The Office of Research’s internal grant program, the Collaboration for Unprecedented Success and Excellence (CUSE) Grant Program, provides seed funding for faculty research and scholarly projects.

CUSE Grants support faculty research in all disciplines, including basic, translational and applied sciences; social sciences; physical and life sciences; engineering; liberal arts and humanities; and professional studies, as well as creative research and other scholarly activities.

The CUSE grant program was designed to be highly interdisciplinary, to spur growth in the research enterprise and to further support the University’s standing as a pre-eminent and inclusive student-focused research university.

Award recipients, funded amounts, and research projects include:

About the Projects

Urban Food Forests: Ecological-Human Connectivity and Rights to Access

Anne C. Bellows (NFS) PI, Stewart Diemont (SUNY ESF) co-PI, and Matthew Potteiger (SUNY ESF) co-I
CUSE Grant – Innovative & Interdisciplinary Research, $20,000

The Urban Food Forests: Ecological-Human Connectivity and Rights to Access proposal weaves together ecological sciences, landscape design, and urban food policy to develop an innovative approach to assessing the potential for edible urban food forests that serve as connective ecological and human infrastructure. As “green infrastructure,” urban forests provide critical ecological services such as sequestering carbon, ameliorating urban heat island effect, reducing storm water runoff, and mitigating climate change. However, little attention has been paid to the components of urban forests that are edible for humans or to the cultural practices of foraging and harvesting non-timber forest products. This project examines a transect through varied topographic and demographic areas of Syracuse, New York to develop benchmarks for assessing bio-physical connectivity and community access to the edible ecology.

This pilot project examines human-ecological connectivity in urban food forests through three interrelated research questions that reflect the interdisciplinary team and approach:

  • How can edible landscapes contribute to ecological function and services of urban forests?
  • How can urban food forests be designed as a connected network of diverse, novel ecologies that include parks, undeveloped areas, community gardens and urban farms, and interstitial spaces?
  • How can responsible community co-governance of public and private urban landscapes provide stable tenure/access to food producing land, forest, and water resources?

Through structured assessment and community engagement, the project will develop recommendations for policy, design, and modeling of edible urban forests so that the urban landscape contributes more meaningfully to food security and biological conservation.

Management Team Diversity and Misconduct by Male Professional Athletes

Mary Graham (SPM) PI, Bhavneet Walia (PH) co-PI, and William Horrace (Economics) co-I
CUSE Grant – Innovative & Interdisciplinary Research, $20,000

Organizations and managers have a strong interest in preventing and redressing employee misconduct, which is voluntary behavior that deviates from prevailing norms. When employees are admired public figures, as is often the case with professional athletes, the negative consequences of misconduct to organizations may be more likely and more severe, than in other contexts. This research project represents the first examination of the organizational determinants of misconduct by high-profile employees of professional sports teams.

Our focus is on the relationship between the demographic composition of the National Football League (NFL) managers and player misconduct. This particular research project builds on an earlier quantitative study that found empirical support for the theory-based hypothesis that NFL teams employing a critical mass of women executives experience fewer subsequent player arrests. In this follow-up, qualitative field study, we will interview NFL executives to gain their insights on the gender and race/ethnic dynamics within managerial and executive groups to understand the processes underpinning the association between demographic composition and employee misconduct. Together, the quantitative and qualitative results will present a comprehensive study of the association between managerial and executive composition and several indicators of player misconduct.

Environmental Exposures and Child Health Outcomes 2 (EECHO2)

Brooks Gump (PH) PI, Bryce Hruska (PH) co-I, Kevin Heffernan (Ex Sci) co-I, Travis Hobart (SUNY Upstate) co-I, Kestutis Bendinskas (SUNY Oswego) co-I, and Patrick Parsons (SUNY Albany) co-I
CUSE Grant – Innovative & Interdisciplinary Research, $29,990

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the leading cause of death in the United States and disables 10 million Americans each year, and literature demonstrates an association between metals (e.g., lead) and CVD risk. Supported by our most recent R01, we finished recruitment of 297 children in a study being named the “Environmental Exposures and Child Health Outcomes” (EECHO) study. EECHO considered the cross-sectional association between Pb exposure and cardiovascular outcomes in 9-11-year-old children; the new project will employ a retrospective longitudinal design and consider whether chronic or early Pb exposure is uniquely associated with adverse outcomes. In addition to measuring potential confounds (e.g., socioeconomic status), we will consider numerous important subclinical indicators of CVD risk, including left ventricular “thickness” as well as vascular stiffness and structure. Our recruitment strategy will result in 3 groups of 9-14-year-old children – those with low levels in early and middle childhood (“low-low”), high levels in early and middle childhood (“high-high”), and high levels in early childhood but low levels in middle childhood (“high-low”). The idea is that if end-organ changes are specifically in the high-high group, this would indicate a risk associated with chronic Pb exposure; however, if changes are found in both the high-high and high-low groups, then risk specifically from early Pb exposure is indicated. Based on our prior findings in EECHO, the role of race in moderating this association will also be considered.

E-sport, psychological well-being, and sport participation: Data collection and natural field experimental analysis

Jamie Kim (SPM) PI, Shane Sanders (SPM) co-PI, Bhavneet Walia (PH) co-PI, Bong Gee Jang (SOE) co-PI, and Eui Jun Jeong (Konkuk University, Seoul Korea) co-I
CUSE Grant – Innovative & Interdisciplinary Research, $30,000

E-sport participation can be conceptualized as competitive video game played at grassroot levels, where the video game of interest is played in professional competitions. In terms of the time use and prevalence, competitive online gaming is an important activity among American youth. According to the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, more than 92% of 1,641 sampled Americans age 17-27 had at least one experience with competitive online gaming; just over one-fifth of individuals in the sample play competitive online games either every day or “almost every day.” Given the observed prevalence, it is critical to understand the psycho-social effects of competitive gaming upon our society.

This project seeks to obtain seminal estimates as to the influence of e-sport participation on psychological well-being and sport participation; also, we test whether these influences vary by intensity (e.g., heavy, casual) or type of e-sport played (sport vs. non-sport themes e-sport). Further, the pathways by which well-being benefits might occur are assessed with focus on one’s fulfillment of psychological needs for arousal, achievement, and social interaction. We examine the sport literacy and sport participatory effects of sport-themed e-sport participation. For this, the project will be conducted in two phases. Each phase will be grounded on data collected via cross-sectional surveys and based on a natural field experimental study. This project will assist policy makers concerned with the psycho-social effects of e-sport (and differences thereof by type of game) and sport governing bodies interested in or utilizing e-sport as a means to expand their fanbase.

Developing Machine Learning Classifiers on Uncovering Patterns of Intimate Partner Violence Risk

Ambika Krishnakumar (HSFS) PI, Rachel Razza (HDFS) co-I, Bei Yu (iSchool) co-I, and Ying Zhang (HDFS Doctoral Student)
CUSE Grant – Innovative & Interdisciplinary Research, $20,000

We seek support from the CUSE’s Innovative and Interdisciplinary Research Grant committee to conduct a two-year study that will utilize text-mining algorithms to uncover patterns or typologies of intimate partner violence (IPV) from women’s narratives. For the purpose of this grant, IPV is conceptualized as the motivational need of aggressors to exert coercive control in close relationships and aggressors need to use physical, sexual, and psychological violence to reinforce coercive control in relationships.

Moving away from employing closed-ended questionnaires to study IPV, we aim to:

  1. collect a bank of IPV narratives from women’s online discussion forums which will be coded and classified based on information about coercive control and violent behaviors,
  2. enter the predefined text data into the computer so as to allow the machine to learn from the text and generate classification algorithms about IPV typologies based on comparative unique-word frequencies and word combinations, and
  3. develop an interactive website based on information gained from machine learning algorithms and statistical models.

This interdisciplinary study will incorporate information from family science, information science, and computational linguistic science. We anticipate that the interactive website could be utilized by women experiencing IPV to comprehend the nature of their violent relationships, and by first responders and others (e.g., counseling centers) to make informed decisions when dealing with violent situations. We will use data from this project to seek additional funding for the development of a “Mobile App” that could be used by institutions to better serve IPV victims.

A Consent Toolkit for Genomics Research Inclusive of Adults with Intellectual Disability: Establishing Feasibility

Katherine McDonald (PH) PI, David Larsen (PH) co-I, and Brittany Kmush (PH) co-I
CUSE Grant – Good to Great, $29,996

Adults with intellectual disability experience significant health disparities, and can benefit dramatically from genomics research. Yet ethical, legal, and social challenges in the process of informed consent present barriers to the generation of new knowledge to promote health equity. We can identify solutions to these persistent barriers by capitalizing on human rights advances so that adults with intellectual disability can meaningfully control research participation decisions, thereby promoting an increase in genomics research inclusive of adults with intellectual disability and their willingness to be research volunteers. Our long-term goal is to promote the responsible inclusion of adults with intellectual disability in health research that capitalizes on genomic advances, and thereby foster opportunities for advances to promote health. Our goal in this proposal is to lay the groundwork for future work toward this longer-term goal.

Agricultural Guestworkers and the New Immigrant Economy

Laura-Anne Minkoff-Zern (NFS) PI, Bhavneet Walia (PH) co-I, and Mary Jo Dudley (Cornell) Consultant
CUSE Grant – Innovative & Interdisciplinary Research, $20,000

Due to strenuous working conditions and low average wages, labor shortages are a consistent challenge in U.S. production agriculture. For decades, farmers have been turning to foreign-born workers to fill labor-intensive positions. This study focuses on the H-2A agricultural guestworker program, which has been promoted as a solution to the contradicting labor needs of farmers and the increasingly precarious environment for undocumented immigrants in the U.S. Despite growing demand for a stable workforce from farmers as well as requests from immigrants and their advocates for safe and reliable immigration options, there is little contemporary research documenting worker and farmer experience with the program. The lack of current research on the H2-A and other guestworker programs means that essential agricultural and immigration policy is being debated without the perspectives of affected workers and farmers. Our research project fills this gap, looking at the circumstances and experiences of farmers, farmworkers, and intermediary agents who participate in the H2-A program throughout New York State.

Using a combination of qualitative and quantitative methodology, this project will explore the benefits and barriers of the program, while simultaneously addressing a need to better understand the nuanced historical and political context of agricultural labor struggles. Through collaboration with the Cornell Farmworker Program, scholars from SU will gain unique access to an otherwise difficult to reach population of workers. This research will provide new and valuable insights into the conditions and future of immigrant labor in the food system, with implications on a regional, national and global scale.

Effects of Maternal Stress, Dietary Intake, and Physical Activity Behaviors on Adverse Birth Outcomes

Jessica Redmond (NFS) PI, Sandy D. Lane (PH) co-I, Margaret Voss (NFS) co-I, and Tiago Barrera (SOE) co-I
CUSE Grant – Innovative & Interdisciplinary Research, $20,000

Maternal exposure to acute or chronic stress during fetal development leads to adjustments that have both short- and long-term consequences. Our proposed study is a multi-disciplinary investigation of maternal stress exposure, maternal stress response, and adverse birth outcomes (including pre-term birth and low birth weight). We plan to conduct a prospective cohort study of pregnant women to assess whether dietary intake and/or physical activity (PA) mediate or moderate the relationship between maternal stress exposure and adverse birth outcomes. Additional study aims include determining the relationship (if any) between psychosocial stress and a) dietary intake or b) PA during each trimester of pregnancy and evaluating the impact of participation in PA or accumulation of sedentary behavior during pregnancy on adverse birth outcomes.

Women (target N = 100) who receive services at the SUNY Upstate Medical University Women’s Health Services Clinic will be recruited during the first trimester of pregnancy. Once per trimester, participants will complete questionnaires assessing stress levels, provide a saliva sample to measure stress bio-markers, complete 3 dietary recalls, and wear an accelerometer device to measure physical activity. Birth outcomes and maternal health information will be obtained via chart review. Multivariable linear regression, logistic regression, and structural equation modeling will be used to evaluate the relationship between maternal stress, dietary intake, physical activity, and sedentary behavior on adverse birth outcomes. Results from this observational study will be used to justify future interventions aimed at reducing maternal stress and improving birth outcomes.

View additional SU CUSE grant awards