Solutions to world problems often start on a small scale and at the local level.

For example, how does one solve inequal access to healthy drinking water for the poor in rural Appalachia or school children in India? Can struggling mothers with post-traumatic stress disorder learn how to raise resilient children?  What triggers excessive alcohol consumption, and why do some substance users turn violent with their partners?  Finding insight into these societal and environmental issues could have global impact.

To support the research of these important questions, the Institute for Society, Culture, and Environment (ISCE) has named four interdisciplinary faculty teams, representing 10 departments and six colleges, as recipients of the 2022-23 ISCE Scholars Program.

“These diverse interdisciplinary collaborations have great potential to provide solutions for important societal concerns," said Karen Roberto, executive director of the institute and University Distinguished Professor. “ISCE is pleased to support such promising social science research at its early stages so that they may later garner the attention of external funding agencies and decision makers. We are proud of not only the funding successes so many of our previous scholars have achieved, but also their ability to affect positive change in society,”

The program supports innovative, interdisciplinary, and translational research that addresses critical human and societal concerns impacting the lives of people and places. Focusing broadly on the social sciences, ISCE promotes research in four thematic areas: global policies and practices, health and human development, risk and resilience, and community and environments.

With up to $30,000 each, the research teams will conduct preliminary studies to make themselves more competitive for external funding from agencies such as the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and other sources of public and private funding. Not only do the faculty teams receive financial support to conduct their projects, but they also receive technical assistance and mentoring as they submit grant applications to funding agencies.

The following are a listing of this year’s recipient teams and their research projects:

Decreasing Intergenerational Trauma through Dance: A Program for Mothers with PTSD and their Children, led by Julia C. Basso, principal investigator and assistant professor of human nutrition, foods, and exercise in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; Martha Ann Bell, University Distinguished Professor of Psychology in the College of Science; Rachel Rugh, adjunct professor of performing arts, and Jody Russon, assistant professor of human development and family sciences, both in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. Using dance as a means for establishing healthy mother-child interactions, the researchers are interested in whether a mother with post-traumatic stress disorder can establish a healthy attachment with her child to decrease the likelihood of passing on trauma from one generation to the next.

Using Remote Alcohol Monitoring to Identify Contexts of Alcohol-Related Intimate Partner Violence among Young Adult Drinkers, led by Meagan Brem, principal investigator and assistant professor of psychology; Warren Bickel, director of the Addiction Recovery Research Center and professor with the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC; and Alexandra Hanlon, director of the Center for Biostatistics and Health Data Science, all from the College of Science. Researchers seek to learn the association between breath alcohol content and intimate partner violence and the context in which the risk for alcohol-related this type of violence increases.

Deploying an Upscaled Silver-Ceramic Technology to Disinfect Drinking Water in School and Community-based Settings, led by Luke Juran, principal investigator and associate professor of geography in the College of Natural Resources and Environment; and Alasdair Cohen, co-principal investigator and assistant professor in population health sciences in the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. The researchers are looking at the ability to disinfect children’s drinking water stored in large tanks, using silver-ceramic technology, in four identified schools in the poorest regions of India. They also will conduct surveys to determine the effectiveness of and need for interventions regarding healthy washing and sanitization knowledge in the schools and surrounding communities.

Understanding the Economic and Health Outcomes Associated with Supplemental Potable Water Use in Central Appalachia, led by Leigh-Anne Krometis, associate professor of biological systems engineering, which is in both the College of Engineering and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; and, Kimberly Ellis, associate professor of industrial and systems engineering, in the College of Engineering; Alasdair Cohen, assistant professor in population health sciences in the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine; Austin Gray, assistant professor of biological sciences in the College of Science; and Kang Xia, professor of plant and environmental sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Researchers want to quantify the economic and health implications of using multiple water sources, such as bottled water, when in-home piped water is not accessible.

Learn more about the ISCE Scholars Program.

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