Grants or Gifts Relating to Women in Higher Education

Here is this week’s news of grants and gifts that may be of particular interest to women in higher education.

Lisa Chasan-Taber, chair of biostatistics and epidemiology in the School of Public Health and Health Science at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, has received a two-year, $431,000 grant from the National Institute of Health’s National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The funds will be used to update, validate, and redefine the widely used Pregnancy Physical Activity Questionnaire which was developed by Dr. Chasan-Taber’s lab in 2004. Dr. Chasan-Taber explains that “physical inactivity during pregnancy is an urgent public health concern and can lead to excessive gestational weight gain, gestational diabetes, and symptoms of postpartum depression. Therefore, it is critical that physical activity questionnaires be both valid and reliable.” Dr. Chasan-Taber holds a master of public health degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a doctorate from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Jin Young Seo, an assistant professor at Hunter College School of Nursing of the City University of New York, has been awarded a $245,000 grant from New York State to develop a breast cancer risk-reduction education program that focuses on Korean immigrant women. Breast cancer is the leading cause of death for these women. The project will partner with the Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York and provide participating women with education and coaching about healthy living and breast cancer. Dr. Seo believes that “educational intervention will increase Korean American women’s breast cancer knowledge, support their maintenance of a healthier life style, increase breast cancer screening rates and reduce the estimated risk of developing breast cancer.” Dr. Seo holds a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Kyungpook National University in South Korea. She earned a nurse practitioner master’s degree in women’s health and a Ph.D. in nursing from the University at Buffalo.

Jill Nelson, an associate professor in the electrical and computer engineering department at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, has been awarded a $1.75 million grant from the National Science Foundation to improve undergraduate education, increase retention, and increase the number of women and minorities in STEM. The project will implement “active learning” into the STEM disciplines at the university. This teaching style involves group problem-solving, classroom debates, and peer reviews of writing and has been proven to improve learning for all groups, especially women and minorities. “If women and minorities are not represented in STEM, their perspectives are not reflected,” Dr. Nelson said. “STEM fields are better able to advance — and hence improve quality of life — when the STEM workforce is diverse and inclusive.” Professor Nelson holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and a bachelor’s degree in economics from Rice University in Houston. She earned a master’s degree and Ph.D. both in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Researchers from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, have simulated how over 20 different breast tissue ratios respond to heat given off by MRIs at higher field strengths than available in hospitals today. Before this research, there was no way to prove that a new advanced MRI technique was safe for all women, since no woman’s breast tissue is exactly the same. These simulations will help other researchers tailor their techniques to each woman’s unique breast tissue ratio and inform researchers about the best practices for safe testing of experimental radio frequency hardware. The research was funded in part by a grant from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering of the National Institutes of Health.

The University of Massachusetts Amherst has received a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to support faculty of color in STEM disciplines. Additionally, the project hopes to provide new insights into gender equity in STEM. The project will conduct research and create programming that aims to encourage collaboration, mentoring, inclusive communities, and shared-decision making in each of the STEM departments.

The University of Houston Victoria has received a grant from the Alcoa Foundation to fund a computer science summer camp for middle school girls which will be added to a series of already existing girls STEM camps at the university. The program, called Texas Women in Computing, will teach middle school girls about computing, basic computer science concepts, and foundational computational thinking skills. Some additional funds from the grant will be used to update the robotics equipment used for UHV’s other after-school programs. Amjad Nusayr, professor and leader of the new camp, notes that “computer science is an important subject in our society, and studies have shown that middle school is a good age to connect with students and help them find subjects that interest them. Many companies are looking to hire knowledgeable women, and this camp will help students get started and learn about computer science.”

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