Current Falk College Faculty Externally Funded Research Projects

Externally funded research projects are awards granted by federal, state, or local agencies and foundations.

Jessica Garay Portrait

Jessica Garay 2021-2022 American Society of Nutrition (ASN) Science Policy Fellow

Over the next year, Professor Garay will engage in meetings with various stakeholders involved in federal legislation, including representatives from various federal agencies as well as individuals who have worked on Capitol Hill. Professor Garay will have opportunities to advocate for health related legislative issues, and will serve as an ex officio member of the ASN Committee on Advocacy and Science Policy.




Rachel Razza Portrait

The Influence of Contextual and Constitutional Emotional Processes on Speech Motor Control and Speech Motor Learning in Early Childhood Stuttering

The goals of this project are to advance the understanding of stuttering development in preschool-age children and inform future fluency treatment. Specifically, the researchers are interested in how different aspects of emotional reactivity influence children’s speech motor control and speech motor learning.




Maria Brown

Maria Brown and Mary Helen McNeal partner with Vera House in Preventing Elder Abuse Project

Vera House in collaboration with Maria Brown, Research Assistant Professor in Social Work and Aging Studies Institute and Mary Helen McNeal, Professor in College of Law, will establish the Expanding CORE (Community-Based Options to Respond to Elder Abuse) Program in three apartment buildings in Syracuse.




Jeremy Losak Portrait

The Impact of College Conference TV Networks on College Football and Basketball Attendance

Sport Analytics senior Sam Marteka and junior Mackenzie Mangos are working with assistant professor Jeremy Losak on research being conducted as part of an ACC Initiatives Grant. As more sporting events become available on live television, an obvious question is the extent to which television acts as a substitute or complement for in-stadium attendance. This is especially true at the collegiate level where ticket sales and other game day revenues make up a significant portion of total revenues. Using a panel dataset from 2002-2019, this project will examine the effects of new conference networks and the increase of televised events on attendance for college football NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision and college basketball NCAA Division 1 schools.




David Larsen

Piloting a SARS2 Early Warning Wastewater Surveillance Platform

In response to the coronavirus, Syracuse University researchers have teamed with SUNY ESF, SUNY Upstate, and industry partners to pilot a statewide wastewater surveillance platform for New York state. This project will examine the usefulness of wastewater surveillance as an early warning of increasing coronavirus transmission and establish wastewater sampling standards for the state of New York.




Jeeyoon Jamie Kim

Exploring FIFA Video Games as a Channel to Promote Football Participation, Football Literacy, and Psychosocial Well-being

This project is proposed to (1) investigate how FIFA video games usage is associated with football participation and psychological well-being, and (2) develop strategies to better utilize the video game series in stimulating football participation. Two survey-based studies are designed for the project, targeting adults in the U.S. and Canada. In Study 1, we compare four groups [FIFA video games usage (Y/N) x physical play in football (Y/N)] on their football enjoyment/involvement and physical and mental health. In Study 2, we focus on those who only play football online, and introduce/test the concept of ‘football literacy’ as a mediator explaining the football participatory effects of playing FIFA video game series.




Merril Silverstein Portrait

Developing an Instrument to Assess Intergenerational Digital Communication by Older Adults: Expanding the Solidarity Model

The purpose of this project is to develop a reliable and valid instrument that measures the use and efficacy of various forms of intergenerational digital communication and integrate those measures within the intergenerational solidarity inventory, the gold standard for measuring intergenerational family relationships. The researchers incorporate these new forms of communication into the intergenerational solidarity paradigm and its measurement tool by conceptualizing and empirically developing a new dimension of solidarity labelled “digital solidarity.”




Lara DeRuisseau Portrait

Heart and Vascular Responses Across the Lifespan in Ts65Dn Mice, a Model of Down Syndrome

Down syndrome (Ds) is a developmental disability that results from triplication of chromosome 21. Persons with Ds are confronted with a variety of daily challenges including heart defects at birth and lower blood pressure and heart rate at rest and during times of activity. This work aims to uncover contributors of the cardiovascular phenotype observed in Ds by using the Ts65Dn mouse, a model of Ds. The team includes Lara DeRuisseau, research professor in Exercise Science at Falk College as PI, and Kevin Heffernan, associate professor in the Department of Exercise Science at Falk College and Melissa Bates, assistant professor in the Department of Health and Human Physiology at the University of Iowa as co-Is.




Katie McDonald

Community and Work Participation Disparities: A Program of the ADA Participation Action Research Consortium (ADA PARC)

ADA PARC is a multi-site research collaboration bringing together the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) centers to examine the factors that influence the participation of people with disabilities in their communities to identify key participation disparities and strategically act to address them. We are conducting a multiregional strategic gap analyses across three primary participation areas community living, community participation, and economic equity. In some areas, such as community living and work, this will involve mining existing large population and community datasets so we can inform the benchmarking of key participation disparities and promising practices at state, regional and community levels. The ADA PARC will create a tool and a systematic process for assessing community participation at the community level for people to assess their communities.




Merril Silverstein Portrait Maria Brown

Intergenerational Antecedents of Care to Older Adults Approaching the End of Life With and Without Dementia

In this project, researchers examine vulnerability of older adults in relation to the care-careers of their adult children over the family life cycle. Results will inform theory about how and when children respond to their parents’ early investments in them. Goals of the research are to: (1) link early transfers of valued resources of time, money, and emotion to rates of change in the amount of care adult children provide to their vulnerable older parents; (2) test a novel methodological approach—the “countdown model”—that uses time-to-death to represent global vulnerability that triggers the delivery of care to older parents; and (3) identify whether care to older parents is more strongly associated with time-to-death from Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-related causes compared to other causes.




Jaipaul Roopnarine Portrait

Paternal Risk Factors and Preschoolers Academic and Social Skills in Kenya; The Mediating role of Protective Factor

Using propositions within developmental psychopathology and parenting theories and frameworks, this study examines the associations between paternal risk factors (intimate partner violence, paternal depression, destructive conflict resolution behavior, and harsh parenting) and childhood outcomes (literacy and numeracy skills and internalizing and externalizing behaviors) and the mediating role of protective factors (social support, ethnic socialization, and constructive conflict resolution behavior) on these associations in Kenyan families. Participants are 350 fathers, their wives/partners and preschool-aged children, and their children’s teachers. Researchers hope that findings will inform the development of parenting policies and intervention programs that target risk and protective factors and paternal parenting and childhood development in low- and middle-income countries.




Kristin Esposito Tracy Walker

Social Work Practice Fellow Program: Three-Model Implementation

Syracuse University School of Social Work Continuing Education Program has been awarded $21,000.00 in a collaborative grant with Adelphi University from the Health Foundation of Western and Central New York. The 18-month study intends to compare three models of Social Work Practice Fellow (SWPF) program delivery exclusive to social work supervisors. Process and outcome data would be used to assess feasibility, acceptability, and impact of the program in each delivery model as well as in a comparison across models.




Kevin Heffernan Portrait

Heffernan takes over leadership of NSF Research Education for Undergraduates (REU) Program for Trauma Research with Veterans

Kevin Heffernan, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Exercise Science, will take over leadership of the REU program started by Brooks B. Gump, Ph.D., MPH, Falk Endowed Professor of Public Health, in 2012. This program is for undergraduate veterans and non-veterans (five openings for each) interested in becoming trauma researchers. As one of many on-going interdisciplinary collaborations in the Falk College, the REU program also includes faculty members from the Aging Studies Institute and Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. The grant awarded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) will support the REU program and is now recruiting undergraduate veterans and non-veterans to participate. Students can earn $3,000 for participating in an intensive four-week summer program each June at Syracuse University.




Kevin Heffernan Portrait

Race/Ethnic Variation in Vascular Aging Trajectories and Mortality Risk: Insight from the Health and Retirement Study

Disparities in overall life expectancy in the U.S. prevail with non-Hispanic Black individuals living four to five years less than non-Hispanic White and Hispanic individuals. Racial differences in life expectancy may be driven by cardiovascular disease (CVD). Arterial stiffness is an independent predictor of and antecedent to CVD.




Sara Vasilenko Portrait

Do Children Displaying Different Profiles of Cognitive and Behavioral Self-Regulation Respond Differently to Early Education Programs?

This NICHD-funded study examines how profiles of cognitive and behavioral self-regulation influence the effectiveness of Head Start REDI, a preschool intervention program, in order to determine which version of the program works best for different types of students. Dr. Vasilenko’s role in the project includes expertise in person-centered and longitudinal research methods, and she will aid in creating latent profile models of self-regulation. Results can be used to inform intervention programs that are targeted to subgroups of children based on their risk profiles. Researchers have increasingly focused not only on whether a prevention program is effective, but for which types of people the program is most effective for. Then, researchers can examine how well a program works for people in these subgroups.




Justin Ehrlich Portrait

Virtual Reality Opportunities to Integrate Social Skills (VROISS)

Justin Ehrlich is the co-principal investigator of a research team-comprised of Ehrlich, researchers from the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning and educational leaders at the Ohio Center on Autism and Low Incidence Disabilities-that received $2.5 million ($246,745 will come directly to Syracuse University) through a grant from the Office of Special Education and Programs in the United States Department of Education to fund a five-year plan to implement Virtual Reality (VR) application that will teach social skills to students with Autism.




Matthew Spitzmueller

The Care Coordination Certificate Program

The Care Coordination Certificate Program targets the professional development of the care coordination workforce of Central New York. It addresses the need for effective training of direct care workers who perform a critical role in New York State’s integrated care initiative. The first component is a 10-week sequence. Curricular areas include Medicaid redesign, strengths-based practice, ethics and boundaries, engagement, and documentation. The second component targets site supervisors. Supervisors will learn to apply a framework that supports building positive relationships with staff.




Portraits of Professors Gangamma, Walia, Minkoff-Zern

Mental Health, Economic Well-Being, and Experiences of Farming in Resettled Refugees in Syracuse, NY

This project examines relationships between home and community gardening practices, mental health indicators, community building, and socio-economic well-being in resettled refugee populations. Existing literature suggests refugees face a decreased probability of sustaining socio-economic development if nutritional and general health needs are unmet.




David Larsen

Educating Girls in the Classroom and Beyond in Northern Nigeria

The projects goals are to delay the age of marriage and enhance girls’ agency and voice in rural communities in northwestern Nigeria by reducing social and economic barriers to female schooling and providing group-based mentoring and support. Dr. Larsen will be providing statistical support and analysis needed to meet the program goals.




David Larsen

Epidemiology Support for the Kenya HDSS Site

The long-term goal is to achieve sustainable funding for the Kenya HDSS site through external sources. To that end David Larsen will support scientific dissemination efforts of data that has already been collected at the Kenya HDSS site and to which Upstate Medical University has access. David Larsen will provide epidemiological support for numerous projects coming out of the HDSS in Kenya. Along these lines he will analyze data in accordance with established hypotheses and plans that were brainstormed with numerous Upstate scientists. David’s role in these investigations will primarily be to analyze the data, and then draft methods and results. He will bring in students as appropriate.




Jessica Garay Portrait

Inflammatory Markers and Diet Quality among Vegetarian Versus Non-Vegetarian Female Collegiate Athletes

At present, it is unclear if the anti-inflammatory effects of a vegetarian diet directly benefit competitive athletes who engage in high-intensity exercise. Therefore, Redmond aims to directly measure levels of pro- and anti-inflammatory biomarkers and assess overall diet quality (using the DII) between vegetarian and non-vegetarian female collegiate athletes. This study was developed in response to observed interest in vegetarian diets among female athletes as well as growing opportunities for dietitians to provide nutrition education to collegiate athletes about overall diet quality. The results of this study can be used to highlight the need for sports nutrition professionals to closely monitor collegiate athletes and provide evidence supporting the potential benefits of a vegetarian diet for female collegiate athletes.




Sara Vasilenko Portrait

Multilevel Risk Profiles and Reproductive Health across Adolescence and Young Adulthood

In this United States, rates of sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancy are highest among adolescents and young adults, making prevention programs to this group particularly important. Vasilenko propose the use and integration of two innovative analytic methods, the time-varying effect modeling (TVEM) and latent class analysis (LCA). The first aim of this project will elucidate age trends in SRH outcomes (e.g., sexual risk behaviors, STIs) across adolescence through young adulthood at the population level, including differences among demographic subgroups. Vasilenko will also examine how profiles of multilevel early risk and age-varying individual factors predict sexual, reproductive, and SRH outcomes across adolescence through young adulthood. Results will allow prevention scientists to design interventions targeting the most relevant risk factors at particular ages for specific subgroups.




David Larsen

Public health professor’s patented mosquito control device supports disease prevention

David Larsen, associate professor at Syracuse University’s Falk College, invented a newly patented technology with colleagues from SUNY Upstate Medical University and Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador. The technology is a bait station that kills the Aedes aegypti mosquito, that spreads Zika, dengue fever, and other diseases. The mosquito originated in Eastern Africa, but is now found in tropical and subtropical regions throughout the world. U.S. patent number 10,470,084 is co-owned by Syracuse University and two other universities.




Merril Silverstein Portrait

Spirituality and Prosocial Values in the Absence of Religion Among Millennials and Their Families

Approximately one-third of millennials and post-millennials—young adults born 1981 and later—profess to have no connection to religion, according to the Pew Research Center. Yet evidence points to their strengthened humanitarian values and prominent spirituality. The degree to which religion is decoupled from prosocial goals and spirituality in contemporary young adults is one of many research questions to be addressed in the project.




Dessa Bergen-Cico

Dessa Bergen-Cico Receives Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award to Thailand and Cambodia for Research on Mindfulness for Addiction Recovery

The U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board are pleased to announce that Dessa Bergen-Cico, Professor of Public Health at Syracuse University has received a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program award to Thailand and Cambodia for her public health research Mindfulness in the Mekong. Dr. Bergen-Cico will research the use of Buddhist practices and mindfulness for recovery from addiction and traumatic stress in the Mekong region of Southeast Asia.




Rashmi Gangamma Portrait

Gangamma leads study, strengthens mental health services in local refugee community

To help create culturally-informed practices of care, as well as fill a crucial gap in services to promote refugee health, Falk College at Syracuse University and The Multicultural Association of Medical Interpreters (MAMI) will collaborate to develop a training module for interpreters and psychotherapists. They will work specifically with resettled refugees in Syracuse, New York.




Matthew Spitzmueller

Social work professor receives Robert Wood Johnson Foundation leadership grant

Matthew Spitzmueller, assistant professor in the School of Social Work in Falk College, has been selected to participate in one of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s (RWJF) leadership development programs designed to equip leaders across the country—in every sector and field—to collaborate, break down silos, and use their influence to make communities healthier and more equitable.




Professors Cowart and Brown

Genesis Health Project launches Alzheimer’s Disease, dementia caregivers support program

A $500,000 grant from the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) will fund programming to deliver Alzheimer’s Disease and caregiving support to the African American community in Syracuse —including respite care and connections to community resources—as part of the Genesis Health Project. This initiative, led by Syracuse University’s Falk College, is part of the NYSDOH’s Alzheimer’s Disease Program, which implemented a $25 million strategy in 2015 to support people with Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias and their caregivers. The goals of the African American Alzheimer’s Dementia Caregivers Support Program (AADCS) are to provide Alzheimer’s and dementia education to inner-city African Americans and increase use of available resources to diminish caregiver stress. The programs include educational seminars and cultural competency training for community-based partners. A 12-Week Healthy Living Program will launch August 13 and runs through October 29, 2016 from 9-11:30 a.m. at the Living Water Church of God in Christ, 121 Huron Street. The Healthy Living program encompasses Alzheimer’s Disease and nutrition education, exercise sessions and yoga and meditation. Required registration and orientation for this free program will be held on August 13 starting at 9:00 a.m. All individuals must be 18 years of age to participate.




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