The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Team Grants & Application to Seed Grants 2024

Team grants photos and graphic

The Institute of Diversity Sciences awards research grants to faculty and student teams across disciplines on topics with social justice or equity focus. These grants spark new research by providing preliminary funding for teams and encourage them to seek larger external grants in the future.

IDS Seed Grant Applications 2024

Apply for an IDS Seed Grant: $15,000 for team research on topics related to equity! Application deadline: February 7th, 2024, 11:59PM ET. 

The Institute of Diversity Sciences is awarding research grants to teams of faculty and students working together across disciplines, including the social sciences, natural sciences, health sciences, engineering, computer sciences, and humanitieson 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 will each receive up to $15,000 for 18-month projects. 

Additionally this year: one $25,000 grant for a team that includes nursing and engineering faculty and students co-funded by IDS and the Elaine Marieb Center for Nursing and Engineering Innovation. 

In partnership with: 

Logo of UMass Nursing School

Any questions, please contact:

Buju Dasgupta, Director, Institute of Diversity Sciences:

We welcome consultations before proposal submissions.

Teams we’ve funded in 2023

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

Racial and ethnic diversity is rising in the U.S. and, according to the Census Bureau, the current majority constituted by those who identify solely as non-Hispanic White is decreasing, while a growing number of Americans 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)

Transportation structures such as culverts are vulnerable to failure during intense rain events. There is widespread consensus among the scientific community that the intensity and frequency of such events will increase over time due to climate change. As a result, local research has been conducted to determine the risk of failure of culverts based on structural, hydraulic, and geomorphic failure. These culverts (like other local infrastructure) have overgone significant aging and as a result are in varying degrees of deterioration. Therefore, state, and local decision makers must allocate resources to aid in the rehabilitation of such infrastructure.

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

Black women are disproportionately affected by maternal mortality and severe maternal morbidity compared to other women in the United States. There is a gap in knowledge about how transportation influences the experience of care during pregnancy. The purpose of this study is to investigate the transportation needs of pregnant Black women and identify the factors that may contribute to the racial disparities in maternal health outcomes.

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

The impacts of climate change are felt more and more each year. Still, rapid expansion of renewable energy to combat climate change and increase energy resilience disproportionately excludes low-income communities of color–the same communities most severely impacted by dependence on fossil fuels. To ensure a just energy transition, access to renewable energy must expand to those typically priced out by prohibitively high costs.

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

In this work, clinicians and data scientists come together to determine whether there is inequity in treatment of patients who experienced heart attack, known medically as Acute Myocardial Infarction (AMI), and who were hospitalized in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Health inequity is often a consequence of social injustices/biases such as racism, ableism, classism, sexism, and fatphobia, integrating into healthcare systems. This team aims to identify whether differences in treatment of patient subgroups cannot be explained by anything else other than the patients’ ethnicity/race, and/or, sex.

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)

Researchers in early education and computer science at UMass Amherst have teamed up to address the growing need for new learning technologies that address the needs of bilingual (spanish and english) students, with personalized hispanic digital avatars. Addressing the problem of one-size-fits-all approach to education, this research responds to the need to personalize tech for individual student needs: Using alternative languages and representations of content, deploying avatars that reflect their identities, and providing personal pathways through the curriculum.

From left: Youngmin Yi (sociology), Jamie Rowen (legal studies and political science), Joshua Kaiser (sociology), Cindy Xiong (computer science), Guiherme Santos Rocha (Undergraduate, Amherst College), Guiherme Santos Rocha (Undergraduate, sociology and computer science, Amherst College), Hamza Elhamdadi (PhD student, computer sciences, UMass Amherst),

The Black Lives Matter protests in summer 2020 were a stark illustration of ongoing public concern about racism and other systemic inequalities in the criminal legal system. In response, many criminal legal agencies instituted new reforms to reduce bias and inequality in their operations and to increase their legitimacy in the eyes of constituents. Some district attorneys (DAs) have engaged in particularly strong, public efforts to tackle the disparities in prosecutions, offering various options for those convicted – for instance, diversion from incarceration, or from a criminal record altogether.

From left: Emily Kumpel (civil and environmental engineering), Airín D. Martínez (health promotion and policy), Carlos Veras (graduate student, environmental and water resources engineering)

A team of faculty and student researchers at UMass Amherst are conducting a community-engaged study bridging expertise in water utilities and public health to better understand and address water mistrust. The study is funded by the Institute of Diversity Sciences to advance STEM research for social justice and support mentored research experiences for students traditionally marginalized in STEM. 

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)

The main objective of this project is to test technological solutions for increasing public engagement and reducing social inequalities on a town scale. Community engagement is imperative for participatory democracy, yet difficult to achieve. Participating in town halls and public meetings can be difficult for all citizens – and poses particular challenges for diverse and marginalized populations.

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. As a team of engineers and geoscientists at UMass Amherst are finding, low-income and ethnic and racial communities are disproportionately at risk for flooding events and least equipped to bounce back from them. According to this team, a flood’s consequences on a community depend not only on its geography but on socioeconomic status and other features of its community demographics.

From left: Ning Zhang (health sciences) and Joohyun Chung (nursing)

According to the 2019 Report Card on Access to Palliative Care, about 50% of whites with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia (ADRD) used palliative care before they died, while only 34% of African Americans and 37% of Hispanics did. Yet, few scientific studies have detailed or explored why such racial and ethnic disparities in palliative care among people with ADRD exist. This multidisciplinary research team will deploy expertise in nursing and health services to quantify racial and ethnic disparities among a broad set of nursing home residents with ADRD who are receiving palliative care, as opposed to non-palliative care.

Teams we funded in 2020

From left: Mark Pachucki (sociology), and Nicole VanKim (biostatistics & epidemiology)

The goal of this project is to assess how chronic stress related to the criminal justice system is associated with cellular aging. Chronic stress is a critical social determinant of racial and ethnic disparities in morbidity and mortality. Yet, the social and biological pathways through which chronic stress relating to the criminal justice system contributes to later-life health risks have not yet been well-characterized.

From left: Paige Warren (environmental conservation), and Nathan Chan (resource economics)

Street trees, parks, waterways, and other pockets of urban nature are the primary places where people in cities have access to biodiversity. But in many cities, only the wealthiest residents have access to urban nature that is high in biodiversity. At the same time, it remains unclear how much the biodiversity of urban nature matters to human well-being. For example, does it matter to human well-being whether the green spaces around us are comprised of mowed green lawns as opposed to trees, shrubs, and a wide variety of animal life?

From left: Krista Harper (anthropology), Erin Baker (mechanical & industrial engineering), Matthew Lackner (mechanical & industrial engineering), and Anna P. Goldstein (mechanical & industrial engineering)

The Energy Transition Institute — Renewable Energy Equity Partnership (ETI-REEP) project advances knowledge of human dimensions of the energy transition through exploratory research on cultural frameworks for energy equity, taking on the case of 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)

This project was co-funded by the Institute of Diversity Sciences and the Social Science and Environment Network (supported by the Institute of Social Science Research and the School of Earth and Sustainability).

From left: Kevin Young (political science), Brendan O'Connor (computer science), and Seth Goldman (communication)

Our project examines the diversity of powerful organizations, including large global corporations, think tanks and a variety of international organizations. We utilize new data collection and network analysis to answer two key questions about organizational leadership. First, how diverse are these leaders in terms of gender, race, color and educational background? Second, has this diversity changed over time, and if so how?  Existing studies on diversity within large organizations are simple counting exercises, and usually just of boards and CEOs of corporations.

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)

A substantial proportion of emergency department (ED) visits are due to substance misuse. Although providing these patients with a brief screening and treatment referral is efficacious, less than half of ED staff provide such referrals. ED patients with substance misuse constitute a population at the intersection of multiple social and economic sources of health care disparities. The ED is mandated to treat all presenting patients; consequently, the ED disproportionately serves as the first, and often only, treatment for low income, underinsured patients, and substance misuse is more often associated with ED visits among underinsured patients.

From left: Jeffrey Starns (psychological & brain sciences), Andrew Cohen (psychological & brain Sciences), and Darrell Earnest (teacher education and curriculum studies)

Everyday we calculate odds to make decisions on everything from our health to our finances. Making these decisions efficiently is key to improving our lives and bettering society. If calculating statistics is difficult for most people, students with learning disabilities face unique challenges. Developing more inclusive educational practices for mathematical concepts is thus critical to our societal needs and to developing accessible STEM education. So, what if we could teach statistics visually first, then connect this understanding with equations? Would this improve learning for students of diverse ability?

Teams we funded in 2018

From left: Dania Francis (economics) and Sara Whitcomb (student development)

We will explore whether teachers exhibit bias (either negative or positive) with regard to race, gender, or socioeconomic status in their perceptions of student absenteeism and tardiness (a proxy for effort). Subjective perceptions that teachers form about student behaviors ,such as effort, perseverance, participation, and disruptiveness, often inform academic placement decisions that can alter a student’s entire academic trajectory. This can be especially detrimental if decisions that are based on behavioral perceptions induce a mismatch between the student’s actual ability and the student’s academic placement – i.e.

Standing from left: Tiffany Trzebiatowski (management), Fidan Kurtulus (economics); sitting from left: Ina Ganguli (economics), Doug Rice (political science)

Our team will study how employer discrimination and worker diversity impacts firm performance and innovation outcomes. To do this, they will collect and construct a large-scale, unique database of employment discrimination court cases and link this to firm diversity and firm performance measures. This project will be an important contribution to the body of scientific knowledge on how diversity among employees and discrimination litigation can impact firm outcomes.

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).

Young drivers with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which is characterized by difficulties with attention, impulsivity, and risk-taking behavior, are known to be at an increased risk for traffic crashes. Assistive driving technology may be especially helpful, or harmful, in supporting driving performance among these individuals. The objective of the proposed study is to assess the correspondence between distinct attention profiles among vulnerable young drivers and the usefulness of specific types of assistive driving technology.

From left: Elizabeth Bertone-Johnson (biostatistics & epidemiology), Nicole VanKim (biostatistics & epidemiology), and Lynnette Leidy Sievert (anthropology)

We aim to understand whether timing of menopause and menopause symptom experiences may vary based on sexual orientation. Few studies have examined this critical window of change among lesbian and bisexual women, despite the fact that they are more likely than heterosexual women to experience risk factors that in turn may increase their risk for younger age of menopause and experiencing more menopause symptoms (such as hot flashes and night sweats). Younger age of menopause increases risk for heart disease and premature mortality, while more menopause symptoms can negatively affect quality of life.

From left: Kristine Yu (linguistics), Meghan Armstrong-Abrami (languages, literatures, and cultures), Lisa Green (linguistics) and Brendan O’Connor (computer science)

It is well known that there are systematic differences between African American English (AAE)—a linguistic variety with set sentence structure, sound patterns, meaning, and word structure used by some, not all African Americans—and “mainstream/classroom/standard” American English. For example, speakers of AAE know that they can say she been married to mean that ‘She has been married’, but that if they put an accent on been, i.e., she BEEN married, that means that ‘She has been married for a long time and is still married’. But what does an AAE speaker do with their voice to produce an accented BEEN, and how does a listener perceive it?