceptions and engagement with climate change. Co-funded by IDS, this project demonstrated the effectiveness of public art in enhancing public engagement with climate science, and won a prestigious international award for climate change communication.

From left: Kevin Young (Political Science), Brendan O'Connor (Computer Science), and Seth Goldman (Communication)

Calls for greater diversity in powerful organizations have been increasing. But how can we know whether efforts in this direction are working? This project aims to evaluate diversity within powerful organizations by investigating the wider network ties that underly and connect them. In doing so, we aim to uncover whether wider patterns of stratification are being perpetuated throughout the upper echelons of society as a whole.

From Left: Katherine Dixon-Gordon (Psychological & Brain Sciences); Karen Kalmakis (Nursing); Linda Isbell, PhD (Psychological & Brain Sciences); William Soares (Emergency Medicine, UMass Medical School, Baystate); Elizabeth Schoenfeld (Emergency Medicine, UMass Medical School, Baystate)

In the nexus of emergency healthcare, a stark gap emerges in the treatment of substance misuse. This study ventures into the heart of emergency departments to unravel why critical screenings and referrals are often overlooked, particularly for low-income and minority populations, aiming to forge a pathway towards more equitable healthcare solutions.

From left: Jeffrey Starns (Psychological & Brain Sciences), Andrew Cohen (Psychological & Brain Sciences), and Darrell Earnest (Teacher Education and Curriculum Studies)

In a world governed by numbers, making informed decisions hinges on our understanding of statistics. Yet, for students, especially those with learning disabilities, grasping mathematical concepts presents significant hurdles. But imagine teaching math through engaging visuals before equations. This innovative approach, spearheaded by a multi-disciplinary team with support from IDS and the NSF, aims to make STEM education accessible and engaging for students of diverse abilities.

Teams we funded in 2018

From left: Dania Francis (Economics) and Sara Whitcomb (Student Development)

How do teacher biases influence perceptions of student effort and behavior, potentially skewing academic placement decisions? This critical investigation seeks to uncover potential racial, gender, or socioeconomic biases in teacher assessments of absenteeism and tardiness, pivotal factors that could misalign students with their true academic capabilities, thus affecting their entire educational journey.

Standing from left: Tiffany Trzebiatowski (Management), Fidan Kurtulus (Economics); sitting from left: Ina Ganguli (Economics), Doug Rice (Political Science)

In this study, an IDS-funded team examines the intricate dynamics between employee diversity, employer discrimination, and their shared impact on firm performance. Compiling a database linking discrimination lawsuits to business outcomes, the study aims to uncover the intricate effects of diversity practices on corporate success. By connecting the dots between legal challenges and business metrics, this research stands to contribute to a more inclusive economic environment.

From left: Jennifer M. McDermott (Psychology), Shannon C. Roberts (Mechanical and Industrial Engineering), and Graduate Students Adaeze Egwuatu (Driver Seat) and Yalda Ebadi (Passenger Seat).

As young drivers with ADHD navigate the complexities of the road, assistive driving technology stands to be either a boon or bane depending on its design. This study delves into the alignment of the diverse needs of these drivers with the effectiveness of specific driving aids, aiming to enhance their safety and performance on the road.

From left: Elizabeth Bertone-Johnson (Biostatistics & Epidemiology), Nicole VanKim (Biostatistics & Epidemiology), and Lynnette Leidy Sievert (Anthropology)

In the realm of women's health, the experience of menopause remains a universal milestone. Yet, how it manifests might significantly differ by sexual orientation. This study ventures into largely uncharted territory, exploring how the timing and nature of lesbian and bisexual women's menopause experiences compare with those of their heterosexual counterparts, potentially illuminating paths toward addressing health inequities.

From left: Kristine Yu (Linguistics), Meghan Armstrong-Abrami (Languages, Literatures, and Cultures), Lisa Green (Linguistics) and Brendan O’Connor (Computer Science)

At the heart of African American English (AAE) lies a complexity of rhythm, melody, and accentuation. In this research project, IDS-funded students will dive into this complexity, hoping to understand the intricate ways in which vocal emphasis shapes meaning. By analyzing the patterns of AAE speech, they aim to shed light on linguistic distinctions and pave the way for greater acceptance and understanding of AAE in public American life.